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Hamlet ( Folger Library Shakespeare) Mass Market Paperback – July 1, 2003
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From the Back Cover
The Folger Shakespeare Library in Washington, DC, is home to the world's largest collection of Shakespeare's printed works, and a magnet for Shakespeare scholars from around the globe. In addition to exhibitions open to the public throughout the year, the Folger offers a full calendar of performances and programs. For more information, visit Folger.edu.
About the Author
William Shakespeare was born in April 1564 in the town of Stratford-upon-Avon, on England's Avon River. When he was eighteen, he married Anne Hathaway. The couple had three children--an older daughter Susanna and twins, Judith and Hamnet. Hamnet, Shakespeare's only son, died in childhood. The bulk of Shakespeare's working life was spent in the theater world of London, where he established himself professionally by the early 1590s. He enjoyed success not only as a playwright and poet, but also as an actor and shareholder in an acting company. Although some think that sometime between 1610 and 1613 Shakespeare retired from the theater and returned home to Stratford, where he died in 1616, others believe that he may have continued to work in London until close to his death.
Paul Werstine is Professor of English at the Graduate School and at King's University College at Western University. He is a general editor of the New Variorum Shakespeare and author of Early Modern Playhouse Manuscripts and the Editing of Shakespeare and of many papers and articles on the printing and editing of Shakespeare's plays.
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The story is reminiscent of Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs--with added pitfalls. Imogen’s stepmother, the evil queen, wants her to marry her son, clueless and irredeemable Cloten. Against the Queen’s wishes, and that of her father, King Cymbeline, she marries Posthumus. Posthumus is then banished from Britain. Before departing for Rome, he gives a bracelet to Imogen. In Rome, Posthumus meets the cunning interloper Iachimo, who tells him that his wife can be made unfaithful. Later, in Britain, in one of the play’s truly bizarre scenes, Iachimo hides in a trunk in Imogen’s bedroom. While she’s asleep, he emerges and steals her bracelet. Learning that Iachimo has the bracelet, Posthumus believes the worst and orders his servant Pisanio to kill her. Meanwhile, Rome demands tribute from Britain but Cymbeline refuses. Pisanio, faithful to the bewildered Imogen, tells her to disguise as a boy and seek refuge with the invading Roman army. She becomes lost in Wales and meets a long-ago banished lord, Belarius, and two youths who are the sons of Cymbeline, and therefore princes, and Imogen’s brothers. Belarius kidnapped them when he was banished and has raised them as his own sons, although Cymbeline doesn’t know this; he thinks they’re dead. Imogen, meanwhile, becomes ill and takes a drug that puts her into such a deep sleep that she appears to be dead. Cloten arrives on the scene dressed in Posthumus’ clothes, up to no good, and is killed by one of the princes. Imogen awakes and thinks Cloten’s headless body is that of her husband’s. Deeply grieved, she joins the Roman general, whose forces are ready to attack Cymbeline's forces. The courage of Belarius and the two princes win the day for Britain. All come before Cymbeline where, one revelation growing from another, the plot’s many twists are unraveled. Cymbeline is reunited with his sons and happiness returns to the kingdom, except for the evil Queen, who has died mysteriously. Even Iachimo the interloper and liar is pardoned. Imogen and Posthumous are reunited and presumably live happily ever after.
Sound far-fetched? It is. The play’s saving grace is Imogen, ever faithful, ever pure of heart, ever plucky and resourceful, and allotted the play’s sublimest lines; and Iachimo, rat though he is, Shakespeare renders a three-dimensional character. The rest are one-dimensional cardboard characters--stiff, myopic, inclined to believe the worst. About Imogen, in his book “William Shakespeare,” George Branes writes: “We see her in the most various situations, and she is equal to them all. We see her exposed to trial after trial, each harder than the last, and she emerges from them all, not only unscathed, but with her rare and enchanting qualities thrown into ever stronger belief.”
Finally, Charles Van Doren has this to say: “When you have written 30 players, and know everything about writing plays, and in particular know that your skill will not allow you to make any really bad mistakes, you may be willing to take some very big chances and try some things that have never been tried before. This is what Shakespeare does in ‘Cymbeline’ and it is the reason above all why I love the play.”
Pelican produced a great cover and fit and finish on this book. It's engaging and looks great on the shelf. I'm dying to pick up all of them because as a series they will utterly dominate a shelf. Very striking, and the line illustrations are gorgeous.
Unfortunately, it's more of a mixed bag on the inside. Small margins and cheap paper feel disappointing. I'm going to spend the most time on the inside, so why would I buy a poor-quality interior? The Barnes and Noble series of Shakespeares, though much uglier on the outside, have really helpful notes and references throughout, and are printed on a spacious layout and great-quality paper.
Up to you whether cover or interior rules, but for me, I think I'm sticking with the B&Ns. It's a shame though, wish these were nicer on the inside.
In the end, I think Horatio should have become president of Denmark, and we could have saved a bunch of centuries figuring socialism out.