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2 - Shakespeare’s Life, Times, and Stage

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  28 March 2007

Stanley Wells
Affiliation:
University of Birmingham
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Summary

William Shakespeare: His World, His Work, His Influence, edited by John F. Andrews, is, like its subject, almost too vast to contemplate in its entirety: a collection of 60 essays by leading scholars and notable creative and interpretative artists, covering most conceivable aspects of the phenomenon that is Shakespeare and running, in three volumes, to some 950 elegantly presented double-column folio pages. It is a monument and, at (I am told) £180, an expensive one; like most monuments, I fear, it will not lack for detractors. I hope I shall not be seen as one of those, since I want to stress that there is much here that is valuable, as one would expect from an undertaking supervised by the former editor of Shakespeare Quarterly. But there are bound to be doubts about the style and substance of volumes like these, centring on the question of the readership to which they are addressed and the sumptuousness of their presentation. Dr Andrews says they are ‘designed to provide a multifaceted twentieth-century view of Shakespeare for the same kind of audience the compilers of the First Folio addressed in 1623 as “the great variety of readers” ’ (p. viii), and I suppose it may be argued that that estimable volume was not published cheaply either. But the force of his rationale is for an exercise in popular publishing, something along the lines of the Pelican or Sphere Guides to English Literature though focusing exclusively on Shakespeare and Shakespeariana.

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Shakespeare Survey , pp. 211 - 224
Publisher: Cambridge University Press
Print publication year: 1988

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