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The Cambridge Shakespeare Guide Paperback – 22 Mar 2012
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'This admirably lucid and concise guide will both provide essential information and stimulate fresh thought about Shakespeare and his works.' Stanley Wells
'5/5 stars: this is probably the only guide you will ever need to Shakespeare and his plays.' The Bookbag
'For students and theatre enthusiasts this Shakespeare guide is a useful resource, providing valuable information for the individual and prompting discussion for groups … I was very impressed by the content, format and style of this authoritative guide.' New Books Magazine
'The Cambridge Shakespeare Guide is a beautifully packaged, perfectly sized and consummately written and informed book that serves as an essential reference guide.' New Books Magazine
'Even the most avid Shakespearean will learn from the spotlight on the works.' The Independent
'I hope this book will find its way onto the shelves of many a Shakespeare enthusiast and into the satchels of many a student. For undergraduates, cramming for the next seminar or tutorial, Emma Smith's guide will, I suspect, become a trusted and valued friend, something you can turn to with a cup a coffee and read on the way to class. For its size and the range of information it offers, I cannot think of a better example of its kind.' Paul Edmondson, Around the Globe
Perfect for students and theatregoers, this lively and authoritative guide contains key information on Shakespeare. Covering all of Shakespeare's dramatic and poetic works in compact, alphabetical form, the book provides plot and character summaries, essential background context, information on major themes and descriptions of performance history.See all Product description
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Top customer reviews
Each work (ie play or poem) is given its own brief chapter, ordered alphabetically. Some key facts are given such as number of lines etc, and then there is a brief outline of the plot and characters, usually running to about a page each. There then follows a piece on the context and composition of each work. All of this is well done and very readable, although that in itself doesn't add a great deal of value as this sort of information is fairly easy to locate.
More interestingly, for each work there is then a brief consideration of key performances, both in the theatre and on film in some cases. It's not trying to be comprehensive but rather aims to identify some approaches. Each play also has a black and white photograph of a recent production. This is an interesting addition and most of the photographs are of modern dress versions which serves to reinforce the continuing relevance of these plays rather than presenting them as all doublet and hose. Ultimately, this may end up dating the book in the medium term though as there is a tendency to focus on recency rather than the past. Thus, for example in the excellent index, Sir John Gielgud gets five mentions while the outgoing Artistic Director of the RSC, Michael Boyd gets eight entries. However it does have the advantage of making it seem more current and relevant to younger readers.
The real strength of the book's contribution though is the well written and beautifully succinct "Themes and Interpretations" of each work which draw out some interesting ideas that will be manna from heaven to students and teachers in particular but also to theatre-goers as well. Even if you thought you knew a lot about the plays, there is fresh information to be found here.
The book concludes with context issues such as Shakespeare's life, theatre, print, apocrypha and his language.
Shakespeare said that brevity was the soul of wit - it's also the soul of an excellent teaching aid and resource for the modern theatre-goer. Unless you are set on more detailed academic investigation, then this is probably the only guide you will ever need to Shakespeare and his plays.
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