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Shakespeare's Language by [Kermode, Frank]
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Shakespeare's Language Kindle Edition

4.3 out of 5 stars 18 customer reviews

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Length: 336 pages Word Wise: Enabled Enhanced Typesetting: Enabled
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Amazon Review

Sir Frank Kermode's Shakespeare's Language is a deeply significant publication, the result of a lifetime of writing and thinking on the Bard by one of our greatest critics, and it certainly lives up to its expectations. Kermode's numerous critical studies, such as The Sense of an Ending, have become classics and his recent memoir Not Entitled vividly captured a life of letters, characterised by a passionate commitment to the value of literature.

The author begins by lamenting the fact that general readers have not "been well served by modern critics, who on the whole seem to have little time for [Shakespeare's] language". However, rather than launching into a diatribe against current literary fashions, he proceeds to offer an elegant and detailed account of how "Shakespeare became, between 1594 and 1608, a different kind of poet". For Kermode, Shakespeare "moved up to a new level of achievement and difficulty", associated with the rich complexities of Hamlet and the enigmatic poem The Phoenix and the Turtle. Kermode defines that shift as "the pace of the speech, its sudden turns, its backtrackings, its metaphors flashing before us and disappearing before we can consider them. This is new: the representation of excited, anxious thought; the weighing of confused possibilities and dubious motives". This leads Kermode to break his book into two parts. The first deals with the plays up to 1600, including some controversial dismissals of plays, including As You Like It, whilst the second part offers 15 detailed chapters on the tragedies, problem plays and romances. Each chapter is full of detailed and illuminating interpretations of the difficulties, but also pleasures of Shakespeare's language. This is classic Shakespeare criticism, written in the mould of Johnson and Coleridge.--Jerry Brotton

About the Author

Frank Kermode has been Lord Northcliffe Professor of Modern English at University College London, King Edward VII Professor of English Literature at Cambridge, and Charles Eliot Norton Professor of Poetry at Harvard. His previous books include THE GENESIS OF SECRECY, AN APPETITE FOR POETRY, THE SENSE OF AN ENDING and his autobiography, NOT ENTITLED. He was knighted in 1991.

Product details

  • Format: Kindle Edition
  • File Size: 997 KB
  • Print Length: 336 pages
  • Publisher: Penguin; New Ed edition (5 April 2001)
  • Sold by: Amazon Media EU S.à r.l.
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B002RI92DY
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
  • X-Ray:
  • Word Wise: Enabled
  • Enhanced Typesetting: Enabled
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars 18 customer reviews
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #155,426 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback
How to do justice to this book? It is addressed to a non-professional audience with an interest in Shakespeare and its insight is utterly profound. Fascinating, scintillating, provoking, superlative.

Kermode outlines the ways in which Shakespeare graduated towards a "toughening of the language" by "rougher handling of the pentameter", something Kermode elsewhere calls "progression", although far from steady and uninterrupted. But also, another, more subtle change from the simpler expression of the earlier plays to a more dramatically complex, more life-like and much greater psychologically penetrating language.

Early in the book Kermode gets rid of the idolatrous perception that Shakespeare never collaborated in his work. With something like half of all the plays put on in the public theatres during his writing life playwrights collaborated to bring a play to production. If he never, or rarely, collaborated he would have been almost alone among his peers. That's not to say, as Kermode points out, that he did not write the vast majority of the work ascribed to him.

Above all, Shakespeare's language changed in the service of characterisation (a huge leap towards modernity), towards prose that might be characterised as that with the cadence and feeling of poetry, and away from formal schemata, though he used poetry proper throughout his writing life in all of his plays. The early play, The Merry Wives of Windsor has 87 percent prose, Twelfth Night 61 percent, whereas the first tragedy Titus Andronicus has only 1 percent prose. Hamlet has 27 percent and Corliolanus 22 percent. There is no overall pattern to this, perhaps showing the confoundedness of trying to reach conclusions about Shakespeare's language, at least in technical detail.
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Format: Hardcover
If you never thought that Shakespeare criticism could be compulsive reading, then think again. Frank Kermode's book is a masterpiece that lives up to the justified reputation of his other works. In the wake of Harold Bloom's atrocious rubbish, it is bracing to read a study that is enriching, sensible and rooted in the reality of Shakespeare's words, rather than abstract musings and supposition. Kermode's book really does enhance appreciation and enjoyment of Shakespeare's plays, by reminding us of what it is that makes them peerless - their language and the unparalleled mastery that Shakespeare demonstrates in his technique.
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
This is easily the finest, most intelligent, most helpful, most gripping book about Shakespeare's plays that I have ever read. Everyone who sees or reads any of Shakespeare's later and greater dramas should read the relevant chapter of this book either immediately before or afterwards: their enjoyment and appreciation of these plays can only be massively increased. Packed with insights and beautifully written. Trenchant, scholarly and deeply intelligent yet entirely accessible. A masterpiece.
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Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
Frank Kermode's writing is clear, concise, and accessible. Refreshingly devoid of arid, annoying, obfuscatory jargon.

His approach to Shakespeare is deliciously dispassionate. Eulogistic where he judges it appropriate, and definitely not where he doesn't!

And his insights into the Bard's language are a kaleidoscope of serendipitous delights. Time and again he plays the fool and says wisely what wise men do foolishly.

Buy it? Foolish not to !
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By RR Waller TOP 1000 REVIEWER on 14 Nov. 2011
Format: Paperback
As we know so little about the man, the plays' stories were not his, his stage was so spartan and he uses stage-directions so infrequently, as I never tired of telling my students, Shakespeare is the Language and any study of his plays must focus, laser-like, on the language itself.

Eileen Shaw "Kokoschka's_cat" of Leeds has gone into great detail and, as I agree with her, there is little point in repeating it here just to impress. Kermode has shown throughout his publishing life what a master he is, what a firm grasp he has of his material and his books seem just to improve. Here he looks at the plays from within, from the clear, unmisted perspective of Shakespeare's language and shows what a masterful genius he was. He does not digress into abstractions, vague ideas and suppositions, "simply" enhances one's understanding of the language and, therefore, the plays themselves. There are few guides more reliable, knowledgeable and erudite.

Today, the speculation which has raged for centuries about the true authorship of the plays, seems to be growing and there is an entire genre of books on the subject. Kermode does not enter the fray. He just deepens one's appreciation of these wonderful plays - whoever wrote them.

Recommended
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
This is one of the finest of many fine books about Shakespeare. Frank Kermode represents some of the most urbane and refined literary criticism of his generation. His insights are profound. A must read for those who love the language of Shakespeare and want to appreciate its nuances more fully. While not outdated, some aspects of Kermode's approach have been superseded by the richer contextual criticism offered by historicist approaches, such as those represented by Stephen Greenblatt, Leah Marcus and Joseph Shapiro.
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