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228 of 231 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The most complete 'complete', and the best.
It's easy to pick up a copy of 'The complete works of Shakespeare' from any bookshop; many are less than a tenner. So why pay more for this one?

Well, let's start with the overall look and feel of the book. In size and construction it feels more like something that could ask about twice the price and feel worthwhile (and no, that page count isn't a...
Published on 28 Nov 2007 by Sable Unadorned

versus
9 of 12 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars RSC Shakespeare 2552 pages too thin... see both sides at once.
I am not experienced on Shakespeare. Just decided to try something different. Bought the 37-DVD collection and the book. Ship to N.BC.Canada.

I won't comment on the literary content but I felt it was important to comment on the books physical qualities. I decided to buy based partly on customer reviews. I read through several of the reviews. One which praised...
Published on 18 Jan 2011 by Gary


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228 of 231 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The most complete 'complete', and the best., 28 Nov 2007
It's easy to pick up a copy of 'The complete works of Shakespeare' from any bookshop; many are less than a tenner. So why pay more for this one?

Well, let's start with the overall look and feel of the book. In size and construction it feels more like something that could ask about twice the price and feel worthwhile (and no, that page count isn't a misprint). Fair enough - as one who lives just outside Stratford, I can tell you that Shakespeare is big business in the town, and one could hardly imagine the RSC being prepared to put their name to anything less than the best.

But the real story is inside. It would have been very easy to produce 'just another' complete works with a fancy binding and nothing special on the inside, but that hasn't happened here. As well as the complete text, the book includes a long review of each play placing it in historical and dramatic context. In addition to that there are extensive notes on each page, explaining the more abstruse language and adding explanations of historical or plot points. This means that the plays can be read as literature - not always easy if one only has the basic text, or if one has to keep flipping to the back for a list of notes. Plus, as you'd expect, the poems and sonnets are given just as thorough a treatment.

All in all, I'd give it more than five stars if I could. It's a gorgeous book, both to look at and to read, and should be part of the collection of anyone who's ever enjoyed, or thought they might enjoy, Shakespeare. Possibly the only Shakepeare volume you'll ever need?
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165 of 171 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Worth the price tag!, 4 May 2007
I have never found a complete works like it before. I don't know if I can put it into words, but i'll try...

1) This is the only complete works I've ever seen to have notes on the text writen ON THE PAGE. One of my pet hates about reading complete works was that if there was an obscure phrase, you used to have to go online or find another edition of it, which interupted the pleasure of reading. No more! It's an absolute joy to read, and so sumptuously laid out.

2) It's totally edited from the first folio. Not only that, it's edited by the RSC. Now, you may say why is that so important? Well, Shakespeare wrote for actors, not for literary analysis by ancient professors, and shakespeare used certain devices in his writing to help out his actors. The first folio is closest to what we have as Shakespeare's own words. This means it's the best copy to read from be you acting or writing an essay, or simpl reading for pleasure.

3) The sprinkles and jelly tots on top of the cake are the essays at the start of each play (which stimulate the mind... they're not breathtaking, but interesting at least), the pictures from the RSC archive, an introduction to the life and times of Shakespeare, and access to a website with extra resource materail for whatever your fancy.

If you want to buy a Complete Works of Shakespeare, this HAS to be the one. It's worth every penny, and will last you for life! It's the best out there!
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32 of 33 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars All the world and more is here, 19 Aug 2008
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In his foreword to this magnificent edition, Michael Boyd reminds us that Shakespeare's plays were originally scripts for companies of actors and "not written as literature" to be read in an armchair at home. Performance is what matters, and the reading of the text is always going to be an incomplete experience in comparison. So why bother? For me, that incompleteness is still going to be more rewarding than reading most books ever published, but the real payoff comes next time I see the play performed, when I'm that little bit more prepared, that little bit less confused by the language, and that little bit more ready to appreciate a great performance, whether it's by a star actor on a national stage or a complete unknown at a fringe venue. This edition works in so many ways to make our experience of Shakespeare more complete.

The General Introduction by Jonathan Bate covers a lot of familiar territory - Shakespeare's life in Stratford, his early reputation as the "upstart crow", his rise to preeminence as scriptwriter for and shareholder in the Lord Chamberlain's Men, and so on, and the problem for any writer on Shakespeare is how to stitch our patchwork knowledge into a finer garment, how to find a new angle without resorting to arcane questions that are of scholarly interest only. Bate's command of the material and his choice of detail, his straightforward style that never fakes meaning with jargon, and the consistent perspective that emphasizes performance, all work towards opening up these million or so words. There is a refreshing emphasis on just how much we do know, contradicting the common view trotted out even in the RSC's own programmes that "very little is known" of his life. Bate acknowledges that we "will never know what drove his ambition" but Shakespeare is far from being the cipher so beloved of anti-Stratfordians.

The brief introductory essays to each play continue in this elegant way by avoiding stale opinion on the one hand and abstruse academic innovation on the other. They are a model of clarity and lucidity, as though he instinctively realizes that since reading the plays itself involves dealing with multiply-layered words he won't add to your burden. Much Ado, for example, begins "with the end of a war" and moves from combat to courtship. The change of mood is abrupt with the interruption of Hero and Claudio's wedding, and Bate captures this in language we can all understand: "Its atmosphere has been all holiday. No more." There is a crispness that makes me feel I'm learning something new even when it comes to the more familiar plays. As for a less well known play like Timon, he has the knack of drawing you in with a surprising fact: it's unique in that no one in the play "has a blood relationship to anyone else". A detail like this is a fascinating bit of fuel to get you up and running (or at least walking with determination!).

Like the Bible, the plays present textual problems in that no original manuscripts survive and there are different versions of many passages. Decisions have to be made, the key one for this edition being to base it on the 1623 First Folio. This "solves" at a stroke the difficult problem of how best to combine the different versions into one. Textual questions (often fascinating in their own right) over Quarto and Folio readings are gathered together at the end of each play, in contrast to, for example, the Arden editions, which can often have such long footnotes that there is only space for a couple of lines of the play, which is always to get the balance wrong. There is no such intrusion here: on any given page it is clear what takes precedence, the play itself, laid out in single column with all the elements working efficiently around it.

Notes are handled in small type at the foot of the page, each word or phrase repeated in bold following the line number (so avoiding markers in the text). These usually give one or more meanings, the majority of which are helpful. Only rarely is there a sign of dumbing down, as when "Florentine" is glossed as a "person from the city of Florence, in north-west Italy". More fascinating and subversive of polite society is the anti-Bowdlerization at work. Lewd meanings are unashamedly (and in surprising numbers) laid bare. Mistress Quickly's complaint that her "case is open to the world" causes no titters from most audiences, who are innocent in their ignorance of Shakespeare's appetite for filth. Parents and teachers be warned: keep this out of reach of your children - it's full of sex and knife crime and should on no account be allowed in the classroom!

Hamlet admires the travelling players who have returned to Elsinore as "the abstracts and brief chronicles of the time". For anyone who's sat through a seemingly interminable production of Shakespeare, it may seem incredible that there's anything brief about his plays, but for most of the original audience, wanting to be told stories of their nation's history, Holinshed's massive volumes were never an option and an afternoon on the South Bank was a no-brainer. Unlike that original theatre-going public, we're lucky to have his plays to read and study outside the playhouse, but we should not forget where it all started.

I've read enough of the two thousand pages to give it five stars, which is not a judgement on Shakespeare (he hardly needs my endorsement) but on how he's been packaged. Most wrappers get ripped off and thrown away: this one is made of finer material and will serve anyone with even a smattering of interest in our greatest writer. Just don't expect to read it on the bus.
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30 of 31 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Easy access to a forgotten world, 8 April 2008
My story is brief - I wanted to read some Shakespeare, I'd read some at school when I was forced and now, 20 years later, thought I'd give it a try.

I chose this because it was by the RSC so you would think it would be good. But, you have to remember that this was written around 400 years ago so in a lot of ways its a little like reading a foreign language wher eyou know most of the words and not all.

The beauty about this book is that the "translation" for those few words you may not know is at the bottom of each page so you only need glance down to carry on reading the text ... almost in the clear as it were.

This alone makes Shakespeare accessible to anyone. So, is it worth it ?

I have to say I was stunned, being able to read the plays, just how good they are. How, with just a few words, Shakespeare can set a scene and with a few more, tell you the whole mood of the characters.

The scenes change quickly from place to place taking the stories along at a hectic place and you can easily imagine any of the pieces being performed. They're as good, if not better, than most films you get to see at the cinema these days.

So, if you're wondering if Shakespeare is right for you, buy this and give it a go.

You may be pleasantly surprised !
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11 of 11 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Ten star review, 1 Jun 2008
I had this given as a birthday presant and all i can say is WOW.I have only recently got into Shakespeare and have seen a couple of the plays already and i just wanted to enchance my viewing of them,as i,m going to see four this year.And this book dose it.Its brilliantly put together with every thing W.S. wrote and more I think!.If could put TEN stars at the top i would.
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26 of 27 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars The right 'Shakespeare Complete Works' for the right person..., 27 May 2008
By 
Mr. J. A. Edwards "josephaedwards" (nottingham, England) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This review is from: The RSC Shakespeare: The Complete Works (Paperback)
One of the features that is most attractive about this latest edition of Shakespeare's plays is its layout. The text is of a pleasantly large size, and glosses of the meanings of certain words is easy to access at the bottom of the page. The introductions are great - although in other editions there are more extensive and/or scholarly introductions to the plays, these are well written, and are still very readable if you are about to read the play for the first time. The style of writing is pleasantly unassuming in that respect. So for people reading Shakespeare for pleasure I would highly recommend this book.
However, at points in my degree I've slightly regretted my choice, for a number of reasons. Firstly, the paper, to allow the book to be not too thick whilst having text occurring in only one column per page, must be very thin. As a consequence of this it tends to wrinkle slightly if you put your fingers on it for too long. The Riverside Shakespeare solves this problem because it has text in two columns down the page, (it still has glosses of difficult words at the bottom of the page) and this allows the paper to be slightly thicker, and so you are not worried that you are going to tear it.
The text itself is pretty good, although it sometimes differs quite strongly from the Arden text. This is not a fault in itself, but as the Arden text is the major editing of our time, this can sometimes cause slight problems. Of course, if you're not doing a degree when you need to read literature about the texts then this will not apply to you. An example would be the play 'Hamlet', where the quarto text is a lot longer than the folio text, and this text sticks to the folio text. This is okay, but the Norton edition, I think, gets round this really well by putting the bits which are in the quarto but not in the folio, in their place but in italics. That is really useful.
Anyhow, unless your hoping to study shakespeare at a advanced level this text is fine. It is really beautifully presented, and easy to access.
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41 of 43 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Best ever edition, 16 April 2008
By 
Alixayd (London, England) - See all my reviews
Every play and poem in one book with footnotes at the bottom so you can understand what virtually every word means. There's also great introductions to each play so you get some background information on the characters, so you feel the emotion because you feel where every character is coming from when they say certain lines. People usually avoid reading Shakespeare because they think its just some esoteric babble that got forced on them at school as a form of torture, but what the RSC do is they make it accessible, so much Kudos to them. I have to agree with Dame Judi Dench's review that every household should have this book because its absolutely brilliant.
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24 of 25 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Just incredibly readable, 15 April 2008
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Although the size would make you think this is forbidding, the layout of the text is tremendously clear and you can coast through your reading fairly easily. Shakespeare went from being someone I had a duty to admire, to beng a worthwile, accessible author. I would never have thought presentation was so impoortant to enjoying him; but, I was surprised.

The footnotes are superb, easy to check as you read - so they don't spoil the experience but add to it.

Pages are nice and light too; makes you feel very special.

This review's getting a bit weird now...
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Notes on paper quality etc, 22 Jun 2010
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Just a few comments about the 'readability' of this edition.

I've recently received my own hardback copy and I'm delighted with it, despite being a user of 2.5 ds reading glasses .

Yes, there is some show-through on each page but nowhere does it affect my reading of the text. The effect is more obvious because each play's text is (happily) set in single lines and not double columns, leaving a fair amount of white space on the right-hand side of the page. Overall, I would say that the show-through is similar to that of my Chambers Dictionary, but reduced by superior paper quality. In truth, I just don't notice it when I'm reading.

As for the notes at the bottom of each page, I find them completely readable and sufficently helpful for the general reader.I would suggest however that for serious study, individual play editions with more comprehensive notes would be preferable.

In every other respect I can only agree with most reviewers that this is quite wonderful edition and extraordinary value for money.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars The First Folio, revised, 4 May 2012
By 
Hawfinch - See all my reviews
(TOP 1000 REVIEWER)   
It is curious that Shakespeare never organised the publication of any of his plays. Apparently he had no interest in the life of these works outside the playhouse for which they were written. This has created innumerable problems for his editors, as well as giving them license to make free with the surviving texts, which can be divided into two categories: the Folio edition of the collected plays, published by Shakespeare's friends shortly after his death, and Quarto editions of individual plays printed during his lifetime.

Where Folio and Quarto versions of the same play exist, there are often puzzling differences. Lines appear in the Quarto texts of Hamlet which seem genuinely Shakespearean but which are absent from the First Folio, and vice versa. Most editions of Shakespeare are based on the theory, prevalent before the last century, that the surviving texts are corruptions of a lost original and that the role of the editor is to reconstruct that supposed original. You take what's best from the Folio and Quarto texts of Hamlet and merge them into a single work.

Research has discredited this pick-and-mix approach. It is now generally believed that there was no single version of Hamlet, and that Shakespeare revised the play (and his other plays) during its run in the playhouse. The Quarto texts are typically the earlier, more literary versions; the Folio texts are the later, more theatrical revisions.

Recent editors of Shakespeare have begun to embrace this new theory. The Oxford Shakespeare, edited by Wells and Taylor, goes so far as to print the Quarto and Folio versions of King Lear as separate plays, since the differences between the texts are so great.

This RSC edition is intended as a restoration of the First Folio. It corrects obvious errors and modernises punctuation and spelling, but does not incorporate passages unique to the Quarto texts (though these are included as notes at the end of each play). Thus Hamlet, in this edition, does not speak the familiar soliloquy that begins, "How all occasions do inform against me, and spur my dull revenge" - since that is a Quarto, not a Folio passage. Hundreds of other Quarto lines, that have traditionally been included in collected editions of the plays, are likewise omitted. Though there are valid reasons for these omissions, they may be disconcerting to readers who are familiar with other editions or performances of Shakespeare.

It should also be noted that the First Folio texts were subject to censorship laws which did not apply to the Quartos. Thus some of Shakespeare's earthier, blasphemous language present in the Quartos ("zounds", "sblood") is removed in the Folio, and "heaven" is substituted for "God" in oaths.

With these caveats, I think the editors have done a splendid job with this edition. The single-column layout and decent text size make a refreshing change from the cramped, dual-column style of almost every other single volume edition. The paper is thin, with some slight show-through, but I think this is unavoidable to keep the size and weight down, and does not trouble the eye. The binding (of the hardback edition) is strong and good quality, with two ribbon bookmarks sewn in. There are word definitions and some brief commentary at the foot of each page, but this is unobtrusive if you don't need it. The short introductions to each play are excellent and well worth reading.

The poems and sonnets are included, though these are less attractively presented, with smaller text and in dual columns, and with many of the sonnets split over two pages. Pericles and The Two Noble Kinsman (plays not in the First Folio) are also included.

In short, if you want a fine, modernised edition of the First Folio text, attractively presented and carefully edited, with some useful supplementary material, this is the book to buy.
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The RSC Shakespeare: The Complete Works
The RSC Shakespeare: The Complete Works by William Shakespeare (Paperback - 21 April 2008)
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