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William Shakespeare

Book Review: Interpreting Shakespeare

New books on the life, works and ideas of Shakespeare are continually added to the enormous literature on the subject. Recent additions have included Ivor Brown's "Shakespeare," Duff-Cooper's “Sergeant Shakespeare" (in which it is suggested that be must have served in the army to have gained his familiarity with military matters), and a reprint of Hesketh Pearson's lively and entertaining "Shakespeare" that Ivor Brown catalogues under the heading "Imaginative.” Pearson seeks to interpret Shakespeare’s writings in the light of political and other happenings at the time, and of Shakespeare's likely reactions to them. Writing during the recent war when, as Pearson puts it, the world had before its eyes in the persons of Hitler, Mussolini, etc., a large number of modem Julius Caesars.

The Age of Gold

                                What is here ?
    Cold ? Yellow, glittering, precious, gold ?
    Thus much of this will make black, white ; foul, fair ;
    Wrong, right; base, noble ; old, young ; coward valiant.
    What, this, you gods? Why, this
    Will lug your priests and servants from your sides,
    Pluck stout men’s pillows from below their heads.
    'I'his yellow slave
    Will knit and break religions; bless the accurs’d ;
    Make the hoar leprosy ador'd ; place thieves,
    And give them title, knee, and approbation,
    With Senators on the bench : this is it,

Book Reviews: 'The Ideology of the Text', & 'Yours For The Revolution'

Marxism and Literature

'The Ideology of the Text', by Christopher Hampton (Open University Press. £8.99)

'Yours For The Revolution', edited by John Graham (University of Nebraska Press)

Theatre Review: 'As You Like It'

'As You Like It', Aldwych Theatre, London

“Was Shakespeare a revolutionary?” is about as facile as “Was Shakespeare a petty-bourgeois reactionary?” The answer to both is that Shakespeare was far too complex a writer to be slotted into any such categories. What can be said is that there are elements in his plays which can be seen to have revolutionary implications, just as there are elements which have reactionary implications. One of the beauties of Shakespeare is that the richness of the texts enables them to be seen as a constantly shifting kaleidoscope, now showing one aspect now the other. Productions of the plays can emphasise many different points; much depends on what the individual director sees.

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