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The Rough Guide to Shakespeare: the plays, the poems, the life, with reviews of productions, CDs and movies Paperback – 28 Apr 2005

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Product details

  • Paperback: 544 pages
  • Publisher: Rough Guides Ltd; 1st Edition edition (28 April 2005)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1843535181
  • ISBN-13: 978-1843535188
  • Product Dimensions: 17.1 x 2.6 x 23.2 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 296,041 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Product Description


"Handy, companionable and trustworthy … awesomely assured" -- Boyd Tonkin, The Independent, London

"Well-honed, stylish and thoroughly enjoyable" -- Professor Stanley Wells, Chairman of the Shakespeare Birthplace Trust

"You couldn't wish for a more user-friendly, reliable guidebook … I doff my Bardic cap to this fine achievement" -- Anthony Holden, author of William Shakespeare: His Life and Work

About the Author

Andrew Dickson has contributed to various Rough Guide titles including the Rough Guide History of England. He is a post-graduate specializing in Shakespeare and Renaissance literature at Cambridge.

Inside This Book (Learn More)
First Sentence
The central story woven by All's Well seems at first glance more socially optimistic than any other Shakespeare wrote: a poor physician's daughter finds her prince and eventually succeeds in wedding him. Read the first page
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Front Cover | Copyright | Table of Contents | Excerpt | Index | Back Cover
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By Dale Vaughan on 1 Sep 2013
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
A good price for a second hand book in very good condition.
Would definitely shop with you again. Thank you.
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Without once alluding to the suggestion that Shakespeare was more than one person, the scholastic depth of this book alone seems to give credence to that theory. So thorough, so perfectly explicatory of plot, sources, context and so on, this book opens up Shakespeare like nothing else I have encountered, including documentaries, biographies, annotated works and modernised versions of the plays. The synopses of the plays are more enjoyable for me than the plays themselves, which could easily put me in the category of philistine ignoramus, but the crucial ingredient that makes Shakespeare Shakespeare, the poetry, will always make the dramatic works in their original form central, and that would be in living performance rather than read in a book. This may be stating the obvious, but to me they have always seemed impossibly dense, mannered and abstruse in all other formats, especially if one is looking for their existential, inspirational source. Everything else, sources in other plays, character exposition and relationship, ancient and modern staging and context of the plays etc.etc. is covered with such loving detail that the creative genius of the Shakespeare himself and the experience of the theatrical presentation of his work is almost rendered superfluous to the information presented in this prodigious work. Of course Shakespeare created the work, so that could be considered an absurd statement, but if the work is rendered relevant, accessible, and more importantly, enjoyable to those who seek to understand or simply see what the fuss is about, without trivialising or demeaning the power and genius of the plays, then this book is crucially important.Read more ›
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 2 reviews
22 of 22 people found the following review helpful
A Topnotch Shakespeare Guide 22 Jun 2006
By Buce - Published on
Format: Paperback
The intro material in the front of "The Rough Guide to Shakespeare" says that it was "written by" Andrew Dickson, and that Dickson was born in 1979. This means he would have been 26 years old when it went to press. This fact is about as extraordinary as any in the book: even making allowances for institutional backup (Joe Staines gets "editor" credit on the same page as Dickson's "writer" credit, though in smaller type)--even making allowances, this is a book that would do credit to an author at the other end of his career. It's a work of capacious learning (which it wears lightly) and balanced good sense. I don't know of any one book that comes as close to being as handy for people who attend or read the plays, or who shop for videos. And while it doesn't presume to great scholarship, it even provides a helpful introduction to what academics would call "the literature"--with pointed commentary, not just bibliographical lumber.

Dickson's comments for videos (as, indeed, for everything else) are suggestive, not comprehensive. One isn't at all required to sign onto everything here in order to enjoy them. I think he somewhat underestimates the Branagh "Hamlet," and vastly overestimates the overblown pop-Freudian Olivier version, which almost put me off Shakespeare for life when I first saw it at the Rex Theater in Manchester, New Hampshire in 1952--and yes, I am still annoyed. But he isn't afraid to trust his own intuitions: who would have thought to include, as one of only three "Hamlet" choices, the "expressionist retelling" of Grigory Kozintsev? (He also recommends Kozintsev's "Lear"--both appear to be available from Amazon resellers).

One telling curiosity in Dickson's guide is the way it feels free to ignore the usual suspects you might expect at the Shakespearean banquet. The index includes no reference to John Berryman, none to Peter Levi, none to Harold Bloom, only one each to Mark Van Doren and Marilyn French (but he does catch Van Doren in a famous moment, asserting that "no play of Shakespeare's is better than Henry IV"). This isn't a criticism. Rather, the point is to demonstrate that Dickson is trying to exercise some critical judgment, not merely to catalog.

For the moment, I am going to stack this one with the movie guides, in the hope it will prompt me to pick and choose among Dickson's pickings and choosings of DVD performances I never heard of, or haven't got round to sampling. But it could just as well go in the library, and surely into the baggage for one's next outing to the Shakespeare festival. In short a remarkable work, with much to appreciate.
5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
The Rough Guide to Shakespeare: From a student's view 14 Jun 2009
By K.Brower - Published on
Format: Paperback
As a student of English Literature and Drama studies, the name Shakespeare is more than likely to crop up at some point in my four year degree! Actually, he is studied a lot less than one might think considering the magnitude of his influence and the ubiquity of his works. The need to study Shakespeare, and to understand his own particular mode of theatre making, I believe is central to the canon of literature written in English and therefore is worthy of intense and in-depth study.

The Rough Guide to Shakespeare written by Andrew Dickson, is an extremely useful, and very aptly entitled, handbook. In layman's terms, this does exactly what it says on the tin, which is rare for any sort of secondary critical material on Shakespeare's works. The most frustrating problem when settling down to study a Shakespeare play is the abundance of confusing and oftentimes far-fetching criticism that Shakespeare's plays and poems have elicited through the years. You could easily spend more time rifling through, rather than studying, the glittering array of critical material written from every single possible angle one can think of. The question that often pops into the mind of the eager student is: where on earth do I begin? May I suggest The Rough Guide as a good place?

What this guide offers is a simple and accessible starting point for people interested in learning about Shakespeare. It is suitable for both newcomers and old-comers, so to speak. Every one of his plays, listed here alphabetically, comes with a short blurb, publication dates, an act by act synopsis plus character list, a short essay, a production history, a list of notable screen and audio adaptations as well as including useful secondary material. Not only all that, but also included in the Contexts section is a brief history of the man himself, an essay on the Elizabethan stage, a list of handy books and websites, a glossary of terms and, for me most delightfully, pictures! Not bad for a 500 hundred odd page book.

I think it is fair to say that this guide has a lot to offer by way of information about William Shakespeare. Never before will you have to scour your brain to try and differentiate between the characters of As You Like It and Twelfth Night, or become confused between Henry VI part I and Henry VI part II. In this way, The Rough Guide acts as a pseudo Shakespearean dictionary if you like. Any time you need to know which clown appears in which play, flick through The Rough Guide and you shall have your answer in a matter of seconds. The quick synopses of the plays also come in handy as a brief reminder or simply as a way of making clear the intricacies of a Shakespeare plot.

Anyone who is interested in studying Shakespeare, either as a student or otherwise, would do well to purchase The Rough Guide to Shakespeare.
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