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Wholly Given Over to Thee

Anne Barton: Literary romance, 2 December 2004

The English Romance in Time: Transforming Motifs from Geoffrey of Monmouth to the Death of Shakespeare 
by Helen Cooper.
Oxford, 560 pp., £65, June 2004, 0 19 924886 9
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... In George Peele’s Elizabethan play The Old Wives’ Tale, a character called Jack interrogates the ‘wandering knight’ Eumenides: ‘Are you not the man, sir (deny it if you can, sir) that came from a strange place in the land of Catita, where Jackanapes flies with his tail in his mouth, to seek out a lady as white as snow and as red as blood?’ Jack is dead ...

Only Sleeping

Anne Barton: Variations on Elizabeth I, 10 July 2003

England’s Elizabeth: An Afterlife in Fame and Fantasy 
by Michael Dobson and Nicola J. Watson.
Oxford, 348 pp., £19.99, November 2002, 0 19 818377 1
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... to occupy the English throne. Yet, during a long reign of 44 years, the daughter of Henry VIII and Anne Boleyn contrived to steer a middle course in religion between the beliefs of her Catholic subjects on the one hand and clamorous Puritans on the other (the so-called Elizabethan Settlement), evade fatal entanglements, whether marital or military, on the ...

Plays for Puritans

Anne Barton, 18 December 1980

Puritanism and Theatre 
by Margot Heinemann.
Cambridge, 300 pp., £12.50, March 1980, 0 521 22602 3
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John Webster: Citizen and Dramatist 
by M.C. Bradbrook.
Weidenfeld, 205 pp., £10, October 1980, 0 297 77813 7
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... In Act II of Twelfth Night, Maria says of Malvolio – that poker-faced enemy of cakes and ale, bear-baitings, and all ‘uncivil rule’ – that ‘sometimes he is a kind of Puritan.’ Cautious and qualified though this statement is, Maria retracts it almost at once: ‘the devil a Puritan that he is, or anything constantly, but a time-pleaser, an affectioned ass ...

Keys to Shakespeare

Anne Barton, 5 June 1980

Shakespeare’s Tragic Practice 
by Bertrand Evans.
Oxford, 327 pp., £12.50, December 1979, 9780198120940
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The Tragic Effect: The Oedipus Complex in Tragedy 
by André Green, translated by Alan Sheridan.
Cambridge, 264 pp., £10.50, October 1979, 0 521 21377 0
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Shakespeare’s Tragic Sequence 
by Kenneth Muir.
Liverpool, 207 pp., £9.50, November 1979, 0 85323 184 2
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Shakespeare’s Comic Sequence 
by Kenneth Muir.
Liverpool, 207 pp., £9.50, November 1979, 0 85323 064 1
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... Twenty years ago, Bertrand Evans published Shakespeare’s Comedies, a book with one idea. Shakespeare, he argued, habitually gives his audience an awareness of the true nature of any dramatic situation greater than that of the characters on the stage. Evans analysed the 13 comedies and the four last plays scene by scene, and concluded that a technique of ‘discrepant awareness’ or ‘exploitable gaps’ between characters and theatre audience lay at the heart of Shakespeare’s dramatic method ...

Theatre-proof

Anne Barton, 2 July 1981

Othello as Tragedy 
by Jane Adamson.
Cambridge, 301 pp., £15, October 1980, 0 521 22368 7
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Shakespeare and Tragedy 
by John Bayley.
Routledge, 228 pp., £9.75, April 1981, 0 7100 0632 2
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... Twenty-one years ago, in The Characters of Love, John Bayley suggested that ‘there is a sense in which the highest compliment we can pay to Shakespeare is to discuss his great plays as if they were also great novels.’ At that time, Othello seemed to him particularly (indeed uniquely) responsive to such treatment. Here, Shakespeare was writing about ‘the private life – personal relations and problems of domesticity and daily living – in a way he does nowhere else ...

Transparent Criticism

Anne Barton, 21 June 1984

A New Mimesis: Shakespeare and the Representation of Reality 
by A.D. Nuttall.
Methuen, 209 pp., £12.95, September 1983, 0 416 31780 4
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... Erich Auerbach’s celebrated study of the representation of reality in Western literature, Mimesis, was published in German in 1946. Grounded on the analysis (mainly syntactic) of passages selected from texts in some nine different languages, ranging from Homer and the Old Testament to Virginia Woolf, it assumes throughout that reality has an objective existence, is open to perception, and needs no apologetic inverted commas ...

That Night at Farnham

Anne Barton, 18 August 1983

Homosexuality in Renaissance England 
by Alan Bray.
Gay Men’s Press, 149 pp., £7.95, September 1982, 0 907040 16 0
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Comic Women, Tragic Men: A Study of Gender and Genre in Shakespeare 
by Linda Bamber.
Stanford, 211 pp., $18.50, June 1982, 0 8047 1126 7
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Still Harping on Daughters: Women and Drama in the Age of Shakespeare 
by Lisa Jardine.
Harvester, 202 pp., £18.95, June 1983, 0 7108 0436 9
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... In Marlowe’s Edward II, the royal favourite Gaveston plans delicious entertainments which ‘may draw the pliant king which way I please’. He will introduce musicians to the court, ‘wanton poets’, Italian masques by night, and ‘pleasing shows’. Edward, walking abroad, is to encounter pages dressed as ‘sylvan nymphs’, and Sometime a lovely boy in Dian’s shape With hair that gilds the water as it glides, Crownets of pearl about his naked arms, And in his sportful hands an olive tree, To hide those parts which men delight to see, Shall bathe him in a spring ...

Tousy-Mousy

Anne Barton: Mary Shelley, 8 February 2001

Mary Shelley 
by Miranda Seymour.
Murray, 665 pp., £25, October 2000, 0 7195 5711 9
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Mary Shelley in Her Times 
edited by Betty Bennett and Stuart Curran.
Johns Hopkins, 311 pp., £33, September 2000, 0 8018 6334 1
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Mary Shelley's Fictions 
edited by Michael Eberle-Sinatra.
Palgrave, 250 pp., £40, August 2000, 0 333 77106 0
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... Richard Holmes published Shelley: The Pursuit in 1974. More than a decade later, in Footsteps: Adventures of a Romantic Biographer (1985), he recalled how obsessive his engagement gradually became, not just with Shelley, but with that whole group of English expatriates associated with him, as it moved from Geneva through Italy – Bagni di Lucca, Este, Venice, Rome, Naples, Ravenna, Pisa – shedding some members and adding others, before finally disintegrating when Shelley and Edward Williams were drowned off Leghorn in July 1822 ...

Art of Embarrassment

A.D. Nuttall, 18 August 1994

Essays, Mainly Shakespearean 
by Anne Barton.
Cambridge, 386 pp., £40, March 1994, 0 521 40444 4
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English Comedy 
edited by Michael Cordner, Peter Holland and John Kerrigan.
Cambridge, 323 pp., £35, March 1994, 0 521 41917 4
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... learned, un-showily stylish and at times moving in their tender intelligence, these essays by Anne Barton, ranging from a richly ‘mellow’ piece first published in 1953 – a period when even undergraduates wrote as if they were middle-aged – to the magnificent ‘Wrying a Little’, on Cymbeline, Jacobean marriage law and female desire, are ...

True Words

A.D. Nuttall, 25 April 1991

The Names of Comedy 
by Anne Barton.
Oxford, 221 pp., £22.50, August 1990, 0 19 811793 0
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... lunatic. The writer believes that there are true words and false. His is an extreme case of what Anne Barton calls cratylism. The word comes from Plato’s dialogue, the Cratylus, which is all about the question of whether language is naturally rooted in reality or is merely arbitrary. Within the dialogue the character called Cratylus maintains the ...

In the Shady Wood

Michael Neill: Staging the Forest, 22 March 2018

TheShakespearean Forest 
by Anne Barton.
Cambridge, 185 pp., £75, August 2017, 978 0 521 57344 3
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... Anne Barton​ delivered the lectures on ‘The Shakespearean Forest’ that form the basis for this, her much anticipated last book, in Cambridge in 2003. The Clark Lectures were themselves the product of an extended reflection on the significance of Shakespeare’s imaginary woodlands, developing and expanding material from earlier lectures and essays ...

Insolence

Blair Worden, 7 March 1985

Poetry and Politics in the English Renaissance 
by David Norbrook.
Routledge, 345 pp., £15.95, October 1984, 0 7100 9778 6
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Restoration Theatre Production 
by Jocelyn Powell.
Routledge, 226 pp., £19.95, November 1984, 0 7100 9321 7
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Theatre and Crisis: 1632-1642 
by Martin Butler.
Cambridge, 340 pp., £25, August 1984, 0 521 24632 6
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The Court Masque 
edited by David Lindley.
Manchester, 196 pp., £22.50, August 1984, 0 7190 0961 8
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Ben Jonson, Dramatist 
by Anne Barton.
Cambridge, 370 pp., £30, July 1984, 0 521 25883 9
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... more remote than the Medieval reigns which figured so prominently in current political argument? Anne Barton suggests in Ben Jonson, Dramatist that political questions were ‘forced ... to go underground, issuing in Roman dress, in the disguise of a remote, semi-mythical Britain, or as a slice of history purporting to record the distresses of ...

Stubble and Breath

Linda Colley: Mother Germaine, 15 July 1999

The Whole Woman 
by Germaine Greer.
Doubleday, 351 pp., £16.99, March 1999, 0 385 60015 1
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Germaine Greer: Untamed Shrew 
by Christine Wallace.
Cohen, 333 pp., £18.99, March 1999, 1 86066 120 3
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... She chose to come to Cambridge University, where she was much influenced by Muriel Bradbrook and Anne Barton. She wrote her PhD dissertation there on Shakespeare. She composed The Female Eunuch in intervals between taking tea with Lord Brooke at Warwick Castle. And she has lambasted and lived in this country for most of her subsequent life, residing now ...

No wonder it ached

Dinah Birch: George Eliot, 13 May 1999

The Journals of George Eliot 
edited by Margaret Harris and Judith Johnston.
Cambridge, 447 pp., £55, February 1999, 0 521 57412 9
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George Eliot: The Last Victorian 
by Kathryn Hughes.
Fourth Estate, 384 pp., £20, November 1998, 1 85702 420 6
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... her own name? One reason is that it has never been quite clear what it was. She began life as Mary Anne Evans, daughter of Robert Evans, a sturdy and prosperous land agent in Warwickshire. But Mary Anne sounds rather like a servant’s name (the White Rabbit’s housemaid is called Mary Ann). As the rising fortunes of the ...

Real women stay at home

Anne Hollander, 12 July 1990

Laura Ashley: A Life by Design 
by Anne Sebba.
Weidenfeld, 207 pp., £15, May 1990, 0 297 81044 8
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... reaping the profits of a business. To accomplish this double manoeuvre, as we learn from Anne Sebba’s book, she had to find a man who would not only be a clever business partner but a dominating sort of husband, for whom she could play The Angel while managing refractory children household and business accounts, creative projects and inner ...

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