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Living with Shakespeare: Essays by Writers, Actors, and Directors (Vintage Original) [Kindle Edition]

Susannah Carson , Harold Bloom
4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (61 customer reviews)

Print List Price: $16.95
Kindle Price: $9.78
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Sold by: Random House LLC

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Book Description

Why Shakespeare? What explains our continued fascination with his poems and plays? In Living with Shakespeare, Susannah Carson invites forty actors, directors, scholars, and writers to reflect on why his work is still such a vital part of our culture.

We hear from James Earl Jones on reclaiming Othello as a tragic hero, Julie Taymor on turning Prospero into Prospera, Camille Paglia on teaching the plays to actors, F. Murray Abraham on gaining an audience’s sympathy for Shylock, Sir Ben Kingsley on communicating Shakespeare’s ideas through performance, Germaine Greer on the playwright’s home life, Dame Harriet Walter on the complexity of his heroines, Brian Cox on social conflict in his time and ours, Jane Smiley on transposing King Lear to Iowa in A Thousand Acres, and Sir Antony Sher on feeling at home in Shakespeare’s language. Together these essays provide a fresh appreciation of Shakespeare’s works as a living legacy to be read, seen, performed, adapted, revised, wrestled with, and embraced by creative professionals and lay enthusiasts alike.

F. Murray Abraham ● Isabel Allende ● Cicely Berry ● Eve Best ● Eleanor Brown ● Stanley Cavell ● Karin Coonrod ● Brian Cox ● Peter David ● Margaret Drabble ● Dominic Dromgoole ● David Farr ● Fiasco Theater ● Ralph Fiennes ● Angus Fletcher ● James Franco ● Alan Gordon ● Germaine Greer ● Barry John ● James Earl Jones ● Sir Ben Kingsley ● Maxine Hong Kingston ● Rory Kinnear ● J. D. McClatchy ● Conor McCreery ● Tobias Menzies ● Joyce Carol Oates ● Camille Paglia ● James Prosek ● Richard Scholar ● Sir Antony Sher ● Jane Smiley ● Matt Sturges ● Julie Taymor ● Eamonn Walker ● Dame Harriet Walter ● Bill Willingham ● Jess Winfield

Editorial Reviews

From Booklist

Novelist Isabel Allende keeps a volume of Shakespeare on her nightstand, where other people would keep a Bible. Literary critic Harold Bloom regards Shakespeare’s poetry as the holy text for a secular religion, with Shakespeare himself as God. If Shakespeare has indeed become a deity, the exalted figure in a literary-cultural faith, then Carson has done readers a great service by collecting these 38 essays, revealing in their astonishing diversity how capacious, how protean, that faith has become. It is, as readers learn by listening to actor James Earl Jones, a faith that inspires us with the celestial force of Othello, whom Jones has nicknamed the Sun God. But is also a faith filled with ­frightening devils, as actor-director Ralph Fiennes reminds us, when he discusses the boundless wrath and withering misanthropy of Coriolanus. It is a faith compelling actor Brian Cox to wrestle with existential questions, yet one that allows author Jess Winfield to indulge in facetious wordplay. A cornucopia of delights for lovers of the Bard. --Bryce Christensen


"An eclectic collection of pieces from an eclectic collection of writers about reading, directing, performing and adoring the Bard of Avon.... All will find light and warmth, comfort and companionship in these glowing pages." —Kirkus Reviews

"A cornucopia of delights for lovers of the Bard." —Booklist

"Lively.... Thought-provoking.... The collection is a consistently stimulating read, which goes a great way toward illuminating the degree to which we all live already—and can live even further—with Shakespeare." —Publishers Weekly (starred review)

Product Details

  • File Size: 3159 KB
  • Print Length: 531 pages
  • Page Numbers Source ISBN: B00ERNPX3U
  • Publisher: Vintage (April 9, 2013)
  • Sold by: Random House LLC
  • Language: English
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
  • X-Ray:
  • Word Wise: Not Enabled
  • Lending: Not Enabled
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #638,111 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
9 of 10 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars A bit unfocused, some excellent, others only okay... April 12, 2013
Format:Paperback|Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
This is really a grab bag of essays about Shakespeare, written by scholars, actors, and writers, and is a *mixed* bag. It's as though the editor requested a bunch of people to write about anything they liked regarding Shakespeare, put the essays in a bag, shook them up, and then printed them in that order. The few attempts at order are self-defeating, as frankly, I'd much rather *not* read three essays about OTHELLO in a row, but would rather have them interspersed through the rather thick volume. Most of the essays are worth reading, though a few, primarily some by actors, come off as self-serving. One exception is James Earl Jones' marvelous piece on playing Othello, and F. Murray Abraham's "Searching for Shylock." Other favorites were works by Joyce Carol Oates and Camille Paglia. I enjoyed Harold Bloom's foreword more than I did the editor's introduction, which tells us too much of what we're going to be told, and seems rather unfocused. Still, a decent enough book to have on the Shakespeare shelf, if not one of the top rank. Its value is diminished by Amazon sending its Vine readers (of which I am one) advance reading copies rather than the finished book, so there's no index, as there will be in the final printed edition. A semi-reference book without an index is like Romeo without Juliet.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars wide-ranging commentary April 18, 2013
Format:Paperback|Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
While it's not as though there has been too little written about Shakespeare or his plays, the subject continues to attract attention. In this case, we have a volume consisting of a large number of short essays, commentaries, asides, notes, stories, and vignettes about one or more of the plays, and how a given actor, director, reader, comic-book writer, or whatever, has been impacted or inspired or affected by the experience.

Some of the authors are well-known actors who have considerable experience with Shakespeare; other writers are more obscure. The quality of the writing is generally good. The essays are generally grouped together by the individual play which is the main subject of the essay, i.e. numerous essays in a row on Othello or Hamlet, etc.

If you know the plays, or most of the most well-known ones, you may well enjoy commentary on the subject. If you do not already know Shakespeare's work, this collection will likely not be of riveting interest. It's a thick book - at 500 pages you may well find yourself skimming some of the less interesting essays.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Good book--well worth your time. April 9, 2013
Format:Paperback|Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
"Living with Shakespeare" is a collection of essays on the influence the Bard has had on various persons' lives. Most of them are by actors and producers; I find these to be the most helpful and insightful. Oddly, those by academics (Paglia aside), I found fairly pallid and unrevealing. Harold Bloom provides his usual breathless introduction. I found the first two-thirds of the book rather more interesting than the last third, which often descends into whimsy.

There are some very good pieces here, notably Ben Kingsley's plea for teaching Shakespeare better in schools. Indeed, if there's a villain in this book, it's the English teacher and the terrible first impression they (we) make with our students introducing them to Shakespeare.

I am glad I read this book. I teach Shakespeare on the university level and will bring much to my next classes that I have learned here.

Susannah Carson and her contributors show us--yet again--that Shakespeare is an author to live with, not just read.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars "What a Piece of Work is This..." April 6, 2013
Format:Paperback|Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
In the Isabel Allende essay of Living with Shakespeare, entitled "Enamoured with Shakespeare", she begins by saying that her love of Shakespeare started when her father gave her the complete works, translated into Spanish and follows with the quote, *Its a wise father that knows his own child.* The Editor's Note at the bottom of the page states that quotation marks for that quote from the "Merchant of Venice" were purposefully left out to demonstrate exactly how much a part of Allende's, and all of our, everyday language these quotes have become. Just as the complete works volume was a perfect gift from father to daughter, this book, Living with Shakespeare, came at a perfect time for me. Two weeks ago, I was privileged to see the Yale Repertory Theater's production of Hamlet, with Paul Giamatti in the title role. It was wonderful and renewed my high school and college interest in the plays. But I did not want to go back and read the plays...I wanted to read about the plays and talk to people about the plays...particularly people who knew more than I, who had spent some professional time with the plays. I did have a lengthy discussion with a young theater student about her impressions and conclusions but I needed someone with more hands-on experience.
That is exactly what I found in this book...I found the people who had touched, worried about, ruminated over and actually USED the plays. It was perfect. I will say I have not read every essay, being mostly interested in the actor/director perspective...and really only for the plays I have read.
But that's ok, because now that I have this book, I can see more Shakespeare plays and will always have these "conversation partners" to discuss them with....the competent and experienced actors, directors and writers...the essayists included in this text. What a great piece of Shakespeare reference material to keep in a home library.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
Excellent view of Shakespeare's protean ability to speake
to varied times, individuals and disciplines about the human condition.
Published 1 month ago by Jeanann Collins
4.0 out of 5 stars Shakespeare lovers of all kinds
A wonderful collections by actors, writers, fans, directors and others about the Bard. The writing varies, of course, but all the essays are worth reading. Read more
Published 3 months ago by James E. Mcvoy
5.0 out of 5 stars Shakespeare
Amazing source of information. Good read. Recommendable.
Published 5 months ago by Bri
5.0 out of 5 stars Shakespeare for practice
An intriguing set of approaches to Shakespeare which (happily for me) cut across the usual academic search for thematic or theoretical consistency. Read more
Published 10 months ago by Peter Bradbury
5.0 out of 5 stars Persevere
I nearly dismissed this book as trash. I made the mistake of reading the James Franco essay (which turned out to be, as I expected, narcissistic tripe) and then read Bloom's... Read more
Published 12 months ago by Mick McAllister
5.0 out of 5 stars Shakespeare From Many Angles
Every essay a winner. Shakespeare from all angles. Extremely helpful if you're a teacher, actor, director and simply stimulating if you're none of that group. Read more
Published 13 months ago by Benedict
5.0 out of 5 stars Deeply Personal Insights Open Up Shakespeare's Plays in an...
I would recommend this marvelous book to anyone who has an interest in Shakespeare. Not only are the many essays insightful, some are deeply personal. Read more
Published 14 months ago by Queen of Swords
4.0 out of 5 stars "What's in a Name?"
“Living with Shakespeare” is a book that should be valuable to lovers of the Bard. For the most part it is, and the idea of asking imminent writers, actors, scholars, directors,... Read more
Published 15 months ago by B. Wilfong
5.0 out of 5 stars An excellent addition to my Shakespeare library
The book is full of brief essays by practicioners...actors, directors, teachers...all of whom have an intimate connection to the bard and his plays--in production. Read more
Published 15 months ago by Yankee Fan
4.0 out of 5 stars A diverse collection of essays
As a theatrical professional for 30 years, I found most of these essays very illuminating. I was unexpectedly taken by some of the essays by people who didn't (at first glance)... Read more
Published 15 months ago by Jon R. Dickson
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