5 of 8 people found the following review helpful
This book looks how Shakespeare has been reinterpreted over the ages and how our own era looks at some of his best-known plays. It's not an easy read and presupposes considerable knowledge of the bard and his output. In places, I found Garber's insights to be enthralling. Occasionally, they fall prey to the academic's temptation to become over-academic and self-consciously intellectual. In total, however, the book is well worth the reader's effort.
Shakespeare, Garber argues, has seeped into our modern culture in all sorts of interesting and unexpected ways. Romeo and Juliet, for example, has become a template for young love and by extension youthful rebellion and "youth culture." The Merchant of Venice is a prism for contemplating anti-Semitism while Othello and The Tempest both raise issues of racism. Henry V is used as a management manual to teach executives leadership skills and decision-making. Richard III is an exercise in propaganda.
Garber boils the theme of each chapter and each individual play to one word - thus Romeo and Juliet's key word is `youth,' Othello's is "difference" and the word that sums up Henry V is "exemplarity" - a word I wish she hadn't used since it means nothing to him. But the discussion of this play is illuminating, especially the differences in the two movie versions, one by Lawrence Olivier filmed during the height of World War II when Britain stood in imminent danger of invasion, and the second by Kenneth Branaugh, made in the aftermath of the Falklands War.
As the book progresses, we get less discussion of Shakespeare in popular culture and more of his impact on what could be termed "high culture." There is extensive analysis of plays by Brecht and Beckett, that I am not familiar with. We also get large doses of Marx and Freud and a detailed discussion in the chapter on Hamlet of Tom Stoppard's brilliant riff, "Rosencranz and Guilderstern Are Dead."
One curious omission: Garber, a professor at Harvard, does not mention the work of Harold Bloom, whose "Shakespeare: The Invention of the Human" covers some of the same ground, albeit from a different perspective. One wonders why.
34 of 61 people found the following review helpful
on December 21, 2008
The ostensible thesis of this book is that "Shakespeare makes modern culture and modern culture makes Shakespeare." This is an odd, far too generous assertion by Marjorie Garber because as she herself is quick to point out, so many of the examples throughout this book simply show numerous modern persons consistently misinterpreting Shakespearean quotations or crudely applying them quite wide of the mark to contemporary events. A shrewder, less "democratic" analysis of the phenomena she's examining would have suggested that while distortions of Shakespeare may have played a role in creating "modern culture," so misreading him can in no way actually alter, much less "create," the essential nature of his work. Now there is no question Garber herself has a solider grasp of Shakespeare than her thesis implies, and when she gets off of her academically requisite Marx, Freud, and Foucault homages and her surely by now stale, grad school fascination with race, gender, ethnicity, and gossip, she says some meaningful, if hardly novel, things about specific plays. For instance, she observes of "Othello" that "the through line for the entire play [is] its emphasis on false sight, on appearances and stagings, on lies told with an ingratiating smile...." Is there any reader who won't find Garber's endorsement of previous interpretation here more helpful than, say, her gossipy tendency to inform us as to which of Paul Robson's Desdemonas became his lovers?
I question the necessity for Garber's scattered, ill-argued book. Was she, as an American scholar, under pressure to say -or more likely appear to say - something new about Shakespeare? Oscar Wilde in my view gave us the proper response to Garber's present work when, as is reported, after enduring with considerable patience the babble of a number of Shakespearean critics at a dinner party on the question of whether Hamlet were really mad or only feigning madness, he finally asked with false naivete, "Are the CRITICS of "Hamlet" really mad or only feigning madness?"
3 of 8 people found the following review helpful
on February 22, 2009
I have read past critiques on Ms. Garber's "Shakespeare After All." I do not claim to be a Shakespearean scholar and thus can neither agree or disagree with some of the more critical comments, but I do enjoy her essays because more often than not they provide differing angles from which to view the plays and their characters. However, I was brought up short by a MAJOR error on p. 156 where Ms. Garber claims that Theodore Sorensen spoke about America's reputation after the Abu Ghraib scandal during a commencement address in 2001. Unless Mr. Sorenson is a modern oracle, I don't know how he could hold forth on such a subject in 2001 since that scandal did not break until 2005. Assuming this to have been a spring commencement, 9/11 had not yet occurred and Abu Ghraib was just a twinkle in Dick Cheney's eye. Hence the 4 stars instead of 5.
3 of 8 people found the following review helpful
on July 23, 2009
Breaths new life into old questions. See, for example, chapter 6 on the Merchant of Venice, which is appropriately subtitled "The Question of Intention."
0 of 3 people found the following review helpful
on March 3, 2013
Format: PaperbackVerified Purchase
and the receiver one of my dearest friends loved it. Can't tell you anymore than that. It was a gift.