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Will Power: Essays on Shakespearean Authority Paperback – 1 Jul 1993

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Product details

  • Paperback: 320 pages
  • Publisher: Harvester Wheatsheaf; 1 edition (1 July 1993)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0745009719
  • ISBN-13: 978-0745009711
  • Product Dimensions: 22.9 x 14.7 x 1.8 cm
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 4,565,376 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
Challenging -- and worth it 22 Dec. 2011
By John Broglio - Published on
Format: Paperback
If, like me, you do not have a degree in literary criticism, this may be a challenging book. But if, like me, you are fascinated by Shakespeare's plays you will have to read it.
Reading and re-reading the plays, there are many moments where I stop and ask: why is this scene here? why in this way? what motivated this play at this time?
It seems quite clear that in most of Shakespeare's plays, there is a meta-text: an over-arching motivation to write a given play that transcends an entertainer's fascination with plot and character.
Reading one of these plays, I often think of Hamlet's command "to show ... the very age and body of the time his form and pressure." I sense the plays are doing that but I lack the contextual knowledge to find the reflection.
Wilson explores the cultural and economic context of several plays. He ends by giving a brilliant treatment of Shakespeare's last will and testament. Wilson's work is so rich that each chapter affords enough thought and insight for a whole book.
The book is full of aha! moments that make you want to go back and reread a play. The way the plays are located in the events of the time forges a connection between an authorial hand and the cultural and political context, a connection that is not provided by the meager biographical facts of the Bard's life.

Introduction: the return of the author
1. A mingled yarn: Shakespeare and the cloth workers
2. Is this a holiday? Shakespeare's Roman Carnival
3. Like the old Robin Hood: As You Like It and the enclosure riots
4. Against the grain: Representing the market in Coriolanus
5. The quality of mercy: Discipline and punishment in Shakespearean Comedy
6. Observations on English bodies: Licensing maternity in Shakespeare's late plays.
7. A constant will to publish: Shakespeare's dead hand.

Reading this book had the effect of giving new rich life to some of the "problem" plays and of bringing a play like Coriolanus up to the minute in Shakespeare's England (and in our own time where economic suffering is confronted with aristocratic arrogance and indifference).
In spite of the dearth of biographical data that could cast light on Shakespeare's plays and sonnets, Wilson constructs an approach to the plays that reveals an integral authorial mind at work.
Halfway through the book, I decided I would reread it -- along with the appropriate plays. It is too much nourishment for one traversal.
This is a book for someone who can already read the plays and enjoy the poetry and the language. If you are not at that stage yet, you could do worse than start with Asimov's Guide to Shakespeare: A Guide to Understanding and Enjoying the Works of Shakespeare which is a surprisingly good companion to the plays.
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