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Julian Gardiner (London)

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Shakespeare's "Edmund Ironside": The Lost Play
Shakespeare's "Edmund Ironside": The Lost Play
by Eric Sams
Edition: Paperback

5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A very good candidate for a lost Shakespeare play, 9 Mar. 2004
In this fascinating book Eric Sams presents the text of the Elizabethan manuscript play Edmund Ironside, and argues that it is the work of the young William Shakespeare. The play tells the story of a war between rival claimants to the English throne: Edmund Ironside and "Canutus" (more familiar to most of us as "King Canute"). The play is violent, and in some ways crude, but it has a fantastic vigour of action and language, and it is not hard to believe that this is what Shakespeare was writing shortly before his earliest acknowledged history and tragedy: Henry VI part 1 and Titus Andronicus. The most interesting character is the villain Edricus: in his self-dramatising soliloquies he sounds for all the world like a first draft of those quintessentially Shakespearean villains Richard III, Iago, and Edmund (in King Lear). Sams' case for Shakespearean authorship is closely argued, and I am all but convinced that he is correct. Sadly, his view has been given short shrift by most established Shakespearean scholars, and I'm inclined to agree with Sams that there is some closed-mindedness involved. Read the play and judge for yourself.


King Edward III (The New Cambridge Shakespeare)
King Edward III (The New Cambridge Shakespeare)
by William Shakespeare
Edition: Paperback
Price: £8.99

12 of 12 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars An interesting addition to the Shakespearean canon, 9 Mar. 2004
This play was published anonymously in 1596 and first attributed to Shakespeare some forty years after his death. It tells of the English victories against the French which marked the start of the Hundred Years War, with Edward III's adulterous wooing of the Countess of Salisbury providing some "love interest" in an otherwise military story.
Thirty-six plays were published in the First Folio of Shakespeare's plays in 1623; modern editions of Shakespeare's collected works now add two further plays, "Pericles" and "The Two Noble Kinsmen", which Shakespeare appears to have written in collaboration with other playwrights. Melchiori makes a very strong case for the addition of Edward III to the canon as another play that is mostly, perhaps entirely, by Shakespeare. (Many of Shakespeare's early plays were published without attribution to him, so this in itself does not disprove the claim of Shakespearean authorship.) Melchiori provides a convincing reason why Edward III did not appear in the first folio, namely its very unsympathetic portrayal of the Scots which, by 1623 with a Scots king now on the English throne, had become politically unacceptable. I found the case for Shakespearean authorship convincing, and I hope this Cambridge Shakespeare edition will herald the addition of this play to the accepted canon. I have to add, though, that this is a workaday rather than a brilliant play: think Henry VI part 1 rather than Henry V. It is mainly of interest to those interested in Shakespeare's development as a writer rather than to the general reader.


Still She Haunts Me
Still She Haunts Me
by Katie Roiphe
Edition: Paperback

2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Well-written, but somewhat disappointing., 13 Feb. 2004
This review is from: Still She Haunts Me (Paperback)
Katie Roiphe’s first novel is an imaginative recreation of the relationship between Lewis Carroll and the child Alice Liddell, for whom he wrote Alice in Wonderland.
Roiphe handles this potentially disturbing subject matter sensitively, neither demonizing Carroll nor attempting to sanitize the darker side of his attraction to Alice. The writing is imaginative and sometimes strikingly vivid. But in the end I was not really convinced by the characterization, or by the portrayal of the society Carroll inhabits. What really happened between Lewis Carroll and Alice we will never know, but I don’t believe it was like this.


Nemesis (Bantam Spectra Book)
Nemesis (Bantam Spectra Book)
by Isaac Asimov
Edition: Mass Market Paperback

6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A great read for anyone into science fiction., 13 Feb. 2004
This is a “stand alone” story, not related to Asimov’s Foundation epic. It has been seriously suggested by astronomers that the sun could have a faint red dwarf companion. This story explores some of the consequences of this possibility, with faster-than-light travel and conscious planets thrown in for good measure. This is not great literature or even profound scientific speculation, but it’s thoroughly entertaining and well worth reading.


Explaining Hitler. The Search for the Origins of his Evil
Explaining Hitler. The Search for the Origins of his Evil
by Ron Rosenbaum
Edition: Hardcover

1 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A brilliant and thought provoking book., 13 Feb. 2004
How did Hitler come to be such an evil person? Ron Rosenbaum explores the different ways that people have attempted to answer this question over the past 80 years. Was Hitler abused as a child? Was he insane? Was his hatred of the Jews fuelled by a fear that he might himself be of Jewish descent? Some of those whom Rosenbaum consults on these questions are sure they have the answers; others believe that it is impossible to answer the question of how Hitler came to be so evil, or even that it is wrong to try and answer it because any explanation may be seen as some kind of an excuse for Hitler’s actions. By exploring so many different views of Hitler, Rosenbaum produces a far more compelling and intriguing work than if he had simply presented his own opinions in a straightforward biography. This a truly remarkable and profoundly intelligent book, even if, in the end, it raises more questions than it answers.


The Making of The English Bible
The Making of The English Bible
by Benson Bobrick
Edition: Hardcover

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A fascinating history of the English reformation, 13 Feb. 2004
It is hard to imagine in the 21st century what a revolutionary idea it was in the middle ages that the Bible should be made available to ordinary people in their own language. In this excellent book Bobrick plots the history of the European reformation, focusing on England and the lives of the remarkable men and women who fought to make the Bible available to ploughmen and pastry-cooks as well as priests. This history is often stranger than fiction, with schisms where two or even three papal claimants mutually excommunicated each other, or the story of how the Bishop of London’s plan to remove heretical books by buying them up led to his inadvertently funding the second edition of Tyndale’s supposedly heretical translation of the Bible. Bobrick succeeds in making the complicated religious divisions and controversies of the renaissance remarkably understandable. This book is as entertaining as it is informative, and I recommend it to anyone with an interest in the history of the reformation and the story of how the modern English Bible came into being.


Paul: A Very Short Introduction (Very Short Introductions)
Paul: A Very Short Introduction (Very Short Introductions)
by E. P. Sanders
Edition: Paperback
Price: £7.99

52 of 52 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A vivid introduction to St Paul's thinking, 14 Jan. 2004
In this short book E. P. Sanders provides a lucid account of St Paul’s theology. Paul’s life was a dramatic one: having been a Pharisee who had persecuted Christians he underwent a dramatic conversion in which he felt himself called to be Christ’s apostle to the Gentiles. This brought him into conflict with those Jewish Christians who believed that Jesus’s message was for the Jews only. Sanders explores Paul’s thought as it is developed in the letters he wrote (the New Testament books of Romans, Corinthians, Galatians etc). Paul emerges as a passionate and inspired theologian, above all a practical theologian. He was not concerned with theology as a dry academic discipline but with solving the problems of the young churches which he had helped to set up. (Should Christians be circumcised? Did salvation from Christ exempt Christians from the law? Is speaking in tongues more important than charity?) The tensions, and occasional contradictions, that Sanders highlights in Paul’s thinking reveal a depth and creativity that later Christian thinkers who have strived harder for consistency often lack. This is an excellent introduction to one of the most remarkable and influential figures in the history of Christianity.


In the Beginning: New Interpretation of Genesis
In the Beginning: New Interpretation of Genesis
by Karen Armstrong
Edition: Paperback

17 of 19 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Fascinating insights into the characters of Genesis, 12 Dec. 2003
In this short book Karen Armstrong sheds more light on the meaning and continuing relevance of the book of Genesis than many authors have done in far longer works. In a series of short chapters she discusses the vividly drawn men and women who, with their very human mixtures of strengths and weaknesses, people these remarkable stories. She sees Genesis as the story of God's withdrawal from an intimate involvement in his creation and of the human response to the dilemmas of living in the complex world he has left us. This book makes it abundantly clear why the Hebrew Bible continues to fascinate both believers and non-believers; it will send you back to the book of Genesis with renewed interest.


The Abolition of Man
The Abolition of Man
by C. S. Lewis
Edition: Paperback

42 of 43 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Penetrating insight into humanity and the nature of morality, 4 Nov. 2003
This review is from: The Abolition of Man (Paperback)
There are not many books which I think everyone should read. This slim volume is one of them. Here C. S. Lewis explains in the clearest way imaginable why all the attempts to "debunk" humankind are flawed. E.g. attempting to reduce humans to the product of evolution, or to our psychology and social background. The essential argument is this: if we argue that our innate sense of right and wrong is arbitrary and so seek to replace it with something else, where do we get the belief that our new morality is desirable from? Must it not, in the end, be justified from the innate morality it seeks to replace? (The alternative is that it is not justified at all.) This is a compelling and exciting book. Don’t take my word for it: read it yourself!


Reading Shakespeare's Dramatic Language (Arden Shakespeare Library)
Reading Shakespeare's Dramatic Language (Arden Shakespeare Library)
by L. Hunter
Edition: Paperback
Price: £17.09

21 of 21 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Recommended for keen Shakespeareans, 15 Jan. 2003
This collection of essays by some of Britain's leading Shakespeare scholars provides an overview of some of the distinctive features of Shakespeare's dramatic language. How exactly does Shakespeare make a passage dramatically elevated? What figures of speech does he use? (Be prepared for a formidably long list...) A wide range of subjects is covered, including some material which would be of particular interest to actors of Shakespearean roles. There is a good deal of fairly technical discussion, but it is explained clearly enough to be accessible to the interested non-specialist (such as myself). The essays are not all of equal interest, but no one with a passion for Shakespeare's plays will regret reading this book.


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