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The RSC Shakespeare: The Complete Works (Collector's Edition) Hardcover – 22 Jun 2007

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Product details

  • Hardcover: 2552 pages
  • Publisher: Palgrave Macmillan; Collector's ed edition (22 Jun. 2007)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0230003516
  • ISBN-13: 978-0230003514
  • Product Dimensions: 523.2 x 223.5 x 22.9 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (76 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 1,311,623 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
  • See Complete Table of Contents

More About the Author

William Shakespeare was an English poet and playwright, widely regarded as the greatest writer in the English language and the world's preeminent dramatist. He is often called England's national poet and the "Bard of Avon". His surviving works, including some collaborations, consist of 38 plays, 154 sonnets, two long narrative poems, and several other poems. His plays have been translated into every major living language and are performed more often than those of any other playwright.

Shakespeare was born in Stratford-upon-Avon in Warwickshire and was baptised on 26 April 1564. Thought to have been educated at the local grammar school, he married Anne Hathaway, with whom he went on to have three children, at the age of eighteen, before moving to London to work in the theatre. Two erotic poems, Venus and Adonis and The Rape of Lucrece were published in 1593 and 1594 and records of his plays begin to appear in 1594 for Richard III and the three parts of Henry VI. Shakespeare's tragic period lasted from around 1600 to 1608, during which period he wrote plays including Hamlet and Othello. The first editions of the sonnets were published in 1609 but evidence suggests that Shakespeare had been writing them for years for a private readership.

Shakespeare spent the last five years of his life in Stratford, by now a wealthy man. He died on 23 April 1616 and was buried in Holy Trinity Church in Stratford. The first collected edition of his works was published in 1623.

(The portrait details: The Chandos portrait, artist and authenticity unconfirmed. NPG1, © National Portrait Gallery, London)

Product Description


'This new Complete Works from the RSC is a glorious edition of one of the world's most important books. It's the essential reference book for anyone who's ever been in love, felt jealousy, fear, hatred, or desire. All human life is here - and every home should have one.' - Dame Judi Dench

'Timely, original, and beautifully conceived, the RSC edition makes Shakespeare's extraordinary accomplishment more vivid than ever.' - James Shapiro, Professor, Columbia University and prize-winning author of 1599: A Year in the Life of Shakespeare

'Bate provides excellent introductory essays to each play and his terrific introduction, simply and effectively summarising everything you need to know about Shakespeare, man and work, is alone worth buying the edition for.' - The Daily Express

'Thanks to Bate and Rasmussen, we now have a rendering of the Complete Works that, in a rare publishing achievement, would also give complete satisfaction to the author himself.' - Robert McCrum, The Observer

'A magnificent new volume.' - A. N. Wilson, Daily Telegraph

'A triumphant addition to our times.' - Fiona Shaw, The Times

'This outstanding new edition of Shakespeare's plays is the closest yet to the originals ... a new and thoroughly radical edition ... supervised by Jonathan Bate, an outstanding scholar (and author of the best existing biography of Shakespeare) who writes with as much elegance as insight about the making of theatre and the creation of the plays... an impeccably informative introduction gives a comprehensive theatrical, social, political and biographical context to the plays. There are pithy essays, also by Bate, to introduce each play as well as exemplary notes at the foot of each page which translate verbal and topical obscurities ... for actors and directors it will be incomparably useful, but for any curious reader of Shakespeare's plays it provides an invaluable guide to reading them not as novels or dramatic poems, but as they were intended to be read: blueprints for live performance.' - Richard Eyre, The Sunday Telegraph

'Excellent, succinct notes and introductions to each play.' - John Carey, The Sunday Times

'A splendid edition. The general introduction is among the best 50-page guides to Shakespeare you could hope to find, while the short essays prefixed to each play are like the best kind of programme notes - informative, thought-provoking and humane. Marginal notes help readers imagine what's happening onstage ... The RSC's edition tells you all you need to know about the life, but also, vitally, allows you to lose yourself in the wonder of the works.' - Dr Colin Burrow, All Souls College, Oxford University, writing in The Evening Standard

'The paper quality and page design are excellent, and the illustrations in the introductory materials are lavish and well reproduced ...a virtual comet-tail of supplementary materials are to be found at www.rscshakespeare.co.uk - the RSC is certainly the first edition of Shakespeare to provide a link to it's editor's blog.... Bate's general introduction to Shakespeare's life, stage and reputation is superb, and the short introductions to individual works, in particular, are among the best of their kind available...they manage to speak about what really matters about the plays to readers who wish, whether they are already familiar with them or not, to come to them freshly. ' - Michael Dobson, writing in The London Review of Books

'This is a handsome and fascinating edition, elegantly set and easy to read.' - The Australian

'A handsome volume, it is printed on fine paper and elegantly designed and printed, with clear typeface. This special edition is bound in black leather; it is a beautiful book that will be a pleasure to own.' - Good Book Guide

'One of the virtues of the approach Bate and Rasmussen have taken is to offer fresh ways of presenting the plays' - Peter Holland, TLS

About the Author

JONATHAN BATE is Professor of Shakespeare and Renaissance Literature, University of Warwick, UK. He has held visiting posts at Harvard, Yale and UCLA and is a Fellow of the Royal Society of Literature, a Fellow of the British Academy, an Honorary Fellow of St Catharine's College, Cambridge, and a Governor and Board member of the Royal Shakespeare Company. A prominent critic, award-winning biographer and broadcaster, he is the author of several books on Shakespeare, including The Genius of Shakespeare (Picador), which was praised by Sir Peter Hall, founder of the RSC, as "the best modern book on Shakespeare." In June 2006 he was awarded a CBE by HM The Queen 'for services to Higher Education'.

ERIC RASMUSSEN is Professor of English at the University of Nevada, USA. He is co-editor of the Norton Anthology of English Renaissance Drama and has edited volumes in both the Arden Shakespeare and Oxford World's Classics series. He is the General Textual Editor of the Internet Shakespeare Editions project - one of the most visited Shakespeare websites in the world. For over nine years he has written the annual review of editions and textual studies for the Shakespeare Survey.

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Customer Reviews

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

242 of 245 people found the following review helpful By Sable Unadorned on 28 Nov. 2007
Format: Hardcover
It's easy to pick up a copy of 'The complete works of Shakespeare' from any bookshop; many are less than a tenner. So why pay more for this one?

Well, let's start with the overall look and feel of the book. In size and construction it feels more like something that could ask about twice the price and feel worthwhile (and no, that page count isn't a misprint). Fair enough - as one who lives just outside Stratford, I can tell you that Shakespeare is big business in the town, and one could hardly imagine the RSC being prepared to put their name to anything less than the best.

But the real story is inside. It would have been very easy to produce 'just another' complete works with a fancy binding and nothing special on the inside, but that hasn't happened here. As well as the complete text, the book includes a long review of each play placing it in historical and dramatic context. In addition to that there are extensive notes on each page, explaining the more abstruse language and adding explanations of historical or plot points. This means that the plays can be read as literature - not always easy if one only has the basic text, or if one has to keep flipping to the back for a list of notes. Plus, as you'd expect, the poems and sonnets are given just as thorough a treatment.

All in all, I'd give it more than five stars if I could. It's a gorgeous book, both to look at and to read, and should be part of the collection of anyone who's ever enjoyed, or thought they might enjoy, Shakespeare. Possibly the only Shakepeare volume you'll ever need?
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169 of 175 people found the following review helpful By O. Mawdsley on 4 May 2007
Format: Hardcover
I have never found a complete works like it before. I don't know if I can put it into words, but i'll try...

1) This is the only complete works I've ever seen to have notes on the text writen ON THE PAGE. One of my pet hates about reading complete works was that if there was an obscure phrase, you used to have to go online or find another edition of it, which interupted the pleasure of reading. No more! It's an absolute joy to read, and so sumptuously laid out.

2) It's totally edited from the first folio. Not only that, it's edited by the RSC. Now, you may say why is that so important? Well, Shakespeare wrote for actors, not for literary analysis by ancient professors, and shakespeare used certain devices in his writing to help out his actors. The first folio is closest to what we have as Shakespeare's own words. This means it's the best copy to read from be you acting or writing an essay, or simpl reading for pleasure.

3) The sprinkles and jelly tots on top of the cake are the essays at the start of each play (which stimulate the mind... they're not breathtaking, but interesting at least), the pictures from the RSC archive, an introduction to the life and times of Shakespeare, and access to a website with extra resource materail for whatever your fancy.

If you want to buy a Complete Works of Shakespeare, this HAS to be the one. It's worth every penny, and will last you for life! It's the best out there!
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35 of 36 people found the following review helpful By Sphex on 19 Aug. 2008
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
In his foreword to this magnificent edition, Michael Boyd reminds us that Shakespeare's plays were originally scripts for companies of actors and "not written as literature" to be read in an armchair at home. Performance is what matters, and the reading of the text is always going to be an incomplete experience in comparison. So why bother? For me, that incompleteness is still going to be more rewarding than reading most books ever published, but the real payoff comes next time I see the play performed, when I'm that little bit more prepared, that little bit less confused by the language, and that little bit more ready to appreciate a great performance, whether it's by a star actor on a national stage or a complete unknown at a fringe venue. This edition works in so many ways to make our experience of Shakespeare more complete.

The General Introduction by Jonathan Bate covers a lot of familiar territory - Shakespeare's life in Stratford, his early reputation as the "upstart crow", his rise to preeminence as scriptwriter for and shareholder in the Lord Chamberlain's Men, and so on, and the problem for any writer on Shakespeare is how to stitch our patchwork knowledge into a finer garment, how to find a new angle without resorting to arcane questions that are of scholarly interest only. Bate's command of the material and his choice of detail, his straightforward style that never fakes meaning with jargon, and the consistent perspective that emphasizes performance, all work towards opening up these million or so words. There is a refreshing emphasis on just how much we do know, contradicting the common view trotted out even in the RSC's own programmes that "very little is known" of his life.
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30 of 31 people found the following review helpful By Mr. J. A. Edwards on 27 May 2008
Format: Paperback
One of the features that is most attractive about this latest edition of Shakespeare's plays is its layout. The text is of a pleasantly large size, and glosses of the meanings of certain words is easy to access at the bottom of the page. The introductions are great - although in other editions there are more extensive and/or scholarly introductions to the plays, these are well written, and are still very readable if you are about to read the play for the first time. The style of writing is pleasantly unassuming in that respect. So for people reading Shakespeare for pleasure I would highly recommend this book.
However, at points in my degree I've slightly regretted my choice, for a number of reasons. Firstly, the paper, to allow the book to be not too thick whilst having text occurring in only one column per page, must be very thin. As a consequence of this it tends to wrinkle slightly if you put your fingers on it for too long. The Riverside Shakespeare solves this problem because it has text in two columns down the page, (it still has glosses of difficult words at the bottom of the page) and this allows the paper to be slightly thicker, and so you are not worried that you are going to tear it.
The text itself is pretty good, although it sometimes differs quite strongly from the Arden text. This is not a fault in itself, but as the Arden text is the major editing of our time, this can sometimes cause slight problems. Of course, if you're not doing a degree when you need to read literature about the texts then this will not apply to you. An example would be the play 'Hamlet', where the quarto text is a lot longer than the folio text, and this text sticks to the folio text.
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