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Shakespeare's language by Frank Kermode
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Shakespeare's language (2000)

by Frank Kermode

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Sir Frank Kermode's Shakespeare's Language is a deeply significant publication, the result of a lifetime of writing and thinking on the Bard by one of our greatest critics, and it certainly lives up to its expectations. Kermode's numerous critical studies, such as The Sense of an Ending, have become classics and his recent memoir Not Entitled vividly captured a life of letters, characterised by a passionate commitment to the value of literature. The author begins by lamenting the fact that general readers have not "been well served by modern critics, who on the whole seem to have little time for [Shakespeare's] language". However, rather than launching into a diatribe against current literary fashions, he proceeds to offer an elegant and detailed account of how "Shakespeare became, between 1594 and 1608, a different kind of poet". For Kermode, Shakespeare "moved up to a new level of achievement and difficulty", associated with the rich complexities of Hamlet and the enigmatic poem The Phoenix and the Turtle. Kermode defines that shift as "the pace of the speech, its sudden turns, its backtrackings, its metaphors flashing before us and disappearing before we can consider them. This is new: the representation of excited, anxious thought; the weighing of confused possibilities and dubious motives". This leads Kermode to break his book into two parts. The first deals with the plays up to 1600, including some controversial dismissals of plays, including As You Like It, whilst the second part offers 15 detailed chapters on the tragedies, problem plays and romances. Each chapter is full of detailed and illuminating interpretations of the difficulties, but also pleasures of Shakespeare's language. This is classic Shakespeare criticism, written in the mould of Johnson and Coleridge.--Jerry Brotton
  Roger_Scoppie | Apr 3, 2013 |
The true biography of Shakespeare - and the only one we really need to care about - is in the plays. Sir Frank Kermode, Britain's most distinguished literary critic, has been thinking about them all his life. This book is a distillation of that lifetime's thinking. The great English tragedies were all written in the first decade of the seventeenth century. They are often in language that is difficult to us, and must have been hard even for contemporaries. How and why did Shakespeare's language develop as it did? Kermode argues that the resources of English underwent major change around 1600.
  RKC-Drama | Mar 24, 2011 |
One of the best books of Shakespeare criticism I've ever read.
  TomReedy | Feb 17, 2011 |
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Although a large proportion of Shakespeare's verse was spoken in the theatre, a fact that accounts for much that affected its extraordinary development, I am not, or not primarily, interested in purely theatrical matters, though I must occasionally have something to say about them.
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 014028592X, Paperback)

The true biography of Shakespeare - and the only one we really need to care about - is in the plays. Sir Frank Kermode, Britain's most distinguished literary critic, has been thinking about them all his life. This book is a distillation of that lifetime's thinking. The great English tragedies were all written in the first decade of the seventeenth century. They are often in language that is difficult to us, and must have been hard even for contemporaries. How and why did Shakespeare's language develop as it did? Kermode argues that the resources of English underwent major change around 1600. The originality of Kermodes' writing, and the intelligence of his discussion, make this book a landmark.

(retrieved from Amazon Mon, 30 Sep 2013 13:38:54 -0400)

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Examines the changes in Shakespeare's language and drama in the fifteen years between "Titus Andronicus" and "Coriolanus," especially after around 1600, and the effects of these changes on his contemporary audiences.

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Penguin Australia

An edition of this book was published by Penguin Australia.

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