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A Theatre of Envy (Odéon) Paperback – 1 Jan 2000


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23 of 25 people found the following review helpful
An original reading of the usual subject 12 April 2001
By I. M. Sanchez Prado - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover
Girar is a quite heterodox critic, and his trademark, mimetic desire (that is the fact that we desire something by imitating someone else who also desire it either directly (our best friend's girlfriend) or indirectly (social stereotypes that make desirable a certain type of woman or a specific product), provides a unique reading of the work of the bard. The book is based on the thesis that Shakespeare had conciousness of mimetic desire and that his plays show a representation of it as part of their plot. Girard focuses on many plays and on the sonnets and his reading is fascinating. Probably some will find his analysis repetitiva and determinist. However, the fact that mimetic desire is quite unlike any other theory applied to the bard creates very interesting readings of character development and plot in the plays, as well as one of the most convincing theories on the sonnets I have ever read. When combined with Bloom's Shakespeare and Greenblatt's Shakespearean Negotiations, the reading of Shakespeare becomes an excellent exercise of literary pleasure and a stimulating intellectual experience.
7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
The most important book about Shakespeare 6 July 2011
By Fabio - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Do not fail to read this book if you love Shakespeare and want some understanding of what his work as a whole is about. Let me carefully explain why.

Girard has a few devoted followers and very few adversaries. His bold interpretation of western literature (lets put aside his entire mimetic theory for a moment) is so far away from everything else in literary theory that other scholars find it very difficult to elaborate a refutation - they would have to re-examine too much that is taken for granted and that is the basis for all literary criticism, old and contemporary. So most of the disagreement with Girard is short and dismissive, rather than a careful critique.

This is indeed a very regrettable situation. Girard`s study is too decisive to be treated as a footnote, and too persuasive to be dismissed. If he is correct, than he found the key to interpret all great western literature. We know that Shakespeare, Dostoyevsky and Cervantes, not to mention the Greek tragedians, are somehow set apart from other writers in that they provide a superior portrait of human condition, but little has been done to explain why. Why are Don Quixote and Hamlet so outstanding? I think only Girard elaborated an answer. And it is a very disturbing one. Scholars and non-scholars have a natural reaction to dislike the idea that the characters in great literature are so universal because they show how non-autonomous people are, rather than the opposite.

But one must take Girard`s ideas seriously. In the case of this book, how can one dismiss the mountain of evidence Girard presents to prove that Shakespearean characters are slaves to other people's desires? How can one read this book and not treat this hypothesis seriously? Because if you do, and if you end up agreeing with it, you may feel like a fool - all the literary critics you ever read, and their respective schools of thought, and the institutions to which they belong - become almost redundant and peripheral, and this relatively little-known dude from Stanford acquires an immense importance. Even the individual reader feels like silly because he missed something so ubiquitous. So in a way, Girard`s mimetic theory explains Rene Girard's relative obscurity.

So there is greater benefit in reading Theater of Envy if you are NOT an English major, and have read a lot more Shakespeare than commentary about Shakespeare. You will have a lot less prejudice, and you will be flabbergasted by Girard demonstrating over and over again what that body of work is about.

One other thing of interest is: if you are already acquainted with the mimetic theory (and I strongly recommend you read Deceit, Desire and the Novel before tackling this one), you already know a lot of what the author is going to say (assuming you are acquainted with the Bard`s plays). For example, much of what the Chapter on Hamlet contains I already knew would be there, just by applying Girard`s theory to a play I knew well. And I could probably write myself a couple of extra chapters to this book, tackling Henry VI parts II and III, two very "mimetic" plays Girard left out for some reason. Actually, it is interesting that there is only one chapter on Hamlet, a play that corroborates so much of Girard`s theory, and two on As You Like It, a play where the mimetic desire appears little. Girard wants to go for the difficult stuff, the elements in Shakespeare that apparently contradict him, so that we will be all the more persuaded. Why insist on Hamlet and Othello if the reader will easily be convinced himself?

One last reason to read this book. Girard is a great writer, period. His prose and his clear presentation make it a delightful read. The only obstacle to reading this book is complete unfamiliarity with Shakespeare - I skipped the chapter`s on Winter`s Tale because I know nothing about that play other than the title. Other than that, reading Deceit Desire and the Novel first is a very good idea, but not indispensable if you are a Shakespeare buff. I suspect you will probably jump to reading more Girard afterwards anyways.
6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
Shakespeare Even Greater Than I Thought!!! 7 Jun. 2010
By Amazon Customer - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
This is one of my favorite books of all time, and changed my assessment of Shakespeare, actually increasing my opinion of his genius. This is the first of 3 Girard books I have read, and perhaps the best. His insightful analysis will make future Shakespearean reviews seem superficial. This book is exciting enough to get us to head over to the Stratford , Ontario summer theater to see The Winter's Tale live, which Girard says is Shakespeare's greatest achievement. ( I suggest the Folger Shakespeare Library edition. )
Need an eBook version. Devastating critique of conventional Shakespeare "scholarship." 8 Dec. 2013
By Sam Condon - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I've read a number of Girard's books but this was the most enlightening about a number of topics that his other writings leave a little obscure. It's comparable to his essay on Dostoevsky in that regard. The idea of seeing all of the works that adopt the mimetic perspective as a single work that deals with increasingly difficult elements of the mimetic cycle is very helpful. The only problem is that there isn't yet an eBook version, and the typeface on the hardback is pretty small. Hopefully they'll produce an eBook version soon, as well as one for *Deceit, Desire, and the Novel* and *Things Hidden*.
2 of 14 people found the following review helpful
UNLEARNED LEARNED EMERITUS 25 April 2013
By LAURA - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback
René Girard, bless him, has had one idea in his life, which he calls "mimetism", ( essentially meaning that you can only "desire" - typically French semi-sexual term for expressing "need" or "want" or "liking" - what someone else desires or has desired before you. Deep stuff.) and has been preaching this Gospel - yes he does blend his reactionary Catholic fundamentalism into liberal academic propaganda- for the past 50 years. The reader is thus thrilled to learn that the Gospels (which ones? Gnostic?) were indeed written at the time they are said to have been written, no doubt about it, hey, THE JERUSALEM BIBLE says so - which Girard probably read in French. A lesson in longevity perhaps. However, when - the author admits the point - he doesn't know much of anything about the specific historical framework associated with the plays, poem, author, epoch, or language he is writing about...Somehow I have trouble taking this very seriously. Absolutely no attempt at research into context is even deemed relevant, stylistic analysis is non-existent (Girard may consider the English language beneath him) in this masterly mental construct. Example, The Sonnets. Does the Professor know that the First part is addressed to the author's patron, as was common at the period? That he is confusing the Earl of Pembroke with some anonymous third party to fit his triangular scheme of desire? That the Sonnets are hilariously obscene and ribald? And the jealousy openly admitted? Because the narrative I ( whoever is speaking in first person) is a rejected lover? And, dear I am picky, the Sonnets were not "early Shakespeare", but probably written over a ten-year period. When the theaters were closed periodically because of the plague epidemics. Sorry, check your sources. If it don't work, change it.
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