Top positive review
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"The play's the thing ..."
on 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.