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Among the more than 3,000 signed entries are brief identifications of every character and in-depth treatments of each play. Articles on plays are several pages long and provide background information on text and sources, followed by plot summaries and discussions of artistic features, stage history, and screen presentations. Other entries cover biographical details, literary and cultural context, publishing history, literary terms, criticism, and scholarship. Particular emphasis is placed on theatrical history, from the productions of Shakespeare's time to Royal Shakespeare Company, Silent films, and Television. Notable players, from Thomas Betterton (1635-1710), "the greatest actor of the Restoration period," to Kenneth Branagh, Judi Dench, and Ian McKellen are included. Also represented are countries and regions, among them Arab world, Japan, and Scandinavia. Most entries are quite short, but broader topics, such as Music, Nineteenth-century Shakespearian production, and Trade, travel, and colonialism, are given at least a page. Many entries conclude with a brief list of resources. A detailed "Thematic Listing of Entries" helps compensate for the paucity of cross-references. Among other supplemental aids are a chronology and a bibliographic essay noting introductory studies and standard reference works.
Coeditor Wells also edited (with Gary Taylor) the modern-spelling edition of Oxford's Complete Works (1986) upon which the companion is based. In their introduction, Wells and Dobson admit to "some small bias" toward theaters in London and Stratford-upon-Avon. North American readers may take issue with the short shrift given to the Stratford Festival in Stratford, Ontario, and its "Hollywood-like emphasis on costumes, props, and gimmicks." The entry United States of America talks about the Classics Illustrated comic-book versions of the plays and notes Shakespearian elements in television series such as Gilligan's Island, but does not mention the Chicago Shakespeare Theater, the Oregon Shakespeare Festival, or any of the many other serious American enterprises devoted to Shakespeare's work. Some entries, such as Cultural materialism, will baffle nonspecialists. A few entry headings are arcane (movies are discussed under Shakespeare on sound film), and the lack of indexing means that information can be hard to retrieve. But its embrace of all things Shakespearian makes this volume a necessity for academic and public libraries. High-school libraries should also consider it, although high-schoolers may find Scribner's Shakespeare's World and Work [RBB S 1 01] more accessible. RBB
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Based on the description, I thought this book would be a good addition to the material I compiled when I decided to make a self-directed study of Shakespeare. I was wrong. Read morePublished 2 months ago by Debbie
I was hoping that it would help more with the terms and language. I needed something that could assist with interpretation. Read morePublished 11 months ago by Stacy
I bought this as a gift in addition to the Oxford Complete Works of Shakespeare--my brother was thrilled to receive this companion guide. Read morePublished on January 6, 2013 by M
The latest edition and perfect NEW copy. Such a good price. Very very informative material produced by many contributors. Read morePublished on November 14, 2012 by Haidi
I recently flipped through the Oxford Companion in the hopes of finding George Kittredge, a revered and respected American scholar and editor of Shakespeare sonnets. Read morePublished on May 1, 2012 by shakespearesonnet
A helpfull handbook to Shakespeare with articles on the individual plays and a dictionary of proper names (names in plays, names of locations, names of actors, etc. Read morePublished on July 11, 2011 by Sape A. Zylstra
as a high school english teacher, this thing is exactly what i need to give my students a little extra background on our reading, and it's perfect to give me context and a little... Read morePublished on April 25, 2011 by matt_doberman
"The Oxford Companion to Shakespeare," is a terrific overview of Shakespeare's plays, and just about anything you can think of pertaining to our greatest playwright. Read morePublished on March 24, 2008 by Paul Wagner
This is an excellent source for any English major or literary scholar to have--a great supplement to any collection. Read morePublished on December 18, 2007 by Jonnie