Manual The Oxford Companion to Shakespeare

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December 18, - Published on Amazon. This is an excellent source for any English major or literary scholar to have--a great supplement to any collection. But I bought this with the impression that it would contain more critical information on the works of Shakespeare so I was a bit disappointed when the critical summaries were just blurbs. If you are looking for a reference book that is more encyclopedic in nature, then this is an invaluable purchase. April 25, - Published on Amazon. February 20, - Published on Amazon.

I bought this based on the Amazon. I haven't been as impressed as others. It's written for a high school or a very general audience. As a high school reference, it's probably very good. At anything beyond a basic level, however, the book falls short. For example, the entries for many of the minor historical characters are so brief as to merely mention the play in which they appear -- even though I know these characters have relevant familial ties, particularly to royal families.

I'm not sorry I bought it; I was just expecting a bit more depth considering its cost.

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13 editions of this work

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Shakespeare’s Reading

Handling time. Obvious care has been taken with the volume's design. The pages look uncrowded despite the three-column layout, and the numerous photographs are judiciously chosen and high in quality. A bold border based on Renaissance type ornaments mark articles about major works of drama or poetry, serving as a reader's finding aid. Minor confusions sometimes occur when a long article breaks up a shorter one; the addition of running subheads would have helped. As a tool for the student, the volume has enticing features, including entries on every stage character and song, and longer articles on each poetic work or play.


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Each play entry discusses the play's texts and sources, gives a synopsis, and provides overviews of the play's artistic features, critical history, stage history, and major screen versions. Students hunting for paper ideas will get good use from the admirably thorough "Thematic Listing of Entries" near the front, which groups all entries in dozens of categories, including biography, historical and cultural contexts, publishing and editing, theatrical and critical history, and Shakespeare as a global phenomenon. The volume is particularly good at giving the uninitiated a glimpse into the worldwide reach of Shakespeare and the institutions—such as festivals, theaters, societies, and journals—that have grown up around his works.

Nonacademic browsers may be more interested in his posthumous influence and reception than in Renaissance culture or literary influences; they may also be more interested in people's lives than in history, bibliography, or criticism. Perhaps to satisfy such readers, the editors include a bargeload of short bios of Shakespeareans, from actors to editors, with the result that this Companion sometimes reads like a "who's who.

As a resource for my own graduate and undergraduate students, however, the book could have used fuller entries on early modern political, intellectual, and literary contexts and fewer one-paragraph biographies of eighteenth-, nineteenth-, and twentieth-century actors, directors, impresarios, scholars, and translators.

The volume's biographical bias shows most plainly in its handling of Shakespeare's life, very broadly defined. I discourage students from making biographical arguments or wasting essay pages praising Shakespeare's greatness, yet the Oxford Companion aids and abets such exercises by veering close to the antiquarian and bardolatrous—despite its attention to "bardolatry" as a thematic category and a separate article.