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The Oxford Shakespeare: Othello
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14 of 14 people found the following review helpful
In writing a review of this book, I will make a (possibly rather dangerous) assumption; namely, that you will already know the story of Othello and his awful downfall at the hands of the utterly unscrupulous Iago. If not, then I won't spoil the story, but will say that it is a remarkable and very moving tale indeed.

However, most people looking for a copy of the play are likely to be in the business of studying or performing it, so my review will focus on this particular edition's merits and drawbacks. Of the former there are a great many, and of the latter there are a few.

To start with the practicalities of the book, the layout follows the pattern of the Arden Shakespeare, with the text at the top of the page, below that alternative readings, and on the lower half or so, explanatory notes. This works very well for me, but some readers prefer to work with editions which have facing page annotations, so they might be advised to look elsewhere. Moreover, the book itself is very well made, printed on excellent paper and strongly bound, so if it will be in your company for some time, you won't suffer the annoyances of pages falling out. Lastly, it is clearly typeset in the distinctive font used by all Oxford editions (and is infinitely more legible than the Oxford edition of the collected plays and sonnets).

This edition was first published in 2006, so it is admirably up-to-date in scholarship and approach. Some Oxford editions (such as that of "Hamlet") are over twenty years old, and feel a little dated, but this is very fresh. The editor is Michael Neill, professor of English at Auckland, and he has done an outstanding job. The introduction is almost 180 pages long, and falls into two parts, the first dealing with the play and its characters in performance, and the second with critical approaches to the play and its themes. Both parts are very thorough, but there is not a trace of jargon, and Neill seems not to have approached the edition with an intellectual axe to grind.

There is, though, a strong sense that Neill is determined not to let the reader forget that they are encountering a piece of drama, and not just an academic text on the page, so his explanatory notes quite frequently draw our attention back to questions of stagecraft, which has revealed to me layers of meaning that I would otherwise have overlooked. Equally refreshingly, he does at times take a scalpel to those odd pieces of received wisdom and critical contortionism that have accrued around Shakespeare's plays over the generations, such as the idea of "double time" which some critics have invented to explain the slightly problematic fact that events which feel like they are separated by little more than a few hours, are, in fact, spread over several months. Neill's point is that time was a flexible commodity on the Jacobean stage, and that we should not look for chronological verisimilitude as would be found in a novel. It is well worth reminding us that, despite the profound resonances that this story carries for readers in any era, Shakespeare's age was markedly different to our own, and we should not attempt to twist his work to fit our own preconceptions of how art should function.

The only drawback with this edition is that it is pitched at readers who are comfortable with studying Shakespeare, and I would advise readers in years 12 and 13 of school to consider other editions, such as the New Swan edition, which might meet their needs better. However, for those at under- and postgraduate level, and experienced readers of Shakespeare, this is an excellent book.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
on 13 August 2013
The Oxford Shakespeares are, I think, an excellent first choice for non-academic readers such as myself. The introduction is helpful, readable and - most importantly for those of us who are actually reading for pleasure - actually adds to one's enjoyment of the play.

Tone of footnotes and introduction is, thankfully, never of awful dumbing-down that besets the Macmillan current editions,

References are all on the page rather than collected at the back of the book,

Paper is of a high quality,

Binding is solid,

Typeface is clear and elegant.
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This is one of Shakespeare's tautest tragedies with an inexorable forward momentum and hardly a wasted word. From the opening scene with its language of hate and dissolution to the final, inevitable, ending we are swept along with no pause to catch our breaths.

But beneath the surface of this play which seems to be about jealousy, the text also probes other ideas. In particular, the idea of stereotypes, whether of race or gender, are interrogated and exposed.

With its claustrophobic atmosphere, its brilliant pacing and its deep characterisation, this is one of Shakespeare's most accessible plays, even for those new or relatively unfamiliar with either Shakespeare or Renaissance drama.

I like these Oxford editions for Stanley Wells' close attention to the most reliable texts, and the provocative and stimulating notes and context.

A highly recommended edition of a passionate, powerful and ultimately truly tragic play.
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on 24 October 2013
Having read other Shakespearean works published by Oxford Worlds Classics I knew this would a superbly informative work.
There is no point in this review going into the work of Shakespeare and this tragedy, Othello. I will use this review to write about the all the parts that make up this particular book.
There is a wonderful and informative 179 page introduction that consists of sections on the play's reception, sources, the play in performance and the interpretation of the play. There are six appendices which include headings such as, The Texts of the Play, The Music in the Play and Longer Notes.
But what I believe sets this book apart is the excellent, comprehensive and well researched footnotes.
I am using this book in conjunction with my English Literature degree and would highly recommended it to others.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on 3 November 2012
Very dark and tragic tail of love and revenge. A bitter ending to a couple so much in love. Arrived in perfect time to!
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on 7 December 2013
This is a brilliant piece of writing which is a relevant today as the day it was written. The issues it deals with and how Shekespeare tackles them are brilliant. I never knew how much racism exhisted during the 17th Century and reading 'Othello' has given me a new insight into how life must have been for people of colour in white Europe. This is one of those 'must read' books that will enlighten and better oneself.
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Not much can be said really other than this, like most works attributed to Shakespeare, is a classic; which in my mind deals with issues and themes ahead of it's time.

The Oxford addition is very good with helpful notes and extras.
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on 18 March 2014
Bought for OU coursework; notes helpful for study and essay writing, otherwise, no better than my Wordsworth Classics edition, but cost much more.
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on 8 October 2014
Just what I needed for my course - great read and good quality book!
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1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on 7 February 2010
This copy of Othello has been really great for me!! Im an Alevel student and it conatains so much extra informatation! There are footnotes at the bottom of every page that tell you the meanings and significance of the words!! If youre studying the play this book is brilliant, however if you just want to read it then it has a lot more information in it than needed. But this is interesing to read anyway!! i say that its the best copy to buy!!
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