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Shakespeare Our Contemporary (Norton Library) Paperback – 1 Apr 1974

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Product details

  • Paperback: 400 pages
  • Publisher: W. W. Norton & Company; New edition edition (1 April 1974)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0393007367
  • ISBN-13: 978-0393007367
  • Product Dimensions: 1.3 x 0.3 x 2 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 571,144 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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First Sentence
A careful reading of the list of characters in Richard III is enough to show what sort of historical material Shakespeare used in order to illustrate facts relating to his own period and to fill the stage with his real contemporaries. Read the first page
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Front Cover | Copyright | Table of Contents | Excerpt | Back Cover
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful By Yetifeet77 on 21 Jan 2011
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Jan Kott's style is entertaining and thought provoking. Not dry like some critical writers, Jan Kott writes with flair and style, whilst still being academic. His approach to Macbeth in particular is amazing and I use his work regularly in my own essays. Not many plays covered, but those covered are written about with depth and a passion for the subject. I cannot recommend this book highly enough.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Lexa on 1 Mar 2013
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Jan Kott is one if the 20th century's great scholars. As a student, I was recommended this book by my lecturer and was fascinated by Kott's view on Shakespeare. Kott made Shakespeare much more relevant and interesting to me. Note that this is not a book that explains the original performance conditions, instead it comments on how Shakespeare can be understood in more modern contexts.

In this wonderful book he really brings Shakespeare out of the Elizabethan age. Kott writes well in a enjoyable and fairly easy to understand way. His clarity on what Shakespeare means to a 20th and 21st century audience is interesting and his insights are original and enjoyable. I particularly enjoyed his chapter 'Kind lear, or Endgame', which like all of the chapters in this book, highlights the many ways in which Shakespeare is timeless, if we look at the different ways his works can be read, performed and understood. Kott analyses, 'King Lear', 'Hamlet', 'Midsummer Nights Dream', 'Macbeth', 'Othello', 'Troilus and Cressida', in addition to 'The Tempest' and 'Twelfth Night', so as you will see you get a good understanding of some key Shakespeare texts.

A fresh and brilliant take on Shakespeare, and well worth a read. I would recommend it for anyone with an interest in Shakespeare, or any theatre, or english students who will find this an invaluable course book.
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Jan Kott's influence on the Theater of Cruelty' was enormous, thanks largely to this collection of essays on major works by Shakespeare.

When I started work in the theater as a stage director, I carried this book with me everywhere.

Does it stll resonate? You bet it does!

If you love theater and want to read about how Shakespeare is STILL relevant, 400 years later, then this is the book for you.
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1 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Nick B on 8 July 2012
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
The product was quite slow in arriving. It came on the 6th July, one day late of the longest estimate.
There are quite a lot of underlines and pen written comments - not always very intelligent ones - in the book, which was not mentioned in the description, although I knew I was buying a second hand copy and that risk is always present.
But, of course, this book was revolutionary in 1964 and re-reading it after all these years I feel it is still inspirational!
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 4 reviews
25 of 27 people found the following review helpful
Essays Against the Grain 15 May 2000
By A Customer - Published on
Format: Paperback
This is a book of interpretive essays about many, but not all, of Shakespeare's plays. Other than Harold Goddard's The Meaning of Shakespeare, this is the best book of Shakespearean criticism I've read.
Written in plain, but elegant prose, these essays reveal a darker Shakespeare than most commentators admit. Kott was a fighter in the Polish resistance and assumes Shakespeare must have had knowledge of political repression and loss of freedom.
The best of the essays deal with the History plays. Kott argues that all of the History plays are about power and use the metaphor of a staircase. A king is shown to be weak or unjust, a usurper claws his way to the top and then must remove all rivals, and then is toppled by another. Different plays show different pieces of this process. Lear views the staircase from the way down. Richard III is about his joyful ascent up the staircase. The various Henry's (and Richard II and King John) show its endless cycle.
The essay on Richard III must have been the inspiration behind the interpretation used by the recent movie version with Ian McKellum.
The essay about Othello concentrates on the evil power of Iago. Is there an wonder why Iago is silent in the end? According to Kott, it is because his worldview has won.
The essay on A Midsummer Night's Dream challenges the normal interpretations that this is a happy comedy about confused love. According to Kott, the play is really about the animosity and power struggle behind love, and rather than loving, the characters really compete with one another.
22 of 25 people found the following review helpful
Limited but historically important 10 April 2001
By Joost Daalder - Published on
Format: Paperback
The value of this very influential book to an individual reader will depend greatly on what that reader hopes to find in it. Someone looking for close, accurate handling of Shakespeare's texts, and thus for reliable guidance on what is found in them, will most of the time feel disappointed: for a book taken so seriously by so many, the criticism on display is actually often surprisingly loose, vague, and general.
The importance of the book when it appeared lay in the fact that the author identified certain matters in Shakespeare which earlier critics with sunnier visions of life had usually not seen or wished to avoid seeing. This one must grant Kott, I think, even if his own views are onesided and say often more about him and his experiences than about Shakespeare. There is a kernel of accuracy and truth in what he observes, and this remains something of lasting value.
Readers who wish to understand the development of views on Shakespeare since WWII will find this an essential book to know, as so much comment on Shakespeare which today gets offered as new and "radical", especially in relation to the politics of power, can be traced back to Kott, although fashionably extreme views on *The Tempest* as simply a "post-colonial" text with Prospero as nothing other than a wicked imperialist and Caliban as the noble savage who can do no wrong are a good deal more simplistic than anything presented by Kott. Still, much of what is extreme today can be seen as having some of its origins in his thinking. - Joost Daalder, Professor of English, Flinders University, South Australia
14 of 16 people found the following review helpful
A Classic of Modern Shakespeare Criticism 18 Aug 2000
By Kellyannl - Published on
Format: Paperback
This is not - repeat not - necessarily a call for the Midsummer Night's Dream fairies to be played as a motorcycle gang, Richard III to be played as Hitler or Romeo to shoot up instead of drink poison - although this book has inspired all of the above. It is, however, a brilliant call for actors and directors to bring their life experience to Shakespeare.
In Kott's case, this means life under communist Poland. He identifies with those characters who live under regimes in which one wrong word can mean the gallows - especially those characters in the history plays. Yes, if we think about it, their sense of dread and suspicion must have drastically affected their whole lives - but it is Kott's genius to state the obvious so eloquently. This is politics not as rhetoric but as it affects everyday life. A must read for anyone who loves or is about to act in Shakespeare's political plays.
2 of 4 people found the following review helpful
Shakespeare Our Contemporary 17 Dec 2010
By Bookbesotted - Published on
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I have been looking for this book since I was a grad student at San Francisco State in 1967. I was ecstatic to find it on Amazon, and can't wait to read the chapter whose title has stuck with me all these years: "King Lear, or Endgame"!

Thanks, Amazon!
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