From Library Journal
Copyright 2001 Reed Business Information, Inc.
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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