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And That Rug!

Michael Dobson: Images of Shakespeare, 6 November 2003

Shakespeare’s Face: The Story behind the Newly Discovered Portrait 
by Stephanie Nolen.
Piatkus, 365 pp., £18.99, March 2003, 0 7499 2391 1
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Imagining ShakespeareA History of Texts and Visions 
by Stephen Orgel.
Palgrave, 172 pp., £25, August 2003, 1 4039 1177 0
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Shakespeare in Art 
by Jane Martineau et al.
Merrell, 256 pp., £29.95, September 2003, 1 85894 229 2
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In Search of Shakespeare 
by Michael Wood.
BBC, 352 pp., £20, May 2003, 9780563534778
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... Above the entrance to the saloon bar there is a picture of Shakespeare on the swinging sign. It is the same picture of Shakespeare that I remember from my schooldays, when I frowned over Timon of Athens and The Merchant of Venice. Haven’t they got a better one? Did he really look like that all the time? You’d have thought that by now his publicity people would have come up with something a little more attractive ...

Dark and Buzzing Looks

Susannah Clapp, 1 October 1987

Serenissima: A Novel of Venice 
by Erica Jong.
Bantam, 225 pp., £10.95, September 1987, 0 593 01365 4
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Her Mother’s Daughter 
by Marilyn French.
Heinemann, 756 pp., £10.95, October 1987, 0 434 27200 0
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The Wedding of Jayanthi Mandel 
by Sara Banerji.
Gollancz, 208 pp., £10.95, September 1987, 0 575 03984 1
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... When William Shakespeare kisses the heroine of Erica Jong’s novel, he does so ‘with molten sweetness’. When he goes to bed with her, Jessica Pruitt is ‘caught up in a sort of natural disaster ... It was as if meteorites showered the earth.’ This is new even to Ms Pruitt, who is accustomed to feeling her ‘silk panties moisten’, and given to referring darkly to ‘those other, lower lips ...

How do you spell Shakespeare?

Frank Kermode, 21 May 1987

William Shakespeare. The Complete Works: Original-Spelling Edition 
edited by Stanley Wells and Gary Taylor.
Oxford, 1456 pp., £75, February 1987, 9780198129196
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William ShakespeareThe Complete Works 
edited by Stanley Wells and Gary Taylor.
Oxford, 1432 pp., £25, October 1986, 0 19 812926 2
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... When Oxford decided to do Shakespeare they clearly made up their minds that the scale of the operation must be very grand, and a team of scholars has been working hard for eight years to get it done quickly, done right, and done with the greatest possible display and novelty. One has to admire not only the industry of Professor Wells and his associates, but their flair for publicity, as evidenced by the enormous solemn fuss about the poem ‘Shall I die?’, now accorded an honoured place in their canon, and also by the proclaimed scope and originality of their enterprise, which, though not essentially different from other such enterprises, is different in many eye-catching ways, and must have set the Press some unique problems ...

Best Known for His Guzzleosity

Helen Hackett: Shakespeare’s Authors, 11 March 2010

Contested Will: Who Wrote Shakespeare
by James Shapiro.
Faber, 367 pp., £20, April 2010, 978 0 571 23576 6
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... James Shapiro’s engaging new book is a tease. Shapiro, the author of 1599: A Year in the Life of William Shakespeare (2005), is in no doubt that William Shakespeare of Stratford-upon-Avon is the author of the works published in his name: not Sir Francis Bacon, or Edward de Vere, Earl of Oxford, or Christopher ...

Who wouldn’t buy it?

Colin Burrow: Speculating about Shakespeare, 20 January 2005

Will in the World: How Shakespeare Became Shakespeare 
by Stephen Greenblatt.
Cape, 430 pp., £20, October 2004, 9780224062763
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... As I was reading Stephen Greenblatt’s biography of Shakespeare on the train there was a woman sitting near me doing a deal on the phone. She was getting agitated. ‘But I have to transfer the money to Mr Shakespeare himself,’ she said. ‘No … Listen, I really need to speak to Mr Shakespeare ...
... on hire From some strange warehouse, and from some pained sense of duty. There were busts of William Shakespeare, who is deep. On several occasions before he moved in, the doctor dropped     in to do a little handiwork himself. He’d arrive on a bright, metallic-coloured motor-bike. It looked like the thorax and abdomen of an insect that had ...

Bereft and Beruffed

Michael Dobson: Shakespeare’s Last Plays, 6 June 2019

Shakespeare’s Lyric Stage: Myth, Music and Poetry in the Last Plays 
by Seth Lerer.
Chicago, 276 pp., £20.50, November 2018, 978 0 226 58254 2
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... Did Shakespeare​ know they were his ‘last plays’? Or his ‘late romances’? The very terms by which scholars habitually refer to Pericles, The Winter’s Tale, Cymbeline, The Tempest, All Is True (Henry VIII) and The Two Noble Kinsmen, all composed between about 1607 and 1613 – between Shakespeare’s 43rd year and his 49th – compound the issue of genre with questions of biography ...

Hoarder of Malt

Michael Dobson: Shakespeare, 7 January 1999

ShakespeareA Life 
by Park Honan.
Oxford, 479 pp., £25, October 1998, 0 19 811792 2
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ShakespeareThe ‘Lost Years’ 
by E.A.J. Honigmann.
Manchester, 172 pp., £11.99, December 1998, 0 7190 5425 7
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... breastplates and crowns, all of them borrowed from the second-best wardrobe of the Royal Shakespeare Company in order to deck out students and members of local amateur dramatic societies as representative characters from each of Shakespeare’s plays. This is Stratford-upon-Avon on the weekend ...

Brave as hell

John Kerrigan, 21 June 1984

Enderby’s Dark Lady, or No End to Enderby 
by Anthony Burgess.
Hutchinson, 160 pp., £7.95, March 1984, 0 09 156050 0
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Shakespeare’s Sonnets: A Modern Edition 
edited by A.L. Rowse.
Macmillan, 311 pp., £20, March 1984, 0 333 36386 8
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... In 1964, the quatercentenary of Shakespeare’s birth, two very different books appeared. Anthony Burgess’s tribute to the poet, Nothing Like the Sun, was a boisterous biographical novel full of sugared sack and bawdry, with sombre undertones of decay. Taking literally the references in Shakespeare’s sonnets to a mistress ‘black as hell’, Burgess made the Dark Lady of his story a voluptuous East Indian who, after seducing the dramatist, inspired the tragic plays of his maturity by giving him a dose of syphilis ...

For his Nose was as sharpe as a Pen, and a Table of greene fields

Michael Dobson: The Yellow Shakespeare, 10 May 2007

William Shakespeare, Complete Works: The RSC Shakespeare 
edited by Jonathan Bate and Eric Rasmussen.
Macmillan, 2486 pp., £30, April 2007, 978 0 230 00350 7
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... It is the document by which, in 1756, the firm of J.&R. Tonson undertook to publish The plays of William Shakespeare, in eight volumes, with the corrections and illustrations of Various Commentators; To which are added notes by Sam. Johnson. This edition, with its much reprinted preface and doggedly commonsensical approach to the text, still exerts a ...

Ambifacts

Gary Taylor, 7 January 1993

ShakespeareThe Later Years 
by Russell Fraser.
Columbia, 380 pp., $35, April 1992, 0 231 06766 6
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ShakespeareHis Life, Work and Era 
by Dennis Kay.
Sidgwick, 368 pp., £20, May 1992, 0 283 99878 4
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William ShakespeareThe Anatomy of an Enigma 
by Peter Razzell.
Caliban, 188 pp., May 1992, 1 85066 010 7
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Politics, Plague and Shakespeare’s Theatre: The Stuart Years 
by Leeds Barroll.
Cornell, 249 pp., £20.80, January 1992, 0 8014 2479 8
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Shakespeare Verbatim: The Reproduction of Authenticity and the 1790 Apparatus 
by Margreta de Grazia.
Oxford, 244 pp., £30, February 1991, 0 19 811778 7
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... Why do people read a biography of Shakespeare? Either as a substitute for or as a supplement to a reading of his work. I may read about Byron or Orton because the life itself is both well-documented and well worth watching; but Shakespeare’s life is neither ...

Canterbury Tale

Charles Nicholl, 8 December 1988

Christopher Marlowe and Canterbury 
by William Urry, edited by Andrew Butcher.
Faber, 184 pp., £12.95, May 1988, 0 571 14566 3
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John Weever 
by E.A.J. Honigmann.
Manchester, 134 pp., £27.50, April 1987, 0 7190 2217 7
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Rare Sir William Davenant 
by Mary Edmond.
Manchester, 264 pp., £27.50, July 1987, 9780719022869
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... William Urry’s researches on Marlowe have been available in bits and pieces, and his ‘forthcoming book on the Marlowes in Canterbury’ was mentioned by one of Marlowe’s biographers, A.D. Wraight, as long ago as 1965. Here at last it is, seven years after Urry’s death, edited from drafts by his former colleague Andrew Butcher ...

Cervantics

Robert Taubman, 7 October 1982

Monsignor Quixote 
by Graham Greene.
Bodley Head, 221 pp., £5.95, September 1982, 0 370 30923 5
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... Perhaps rather carefully, the words at the head of Graham Greene’s new novel are ascribed to William Shakespeare rather than to Hamlet, but inevitably it’s Hamlet they bring to mind. Very Hamlet, this complete scepticism – but not, surely, very Graham Greene; and what has it to do with a novel on the theme of Don Quixote? Turgenev brought Hamlet ...

A Furtive Night’s Work

Michael Dobson: Shakespeare’s working habits, 20 October 2005

1599: A Year in the Life of William Shakespeare 
by James Shapiro.
Faber, 429 pp., £16.99, June 2005, 0 571 21480 0
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... One of Shakespeare’s defining knacks, so it’s said, is his ability to render his own time and place more or less irrelevant to the appreciation of his art. So although it seemed uncontroversial when Paul Salzman recently related a rich and miscellaneous clutch of Jacobean publications (Burton’s Anatomy of Melancholy, Donne’s elegies, Wroth’s Urania and Middleton’s Women Beware Women among them) to the political and cultural circumstances of 1621,1 since nowadays these texts are read only as period pieces anyway, it might appear shockingly polemical for James Shapiro to locate everything William Shakespeare wrote in 1599 in a topical context ...

Mrs Shakespeare

Barbara Everett, 18 December 1986

William ShakespeareThe Sonnets and ‘A Lover’s Complaint’ 
edited by John Kerrigan.
Viking, 458 pp., £14.95, September 1986, 0 670 81466 0
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... Not many stories about Shakespeare that are either credible or interesting survived the poet: but one can be found in an additional note to Aubrey’s Brief Lives, which recalls him as ‘the more to be admired q[uia] he was not a company keeper, lived in Shoreditch, wouldn’t be debauched, and if invited to, writ: he was in pain ...

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