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Book Review: Shakespeare’s Complete Works (Second Edition)

Edited by acclaimed scholars Sir Jonathan Bate and Eric Rasmussen in partnership with the renowned Royal Shakespeare Company, William Shakespeare Complete Works is an essential tome for anyone interested in the renowned bard. Based on the iconic 1623 First Folio (the text of plays that was assembled by Shakespeare’s fellow-actors after his death), this second edition of the Complete Works offers a refreshed view of Shakespeare’s writings that emphasises performance history and values. Scholars will appreciate the meticulous detail the editors have provided regarding which versions of plays are from the First Folio and which are from separate quartos.…

Summary

Rating

Unputdownable

Expert, authoritative and accessible. This tome of Shakespeare’s complete works is a must-have for all bookshelves.

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Edited by acclaimed scholars Sir Jonathan Bate and Eric Rasmussen in partnership with the renowned Royal Shakespeare Company, William Shakespeare Complete Works is an essential tome for anyone interested in the renowned bard.

Based on the iconic 1623 First Folio (the text of plays that was assembled by Shakespeare’s fellow-actors after his death), this second edition of the Complete Works offers a refreshed view of Shakespeare’s writings that emphasises performance history and values. Scholars will appreciate the meticulous detail the editors have provided regarding which versions of plays are from the First Folio and which are from separate quartos.

Within one book the reader can access any of Shakespeare’s sonnets, plays and poems. This edition also includes both The Passionate Pilgrim and A Lover’s Complaint, which were not shared in previous versions, and has also incorporated Pericles, Prince of Tyre and The Two Noble Kinsmen, which were absent from the First Folio

Created in partnership with the Royal Shakespeare Company (RSC), there is a focus on presenting Shakespeare’s work as it was originally intended – for an audience; to be lived and enjoyed on stage. It approaches the text of Shakespeare’s work as a living, negotiable entity, whereby scholarship and theatre practice complement each other to help the plays remain relevant.

There is a lot of detail, but it is accessible and serves as an all-encompassing volume to refer to. The play texts are supported by colour photographs from the RSC’s productions, which adds a new dimension to a publication of this kind.

Featuring in-depth analysis, commentary and annotations from the editors, it is of interest to theatre professionals, those in education and those who generally want to gain more understanding of Shakespeare’s work. The collection has also been curated to reflect the expertise of the RSC.

Co-editors Ian de Jong and Molly G Yarn viewed approximately 100 productions from the RSC archive – two or three for each play in the canon – to note stage business, interpretation and significant cuts. It is through this meticulous detail that the second edition provides a more rounded view of Shakespeare’s Complete Works than the first.

On-page glossaries help contemporary readers to deepen understanding of language and realise its meaning in context. The inclusion of a timeline of Shakespeare’s plays, poems and family trees also provide secure reference points. By consulting these, you can visualise character relationships and place in context both the events within Shakespeare’s work, and the events of his life time. Whether you’re an enthusiast keen to learn more or a seasoned Shakespearean scholar, this is one of the most authoritative books on Shakespeare that you’ll find. It is truly comprehensive and a must-have for all libraries, particularly school and university ones.

Edited by: Sir Jonathan Bate and Eric Rasmussen
In partnership with: The Royal Shakespeare Company
Published by: Bloomsbury Publishing

William Shakespeare Complete Works (Second Edition) was published on 21 April 2022 and can be bought from both Bloomsbury, directly from the RSC and all good booksellers.

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