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The RSC Shakespeare: The Complete Works Hardcover – 19 Apr 2007

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Product details

  • Hardcover: 2552 pages
  • Publisher: Palgrave Macmillan; New Edition edition (19 April 2007)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0230003508
  • ISBN-13: 978-0230003507
  • Product Dimensions: 18.6 x 7.8 x 24.1 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (81 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 60,631 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

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

'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. ' - Professor Michael Dobson, writing in The London Review of Books

'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

'Jonathan Bate is a passionate advocate of Shakespeare and his introductions to individual plays are full of striking and convincing observations...The scholarly apparatus is discreet, elegant and pertinent. For each play, we getbrief accounts of plots, dates and sources, and useful statistics about the proportions of verse to prose and the length of the major parts. Footnotes are found snugly and legibly at the bottom of each page. The 41 lines in the opening soliloquy of Richard III, for example, generates three dozen clarifications, elucidating dynastic facts, glossing unfamiliar items of vocabulary, paraphrasing tricky meanings and uncovering bawdy puns. There is a universe to be found in these annotations: the Renaissance world of power and fate, sex and death, language and philosophy. Jonathan Bate and Eric Rasmussen have given us an edition full of endless fascination.' - Tom Deveson,Times Educational Supplement

'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

'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

'One of the virtues of the approach Bate and Rasmussen have taken is to offer fresh ways of presenting the plays...I look forward to using it at my desk and perhaps in my classroom over many years...' - Peter Holland, Times Literary Supplement

'A handsome volume...printed on fine paper and elegantly designed... This is a beautiful book that will be a pleasure to own.' - Good Book Guide

'Professor Jonathan Bate has written thought provoking essays for each play, discussing the source material and its influence on the play as well as pointing out the familiarities...for...contemporary audiences... The glossary includes much that has been ignored in the past, enlightening the new student...as well as adding to the vocabulary of those who have been enjoying his plays all their lives... This volume is an invaluable resource to anyone interested in or simply in love with Shakespeare.' - Speech and Drama

'... anyone who wants a good single volume edition of the plays... won't do better than this.' - Tribune

'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

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

'This hefty tome is well worth its weight in sovereigns. Jonathan Bate ad Eric Rasmussen have bravely gone where no Bard editors have gone before, basing the entire edition on the First Folio, the rehearsal room version authorised by actors John Hemmings and Henry Condell after Shakespeare's death. For the first time, the Royal Shakespeare Company has been closely involved in the developing of a collected works, including photography of RSC productions and insights into staging decisions. With reference notes and a dedicated website (www.rscshakespeare.co.uk), this is Shakespeare as you like it.' - What's On Stage

'This important new complete works', produced with the Royal Shakespeare Company, is elequantly designed.' - Good Book Guide

'A modernised and elegantly presented edition of Shakespeare's text.' - Times Higher Education Textbook Guide

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 Catherine'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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247 of 250 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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173 of 179 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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9 of 9 people found the following review helpful By Hawfinch TOP 500 REVIEWER on 4 May 2012
Format: Hardcover
It is curious that Shakespeare never organised the publication of any of his plays. Apparently he had no interest in the life of these works outside the playhouse for which they were written. This has created innumerable problems for his editors, as well as giving them license to make free with the surviving texts, which can be divided into two categories: the Folio edition of the collected plays, published by Shakespeare's friends shortly after his death, and Quarto editions of individual plays printed during his lifetime.

Where Folio and Quarto versions of the same play exist, there are often puzzling differences. Lines appear in the Quarto texts of Hamlet which seem genuinely Shakespearean but which are absent from the First Folio, and vice versa. Most editions of Shakespeare are based on the theory, prevalent before the last century, that the surviving texts are corruptions of a lost original and that the role of the editor is to reconstruct that supposed original. You take what's best from the Folio and Quarto texts of Hamlet and merge them into a single work.

Research has discredited this pick-and-mix approach. It is now generally believed that there was no single version of Hamlet, and that Shakespeare revised the play (and his other plays) during its run in the playhouse. The Quarto texts are typically the earlier, more literary versions; the Folio texts are the later, more theatrical revisions.

Recent editors of Shakespeare have begun to embrace this new theory. The Oxford Shakespeare, edited by Wells and Taylor, goes so far as to print the Quarto and Folio versions of King Lear as separate plays, since the differences between the texts are so great.

This RSC edition is intended as a restoration of the First Folio.
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11 of 11 people found the following review helpful By Lien on 1 Jun. 2008
Format: Hardcover
I had this given as a birthday presant and all i can say is WOW.I have only recently got into Shakespeare and have seen a couple of the plays already and i just wanted to enchance my viewing of them,as i,m going to see four this year.And this book dose it.Its brilliantly put together with every thing W.S. wrote and more I think!.If could put TEN stars at the top i would.
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