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William Shakespeare Complete Works (Modern Library) Hardcover – April 3, 2007

3.9 out of 5 stars 554 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Review

"The endurance of Shakespeare depends not only on the felt experience of good, vivid theater, but also on dynamic scholarship that reveals his living text."
–Michael Boyd, RSC artistic director

"Timely, original, and beautifully conceived, this is a remarkable edition, one that makes Shakespeare's extraordinary accomplishment more vivid than ever."
–James Shapiro, professor, Columbia University and bestselling author of A Year in the Life of Shakespeare: 1599

"The big book is a new one-volume edition of the complete works, commissioned by the Royal Shakespeare Company and published by the Modern Library. Two eminent Shakespeareans, Jonathan Bate and Eric Rasmussen, have applied modern editing techniques and recent scholarship to correct and update the First Folio, the first collection of the plays, published in 1623…. Mr. Bate writes… a superb introduction that deals with Shakespeare and his world as well as textual questions."
The New York Times

“The excellent general introduction by Jonathan Bate and the essays and notes on each play are… a feast of literary and historical information.”
The Wall Street Journal

“I look forward to using it over many years… enjoying Jonathan Bate’s perceptive comments, trusting Eric Rasmussen’s textual scholarship.”
—Peter Holland, President of the Shakespeare Association of America, editor of Shakespeare Survey

“Bate’s edition is incomparably superior to all the rest. His knowledge of textual problems and previous commentary seems to be prodigious in its detail and thoroughness…. And his comments on individual plays are unfailingly perceptive. He’s about equally fine as scholar and critic; few excel in both roles, with their very different requirements. Bate is like an all-star shortstop who can also serve as an outstanding relief pitcher…. No other edition has ever impressed me so much.”
--Joseph Sobran, author of William Shakespeare, Alias Shakespeare: Solving the Greatest Literary Mystery of All Time

Jonathan Bate is a passionate advocate of Shakespeare and his introductions to individual plays are full of striking and convincing observations…. The scholarly apparatus is discreet, elegant and pertinent. For each play, we get a set of ‘key facts’: brief accounts of plots, dates and sources, and useful statistics…. Footnotes are found snugly and legibly at the bottom of each page….There is a universe to be found in these annotations: the Renaissance world of power and fate, sex and death, language and philosophy. Jonathan Bate and Eric Rasmussen have given us an edition full of endless fascination.”
—London Times Education Supplement

"This is a glorious edition of one of the world's most important books. It's the essential reference book for anyone who's ever been in love, felt jealousy, fear, hatred, or desire. All human life is here-and every home should have one."
–Dame Judi Dench, RSC honorary associate artist

“Anyone who wants a good single volume edition of the plays…won’t do better than this.” —The International Herald Tribune

“A magnificent new volume.” —A. N. Wilson, Daily Telegraph (UK)

“A triumphant addition to our times.” —Fiona Shaw, The Times (London)

"Thanks to Bate and Rasmussen, we now have a rendering of The Complete Works that, in a rare publishing achievement, would also give complete satisfaction to the author himself."
–Robert McCrum, The Observer

"A new and thoroughly radical edition…. The editorial decisions are argued in an impeccably informative introduction by Jonathan Bate that gives a comprehensive theatrical, social, political and biographical context to the plays. There are pithy essays, also by Bate, to introduce each play as well as exemplary notes at the foot of each page... incomparably useful ... a definitive edition."
–Richard Eyre, Sunday Telegraph

“A splendid edition. The general introduction is among the best 50-page guides to Shakespeare you could hope to find, while the short essays prefixed to each play are like the best kind of programme notes - informative, thought-provoking and humane.... The RSC's edition tells you all you need to know about the life, but also, vitally, allows you to lose yourself in the wonder of the works."
–Colin Burrow, Evening Standard

“Bate’s general introduction to Shakespeare’s life, stage and reputation is superb, and the short introductions to individual works, in particular, are among the best of their kind available.”
—Michael Dobson, The London Review of Books

“Excellent, succinct notes and introductions to each play.”
—John Carey, The Sunday Times (London)

“Professor Jonathan Bate has written thought provoking essays for each play, discussing the source material and its influence on the play as well as pointing out the familiarities [for] contemporary audiences… The glossary includes much that has been ignored in the past …. This volume is an invaluable resource to anyone interested in or simply in love with Shakespeare.” —Speech and Drama

“Bate provides excellent introductory essays to each play and his terrific introduction, simply and effectively summarizing everything you need to know about Shakespeare, man and work, is alone worth buying the edition for.” —The Daily Express (UK)

“Jonathan Bate and Eric Rasmussen have bravely gone where no Bard editors have gone before, basing the entire edition on the First Folio, the rehearsal room version authorized by actors John Hemmings and Henry Condell after Shakespeare’s death. For the first time, the Royal Shakespeare Company has been closely involved in the developing of a collected works, including photography of RSC productions and insights into staging decisions… this is Shakespeare as you like it.” —What’s On Stage

From the Inside Flap

This complete and unabridged edition contains every word that Shakespeare wrote — all 37 tragedies, comedies, and histories, plus the sonnets. You'll find such classics as The Tempest, Much Ado About Nothing and The Taming of the Shrew. This Library of Literary Classics edition is bound in padded leather with luxurious gold-stamping on the front and spine, satin ribbon marker and gilded edges. Other titles in this series include: Charlotte & Emily Bronte: The Complete Novels; Edgar Allan Poe: Selected Works; Mark Twain: Selected Works; Charles Dickens: Four Complete Novels; Lewis Carroll: The Complete, Fully Illustrated Works; and Jane Austen: The Complete Novels. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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Product Details

  • Series: Modern Library
  • Hardcover: 2560 pages
  • Publisher: Modern Library; unknown edition (April 3, 2007)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0679642951
  • ISBN-13: 978-0679642954
  • Product Dimensions: 7.4 x 2.7 x 9.6 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 4.8 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (554 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #737,715 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Perhaps, like me, you have held on to the Complete Works of William Shakespeare you've had since college and are wondering if the world really needs yet another edition of the Bard's complete output. Well, the Modern Library edition of the Royal Shakespeare Company's Shakespeare has a lot to recommend it. The text is beautifully set in single column format, making it easier for actors and those who wish to read the text aloud to scan the poetic lines and to distinguish between poetry and prose. Jonathan Bates's General Introduction is comprehensive, engaging, and lively. As with the introductions to the individual plays, Bates gives special attention to the performance traditions from which these plays emerged as well as those which would shape their interpretation over the centuries. This concern for performance issues is also addressed in the "Key Facts" boxes that follow every play introduction. Here the editors summarize the plot, identify the major parts (with percentage of lines and number of speeches assigned to each character, etc.), take a stab at identifying a dates of composition and first performance, and discuss the plays' sources and state of the texts available. There are ample, but not an overwhelming number of footnotes. And these notes, Bates assures us, do not shy away from discussion of Shakespeare's bawdier puns (something that may not be true of your old college textbook). Another real plus is the inclusion of a fragmentary scene from "Sir Thomas More" based on the only manuscript known to be in Shakespeare's own hand.

But the best reason to buy the RSC Shakespeare is because the editors have gone to great lengths to preserve the First Folio (1623) edition of Shakespeare.
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Format: Hardcover
Students and various e-mail correspondents often ask me which single-volume Shakespeare edition I would recommend, and I never hesitate in naming this one, as I think it has a long lead over its rivals. I have myself used the 1992 printing with amazing frequency both in research and in teaching, and always with advantage.
Why is this the best edition for a reader who wants as much as possible within the confines of a single book? First, it should be pointed out that unannotated editions such as the Oxford Complete Works are all in all of comparatively little use as even expert Renaissance scholars - leave alone inexpert readers - cannot read Shakespeare's language unaided; there are simply far too many words, features of grammar, etc., which a modern reader is certain to interpret inaccurately or not to understand at all. So it is essential to have intelligent and well-informed annotation that will help one to understand the text. Bevington's is extraordinarily good: knowledgeable, precise, and helpfully clear.
Second, an editor needs to be able to produce a responsible modernised text. Shakespeare cannot be understood by many unless he is read in modern spelling, and the punctuation of his period, too, often leads most modern readers astray. Bevington's modernisation of the text is exemplary. Furthermore, his handling of the many thorny textual problems is also outstanding for the knowledge and the judgement that he brings to bear. For example, the Oxford people unwisely and on poor grounds print two separate versions of *King Lear*, and Bevington has been exceptional in rejecting that approach and producing a persuasively and intelligibly "conflated" text (much better, by the way, than the conflated version in the Arden text edited in 1997 by R.A. Foakes).
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Format: Hardcover
The idea behind this edition is brilliantly simple: produce a modern edition of the First Folio. The editors do not attempt to produce a "definitive" text of Shakespeare. Their goal is more modest: to reconstruct, as closely as possible, the material that Heminges and Condell brought into the printing house in 1623. It is, they say, a snapshot of the playtexts at one stage in their evolution.

The various quarto and octavo editions are used to correct the Folio text (where that is obviously corrupt) but not to supplement it. Passages excised from the Folio are printed here in appendices and textual notes. Plays that didn't appear in the Folio appear in a different format in the back. (So too with the poems and sonnets.) If passages vary in wording between the early editions, the Folio receives precedence, as long as it makes sense.

The notes are also quite extensive about vocabulary and are franker than usual about sexual matters. The notes about historical events are not as extensive as those in the Riverside, but the chronologies, introductions, and other supplementary materials do provide the basic background. The introductions, by Jonathan Bate, are concise and steer a middle course between dramatic / thematic issues on one hand and developmental / textual issues on the other.

Like the Norton Shakespeare, the plays are here printed in single-column format, which greatly aids readability. Unlike the Norton, which prints the plays in approximate chronological order, the plays are printed here in the order they appeared in the First Folio. Highly recommended.
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