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Living with Shakespeare: Essays by Writers,…

Living with Shakespeare: Essays by Writers, Actors, and Directors (Vintage…

by Susannah Carson (Editor)

Other authors: F. Murray Abraham (Contributor), Isabel Allende (Contributor), Cicely Berry (Contributor), Eve Best (Contributor), Harold Bloom (Foreword)34 more, Eleanor Brown (Contributor), Stanley Cavell (Contributor), Karin Coonrod (Contributor), Brian Cox (Contributor), Peter David (Contributor), Margaret Drabble (Contributor), Dominic Dromgoole (Contributor), David Farr (Contributor), Fiasco Theater (Contributor), Ralph Fiennes (Contributor), Angus Fletcher (Contributor), James Franco (Contributor), Alan Gordon (Contributor), Germaine Greer (Contributor), Barry John (Contributor), James Earl Jones (Contributor), Ben Kingsley (Contributor), Maxine Hong Kingston (Contributor), Rory Kinnear (Contributor), JD McClatchy (Contributor), Conor McCreery (Contributor), Tobias Menzies (Contributor), Joyce Carol Oates (Contributor), Camille Paglia (Contributor), James Prosek (Contributor), Richard Scholar (Contributor), Antony Sher (Contributor), Jane Smiley (Contributor), Matt Sturges (Contributor), Julie Taymor (Contributor), Eamonn Walker (Contributor), Harriet Walter (Contributor), Bill Willingham (Contributor), Jess Winfield (Contributor)

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My long time fascination with Shakespeare started a long time ago when I was attending the British Council. I won’t dwell on it again.

In this “Living with Shakespeare” I didn’t get much on Hamlet, but I kept thinking about Hamlet's five soliloquies; the humour and poignancy of Kent's words in King Lear; the horror of what happens to Gloucester and the heart-rending ending of the same play. The mixed emotions of the finale to Macbeth. Mark Antony's speeches in Julius Caesar. Iago's words in Othello. Shakespeare gave the world a literary water-fountain around which to gather when engaging with the great issues of each passing generation. His heroes and villains, his comedies and his tragedies make up an unerringly eloquent compendium of human frailties/motives as the world changes - and yet nothing changes. And I've hardly scratched the surface of how Shakespeare's words have the power to move and shock and create laughter like no one else has been able to before or since. The naysayers should take the time to experience a play performed live or, at the very least, watch a film version. It will hopefully change their minds. And he is not just for 'middle class snobs'! Shakespeare's for everybody. After having finished this book, I'm reminded of Harold Bloom's comments about Marlowe in 'The Western Canon', when he says that Marlowe the man 'can be meditated upon endlessly, as the plays not'; sometimes the writer's life - especially with Marlowe - can be even more interesting than their work. If the story of Shakespeare's life was that good he would have written a play about himself... maybe that is what he did with "The Tempest". I remember watching a video of the play "Cheapside" at The British Council in the 80s, wherein David Allen's brilliant play about Richard Greene has Shakespeare darting on occasionally as a sharp-eyed (upstart?) magpie always on the lookout for gleaming lines and plots to lift. In the closing scene he lets himself into the dead Greene's room and rummages surreptitiously through the half-finished manuscripts. "'Story for a Snowy Night'" he muses to himself. "Mmm.... A Winter's Tale?'" It's such a cheeky cameo - lovely stuff.

Shakespeare remains relevant because his understanding of universals was profound, and his language remains piercingly fresh. He was a genius living at a time when the English language was still wonderfully malleable. It was an age in which the known world was expanding with the discovery of the Americas, when England was a centre of growing prosperity and technological advance - and the headiness of living in a country in such flux is palpable in the texts too. That Shakespeare was a brilliant literary innovator just isn't in doubt; you have only to read Spenser, Marlowe and Jonson to see it. They are all stupendous in different ways (I recently reread Jonson's “The Alchemist” and was astonished all over again), but the acuity of Shakespeare's phrases, the penetrating psychological insights in Macbeth, Lear and Hamlet, the sheer beauty and strangeness of the language and the thinking set him apart. To say Shakespeare remains an icon for English-speaking people all over the world contradicts the well-known idea that Shakespeare is a 'universal soul'. All of my friends whose first language is not English regard Shakespeare as a great. The poet transcends not only time but culture and language. I've always wondered how it can be possible to translate Shakespeare into modern foreign languages, especially languages which are linguistically remote from English like the Portuguese Language, yet people do it, amazingly. As Ian Dury once wrote - 'There ain't half been some clever bastards'.

Politicians have done much to undermine a common set of values among us human beings. Thatcher's "there is no such thing as society" comes to mind. In the Bard we find touchstones that are timeless and inform our basic values - simply as people. In many situations the words Macbeth, Brutus, Cordelia, Shylock or Malvolio are all that is needed to set the tone or the scene. Good point about politicians. People get suckered by them, child-like, time after time. I'm sure Shakespeare had something to say about gullibility. Must check it out when Benfica’s team is not on...

NB: We should not overlook Shakespeare's influence on the development of German drama via the translations of Gottfried Herder. But Herder to Goethe in a letter: "Shakespeare hat Euch ganz verdorben"! The same happened to some Portuguese people... ( )
  antao | Jun 3, 2018 |
Shakespeare and Me is a collection of essays by a variety of (mainly) writers, actors and directors, on what Shakespeare means to them and how he is still such a big part of modern culture. Throughout the essays, most of Shakespeare’s plays are mentioned, with many of the writers concentrating on just one.

As with all books featuring contributions by different people, some appealed more than others. My personal favourites were the three essays on Othello, and especially James Earl Jones’s ‘The Sun God’ (I was amused by the fact that he mentions actor Hugh Quarshie, and writes that he thinks Quarshie should play Othello – this essay was written prior to Quarshie’s performance as Othello at the Royal Shakespeare Theatre last year, which I was lucky enough to see). Eammon Walker – who himself played a fantastic Othello at the Globe Theatre – writes ‘Othello in Love’; and Barry John writes ‘Othello: A Play in Black and White’ which studied how the staging of a production of Othello started to draw parallels to the play itself.

I also enjoyed Re-revising Shakespeare by Jess Winfield of the Reduced Shakespeare Company; Shakespeare and Four-Colour Magic by Conor McCreery (where he discusses turning Shakespeare and his characters into comic book stars), and Ralph Fiennes’s ‘The Question of Coriolanus’.

If you have any interest in Shakespeare, I recommend this book. ( )
  Ruth72 | Oct 6, 2016 |
This wide collection of essays about Shakespeare is not a stodgy academic ruminiation on the intricate metaphors of Shakespeare, but rather a series of reflections on working with the Bard: grappling with the archaic language, sifting through the various folios and quartos to find the underlying message, transposing the language of 1500s England to more far-flung places, and finding oneself and ourselves "living with" William Shakespeare.

I greatly enjoyed this book, as I could flip through on any day and read just one essay, or seven. The quality of writing and engagement of the reader varies between the different essays, but they are generally well-written. I do wish there had been a key in the table of contents that would identify which of Shakespeare's plays were discussed in which essay, but the serendipitous nature of stumbling across a reflection on the history of performance of Julius Caesar was alright.

If you have a Shakespeare geek or a theater geek friend (or are one yourself!) get this.
  kjgormley | May 20, 2013 |
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Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Carson, SusannahEditorprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Abraham, F. MurrayContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Allende, IsabelContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Berry, CicelyContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Best, EveContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Bloom, HaroldForewordsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Brown, EleanorContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Cavell, StanleyContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Coonrod, KarinContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Cox, BrianContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
David, PeterContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Drabble, MargaretContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Dromgoole, DominicContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Farr, DavidContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Fiasco TheaterContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Fiennes, RalphContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Fletcher, AngusContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Franco, JamesContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Gordon, AlanContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Greer, GermaineContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
John, BarryContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Jones, James EarlContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Kingsley, BenContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Kingston, Maxine HongContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Kinnear, RoryContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
McClatchy, JDContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
McCreery, ConorContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Menzies, TobiasContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Oates, Joyce CarolContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Paglia, CamilleContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Prosek, JamesContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Scholar, RichardContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Sher, AntonyContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Smiley, JaneContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Sturges, MattContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Taymor, JulieContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Walker, EamonnContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Walter, HarrietContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Willingham, BillContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Winfield, JessContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0307742911, Paperback)

Why Shakespeare? What explains our continued fascination with his poems and plays? In Living with Shakespeare, Susannah Carson invites forty actors, directors, scholars, and writers to reflect on why his work is still such a vital part of our culture.

We hear from James Earl Jones on reclaiming Othello as a tragic hero, Julie Taymor on turning Prospero into Prospera, Camille Paglia on teaching the plays to actors, F. Murray Abraham on gaining an audience’s sympathy for Shylock, Sir Ben Kingsley on communicating Shakespeare’s ideas through performance, Germaine Greer on the playwright’s home life, Dame Harriet Walter on the complexity of his heroines, Brian Cox on social conflict in his time and ours, Jane Smiley on transposing King Lear to Iowa in A Thousand Acres, and Sir Antony Sher on feeling at home in Shakespeare’s language. Together these essays provide a fresh appreciation of Shakespeare’s works as a living legacy to be read, seen, performed, adapted, revised, wrestled with, and embraced by creative professionals and lay enthusiasts alike.

F. Murray Abraham ● Isabel Allende ● Cicely Berry ● Eve Best ● Eleanor Brown ● Stanley Cavell ● Karin Coonrod ● Brian Cox ● Peter David ● Margaret Drabble ● Dominic Dromgoole ● David Farr ● Fiasco Theater ● Ralph Fiennes ● Angus Fletcher ● James Franco ● Alan Gordon ● Germaine Greer ● Barry John ● James Earl Jones ● Sir Ben Kingsley ● Maxine Hong Kingston ● Rory Kinnear ● J. D. McClatchy ● Conor McCreery ● Tobias Menzies ● Joyce Carol Oates ● Camille Paglia ● James Prosek ● Richard Scholar ● Sir Antony Sher ● Jane Smiley ● Matt Sturges ● Julie Taymor ● Eamonn Walker ● Dame Harriet Walter ● Bill Willingham ● Jess Winfield

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:11:32 -0400)

Collects essays from actors, directors, and writers, including Brian Cox, James Earl Jones, and Joyce Carol Oates, about their appreciation of the famed playwright.

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