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Hamlet (No Fear Shakespeare)

83 customer reviews
ISBN-13: 860-1200641394
ISBN-10: 1586638440
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Product Details

  • Series: No Fear Shakespeare
  • Paperback: 352 pages
  • Publisher: SparkNotes (April 15, 2003)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1586638440
  • ISBN-13: 978-1586638443
  • Product Dimensions: 1 x 5.2 x 7.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12.8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (83 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,813 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

William Shakespeare was born in Stratford-upon-Avon in April 1564, and his birth is traditionally celebrated on April 23. The facts of his life, known from surviving documents, are sparse. He was one of eight children born to John Shakespeare, a merchant of some standing in his community. William probably went to the King's New School in Stratford, but he had no university education. In November 1582, at the age of eighteen, he married Anne Hathaway, eight years his senior, who was pregnant with their first child, Susanna. She was born on May 26, 1583. Twins, a boy, Hamnet ( who would die at age eleven), and a girl, Judith, were born in 1585. By 1592 Shakespeare had gone to London working as an actor and already known as a playwright. A rival dramatist, Robert Greene, referred to him as "an upstart crow, beautified with our feathers." Shakespeare became a principal shareholder and playwright of the successful acting troupe, the Lord Chamberlain's Men (later under James I, called the King's Men). In 1599 the Lord Chamberlain's Men built and occupied the Globe Theater in Southwark near the Thames River. Here many of Shakespeare's plays were performed by the most famous actors of his time, including Richard Burbage, Will Kempe, and Robert Armin. In addition to his 37 plays, Shakespeare had a hand in others, including Sir Thomas More and The Two Noble Kinsmen, and he wrote poems, including Venus and Adonis and The Rape of Lucrece. His 154 sonnets were published, probably without his authorization, in 1609. In 1611 or 1612 he gave up his lodgings in London and devoted more and more time to retirement in Stratford, though he continued writing such plays as The Tempest and Henry VII until about 1613. He died on April 23 1616, and was buried in Holy Trinity Church, Stratford. No collected edition of his plays was published during his life-time, but in 1623 two members of his acting company, John Heminges and Henry Condell, put together the great collection now called the First Folio.

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

51 of 53 people found the following review helpful By Gilgamesh on August 1, 2010
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I cannot more highly recommend this particular book, No Fear Shakespeare's Hamlet.

I am approaching 50 years old and my only real experience trying to read Shakespeare was in high school where we were assigned roles in class and made to read, without comprehension, Romeo and Juliet and Julius Cesar. In the interim, I tried watching a few plays and dragged my kids to see the play Taming of the Shrew, which they hated because they couldn't understand the language nor the plot. Rather than becoming a Shakespeare hater, I've always felt inadequate and dumb for this huge hole in my education.

My current inspiration to try Shakespeare again was my desire to try and help my high school aged son become more educated and cultured than I have been.

I tried first with the Folger annotated editions of Shakespeare. They look excellent and define the unfamiliar words, but I still could not make sense of a substantial portion of the dialogue. I guess maybe I'm just dumb, I don't know.

Anyway, I saw good reviews about this No Fear series, and I ordered several. So far I have read the modern English translations of Hamlet, Macbeth, Othello, King Lear, and The Tempest. While I feel a bit like I'm 'cheating', I actually have really enjoyed all the plays and at least now I know the plots and the characters and even some of the more subtle themes. I can't answer the complaints that the translations don't adequately translate Shakespeare's meanings. There are a few side notes that point out double meanings and things like that, though there are not extensive footnotes or sidenotes.
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62 of 80 people found the following review helpful By Night Owl on January 24, 2006
Format: Paperback
Bravo to the writers, editors, and publishers of the entire No Fear Shakespeare series. Rendering Shakespeare into prosaic, colloquial American English not only explains what Shakespeare was saying, but reveals how much better he said it! Here's a few examples from HAMLET:

Hamlet sees the Ghost, but his mother doesn't. In modern lingo, she says, "This is only a figment of your imagination." That's a cliche. In the original, she says, "This is the very coinage of your brain." That's vivid.

Rosencrantz tells Hamlet in modern lingo, "You're not doing yourself any good by refusing to tell your friends what's bothering you." Sounds like a reprimand. The original line sounds like a threat: "You do surely bar the door upon your own liberty if you deny your griefs to your friend."

Hamlet remembers his mother's relationship with his father: "She would hang on to him, and the more she was with him the more she wanted to be with him; she couldn't get enough of him." Sounds good, but the original sounds disturbing: "Why, she would hang on him / As if increase of appetitite had grown / By what it fed on . . ." Change the word "she" to "it" and you have the image of a parasite. That alone says a lot about Hamlet's view of women and sex.

I know of no better guide to reading, understanding, and appreciating Shakespeare than Spark Notes' No Fear Shakespeare series.
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16 of 20 people found the following review helpful By The JuRK on October 29, 2005
Format: Paperback
Man, I wish I would've had this book 25 years ago!

I've always been interested in Shakespeare but it's been hard introducing anyone else I know to the greatness of his plays: the language is just too hard for most people to follow.

Thankfully, the No Fear Shakespeare books have come along, and I've been buying them for myself as well as others. It's wonderful to have a side-by-side comparison of the Bard's original lines with a modern translation that makes the play easy to read.

I hope the publishers do this with all of Shakespeare's plays!
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10 of 12 people found the following review helpful By Katherine Costa on May 27, 2007
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
This is truly a No Fear way to understand Shakespeare. There is a modern day interpretation writing on one side of the book and the Shakespeare way on the other. It was a lifesaver!
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By kone TOP 500 REVIEWER on July 18, 2011
Format: Paperback
Opening statement: I know nothing about William Shakespeare except that he was a famous English playwright. I never had to read William's works in high school or college. What drew me to this particular book is the game "Jeopardy". I play "Jeopardy" on Facebook, and quite often, there are categories on the works of Shakespeare. So in order to score better in Jeopardy, I sought a Shakespeare book that was readable, and by sheer luck, a friend pointed me to the "No Fear" editions of Shakespeare books. Essentially, the book has a side-by-side comparison of Shakespeare's original play in Old Style English, and on the opposing page, Shakespeare in modern-day english. After reading both versions, I found I prefered the modern version. I am not even through with the book yet, but I am very pleased to read Shakespeare and understand exactly what I am reading without having to interpret the Old English in my mind. My college graduate son says I am taking the easy way out and believes I should read the old style, but I doubt I would read Hamlet, or any of Shakespeare's works if I had to read it in the original text. It is just too cumbersome.

I look forward to reading many other of Shakespeare's works in modern english. I recommend this book to anyone reading Shakespeare as the reader can choose the original or the modern day translation. I think it is a neat concept and presentation.

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