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The Comedy of Errors (Forgotten Books) Paperback – May 7, 2008


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Editorial Reviews

Review

Laury Magnus’s edition of The Comedy of Errors is a treasure—it gives us all the footnotes Kittredge never himself wrote along with a superb collection of production photographs of a wide variety of performances and extended production notes. The introduction is comprehensive in establishing the various ideas and dimensions of a play mistakenly thought to be the simple Roman farce of a young playwright. And teachers will find the extended list of assignments as suggestively fruitful as students reading the play for the first time. This combination is a real winner.
- Arthur F. Kinney, University of Massachusetts, Amherst



Even as the New Kittredge Shakespeare series glances back to George Lyman Kittredge's student editions of the plays, it is very much of our current moment: the slim editions are targeted largely at high school and first-year college students who are more versed in visual than in print culture. Not only are the texts of the plays accompanied by photographs or stills from various stage and cinema performances: the editorial contributions are performance-oriented, offering surveys of contemporary film interpretations, essays on the plays as performance pieces, and an annotated filmography. Traditional editorial issues (competing versions of the text, cruxes, editorial emendation history) are for the most part excluded; the editions focus instead on clarifying the text with an eye to performing it. There is no disputing the pedagogic usefulness of the New Kittredge Shakespeare's performance-oriented approach. At times, however, it can run the risk of treating textual issues as impediments, rather than partners, to issues of performance. This is particularly the case with a textually vexed play such as Pericles: Prince of Tyre. In the introduction to the latter, Jeffrey Kahan notes the frequent unintelligibility of the play as originally published: "the chances of a reconstructed text matching what Shakespeare actually wrote are about 'nil'" (p. xiii) But his solution — to use a "traditional text" rather than one corrected as are the Oxford and Norton Pericles — obscures how this "traditional text," including its act and scene division, is itself a palimpsest produced through three centuries of editorial intervention. Nevertheless, the series does a service to its target audience with its emphasis on performance and dramaturgy. Kahan's own essay about his experiences as dramaturge for a college production of Pericles is very good indeed, particularly on the play's inability to purge the trace of incestuous desire that Pericles first encounters in Antioch. Other plays' cinematic histories: Annalisa Castaldo's edition of Henry V contrasts Laurence Oliver's and Branagh's film productions; Samuel Crowl's and James Wells's edition of (respectively) I and 2 Henry IV concentrate on Welle's Chimes at Midnight and Gus Van Sant's My Own Private Idaho; Patricia Lennox's edition of As You Like It offers an overview of four Hollywood and British film adaptations; and John R. Ford's edition of A Midsummer Night's Dream provides a spirited survey of the play's rich film history.

The differences between, and comparative merits of, various editorial series are suggested by the three editions of The Taming of the Shrew published this year. Laury Magnus's New Kittredge Shakespeare edition is, like the other New Kittredge volumes, a workable text for high school and first year college students interested in film and theater. The introduction elaborates on one theme — Elizabethan constructions of gender — and offers a very broad performance history, focusing on Sam Taylor's and Zeffirelli's film versions as well as adaptations such as Kiss Me Kate and Ten Things I Hate About You (accompanied by a still of ten hearthtrobs Heath Ledger and Julia Stiles). The volume is determined to eradicate any confusion that a first time reader of the play might experience: the dramatis personae page explains that "Bianca Minola" is "younger daughter to Baptista, wooed by Lucentio-in-disguise (as Cambio) and then wife to him, also wooed by the elderly Gremio and Hortensio-in-disguise (as Licio)" (p.1). Other editorial notes, based on Kittredge's own, are confined mostly to explaining individual words and phrases: additional footnotes discuss interpretive choices made by film and stage productions. Throughout, the editorial emphasis is on the play less as text than as performance piece, culminating in fifteen largely performance-oriented "study questions" on topics such as disguise, misogyny, and violence.

Studies in English Literature, Tudor and Stuart Drama, Volume 51, Spring 2011, Number 2, pages 497-499.
--This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From the Publisher

Designed for school districts, educators, and students seeking to maximize performance on standardized tests, Webster’s paperbacks take advantage of the fact that classics are frequently assigned readings in English courses. By using a running thesaurus at the bottom of each page, this edition of The Comedy of Errors by William Shakespeare was edited for students who are actively building their vocabularies in anticipation of taking PSAT®, SAT®, AP® (Advanced Placement®), GRE®, LSAT®, GMAT® or similar examinations.

PSAT® is a registered trademark of the College Entrance Examination Board and the National Merit Scholarship Corporation neither of which sponsors or endorses this book; SAT® is a registered trademark of the College Board which neither sponsors nor endorses this book; GRE®, AP® and Advanced Placement® are registered trademarks of the Educational Testing Service which neither sponsors nor endorses this book, GMAT® is a registered trademark of the Graduate Management Admissions Council which is neither affiliated with this book nor endorses this book, LSAT® is a registered trademark of the Law School Admissions Council which neither sponsors nor endorses this product. All rights reserved. --This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 106 pages
  • Publisher: Forgotten Books (May 7, 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1606200518
  • ISBN-13: 978-1606200513
  • Product Dimensions: 8 x 5.2 x 0.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 6.2 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (28 customer reviews)

More About the Author

William Shakespeare was born in Stratford-upon-Avon in April 1564, and his birth is traditionally celebrated on April 23. The facts of his life, known from surviving documents, are sparse. He was one of eight children born to John Shakespeare, a merchant of some standing in his community. William probably went to the King's New School in Stratford, but he had no university education. In November 1582, at the age of eighteen, he married Anne Hathaway, eight years his senior, who was pregnant with their first child, Susanna. She was born on May 26, 1583. Twins, a boy, Hamnet ( who would die at age eleven), and a girl, Judith, were born in 1585. By 1592 Shakespeare had gone to London working as an actor and already known as a playwright. A rival dramatist, Robert Greene, referred to him as "an upstart crow, beautified with our feathers." Shakespeare became a principal shareholder and playwright of the successful acting troupe, the Lord Chamberlain's Men (later under James I, called the King's Men). In 1599 the Lord Chamberlain's Men built and occupied the Globe Theater in Southwark near the Thames River. Here many of Shakespeare's plays were performed by the most famous actors of his time, including Richard Burbage, Will Kempe, and Robert Armin. In addition to his 37 plays, Shakespeare had a hand in others, including Sir Thomas More and The Two Noble Kinsmen, and he wrote poems, including Venus and Adonis and The Rape of Lucrece. His 154 sonnets were published, probably without his authorization, in 1609. In 1611 or 1612 he gave up his lodgings in London and devoted more and more time to retirement in Stratford, though he continued writing such plays as The Tempest and Henry VII until about 1613. He died on April 23 1616, and was buried in Holy Trinity Church, Stratford. No collected edition of his plays was published during his life-time, but in 1623 two members of his acting company, John Heminges and Henry Condell, put together the great collection now called the First Folio.

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Customer Reviews

These editions are a great way to read the plays without carrying around five pounds of book!
J. R. Nopola
That means that Shakespeare did his job well." The main purpose of this play is to completely confuse you and make you laugh while doing it.
Chelsea
It just seems strange in the beginning, but it really does become easy to read once you spend some time with it.
Craig Matteson

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

8 of 8 people found the following review helpful By Craig Matteson HALL OF FAMETOP 500 REVIEWER on December 24, 2004
Format: Paperback
One of the problems that great artists present to us is where to begin in getting to know their works. Their masterworks are often so full of what they have spent a lifetime developing that most of it is lost on those who have not yet put in a significant amount of effort becoming familiar with that artist's style and means of expression. Yet, if one begins with their apprentice works one may become discouraged because they lack the miracles of the masterworks. So, where does one begin?

Shakespeare offers the reader an additional challenge of an English that is removed in style and idiom from us by 400 years. It is not an insurmountable challenge. In fact, it is quite easy to overcome with a bit of time reading it and getting into the flow. It just seems strange in the beginning, but it really does become easy to read once you spend some time with it. However, getting over that small hill has kept many from enjoying the glories of Shakespeare.

This play, "The Comedy of Errors", is clearly an early work. It has many virtues, but despite them it does not offer much of what we really value in Shakespeare. It is a very fine play and is constructed very well. It is a wonderful first work to read of Shakespeare because it is short and has a very simple plot. The new reader does not have to spend much effort contemplating characters or the immense subtlety of language of the great works. Its charms are direct and what it has to offer is pretty much on the surface of the words.

The plot is, like all farces, ridiculous. It involves twin brothers who are served by twin slaves. They are separated early in life and when the play opens one set does not know the other exists.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By Chelsea on October 29, 2000
Format: Mass Market Paperback
The Comedy of Errors is about two sets of twins that were separated during their childhood years. The younger twins decide to take the names of their older siblings out of respect. This causes many mishaps between the twins and the people they encounter. Antipholus and Dromio of Syracuse set out to Ephesus to look for their siblings and this is where the misadventures begin. This play is classified as a comedy. The beginning starts out with Antipholuses father being sentenced to death. Further into the play it begins to very funny. There are so many details and confusions that you can't help but to be lost and confused about the plot. This play is enjoyable and will continue to keep your interest throughout the play. The mishaps start out as comical and eventually become more serious. People begin to be accused of crimes they did not commit and two innocent people are sent to jail. Shakespeare gradually builds up the suspense throughout the play and then ends the play with a scene where the characters are given reason to the previous incidents. The irony of the story and the constant confusion of the story will cause you to begin reading and not be able to stop until you have completely finished the play. The many jokes and puns in the play will also contribute to your amusement. Like my humanities teacher says, "You don't understand it? GOOD! That means that Shakespeare did his job well." The main purpose of this play is to completely confuse you and make you laugh while doing it. I would highly recommend this book to anyone who is in need of a laugh and an intellectual challenge.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on February 17, 2004
Format: Paperback
Shakespeare's vision grew tremendously over the course of his writing career. However, this play demonstrates that his uncanny power as an artist grew quickly and was present in some form from the very begining. It is exceedingly hard to buy the common notion that this was his first comedy when it is so much better than "The Two Gentlemen of Verona" in nearly every way. The dialogue is fast paced and screamingly funny. The characters interesting if broad and there are some surprising touches that, aside from being interesting in and of themselves, point down the road to later, darker comedies. Chief among these is the amazing opening, perhaps still unequaled in all comedy for the level of grimness. These are the first words uttered in a play long seen as a kind of sitcom of Shakespeare's plays: "Proceed, Solinus, to procure my fall, and by the doom of death end woes and all." The speaker is Egeon, a merchant about to be put to death for simply coming from the wrong country. The whole first scene feels like a cloud is hanging over it and there is a sense of fear-infused urgency that catches the mind off guard and makes the joyous, lunatic story all the more welcome while at the same time coloring it with real drama, making it all the more exciting. To be sure, there is little real depth and much of the play is like a sitcom but only the best of sitcoms and perhaps "Monty Python" at their most absurd is a better comparison. The plot is well chosen (from the Roman comic dramatist Plautus) and well handled. For some reason the play is not well known even among the early comedies which is a shame. It is probably the best of them, even surpassing the wonderful "The Taming of the Shrew".Read more ›
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