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The Genius of Shakespeare Paperback – 6 Jun 2008

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Product details

  • Paperback: 416 pages
  • Publisher: Picador; Reprints edition (6 Jun. 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0330458434
  • ISBN-13: 978-0330458436
  • Product Dimensions: 12.9 x 2.7 x 19.6 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (19 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 199,298 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Jonathan Bate is Professor of Shakespeare and Renaissance Literature at the University of Warwick, chief editor of The RSC Shakespeare: Complete Works and the author of many books, including most recently John Clare: A Biography, which won the Hawthornden Prize for Literature and the James Tait Black Prize for Biography. A Fellow of the British Academy, he was awarded a CBE in 2006.

Product Description


‘The best book about Shakespeare for a generation’ Philip Howard, The Times

‘As brilliant an account of the Bard’s iconic universality as you could hope to find’ Michael Billington, Guardian

‘Absolutely dazzling – illuminates the whole man and the influence he has in our lives’ Simon Callow, Sunday Express

‘Occupies the territory of biography, literary criticism, theatrical and social history, and a journey across its landscape is one of constant delight and illumination’ Sir Richard Eyre, Financial Times, Books of the Year

‘The theme of this wonderfully written, diverse book is diversity itself, and the range of the essays serves only to confirm the disparate nature of Shakespeare’s achievement’ Peter Ackroyd, The Times

‘The liveliest and most intelligent general book on Shakespeare I have read for a long time’ John Gross, Sunday Telegraph, Books of the Year

Book Description

Reissued with a new afterword by Professor Bate

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Inside This Book

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Front Cover | Copyright | Table of Contents | Excerpt | Index | Back Cover
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Customer Reviews

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

96 of 105 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on 3 Aug. 1999
Format: Paperback
Jonathan Bate's THE GENIUS OF SHAKESPEARE takes issue with cultural conservatives and with politically correct radicals to explain how a dramatist of humble orgins became the best known author in history. In what is described as "a new kind of biography", Bate offers a two-part history of Shakespeare's talent and reputation. Instead of the usual life story or play-by-play account, Bate begins part one by discussing the anecdotes that were told about Shakespeare during his life, looking at how his contemporaries saw him. Then he moves on to dissect the sonnets showing the various ways they have been used to provide a biographical key to their author's life. Wielding Occam's razor, Bate attacks the tendency of the "life and works" approach to over-interpret the poems to illuminate the dark corners of the life.
Bate's willingness to admit that much will never be known is refreshing. His suggestion about the Dark Lady's identity is delightfully mischievous: she could have been the wife of John Florio, Italian secretary to the Earl of Southampton. Given the sources, this is as credible as most other interpretations, even though Bate is attempting to convict the poet Samuel Daniel's sister of multiple adultery on circumstantial evidence that would not have persuaded Othello. More daring is Bate's solution to the conclusion of "Master W H", the unknown "begetter" of the sonnets. This, he argues, is just a printer's error for "W S" (William Shakespeare).
When addressing the authorship question, Bate uses knockabout tactics to demolish alternative candidates - from Francis Bacon to sundry lords - but he does so in a more profound question: why should anyone doubt that Shakespeare wrote the plays?
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By technoguy VINE VOICE on 16 May 2012
Format: Paperback
'Neither Shakespeare's life nor his career can account for his genius',says Bate in the preface of this beautiful book.The 1st part explores the origins of Shakespeare,the 2nd part tells of his effects.He deals not just with the life but a body of words and stage images modified in the guts of the living.Shakespeare's opinions are not stamped on his plays,his sexuality,religion and politics are difficult to discern,allowing his plays to be reinvented in every age and culture. Shakespeare's rural origins are highly important to his art and to the mark left on the way that we think.As the grandson of a yeoman farmer his imagination remained faithful to its roots. Bate says he invented something called `deep England',that the essence of the nation lies in its green heart. A rich catalogue of wild flowers find their way into the plays(eg King Lear).Oxbridge-educated contemporaries sneered at him as a "peasant",him like Ben Jonson never having gone to university.

Shakespeare's grammatical and rhetorical power came from an education entirely in Latin,but despite this his language is vigorous and new,even when his ideas are 2nd hand.Bate does not try to explain the inexplicable,why a young married man with a family to support should have gone to London to earn his living as a playwright.He was the first to turn writing plays into a rewarding profession.He was singular,too,in being the only dramatist of his generation never to be imprisoned or officially censured in connection with his writings.He was prudent in the subjects he chose to write about,being of the long dead than the currently topical.Bate shows his attitude to those in power by giving a new interpretation of the sonnets.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By RR Waller TOP 500 REVIEWER on 15 Dec. 2011
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I have recently read books and watched programmes on the late great Steve Jobs; as a confirmed Macintosh user with a well-used selection of his "iproducts", his driven genius certainly changed my world. Would his early life have shown this was likely?

I have a shelf full of well-thumbed books proposing a wide range of writers in Shakespeare's place, another still to be delivered and one as yet unread in the "unread" section of the 822.33 section. Reading them, I always feel like the sheep in Orwell's "Animal Farm", believing the writer I am reading at the time, so convincing are they all and yet, I remain unconvinced, a determined Stratfordian.

Jonathan Bate has not written a biography in the usual sense of that word, indeed it is refreshing to find someone who admits quite simply of the pausity of material to begin another endeavour of that kind but also that it is not necessarily a reason to suspect Shakespeare was a front for a playwright in Italy supposedly killed in 1595 or a lord with creative aspirations who did not want his real views known.

He also looks at the idea of "genius", the way the word has developed and been used in the Shakespeare context to describe this native talent when no other seemed to fit. (Having worked with gifted and talented students, I know just how different they can be, e.g. one who had seven As at "A" Level and three interviews to read as an undergraduate at Oxford in three vastly different disciplines - History, Economics and Chemistry - who lived in a post-war prefab and owned no books himself; no need - he just read them and remembered them.)

I enjoyed Bate's book, a refreshing, well-written and convincing look at Shakespeare with some unusual conclusions.
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