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Becoming Shakespeare: The Unlikely Afterlife That Turned a Provincial Playwright into the Bard Paperback – February 3, 2009
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From Publishers Weekly
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
Top Customer Reviews
Professor Lynch reminds us that Shakespeare, though successful in his day, was not considered the greatest playwright of his day. Johnson and Marlowe were much better regarded in most circles. Shakespeare did not adhere to the classical structure of the dramatic form well enough and he often stooped to crude humor. With the closure of the theaters during the Protectorate, it seemed very likely that Shakespeare and his works would be lost to history. Fortunately for us, the Restoration saw the rise of some of the great Shakespearean actors--Garrick, Cibber, Siddons, Kemble, etc.--who really began to move Shakespeare to the fore.
Professor Lynch also reminds us that, until the twentieth century, Shakespeare's text was not as sacrosanct as it is now. He discusses the fact that the most popular forms of Shakespeare until very recently were adaptations and bowdlerizations. (In fact, the word "bowdlerization" comes from Henrietta and Thomas Bowlder, who made a career out of deleting the "naughty bits" from Shakespeare.) Additionally, there were many attempts to forge and otherwise pass off plays as written by Shakespeare. So much so that it is difficult, even to this day, to ferret out some truths.
It may be hard for some to accept in a culture where Shakespeare is so revered, but it did not have to be so.Read more ›
Lynch focuses on stories about the plays and their production, appreciation, and alteration over the centuries.Read more ›
What is there consists of a superficial recitation of well-known anecdotes from theater history, much of it seemingly cribbed from sources like Oscar Brockett, and some of it not very accurately or critically. To that, he adds a small body of Shakespeariana trivia, such as analysis of two figures known for Shakespearian forgery and fraud.
There's a lot of sloppy thinking. Right from the top, how are we to understand Shakespeare as a "provincial" playwright when he spent his entire working life in the only great metropolis of his nation?
Searching for the cultural processes that transformed Shakespeare, the popular playwright of his day, into Shakespeare, a poetic master known and valued all over the world, is a very worthwhile project. I do hope somebody carries it out some day. It most certainly has not been carried out here. One finishes this book as ignorant of the nature of that process as one is at the beginning of the book. The one substantial suggestion, badly framed as the idea that "he changed what it meant to be great" might bear fruit if someone were to take it seriously and examine exactly how reception and response to the work of Shakespeare led to broadly shared changes in the conception of quality in literature. Again, I hope someone does that someday, for it has not been done here.
All in all, I see no reason to buy this book. It does not deliver on its basic promise, and it has little else to recommend it.
Most Recent Customer Reviews
As of October, 2014, the Kindle edition still has the same mistakes about dates being in the wrong century. This was mentioned in an earlier post. Read morePublished 21 months ago by Dan Hardy
This is a readable book about an interesting subject-- the various ways Anglo-American critics, historians, and theatrical people have viewed Shakespeare's canon since the... Read morePublished 21 months ago by A Customer
“Becoming Shakespeare” is not as good as other books I have read concerning things Shakespeare, but it is the only one I have read on how his work and reputation survived and grew... Read morePublished on March 25, 2014 by B. Wilfong
I downloaded the kindle sample (thank god there are samples!) on Feb 20th 2011. All the XVIth century dates in the text had become XIVth century dates (1395 instead of 1595, etc. Read morePublished on February 22, 2011 by Raul
Let's get this out of the way first: Jack Lynch believes Shakespeare wrote Shakespeare and in his history of how Shakespeare's literary legacy was posthumously preserved and his... Read morePublished on December 28, 2010 by C. Ebeling