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All the World's a Grave: A New Play by William Shakespeare Paperback – August 26, 2008


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 197 pages
  • Publisher: Plume (August 26, 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0452289866
  • ISBN-13: 978-0452289864
  • Product Dimensions: 0.4 x 5.1 x 7.6 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 4.8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (15 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,439,582 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Booklist

In an inspired bit of bricolage, Reed selects characters and passages from Othello, Hamlet, King Lear, Macbeth, Romeo and Juliet, and Henry V and recombines them into a new work. Well, new is an overstatement, since all major plot twists are lifted from the aforementioned plays—the murder of an old king by someone poisoned by ambition, a young prince determined to expose his father’s killer, an innocent young woman falsely accused and then murdered by her husband. Only the names have been shuffled to freshen the story. Here Macbeth kills Hamlet’s father, Juliet marries Hamlet (and then, poor girl, plays Desdemona to his Othello), and King Lear leads an army, like Fortinbras, into Hamlet’s blood-soaked country (Bohemia, not Denmark). This “remix version” of Shakespeare proves fascinating and entertaining. Reed clearly loves the Bard. His pastiche contains many of Shakespeare’s best passages, which are always a delight to reread. More impressive, though, Reed fashions from this familiar material a story containing enough surprises to delight even those well versed in the Bard. --Jack Helbig

Review

In an inspired bit of bricolage, Reed selects characters and passages from Othello, Hamlet, King Lear, Macbeth, Romeo and Juliet, and Henry V and recombines them into a new work. Well, new is an overstatement, since all major plot twists are lifted from the aforementioned plays—the murder of an old king by someone poisoned by ambition, a young prince determined to expose his father’s killer, an innocent young woman falsely accused and then murdered by her husband. Only the names have been shuffled to freshen the story. Here Macbeth kills Hamlet’s father, Juliet marries Hamlet (and then, poor girl, plays Desdemona to his Othello), and King Lear leads an army, like Fortinbras, into Hamlet’s bloodsoaked country (Bohemia, not Denmark). This “remix version” of Shakespeare proves fascinating and entertaining. Reed clearly loves the Bard. His pastiche contains many of Shakespeare’s best passages, which are always a delight to reread. More impressive, though, Reed fashions from this familiar material a story containing enough surprises to delight even those well versed in the Bard.
Booklist

Praise for John Reed’s novels:

“John Reed excels in the realm of the strange.”
San Francisco Examiner

“Reed’s book is a swift and satisfying read, viciously funny, out of left field.”
The New York Post --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Artistic Director D on April 19, 2011
Format: Paperback
This book is as if every famous Shakespearean play was ripped up into tiny pieces, thrown on the floor in scattered bits and then re-collaged together as an entirely new play. Using phrases from every one of Shakespeare's plays, this book was so engrossing that, for the first time in over 20 years of living in NYC, I missed my subway stop because I was so lost in the world that Reed created. Magpie-like, Shakespeare himself was the master of layering bits and pieces of other writer's work into a new narrative text that was uniquely his own and Reed has borrowed from the master's legacy in re-inventing (and, therfore, reinvigorating) the Bard's 400 year old tomes. As an actress, I have been privileged to do readings of this book to packed houses where the audience was always thoroughly enthralled and entertained. As a director, I presented the first full length production of it to standing ovations (during the stirring bits) and pin-drop silences (during the sad). It makes for a wonderfully inventive stage play as well as an entertaining read. Huzzah to Reed for his meticulous research and clever use of language that is as singular, unique and evocative as the original plays which it re-invents for a modern age.
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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful By E. M. Van Court VINE VOICE on April 13, 2009
Format: Paperback
A modern play in Shakespeare's style. It started well enough, setting the stage for a fairly complex drama, but by the end of the second act had become a dreary pastiche of Shakespeare's tragedies. For me, the failure of the work came from Reed's effort to cram references from as many of the Bard's works as possible, and the choppiness of way the references were strung together.

Later, I read the author's notes at the end of the book, and considered the author's position that "ATWAG is a celebration of Shakespeare, but also a protest..." I didn't see the celebration as much as the protest, and the book wasn't well written enough to be a well executed protest. It's not enough to push as many names and quotes into the work and congratulate yourself, the author needs to create a work that highlights the foibles of the original while bringing all the elements of the work into harmony.

Reed just didn't make this work.

E.M. Van Court
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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Laura Stokes on October 2, 2008
Format: Paperback
This is equal parts collage-art genius and Shakespeare refresher course. I can't tell you how strange and fun it is to see familiar lines re-cast in new scenes and in the mouths of new characters -- you really do have to experience this for yourself. Its proof that ripping apart the canon and reconstituting it into something new is an entirely worthwhile endeavor, one that can yield surprising results.

I also saw an actors' reading from this and would recommend it to theater groups looking for a new way to do Shakespeare.
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Format: Paperback
Reed is a writer who can speak through the dead. He freely engages with masters of the English language on their own terms. With Snowball's Chance it was Orwell, and here we see Reed take on the Bard and give him his due. The enormity of the task to rewrite Shakespeare would appear Sisyphean to any writer, but somehow Reed found the courage to try, and has succeeded with confidence. This book illuminates new and under-explored facets of iconic characters, and demonstrates a rich, nuanced understanding of the greatest plays known to mankind. He subverts classic lines and contexts to both comic and tragic effect, and charmingly plays with the reader's expectations. The language is accessible to the modern ear, even as the prose remains truly Shakespearean. Highly recommended.
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Format: Paperback
Not sure how he pulled this off, but he did. Clever idea and completely readable execution. Loved the essay at the end.
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Format: Paperback
Celebrated literary and social satirist John Reed, who has in previous incarnations ingeniously reconsidered George Orwell's `Animal Farm' from an opposing political perspective (`Snowball's Chance') and effectively rendered the palpable absurdities of life in the modern media spotlight (`The Hole') takes on his most audacious challenge to date in `All The World's A Grave.' A remarkably entertaining and assured foray into the most hallowed of literary grounds, 'All The World's A Grave' dares to recast characters from a handful of William Shakespeare's plays in a new drama, in the process theorizing what a play from the bard might look in contemporary times. Luckily, this is no bloodless academic enterprise, but a genuinely gripping narrative, one that takes liberties with the sacrosanct texts while never crossing the line into cheap gimmickry.

Reed's highwire act is astonishing, and not one with easy precedent in the world of books. Perhaps a more apt comparison would be to the dreamlike, brilliantly inventive narrative songs of Bob Dylan's mid-sixties work like `Desolation Row,' where Bette Davis, TS Eliot, Einstein and Ophelia all meet to great artistic effect. This is Reed's best work to date - thought provoking, entertaining and resonant with respect to imagining art as a continuum. Highly recommended.
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By S. Cottam on April 19, 2011
Format: Paperback
I expect a lot from John Reed. What I got from Grave (that I hadn't expected) was a new sympathy for Lady Anne. John took the things I love--Lear, Henry, Richard--danced them right off the edge and I followed behind beating the drum. A heady, sometimes gutting experience, the reading of this new play. But author, wrecker, John Reed compels.
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