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Asimov's Guide to Shakespeare: A Guide to Understanding and Enjoying the Works of Shakespeare Hardcover – September 2, 2003
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Top Customer Reviews
I didn't know what to expect, but after reading a few pages into it, I was hooked. Asimov, with amazing astuteness, has given a thorough analysis of twenty three of Shakespeare's plays and the poems Venus and Adonis and the Rape of Lucrece. At the beginning of every play he has a map of all the locations pertinent to the play. I found this to be very helpful in understanding the varied settings in Shakespeare's plays.
The chapters on the plays read a bit like something you might find in Monarch or Cliffs notes. He goes through the tale and gives pertinent information along the way. However this book isn't merely a substitute for reading Shakespeare, nor is the aim of it to prepare you for an exam. Rather this book's aim is to guide the modern reader, who is distanced by time and geography from Shakespeare's stories, along to better understand Shakespeare.
If you're looking for a down-to-Earth book on Shakespeare, this is it. No one, quite as well as Asimov does, can make the reader feel so at ease in reading the fancy language of Shakespeare.
Here is the analogy. Your hobby is Shakespeare and you have just won the lottery. You have decided to quit your day job, shun the world, sit down, and go over every one of Shakespeare's plays, dissect each scene in chronological order, find out where the characters' names came from, how the plot relates to original source stories such as the myth of King Lear, etc. You research such facts - as they might be available - on whether Shakespeare really did invent the plot of the Tempest all on his own, or as Asimov thinks perhaps it was based on a boat crash in Bermuda. You would go on and on... looking at all the interesting details and side notes plus you would find some maps and drawings. Then - possibly five years later - you would take all the notes, hire Tom Clancy or some other well known modern novel writer and together you would write this easy to read 750 page reference book. Perhaps you could sell a few copies.
That would be your labour of love, and that it exactly what we have here. Asimov has taken the time to methodically go through all the major works, divide them into three groups, i.e.: Roman-Greek and ancient tales, Italian-Mediterranean more modern tales, and finally the English-Europe stories starting with King Lear. He does not need a writer's help - he brings that to the table. Each play is treated in a short chapter and gets about 20 to 40 pages of analysis, general source comments, and specific comments on a few key lines.Read more ›
Asimov takes a more historical view. He has done impressive research into the characters and times. His "Guide to Shakespeare" is useful for its insights into all of the plays, but I found it most useful for the English histories. In the eight plays of the Wars of the Roses --from Richard II, through the Henrys, and culminating in Richard III-- Asimov tracks the family trees and politics of the nobility, spots anachronisms, and does a wonderful job of simplifying the sometimes bewildering array of characters and historical references. Of course, even uneducated audiences in Shakespeare's day would have understood some of these arcane references without a guidebook, much as a modern US audience would easily understand references to Thomas Jefferson or Abraham Lincoln. With his research and clear writing, Asimov brings the history plays --and indeed all of the plays-- back to life.
Most Recent Customer Reviews
This is a wonderful book. I wish I had discovered it years ago.Published 27 days ago by Glenda Burns
I don't think you should read or study Shakespeare without this book.Published 4 months ago by MsCheese
A staple to reading Shakespeare and understanding historical details employed by Shakespeare as well as historical pressures on himself to write with an altered point of view.Published 7 months ago by Victoria
Perfect book! We have dedicated this year to reading Shakespeare's plays. The problem is I have not studied these since college. This book is so wonderful. Read morePublished 9 months ago by mrs. dani
Great resource for actors or just lovers of Shakespeare. Easy to read and brief enough on each play to not become a 'chore'.Published 10 months ago by Gavin A. Keaty
Good condition on book, but most importantly this is one of the most valuable things ever made for someone seeking to discover detailed context for Shakespeare's works.Published 10 months ago by Jesse F.