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The Masks of Hamlet Hardcover – November 1, 1992


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Hardcover, November 1, 1992
$153.04

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New Adult Fiction by Rainbow Rowell
Acclaimed author Rainbow Rowell's latest book, Landline, offers a poignant, humorous look at relationships and marriage. Learn more

Product Details

  • Hardcover: 971 pages
  • Publisher: Univ of Delaware Pr (November 1992)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0874134803
  • ISBN-13: 978-0874134803
  • Product Dimensions: 6.7 x 9.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 2.9 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,591,351 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on April 18, 1997
Format: Hardcover
Of the countless thousands of volumes of Shakespeareana published in the last 400 years, this monumental work must rank among the very best. Compressing a century's worth of literary and theatrical analysis of the world's greatest play into a too-brief 971 pages Rosenberg has provided the "Hamlet" aficionado with an inexhaustibly rich resource for exploring its infinite complexities. Even at seventy smackers, it's a bargain
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful By Michael Guttentag on February 2, 2001
Format: Hardcover
Reading "The Masks of Hamlet" is like sitting next to a brilliant, and somewhat disorganized, Hamlet scholar at a dinner party. Rosenberg describes in wonderful detail issues in Hamlet that you may not even have given a moment's thought to. Did you know that Gertrude, the emotional heart of the play, has only 157 lines, less than even Ophelia? Or that the "foolish" epigraph that Olivier included in his film version of Hamlet that "Hamlet was the story of a man who could not make up his mind" came from a Gary Cooper movie Olivier had just seen?
But just as at a dinner party, enjoying this book is going to require a fair bit of previous knowledge and a good deal of patience. You are not going to find here a lot of careful background clarification nor is it going to be easy to find out how Rosenberg would resolve any specific issues. There is not a subject index, nor does the chronological and character organization of the book provide any one central place to review a particular theme.
If you know the play well Rosenberg will uncover layers and layers of meanings or alternative interpretations you may not have considered. The book draws on both critical writing about the play and on the possibilities explored in thousands of different actual performances of the play. This not only multiplies the possibilities of interpretation (is Claudius large and forward moving, or bent over and withdrawn); it also reminds the reader at every moment of the theatrical power of the play.
I do think this book would also be wonderful for someone deeply involved in a production of Hamlet. Hamlet is one of the most analyzed and performed plays in history.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By A. Martin on March 31, 2010
Format: Hardcover
I picked up this book expecting a literary critique of 'Hamlet', and instead discovered thorough descriptions of hundreds of years' worth of the play's performances, complete with in-depth, nuanced analyses of all the major characters and scenes.

Rosenberg works his way through the play from beginning to end, dealing with one scene, soliloquy, or even line at a time. He spends pages describing the various ways in which various actors playing Hamlet (or other characters) have entered a room, spoken a line, or even emphasized different words. The effect is outstanding, something like watching multiple versions of the play simultaneously. It's easy to imagine the actions and emphases Rosenberg describes.

Rosenberg covers productions from three hundred years and all over the globe (French Hamlets, Californian Hamlets, Austrian Hamlets, Japanese Hamlets...). The sweet and wilting Victorian Hamlet becomes the anti-establishment 1960s Hamlet. A British Hamlet sneers at Yorick's skull, tosses it carelessly aside; a Japanese Hamlet never even touches it. Nicol Williamson's Hamlet was described by one reviewer as "the first underprivileged Hamlet I have seen--Wittenberg must have been an English red-brick University and Hamlet got there on a meagre scholarship."

Some of the stinging reviews Rosenberg collects are laugh-out-loud funny. Some of the actors' comments are highly insightful. All are fascinating. Rosenberg dissects one actor's portrayal of the characters after another: from Hamlet as anti-hero to Power-Ophelia to numerous drunken/abusive Claudiuses. The possibilities are endless, never boring.

Reading this book was highly enjoyable--and the book's worth the monetary investment, because reading nearly 1000 pages takes a while! After seeing so many dimensions of the play at once, my appreciation for Hamlet, Shakespearean actors, and Shakespeare himself has greatly increased.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By tkaring on February 17, 2008
Format: Hardcover
When you reach the final page, you'll feel you've reached the final scene: overwhelmed, emotional, somewhat exhausted. All of that is high praise. Rosenberg is passionate and meticulous, guiding us through the play line by line, character by character. It's too bulky for a text book, unless it will be excerpted or an entire term is being dedicated to Hamlet. But, academic or amateur, if you love this play, you will soon make this book a favored friend.

I was so disappointed to read that Rosenburg has died. This is one of those rare cases when I wanted to send my thanks to an author... and ask if Julius Caesar was in the works.
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