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TOP 500 REVIEWERon 14 August 2012
Despite the fact that I have never heard of the authors - and no brief biography of them is given - this is rather a good book to have and to hold. In the Dorling Kindersley tradition, it is certainly very colourful, with plenty of well-chosen and evocative illustrations. There are brief introductory essays on what is known about Shakespeare's life, his time, his theatre, his language and his canon (including other contenders).

But the bulk of the book comprises introductions and concise analyses of all his plays. We are provided for each play with a list of the parts (including the number of lines for each part); a synopsis of the plot; a one-page commentary; and a look at how each play has been performed over the years - all within about seven pages. In addition there are useful analyses such as the length of each play (and of each act), the percentages between poetry and prose, plus a brief `who's who'. There are, of course, numerous extracts.

After the plays there are reviews of his non-dramatic poetry, including an analysis of one of the sonnets. Finally, the end of the book has features on `Global Shakespeare', an overview of the Bard's global impact. For example, we learn that even today, "Shakespeare is more widely read and performed in Germany than any other playwright. This section also looks at how Shakespeare has been interpreted from all parts of the political spectrum. It ends with what can only be but a brief overview of Shakespeare's influence in other arts, from portraiture to opera.

The book is not without its problems - the odd glib remark or contradiction - but these are few and far between. All in all this is useful tome to have on the shelf for reference, and will probably be my first port of call when needing to gen up on a particular play prior to seeing it at the theatre.
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on 6 November 2015
Simply indispensable for getting a good overview on all of Shakespeare's plays and wonderfully organised and laid out. Included are some impressive and useful information, such as comparing a plays length in lines against all the others, for example by listing the plays with the most lines and where the current play your looking at stands in comparison. I really like that, and I've found the summaries of the plays to be spot on and easy to follow (considering this is Shakespeare.) So if you're looking for a good value book to aide your study, or just one that will help increase your overall knowledge of Shakespeare's plays, then I couldn't recommend a better book than this one.
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on 13 February 2015
Provides a great overview of Shakespeare and the plays. Each play has a section covering the basic plot, the characters and a more detailed act by act plot breakdown. I like the way the different types of play (histories, comedies etc) are colour coded, enabling easy reference. The multitude of pictures adds to the visual quality of the book and lighten the tone.

While this is not aimed at the Masters scholar, this is an interesting aid for other students and anyone who is interested in Shakespeare.
Highly recommended.
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on 29 March 2014
This is a great starter book for anyone who wants to know Shakespeare's work better. There is no substitute for studying the texts themselves but this book provides background and an overview of all the individual works and the collections (Comedies, Tragedies, ...) that makes the texts more immediately accessible and also provides a valuable reference point when you need a reminder about a character or direction of the plot, soi it is exactly what it says on the cover - an Essential Shakespeare Handbook.
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on 16 April 2016
This was a gift for someone but I had the chance to look at it first. Beautifully illustrated, packed with information that was very interesting but not too dense. A perfect gift for anyone interested in passionate about Shakespeare.
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on 7 September 2016
Excellent tool for decoding the plays for a beginner at secondary level or above.Reading age 15ish.
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on 28 July 2013
This book is just what one expects from Dorling Kindersley. Very high quality production and very easy to read. It does not pretend to be an academic textbook but it provides a very good synopsis of the plot and other interesting aspects of each play and it sets each of them in the context of Shakespeare's career. Definitely enhances ones enjoyment of the plays and interesting to read both before and after going to the play.
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on 12 July 2015
excellent experience and product. i am very happy with the transaction.
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on 13 May 2016
Fabulous!
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on 7 December 2015
Good
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