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The author begins by lamenting the fact that general readers have not "been well served by modern critics, who on the whole seem to have little time for [Shakespeare's] language." However, rather than launching into a diatribe against current literary fashions, he proceeds to offer an elegant and detailed account of how his subject transformed him into "a different kind of poet." For Kermode, the rich complexities of Hamlet or "The Phoenix and the Turtle" (an allegorical poem in which Shakespeare juggles love and Thomistic jargon like rhetorical ninepins) mark a whole new level of accomplishment. How to define the change? Kermode notes "the pace of the speech, its sudden turns, its backtrackings, its metaphors flashing before us and disappearing before we can consider them. This is new: the representation of excited, anxious thought; the weighing of confused possibilities and dubious motives."
This before-and-after scenario breaks the book into two parts. In the first, Kermode deals with the plays up to 1600, controversially putting the kibosh on such warhorses as As You Like It. The second part offers 15 detailed chapters on the tragedies, problem plays, and romances. This is classic criticism, written in the mold of Johnson and Colderidge. And while Kermode never pays short shrift to the difficulties of Shakespeare's language, he's even more attuned to its prodigal, inexhaustible pleasures. --Jerry Brotton
The acclaim that has greeted this perfectly ordinary book is puzzling: other than a devastatingly accurate assessment of As You Like It, there is nothing terribly fresh or... Read morePublished on December 17, 2000 by Charles Weinstein
Frank Kermode's book is inspiring. It is rich and gives very interesting details. But it keeps the basic axiom of elizabethan studies : Shakespeare's language is poetry and it is... Read morePublished on August 18, 2000 by Dr Jacques COULARDEAU
Shakespeare mapped and maybe invented most of the human mind's conceptual network; he showed all of us what it is to be a conscious human being. Read morePublished on June 24, 2000 by Chris McKinstry