Arden vs. Oxford Shakespeare

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Arden vs. Oxford Shakespeare

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Edited: Dec 2, 2011, 3:13pm

Hello all.

I have decided to read 1 of Shakespeares plays each month (starting in January) until I have reread all of his works. And I find that I am torn between the Oxford individual editions (not the school editions) and the Arden individual editions.

Any thoughts?

Dec 2, 2011, 3:44pm

Arden is fuller, more scholarly (the notes & intros) - I would go with Arden. Can't remember how it is with the Oxford editions, but the Arden uses footnotes, rather than endnotes, which is preferable.

Edited: Dec 2, 2011, 5:20pm

Arden editions are scholarly but they have too much scholarly apparatus and notes for my taste. Each page has a few line of text from the play then three quarters of a page of notes. I find this distracting and aesthetically unattractive. I want to see an uninterrupted page of Shakespeare’s text. Whilst Arden might be the most scholarly edition it is not a readers Shakespeare, and I like to read the Bard and form my own ideas and impressions on his plays. Some notes and a glossary are useful and practically all that the reader of Shakespeare needs can be found in the excellent compendium, Shakespeare's Words by David Crystal.

I have not used the Oxford Shakespeare but in my view the best widely available single volume Shakespeare's are the Penguin paperback editions. But I have been collecting and reading (at the rate of one a month) the Easton Press Shakespeare volumes. These are reproductions of the old Chiswick Shakespeare, illustrated by Byram Shaw. I have 15 volumes so far and receive one a month. I like them. They are leather and as such durable. They are a nice size to take out and about (I like to read on the train) and they are unencumbered with notes, appendices, essays and all the rest, which I find a distraction. If I want critical interpretation of the plays then I turn to Anthony Nuttall’s “Shakespeare The Thinker”.

Dec 2, 2011, 6:09pm

The companion volumes to the FS Letterpress Shakespeare are the Oxford Shakespeare. I'm not sure which Oxford edition Leon is referring to, but the Oxford edition I have has footnotes, not endnotes. They rarely take up more than half the page, often less. The emphasis of the Oxford edition is dramatic rather than literary, although textual problems, style, language, etc., are fully discussed. The introductions are comprehensive, covering performance history as well as textual matters. Some volumes contain appendices. For example, in Twelfth Night, music is given for the songs, traditional where known, newly composed in similar style from a recent production to fill the gaps. The edition has recently been completed, having been begun in the 80s, I think.

Dec 2, 2011, 7:48pm

>4 boldface:

I wasn't saying the Oxford edition used endnotes, only that I couldn't vouch for it. Many editions do use endnotes, however, catering for QS & others who prefer a cleaner, "readers" edition. I prefer footnotes. It's true that a page of Arden can be so littered with notes as to only yield a line or two of Shakespeare, though usually it's more balanced than this! If you can avoid reading all the notes, it can be useful resource from time to time - for example, when a phrase is familiar, the notes will reference the passage and play you've recalled; or for when you hit a particularly tortured clutch of words, sometimes the result of editorial uncertainty, sometimes self-conscious (almost Jamesian) literariness, common in the late plays (see the opening line of Cymbeline).

Edited: Dec 3, 2011, 1:38am

This is a very interesting debate because it highlights that there are two types of Shakespeare readers - those that appreciate and like to dig into extensive notes and appendices and to “go beyond” the surface of the plays and those that just like to read the text. Each type of reader is likely to appreciate different editions.

Dec 3, 2011, 10:20am

I prefer Arden although I have a few of the Oxford ones as well. I just find the articles in the Arden editions are a bit more to my taste. I have nice editions for reading when I just feel like reading Shakespeare as well. And then there are the Varorium editions but they are a totally different fish. ;)

Dec 4, 2011, 2:10pm

> 6

Can anybody today really pretend to "just like to read the text" with no appeal to footnotes? I doubt readers even in 1623 understood clearly everything on the page.

I haven't compared all the editions. Surely some editions are better than others based on the editor (not publisher)? I do have several Cambridge editions because the footnotes are not as obsessive as Arden's, and you can get hardcover editions at a reasonable price.

Edited: Dec 4, 2011, 2:19pm

> 8

I am not “pretending” when I say I like to read the text without footnotes. You do not need to fully understand every allusion to appreciate the beauty of Shakespeare’s language or to follow the narrative of the play. Playgoers don’t feel the need for a set of notes when a play is being performed - they just sit back and enjoy the spectacle, which is what I like to do when I read Shakespeare. Over analysis takes the joy out of Shakespeare for me (and any piece of literature). It is entirely possible to read and enjoy Shakespeare without reading a single solitary footnote or glossary - I have done so many times, and whilst I might not understand every single allusion or word, I at least enjoy what I am reading without getting bogged down in the tedious speculation of yet another Shakespeare critic. Shakespeare neat for me.

Dec 4, 2011, 2:22pm

I agree with QS66, and it helps even more if you read aloud.

Dec 4, 2011, 2:38pm

I have enjoyed some of the recent audio productions of Shakespeare, whilst holding the book and reading along.

One excellent English audio production has two sides - one 'straight' and one with interruptions for explanations - unfortunately the library only holds three of his works in this format. I must admit to liking both experiences and spending time 'reading' his plays twice in this way - thus don't feel bogged down trying to move my eyes to footnotes/sidenotes all the time.

Shakespeare is an 'aural' experience for me.

Dec 4, 2011, 3:03pm

> 1. If only it could be a simple one or the other. Unfortunately, some Ardens are better than their Oxford counterparts (by "better" I mean, more thorough, more insightful, better editorial/textual choices), but others are not. Sometimes, both have a lot to offer (e.g., Hamlet edited by Harold Jenkins -- Arden (2nd series) -- and G.R. Hibbard -- Oxford.) Then there are the Cambridge editions, some of which are excellent. Plus Pelican, Signet, etc, etc.

None of that is of any help to you, however.

I guess I'd recommend going with Arden, if you want a uniform series. No period in history has seen such an extensive study of Shakespeare, and no period has experienced so many revolutions in critical method: feminist, new historical, deconstructive, post-colonial, and more. Arden updates their series more frequently than any other that I'm aware of, so they're more likely to represent the latest scholarship, both textually and interpretively. Many of the titles are now available in the 3rd series of Arden (2008-2011), a complete listing of which can be found at

Dec 4, 2011, 4:06pm

>9 Quicksilver66: and 10

I also agree with David and Antonio. If I remember correctly the main reason to publish the Letterpress Shakespeare was to present the reader with a clean text undisturbed by footnotes. An edition that was worthy to be read aloud. And if any consultation was needed with regards to the language such could be taken to the commentary.

Dec 5, 2011, 2:34am

> 13

The Letterpress Shakespeare would be my ideal Shakespeare if it were not for 2 factors - 1. the size of the clamshells (I preferred the slipcased versions when they were available) and, 2. the price.

Dec 5, 2011, 2:41am

> 14

Yes, way out of my league.

The Letterpress Shakespeare - four new plays

Your price: AUS$ 3,180.00 ( around £2100)

Dec 5, 2011, 7:21am

As a preliminary to my project ('do' Shakespeare) for 2012 I have purchased the complete set of performances by the BBC and a 37 volume set from the Limited Editions Club, my set is however without the commentaries that come with the more expensive sets on the market. How would I best go about getting 'just the notes', without having to get in another 37 books?

Dec 5, 2011, 8:42am

> 16

While not exactly footnotes, I would recommend the FS book Introductions to Shakespeare, edited by Charles Ede, a volume that collects all the introductions to the series of individual plays published by the Society. They are well written and fill in adequately an overall view that helps with the reading. The book was published in 1977 and can be found second hand.

Dec 5, 2011, 8:51am

> 17
Excellent idea, and I have acted accordingly. Thank you.

Dec 5, 2011, 9:34am

>16 starkimarki:

A shakespeare bug seems to be going around.

I too have purchased a 37 LEC volume shakespeare set to use in 2012. Mine does come with commentary volume. Also their is a map of london apparantly included. Sadly it hasnt arrived yet. The below picture was taken by the vendor. Anybody seen this before?

Also i was thinking of purchasing a Riverside complete shakespeare for footnotes.

Dec 5, 2011, 11:13am

>19 Virion:
Congratulations upon your set. I had to compromise on the commentary and ephemera in order to make up the postage to Europe, I hope to pick it up bit by bit in the future. There are also 2 matching poetry volumes so that the best and most complete sets have 39 total. Mine hasn't arrived yet either so I can't say much to the picture, though I have never seen a poster in any descriptions of the set.

Dec 5, 2011, 1:36pm

Thank you to everyone...

I stopped at a Barnes & Noble this weekend and compared the Arden and Oxford editions of Hamlet. While the Arden is def the more scholarly edition it really does have too many notations for my taste. So I have decided to go with Oxford, which is still pretty heavily annotated.

On another note I also stumbled across these:

I don't know anything about Calla Editions but they look to be nice editions.

Dec 5, 2011, 1:46pm

Well there are also the Bedford Shakespeare (they don't have all the plays though I believe - for an example ) and the Cambridge editions.

If you like the Shakespeare ones, stick with them, they are pretty good :)

Dec 5, 2011, 2:02pm

>21 SirFolio16: I have the Calla Edition Hamlet. It is a lot of book for the money - a reprint of the Selwyn and Blount edition of 1922 decorated and illustrated beautifully by John Austen under the obvious influence of Beardsley. It is bound in Ultima 7 which feels more leathery than its space age name might suggest. My only quibble is that the titling on the spine which is done in gold ( good ) and then oddly in blue as well makes it look a bit cheap, or perhaps rather too ebullient. There are no notes whatsoever.

Dec 7, 2011, 7:56pm

I should also mention the new Yale series edited by Burton Raffel. These go the opposite extreme from Arden and present the bare minimum of footnotes, usually just the quickest clarification of all the obscure words and phrases. If you just want to read Shakespeare with the least interruption and don't need massive scholarly apparatus, these may be the way to go.

Edited: Dec 29, 2011, 1:07pm

I've just ordered thirteen volumes of the Oxford Shakespeare from Foyles, impressed by the layout, introductions and critical footnotes. I wouldn't normally plump for paperbacks, but they all have sewn bindings, attractive covers and the paper looks to be very decent quality. And 40% off with Foyles on-line helps (cheaper than Amazon). I'm studying literature with the Open University and they recommend the Oxford series.

Edited for typo!

Dec 29, 2011, 3:16am

> 25

Nice buy.

I hope you are enjoying the OU. I studied at the OU when I was in the UK: gained my BA (Philosophy) there. Very good University.

Dec 29, 2011, 8:12am

>25 cronshaw: Do you have to be in the UK to study at the OU?

Dec 29, 2011, 11:21am

>21 SirFolio16:

There's been some discussion of Calla Editions on the threads about "alternatives to Folio". As I mentioned there, it appears that Calla isn't sewing all its bindings anymore, so I've (temporarily, at least) stopped buying its books.

One source for readable Shakespeare that's sure to set some teeth on edge here is Classical Comics. You have the option of getting the complete original text (without footnotes), and that's what I've done. While my complete collection of Shakespeare from Everyman's Library would mostly just sit on the shelf gathering dust, I buy and read the Classical Comics plays as quickly as they are printed. The artwork, while not always to my taste, really moves the story along. Plus, these editions have sewn bindings!

Edited: Dec 30, 2011, 6:30pm

>27 ironjaw: No, you can study throughout Europe and a few other countries quite easily, though the fees will be slightly higher than if you're a UK resident. You can check on-line at

If you want to start study with them, I recommend you register to begin before September 2012 when the fees go up considerably. The OU Humanities department has an excellent reputation, an exciting selection of courses, and the benefit of great flexibility of study: you can take whatever modules/subjects interest you and study part or full time, taking breaks as you please. A wonderful institution.

Dec 29, 2011, 4:13pm

> 29 The OU Humanities department has an excellent reputation

The Philosophy faculty, doubly so. Nigel Warburton, Derek Matravers, Jon Pike etc

Dec 30, 2011, 6:24pm

Thanks guys, this sounds great, I will look into OU. I need to decide whether I should start Classical Studies or Physics.

Edited: Dec 30, 2011, 6:42pm

> 31

Follow you passion.

Many will tell you Physics - because it is a Science - and of course these days our sum core of knowledge has got to be on a Science or Business course!

Learning is more than that. It is about the joy of finding out about not only the future or making money, but about how we as humans live and interact, how we enjoy things, studying our past etc.

I have just come away with an MA in what can only be described as the toughest, most time consuming study I have ever done. There is no way I would have passed if I did not have that burning passion about learning those two languages. Seriously. If I would have done it on someone elses recommendation I would have dropped out, it was so difficult.

Dec 30, 2011, 7:11pm

>32 LesMiserables: LesMis, you did a BA (Philosophy) and MA in what at OU? I remember you were talking about Greek and Latin is that what you read?

Dec 30, 2011, 7:12pm

MA at Macquarie (Sydney) - Ancient History (Latin and Ancient Greek)

Dec 31, 2011, 5:29am

Not that it will matter much to most readers but the OU Philosophy Department is part of the Humanities Faculty - as is the Literature Department. And although I have had my minor points of disagreement with all three over the years all concerned produce excellent modules (although some modules are, as usual, better than others). I especially recommend AA306 Shakespeare: Text and Performance.

Meanwhile - it would fair to say that the Arden Hamlet is especially heavy on footnotes despite their having now split the play into two different books - one covering Q1 and the Folio and one with just Q2. There isn't usually all that much to choose between Oxford and Arden so far as the extent of the footnotes is concerned. Personally I tend to plump fpr Arden but there are Oxford, Cambridge and indeed Penguins sitting next to me on the shelves. As usual I'll give a wee plug to good old Robert Smallwood's Penguin edition of King John despite it being, as he never tires of pointing out, the worst selling play in the canon and the production articles written by Rebecca Brown for the Henry VI editions.

Oct 30, 2012, 4:56am

Apologies for resurrecting a dormant thread, but I know there have been more recent related threads, and this is a topic close to my heart.

I think jburlinson put it well in >12 jburlinson:, i.e. that objectively there is no simple answer to the Arden vs Oxford debate. The series are both excellent (as are others), but on a play by play basis, "best" is likely to be a matter of taste.

If you are insistent on having a uniform set, if I were to generalise I would say that Arden is a great edition for serious students, and a series I would recommend to the more committed Shakespeare enthusiasts. The Oxford Shakespeare is a little more user friendly (and cheaper) and where I would recommend the newcomer to Shakespeare should start.

But if you are open to having a mix of different editions (which is the approach I would recommend), I would recommend browsing individual titles at a good bookshop and choose the volumes that have the supplementary material and text layout - including extensiveness of footnotes - that appeals to you most. All three main Shakespeare series (Arden, Oxford and New Cambridge) have excellent supplementary material, and on a title by title basis, some will appeal more than others.

Ignoring Collected Works I personally have:

25 Arden (Third Edition) Shakespeare plays. Arden of course is the only way to go if you want to explore the Shakespeare "apocrypha" that is Sir Thomas More and / or Double Falsehood. Sir Thomas More is largely attributed to Anthony Munday in collaboration with others (including Henry Chettle, Thomas Heywood, and Thomas Dekker), and is important to Shakespearean scholars because the manuscript is the only surviving one which include pages attributed to Shakespeare (aka "Hand D"). Double Falsehood has less credible credentials but is nevertheless believed to be an adaptation by Lewis Theobald of the lost play, "Cardenio". Of course you can't actually get a uniform set of the Arden Shakespeare (Third Edition) as it is not due for completion until 2014 (it is even missing Macbeth which is surprising given the series started in 1995, but that is being remedied in January 2013)

21 Oxford Shakespeare plays. Nice, easy to read, and beautifully laid out. Highly recommended to the casual reader.

11 New Cambridge Shakespeare. A great alternative to Arden and Oxford. In my opinion the best editions of Macbeth and As You Like It. And the only one of the big three with a version of Edward III (printed anonymously, and likely to have been largely written by Thomas Kyd, but scholars are now increasingly of the view that it was at least part-authored by Shakespeare).

30 RSC Shakeaspeare (Kindle e-books). The best Kindle editions by a very very large margin. No other e-versions come close. Excellent commentaries (if not as extensive as Arden, Oxford and New Cambridge), and great to read on the Kindle Touch. A clean layout with hyperlinks to the glossary, so you can read it through without distractions or just touch on a word to take you to the gloss for that word. I now have almost the complete works in a highly professional edition in my back pocket wherever I go. I just wish they would finish the series. Whether you like these or not will depend on your views on e-books more generally!

I then have a handful of other versions if plays (Folger, Norton Critical Editions, Ignatius Critical Editions), but none of which I would recommend ahead of the "big three".

I have to confess that having now read each play many times, I only tend to use the critical editions for the supplementary essays. Footnotes are invaluable the first few times through each play, but it doesn't take too long to start to become familar with Shakespeare's language, at which point you will want to have as few distractions as possible. That for me is where my Folio Shakespeare volumes come in (I only have 15 at the moment, but my collection is growing). Nice size to read, subtle yet beautiful costume illustrations, and no distractions. Shakespeare as it was meant to be read...

...except of course it wasn't meant to be read it was meant to be watched! So I also highly recommend the BBC Shakespeare boxset. 37 plays for only 70 pounds is unbelievably cheap, and not a footnote in sight (nor are any needed)! On CD, the Arkangel Shakespeare includes 38 plays and is also brilliant.

I would love to have the Letterpress Shakespeare volumes as my reading copies, but sadly unless I win the lottery, that will always be beyond my reach. And as I don't do the lottery...

Apologies for the Doctoral Thesis! As I said, a subject very close to my heart.

Oct 30, 2012, 6:25am

>36 Conte_Mosca: Conte

Thank you, thank you. I've wanted to dig into Shakespeare since I studied Midsummer Night's Dream at school. These recommendation will give me a start

Edited: Oct 30, 2012, 9:47am

>36 Conte_Mosca: Thank you, that's very interesting and helpful, I'm going to look out for that BBC 37-DVD Shakespeare set since I'm feeling flush from not having been tempted by Folio's renewal offers (so far) this year!

Edited to add that the set is still available from at £65 including UK delivery - always pleasing to avoid hegemonic, more expensive, tax avoidant and ethically disagreeable Amazon.

Oct 30, 2012, 9:47am

Edited: Oct 30, 2012, 9:50am

>39 drasvola: That's hilarious. I had just found that out myself and was editing my post at 38 at the same time as you were posting the same information!

Oct 30, 2012, 9:52am

> 40

I bought the set from them some time ago and highly recommend it. It includes some historic broadcasts. Coincidence!!

Oct 30, 2012, 9:54am

Wow thanks for link Antonio

Oct 30, 2012, 10:03am

I'm well excited! Thank you BBC,
Just send my iambs quickly as can be!

Oct 30, 2012, 10:05am

>36 Conte_Mosca: thx Michael for that great breakdown - very helpful for a Shakespearean neophyte like myself.

Oct 30, 2012, 10:35am

> 36

Thanks for your useful and informative breakdown. Shakespeare is indeed addictive. Besides the plays, collecting editions of the sonnets is another unending pursuit. In my case I need to have Spanish translations.

Currently my library includes five complete sets of works in English (in one volume or sets, including the Arden edition and the Kindle version). I have the same in Spanish (by different translators) and also separate sets of the tragedies and the comedies.

One of my favourite collections is the FS complete set of coloured volumes with the quill pattern on the cover. And the icing on the cake is the FS First Folio facsimile (although this one doesn't get read very often). I'm not satisfied. I'm pretty sure that I'm missing many other worthwhile editions.

Edited: Oct 31, 2012, 1:23am

>45 drasvola: Oh don't get me started on The Sonnets as well Antonio!

Let's see, I have the three outstanding commentary volumes by Don Paterson ("Reading Shakespeare's Sonnets"), David West ("Shakespeare's Sonnets"), and Helen Vendler ("The Art of Shakespeare's Sonnets"). Then there is the Arden (Revised Third Edition), the Oxford ("The Complete Sonnets and Poems"), the two Folio Society editions (the early 1947 version and the more recent version), the RSC Shakespeare version on the Kindle, not counting the versions in various collected works...

...mind you, I don't think you can have too much of a good thing :-)

Edit: typo

Oct 31, 2012, 1:12pm

Hopefully these apps will be available soon for other devices:

Nov 17, 2012, 10:04am

Not all plays are included but this resource can be very helpful:

Nov 17, 2012, 11:26am

> 47

Another exclusive deal for Apple! Let's hope, as you say, they can become more widely available. They sound excellent.

> 48

This, too, though less ambitious than the CUP app, looks useful.

Thanks for bringing these to our attention, Antonio.

Nov 17, 2012, 11:42am

> 49

Jonathan, having just started to play around with a Kindle Fire HD, I'm really interested in applications for it. Let's see if something is done for Shakespeare!

Edited: Nov 18, 2012, 4:25am

I have just finished reading my Letterpress King Lear, which gave me a welcome reminder that it is not simply a matter of choosing Arden over Oxford (or any other version) or vice versa. Having previously read Arden, New Cambridge, RSC and New Temple versions, this is the first time I have read a copy of the text based on the First Quarto, and it is like reading a very different play!

Since the mid 17th century, Lear has only really been performed based on the original Shakespeare texts for the last 70 years or so, having been considered "unfit for the theatre" for 250 years (most productions in that period we based on Nahum Tate's tragicomedy adaptation). Until very recently, most "authentic" Shakespeare texts have been conflations of both the Quarto (1608) and Folio (1623), something that will never have been intended, or staged, by Shakespeare himself. Arden uses such a conflated "full" text. These texts lean towards the Folio where conflicts between the texts need to be resolved (including who makes the final speech, Albany in the Q and Edgar in the F, which signal different potential futures for the kingdom beyond the final page).

In the last 20 years or so, there has been a move to unentangle the texts, with an acknowledgement there is no authentic unified text of King Lear, simply two different authentic texts. However, where this untangling happens, it is usually the Folio which is used as the text, as in the case of the RSC Shakespeare and the New Cambridge (and indeed most recent staged productions). So Oxford's choice of the Quarto is a fascinating one.

There is no other play where such differences between (good) Quartos and the First Folio are so large and so meaningful. The Quarto has nearly 300 lines not in the Folio, where the Folio has just over 100 lines not included in the Quarto. The nature of those differences is such that the Quarto (Oxford) version emphasises the personal / familial aspects of the play more, whereas the more common Folio (and conflated) versions emphasise the political aspects more. It is a fascinating contrast...

...all of which is a very long winded way of saying that there are times when you need to get more than one version. If you only get the Oxford version of King Lear (which includes of course the Letterpress King Lear), whilst it is objectively just as good as other versions, it will not be the same version you are likely to see staged at the theatre or indeed that most other people willbe familiar with. A brave decision by Oxford, which I very much welcome, but it can't be only version I have (and indeed isn't, I have 10 now!). I am still recovering from the shock of seeing Edgar's words in Albany's mouth!

EDIT: It is worth adding that Lear is just an example. These textual considerations wll apply to other works too. For example, Arden (3rd ed.) uses the 1604/1605 2nd Quarto text for its main edition of Hamlet, whereas Oxford uses the 1623 Folio (although Arden has also published a separate supplementary volume of Hamlet which includes the 1603 First (Bad) Quarto version as well as the Folio version).

Aug 5, 2015, 1:08am

Very good thread.

I'm currently considering buying individual Shakespeare editions now and moving on from my three volume compendium.

I'll have to give this some thought of course and wonder, since this thread is a few years old now, if anyone has any new insights on what way to go.

Edited: Aug 5, 2015, 8:52am

This member has been suspended from the site.

Aug 6, 2015, 6:18am


Thanks, I don't have a rough guide, but will look into that.

I ordered

Arden Macbeth 9781904271413
Arden Othello 9781903436455
Arden Hamlet 9781904271338
Arden St Thomas More
Shakespeare's Words 9780140291179 ( based on Quickslivers recommendation above)

By the way, where has QS got to? Has he been around these parts of late?

Aug 6, 2015, 9:26am

>54 LesMiserables:

"By the way, where has QS got to? Has he been around these parts of late?"

He has been somewhat mercurial.

Aug 30, 2015, 4:00am

Beware Arden!?

I was taken aback by a footnote in p448 of Arden Shakespeare Series III ISBN 9781904271321

It refers to Hamlet's line in 5.2.197 :"there is a special providence in the fall of a sparrow."

Referring to the footnote it says.."Hamlet alludes to the Christian (Calvinist) belief in God's direct intervention in worldly affairs (see Matthew, 10:29)

My understanding is that of course this points to Matthew 10;29 but there is nothing inherently Calvinist in this.

Catholics, like myself, believe in God's direct intervention simultaneously with free-will.

Calvinists believe, if anything, that the world is predestined and that free-will is an illusion. Things are set so to speak.

So, my point is, the editors have made an unjustified comment here. It is just a gratuitous comment.

Edited: Aug 30, 2015, 6:08am

Up to a point.

What the editor is suggesting is that Hamlet isn't saying, like Matthew, that God knows about the poor old sparrow and takes care as to it's ultimate fate. Rather he is saying that fate is predestined. I'm not convinced our favourite revenger hero is going down the Calvinist route of double predestination but in the context of the whole exchange with Horatio I think the editor is probably right to suggest things are more complicated than a simple reference to Matthew.

More generally though IMHO it isn't simply a gratuitous comment cos there is quite to say about Hamlet's somewhat odd religious position (he does seem to lurch between traditional Catholicism and some variant of radical Protestantism). However I agree the note isn't well phrased and could do with reconsideration as well as expansion.

But then which of us thinks Arden would be well advised to expand all the notes that could bear such treatment - aren't the notes generally quite long enough as it is?

PS Both my Arden Threes are currently sitting halfway down a pile of books which is itself obscured by other piles awaiting new bookshelves! Nevertheless I see Arden Two (sensibly sitting on an accessible shelf) supplies a rather better reasoned and nuanced note. Norton cites Matthew but, as is often the case, isn't at all detailed. My only current Oxford is on kindle and the bookmarks suck so I'm passing on that one (I am ordering a hardcopy).

Aug 30, 2015, 7:09am


Than you for your comments. I think we both agree that ambiguity abounds in this particular case.

Aug 30, 2015, 12:02pm

Oh yes, he does love a wee hint of ambiguity does Mr Shakespeare! :-D

Edited: Jan 24, 2019, 9:01pm

>36 Conte_Mosca: “RSC Shakespeare (Kindle e-books). The best Kindle editions by a very very large margin. No other e-versions come close. Excellent commentaries (if not as extensive as Arden, Oxford and New Cambridge), and great to read on the Kindle Touch. A clean layout with hyperlinks to the glossary, so you can read it through without distractions or just touch on a word to take you to the gloss for that word. I now have almost the complete works in a highly professional edition in my back pocket wherever I go.”

My apologies for resurrecting such an old thread, but I ran across it while searching Google. I thought some of you might be interested in an update about the Kindle version, which I find every bit as good as described in the quotation. It is now listed in the Kindle Store under the title “William Shakespeare Complete Works (Modern Library).”

Jan 31, 2019, 2:14pm

I am also looking at building up a collection of individual Shakespeare titles, but I'm downstruck by the lack of modern sewn hardcover editions of the individual plays.

The only editions I've been able to find so far are Everyman's Library, the Letterpress Shakespeare (FS) and The Oxford Shakespeare, the latter only being available in hardback through the FS as far as I'm aware?

Are there any other options out there that I've missed?

Jan 31, 2019, 3:03pm

>61 WhiteBeard:

Have you considered the original Folio series of individual plays, published from around 1950-76? They all seem to be readily available on the secondary market, with the exception of As You Like It, which is coveted for the Dali illustrations and commands a higher price. The others are usually available cheaply - under £10 is not unusual. The bonus is that all Folio books of this period were printed letterpress.

Feb 3, 2019, 9:31am

>62 folio_books:

I do like them, thanks for bringing them to my attention!

I would perhaps prefer an edition without illustrations, but the quality for the price seems hard to beat!

Feb 3, 2019, 10:07am

>63 WhiteBeard:

The illustrations (actually costume designs for a particular performance) are not integrated into the text. They're printed on a separate page and don't interrupt the flow of the text. And yes, I agree, they are exceptional value. You could afford one as taster to ensure it meets your requirements

Mar 20, 2019, 12:19pm

>51 Conte_Mosca:

Michael. What can I say? Your insight is extremely valuable. These are the discussion I could see myself being privy to whilst having an Afternoon tea and cupcakes!

Thank you. Much appreciated.

Mar 20, 2019, 8:22pm

This thread inspired me to purchase a bunch of the Arden Shakespeares! (a few weeks ago)

Edited: Feb 1, 2020, 3:32pm

From the London Review of Books, 20 January:

"25 Years of scholarship, 44 volumes. The Arden Shakespeare Third Series reaches its final play - Measure for Measure:"