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Shakespeare: The Invention of the Human Paperback – September 1, 1999
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"No critic in the English language since Samuel Johnson has been more prolific." --The Paris Review
"Bloom is all literature, (he) positively lives it." --Alfred Kazin
From the Back Cover
- Publisher : Riverhead Books (September 1, 1999)
- Language : English
- Paperback : 768 pages
- ISBN-10 : 157322751X
- ISBN-13 : 978-1573227513
- Item Weight : 2.3 pounds
- Dimensions : 6.1 x 1.9 x 9.1 inches
- Best Sellers Rank: #197,561 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
- Customer Reviews:
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Top reviews from the United States
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Bloom’s Shakespeare is not just a creative genius. He is someone, like Nietzsche or Bloom himself, who has struggled—or might even be said to have created—the uniquely modern predicament of existence. According to Bloom, Shakespeare’s universe is essentially Elsinore. That is, we live in a world where we recognize that all is not exactly aright.
Hamlet’s struggle is what to do with such an existence. Try to right all wrongs? But how can one right that fundamental wrong that the work of building a human consciousness is doomed to the dissolution of the body?
Bloom’s Hamlet is then a Dionysian hero, a character who recognizes the Sisyphean nature of human existence. And Bloom sees Shakespeare’s opus as a slowly mounting crescendo toward the plaintive song of Hamlet himself.
In other words, readers cannot simply read Bloom’s descriptions of their favorite plays. Nor can readers rest assured in the thought that Shakespeare has helped create modern personas.
No, they must enter the Shakespearean universe and struggle as much as Jacob wrestled with the angel. Shakespeare is not so much high culture as the finest depiction of what it means to be human.
In a few words, not a book to be taken up lightly. One must be ready to be thrown into combat alongside Shakespeare to really grok the full meaning of this text. I can only encourage the potential reader to enter the ring for a captivating emotional and intellectual experience.
passionate about teaching literature as literature, not as psychology, politics, economics, theology or
other ideologies. The emphasis is not on the stories (the Bard mostly borrowed these from historians or
other writers) but the characters, personalities, and human nature. While Shakespeare was a dramatist,
he was even more a poet, and developed the personalities through this poetry. The sonnets were
certainly poems, but so were the plays.
Among the characters that Bloom emphasizes again and again are Hamlet, Falstaff, Cleopatra,
Macbeth, Iago, Rosalind, Edmund and Lear. He treats the characters as real people, because they
seem more real than a lot of the people in so-called real life. So for instance, in Poem Unlimited
Bloom offers speculation about what Hamlet did, going to England and Germany to learn drama
and other intellectual disciplines. Hamlet has actually surpassed his creator and become an
author in his own right. We quote Hamlet as if we're quoting Socrates or Jesus or Buddha.
These characters are traced through Shakespeare's career development with the comedies,
histories, tragedies and romances (a term that Bloom dislikes for the final plays such as
the Tempest). When it comes to the genres, Shakespeare is beyond genre, as Polonius
showed with his "history-comedy-tragedy" etc. and all the combinations including poem
Besides Hamlet, Bloom's favorite is Falstaff, from Henry IV part I and II. Even though he's
a raunchy big old guy, he is almost as smart as Hamlet and teaches us about joie de vivre
and humor. The apotheosis or death of Cleopatra was the end of an era, as she had been
the lover of Julius Caesar, Pompey, Mark Antony etc. Octavius went on to great political
accomplishments but was not as interesting as the previous generation. But Cleopatra's
death was also the end of Shakespeare's high tragedies.
Bloom shows Shakespeare's development in relation to Chaucer, Marlowe who came
before him, Ben Jonson who was a contemporary, Fletcher who came along toward
the end, and the successor John Milton. Bloom also relates Shakespeare's characters
to others in the western canon such as Dante, Cervantes, Tolstoy, Dostoyevsky,
Austen, Coleridge, Melville, Eliot, Joyce, Woolf and Proust.
How does Bloom understand himself? He is a critic in the romantic tradition, along
with Dr. Johnson, AC Bradley, Hazlitt, Swinburne and Goddard. He is passionate about
teaching Shakespeare as literature and not through Freud or Marx. In fact he interprets
Freud through Shakespeare (!) rather than vice versa. This is a very long book but joyfully
The book is excellent, too. Also five stars.
Top reviews from other countries
H's view of J Caesar is eccentric, if not plain wrong.
His tone is somewhat arrogant. Smacks of 'Well, I'm the expert, so just pay attention'. Too long a career teaching?
A disappointing £18+ paperback.