Living with Shakespeare: Essays by Writers, Actors, and Directors

Susannah Carson, Author, Harold Bloom, Foreword by
Edited by Susannah Carson. Vintage, $16 trade paper (544p) ISBN 978-0-307-74291-9
Open Ebook - 302 pages - 978-0-307-74340-4
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In this lively volume, an esteemed (and in many instances, famous) group of actors, directors, authors, academics, and others share insights and experiences about their relationship to Shakespeare’s literary and dramatic inheritance. Editor Carson’s eclecticism aims to break down the usual disciplinary borders and reduce the intimidating distance that often yawns between Shakespeare experts and general readers. The volume succeeds at this admirably across a compelling range of biographical accounts, actor’s insights, and production notes. Minor and major contradictions across essays, rather than dismaying, tend to be thought-provoking. The essays include much justified reverence, but also some healthy questioning, as well as limited forays into cross-cultural dialogues. Contributors overwhelmingly skew to American and British practitioners, with the odd Canadian, Australian, and South African. As the editor’s stated goal includes bringing together as many perspectives as possible, the nearly complete lack of non-native English speakers (Isabelle Allende proves the sole exception) is all the more disappointing. It would have been nice, for example, to hear from famed German director Tomas Ostermeier, whose extraordinary 2008 Schaubühne production of Hamlet receives passing mention. That said, the collection is a consistently stimulating read, which goes a great way toward illuminating the degree to which we all live already—and can live even further—with Shakespeare. (Apr.)
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