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VINE VOICEon 6 September 2008
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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on 5 September 2005
By no means a well-known play compared to Shakespeare's tragedies, or even many of his history plays, "Much Ado About Nothing" remains a popular theatrical production, a play which offers dynamic, meaty parts and provides actors with challenging vehicles for the display of their talents. In a sense, it is a play driven by its players, its text bristling with wit and energy, its themes and concepts regularly re-interpreted and re-presented by the great actors and producers of succeeding ages.
"Much Ado" is a play about courtly society and its preoccupation with love and marriage, with 'form', and with the appropriateness of suitors and matches. Love is one thing, but marriage involves power, money, and property rights and succession. It's a play about rules - often unwritten, usually unspoken, but which are learned by social osmosis and which appear in the niceties of etiquette, manners, and social trivia, providing fragile bastions to status and breeding. Despite their apparently ephemeral nature, these are rules which are very real, and not without severe sanction.
But "Much Ado" is also a play about the breaking of rules, about their use and transformation, obeying, instead, the demands and commands of love. Much of the dynamic of the play lies in the contrast between the two couples, Beatrice & Benedick and Claudio and Hero. The former are the liberated archetypes, the latter a more classical pairing.
It's a play which has been repeatedly interpreted and reinterpreted in the light of changing social mores and tastes. Much of the difficulty in studying the play lies in teasing out Shakespeare's intent from the layers of meaning and interpretation with which it has been lacquered.
There are numerous editions of the text available - Amazon doesn't seem to enable individual reviews to appear (indeed, the book section of "Much Ado" seems to be dominated by comments on a film version). However, for the student, there are distinct advantages in getting the right text.
Of the various versions available on the market, I have to say that the Arden edition presents an authoritative text and extensive set of notes - notes on context and language also appear at the foot of each page of the play, itself. The long introduction is extremely rewarding and informative, and further notes on the play are included in appendices. Overall, I'd rate this the best edition for the serious scholar.
The New Cambridge Shakespeare is a sophisticated resource - it provides some sixty pages of an Introduction, analysing the play and providing the sort of intellectual baseline sixth form and first year university students need. It offers further analysis at the end of the play. The text, itself, is beautifully printed, with tight little notes at the foot of each page (you may find you need glasses to follow these, however). Still, an edition to be recommended.
The Cambridge School Shakespeare provides lots of ideas for groupwork and class analysis of text and themes, and must provide teachers with an excellent practical resource with which to engage their class. The text appears on the right hand page, notes and commentary are kept to the left hand page - making it very accessible and readable. There is also a quality feel to the paper and printing.
The Longman's School Shakespeare also provides notes on the left hand page, text on the right. The text is, perhaps, better presented than the Cambridge 'School' edition - it is slightly more expansive and lucid. The notes, however, don't feel as robust as in the Cambridge edition - they're more limited and less comprehensive.
The Oxford School Shakespeare is, I feel, the weakest of the 'school' editions. Overall, I didn't find it as dynamic or thought-provoking as the others. It provides a brief synopsis, a scene by scene analysis, and some useful notes. But text and notes run together on the same page, giving it a congested, claustrophobic feel which I found disconcerting.
The New Penguin version bears the imprimatur of the Royal Shakespeare Company. It's the most portable version - it'll fit in a pocket or bag. The text is presented without benefit of notes on the page - you have to keep referring to the back of the book to find these. The notes are comprehensive and thought provoking. Given that the play is largely written in prose, there can be dense blocks of dialogue on the page and, with the smaller size of the Penguin, it can make it look more daunting than needs be. The introduction can also be a touch dense and academic in places - it is worth persevering with it, for it does have some excellent points to make. The Penguin edition is an excellent, portable one, but it has its drawbacks.
The Dover Thrift edition, meanwhile, is precisely that. The bare bones of the text, no notes to speak of, and a very 'economical' feel to print and paper quality.
For school work, I'd go for the Cambridge or Longman's, for the keen student, the Arden edition is my top recommendation, followed by the New Cambridge. However, if you are studying the play, it is worth collaborating with some of your fellow students - you each acquire a different edition of the text, then you can compare and contrast the notes and commentaries.
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on 5 September 2005
By no means a well-known play compared to Shakespeare's tragedies, or even many of his history plays, "Much Ado About Nothing" remains a popular theatrical production, a play which offers dynamic, meaty parts and provides actors with challenging vehicles for the display of their talents. In a sense, it is a play driven by its players, its text bristling with wit and energy, its themes and concepts regularly re-interpreted and re-presented by the great actors and producers of succeeding ages.
"Much Ado" is a play about courtly society and its preoccupation with love and marriage, with 'form', and with the appropriateness of suitors and matches. Love is one thing, but marriage involves power, money, and property rights and succession. It's a play about rules - often unwritten, usually unspoken, but which are learned by social osmosis and which appear in the niceties of etiquette, manners, and social trivia, providing fragile bastions to status and breeding. Despite their apparently ephemeral nature, these are rules which are very real, and not without severe sanction.
But "Much Ado" is also a play about the breaking of rules, about their use and transformation, obeying, instead, the demands and commands of love. Much of the dynamic of the play lies in the contrast between the two couples, Beatrice & Benedick and Claudio and Hero. The former are the liberated archetypes, the latter a more classical pairing.
It's a play which has been repeatedly interpreted and reinterpreted in the light of changing social mores and tastes. Much of the difficulty in studying the play lies in teasing out Shakespeare's intent from the layers of meaning and interpretation with which it has been lacquered.
There are numerous editions of the text available - Amazon doesn't seem to enable individual reviews to appear (indeed, the book section of "Much Ado" seems to be dominated by comments on a film version). However, for the student, there are distinct advantages in getting the right text.
Of the various versions available on the market, I have to say that the Arden edition presents an authoritative text and extensive set of notes - notes on context and language also appear at the foot of each page of the play, itself. The long introduction is extremely rewarding and informative, and further notes on the play are included in appendices. Overall, I'd rate this the best edition for the serious scholar.
The New Cambridge Shakespeare is a sophisticated resource - it provides some sixty pages of an Introduction, analysing the play and providing the sort of intellectual baseline sixth form and first year university students need. It offers further analysis at the end of the play. The text, itself, is beautifully printed, with tight little notes at the foot of each page (you may find you need glasses to follow these, however). Still, an edition to be recommended.
The Cambridge School Shakespeare provides lots of ideas for groupwork and class analysis of text and themes, and must provide teachers with an excellent practical resource with which to engage their class. The text appears on the right hand page, notes and commentary are kept to the left hand page - making it very accessible and readable. There is also a quality feel to the paper and printing.
The Longman's School Shakespeare also provides notes on the left hand page, text on the right. The text is, perhaps, better presented than the Cambridge 'School' edition - it is slightly more expansive and lucid. The notes, however, don't feel as robust as in the Cambridge edition - they're more limited and less comprehensive.
The Oxford School Shakespeare is, I feel, the weakest of the 'school' editions. Overall, I didn't find it as dynamic or thought-provoking as the others. It provides a brief synopsis, a scene by scene analysis, and some useful notes. But text and notes run together on the same page, giving it a congested, claustrophobic feel which I found disconcerting.
The New Penguin version bears the imprimatur of the Royal Shakespeare Company. It's the most portable version - it'll fit in a pocket or bag. The text is presented without benefit of notes on the page - you have to keep referring to the back of the book to find these. The notes are comprehensive and thought provoking. Given that the play is largely written in prose, there can be dense blocks of dialogue on the page and, with the smaller size of the Penguin, it can make it look more daunting than needs be. The introduction can also be a touch dense and academic in places - it is worth persevering with it, for it does have some excellent points to make. The Penguin edition is an excellent, portable one, but it has its drawbacks.
The Dover Thrift edition, meanwhile, is precisely that. The bare bones of the text, no notes to speak of, and a very 'economical' feel to print and paper quality.
For school work, I'd go for the Cambridge or Longman's, for the keen student, the Arden edition is my top recommendation, followed by the New Cambridge. However, if you are studying the play, it is worth collaborating with some of your fellow students - you each acquire a different edition of the text, then you can compare and contrast the notes and commentaries.
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on 16 May 2010
An excellent edition of Shakespeare's Much Ado About Nothing. The introduction is long and very detailed helping you to understand the time and context of the piece though I would recommend reading the play first. Similarly, the text comes with copious notes, some of which can seem at times overly detailed but do help the modern reader to decipher some of the more complex passages. Again I would recommend reading the play fully before attempting to read with notes because they are so long that you will lose track of your place within the play if you attempt to read them all while following the story. This is a text which is most appropriate to someone new to Shakespeare or studying the text at school or university due to the large number of notes. The more experienced reader might prefer the RSC edition, for example, who's notes mainly consist of definitions rather than the longer dictionary/encyclopaedic notes of this edition.

As for the play itself, Much Ado About Nothing is in my opinion one of Shakespeare's greatest comedies. It tackles many subjects including love, deception, loyalty and loss and can be both tender, tagic and comic. It is mainly in prose, though there are some passages in verse.

Altogether a great buy.
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on 5 September 2005
By no means a well-known play compared to Shakespeare's tragedies, or even many of his history plays, "Much Ado About Nothing" remains a popular theatrical production, a play which offers dynamic, meaty parts and provides actors with challenging vehicles for the display of their talents. In a sense, it is a play driven by its players, its text bristling with wit and energy, its themes and concepts regularly re-interpreted and re-presented by the great actors and producers of succeeding ages.
"Much Ado" is a play about courtly society and its preoccupation with love and marriage, with 'form', and with the appropriateness of suitors and matches. Love is one thing, but marriage involves power, money, and property rights and succession. It's a play about rules - often unwritten, usually unspoken, but which are learned by social osmosis and which appear in the niceties of etiquette, manners, and social trivia, providing fragile bastions to status and breeding. Despite their apparently ephemeral nature, these are rules which are very real, and not without severe sanction.
But "Much Ado" is also a play about the breaking of rules, about their use and transformation, obeying, instead, the demands and commands of love. Much of the dynamic of the play lies in the contrast between the two couples, Beatrice & Benedick and Claudio and Hero. The former are the liberated archetypes, the latter a more classical pairing.
It's a play which has been repeatedly interpreted and reinterpreted in the light of changing social mores and tastes. Much of the difficulty in studying the play lies in teasing out Shakespeare's intent from the layers of meaning and interpretation with which it has been lacquered.
There are numerous editions of the text available - Amazon doesn't seem to enable individual reviews to appear (indeed, the book section of "Much Ado" seems to be dominated by comments on a film version). However, for the student, there are distinct advantages in getting the right text.
Of the various versions available on the market, I have to say that the Arden edition presents an authoritative text and extensive set of notes - notes on context and language also appear at the foot of each page of the play, itself. The long introduction is extremely rewarding and informative, and further notes on the play are included in appendices. Overall, I'd rate this the best edition for the serious scholar.
The New Cambridge Shakespeare is a sophisticated resource - it provides some sixty pages of an Introduction, analysing the play and providing the sort of intellectual baseline sixth form and first year university students need. It offers further analysis at the end of the play. The text, itself, is beautifully printed, with tight little notes at the foot of each page (you may find you need glasses to follow these, however). Still, an edition to be recommended.
The Cambridge School Shakespeare provides lots of ideas for groupwork and class analysis of text and themes, and must provide teachers with an excellent practical resource with which to engage their class. The text appears on the right hand page, notes and commentary are kept to the left hand page - making it very accessible and readable. There is also a quality feel to the paper and printing.
The Longman's School Shakespeare also provides notes on the left hand page, text on the right. The text is, perhaps, better presented than the Cambridge 'School' edition - it is slightly more expansive and lucid. The notes, however, don't feel as robust as in the Cambridge edition - they're more limited and less comprehensive.
The Oxford School Shakespeare is, I feel, the weakest of the 'school' editions. Overall, I didn't find it as dynamic or thought-provoking as the others. It provides a brief synopsis, a scene by scene analysis, and some useful notes. But text and notes run together on the same page, giving it a congested, claustrophobic feel which I found disconcerting.
The New Penguin version bears the imprimatur of the Royal Shakespeare Company. It's the most portable version - it'll fit in a pocket or bag. The text is presented without benefit of notes on the page - you have to keep referring to the back of the book to find these. The notes are comprehensive and thought provoking. Given that the play is largely written in prose, there can be dense blocks of dialogue on the page and, with the smaller size of the Penguin, it can make it look more daunting than needs be. The introduction can also be a touch dense and academic in places - it is worth persevering with it, for it does have some excellent points to make. The Penguin edition is an excellent, portable one, but it has its drawbacks.
The Dover Thrift edition, meanwhile, is precisely that. The bare bones of the text, no notes to speak of, and a very 'economical' feel to print and paper quality.
For school work, I'd go for the Cambridge or Longman's, for the keen student, the Arden edition is my top recommendation, followed by the New Cambridge. However, if you are studying the play, it is worth collaborating with some of your fellow students - you each acquire a different edition of the text, then you can compare and contrast the notes and commentaries.
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on 6 February 2010
This is a classic tale of love, it can be closely compared to modern day romantic comedies, it has something for everybody, love, romance, comedy, tension and drama and huge helping of shakespeare's puns and innuendoes. The language can be difficult to read at times, but the beauty of this edition is at the foot of each page is a well written explanation of the terms and language used of the day. It's a fairly short play but has enough charactors to keep you enthralled and you wont be able to put it down until you have finished and like me you will probably read it again straight away. Buy the kenneth branagh version DVD film is is very close to the play and helps you visualise the scenes superbly.
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on 3 September 2009
For a large young cast the Wordsworth Classic texts represent incredibly good value at less than 2 pounds each. They are well printed with clear, accurately set lines, so that blank verse and prose are immediately recognisable. The glossary is helpful, often including words which more academic texts would not bother with but which a young person may not have come across. And the notes are quite helpful.
On an academic level, the notes are not as useful as the more expensive publications, so these are not texts I would select to teach from but for working rehearsal copies they are absolutely fine
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on 8 January 2013
As an acting script this version is a good buy. It has enough content alongside the script to give a solid background to the play as well as including helpful footnotes on every page. It has the content of the Arden but is small enough too fit in the back pocket when rehearsing. The font may initially seem small but it is very clear and readable and there is room in the margins for notes. So - if you are looking for a script for an acting company's first foray in to Shakespeare - I can highly recommend this version.
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on 1 November 2011
This is a good version of the play to have, as there's plenty of notes that will come in handy and enough room around the text to write your own notes. It's not quite as detailed as I hoped it would be in comparison with other versions. Like another reviewer said, the cover is a bit flimsy and when it arrived it was already bent around the edges (something I'm a bit picky with).

All in all, useful for anyone who just wants to enjoy the play rather than study it.
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on 9 April 2013
My daughters class were "doing" Much Ado about Nothing in English, though they only watched the film.

This annoyed her, so she wanted to read the play, and @I felt a copy with some explanation would be better for her. This was perfect for the job, she could read through and get a "translation" of the more difficult sections.

However, I would have thought that it would be a little brief for GCSE. It was fine for the "I just want to read it", but for more in depth study the notes seem very brief.

I also cannot see this book surviving for any length of time in a schoolbag, the covers are very thin and I would worry that the book would get torn within days.

So, if you want to read the play with some explanation, this is perfect. For a study aid, I would go for one of the more detailed books available.
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