The Treasures of William Shakespeare


The Treasures of William Shakespeare –
The Life, The Works, The Performances
By Catherine M S Alexander
Andre Deutsch – £24.00

That William Shakespeare was English, is becoming increasingly hard to believe and come to terms with, especially now that Britain has evolved unto a place of nothing other than opium induced, moronic stupidity and shame. The likes of which will be nigh impossible to ever absolve.

But hey, Shakespeare was English, and other than attending a multitude of his plays at the RSC in Stratford or The Globe in London, how better to partake in and celebrate his four-hundred-year legacy, than with a brief overview of his vast, and I do mean vast, body work.

The reason I use the words ‘brief overview,’ is for the very reason that his work(s) are colossal and influential and potentially life-changing in almost every fathomable way imaginable – so far as drama, theatre, and the entire English language is concerned. Hence, The Treasures of William Shakespeare accounting for something of a superlative, yet sneak preview of said drama, theatre and the English language.

For how could it possibly be anything other?

As Catherine M. S. Alexander writes in this book’s Introduction: ”Shakespeare has inspired artists as diverse as William Blake and Pablo Picasso and influenced the fiction of Jane Austen, Anton Chekhov, Charles Dickens, Henrik Ibsen, Wole Soyinke and Oscar Wilde among many other great figures. Sigmund Freud and Karl Marx wrote about Shakespeare and Winston Churchill quoted him.”

In itself, such wide-ranging influence is almost hard to comprehend, but it ought nevertheless, navigate the reader of these sixty-one, high-quality/glossy pages (excluding Further Reading and Index) unto a tiny chasm of understanding and appreciation of the Bard’s colossus. For as Alexander continues: ”[…] for most people with an interest in Shakespeare, ”the play’s the thing […] and much of this book is concerned with performance. It draws extensively on the work of the Royal Shakespeare Company, the unique group of actors, directors and practitioners, whose high-quality productions, education and outreach activity aim to ”keep modern audiences in touch with Shakespeare as our contemporary.””

So along with a 53-minute CD of classic excerpts taken from The Complete Arkangel Shakespeare, also included herein are twenty removable facsimile documents which include: King James I’s patent giving Shakespeare and his fellow actors the right to perform plays throughout the country, his Will, an extract from the First Folio of 1623 and finally, an extract from the prompt book for a production of Twelfth Night in 1965, directed by Sir John Gielgud.

Suffice to say, this collection isn’t an in-depth analyses of The Bard’s work, as again, the authoress makes clear: ”Academics have subjected the works to a remarkable variety of theoretical readings: new and old historicism, feminism, Marxism, formalism, structuralism, psychoanalysis, cultural materialism and so on. The Treasures of William Shakespeare: The Life, The Works, The Performances is less concerned with the ”why” of the Shakespeare phenomenon or an analysis of its causes and effects than with providing an illustrated and documented chronological record of his life and work […].”

From ‘The Elizabethan Age’ to ‘Elizabethan Stratford,’ from Shakespeare in Stratford’ to ‘Shakespeare’s London,’ from the aforementioned ”The Play’s the Thing” to ‘The Comedies,’ The History Plays,’ and the ‘Tragedies – Ill-Fated Heroes,’ this lavishly presented book is the perfect introduction of William Shakespeare to that of a younger and (perhaps unbeknown) audience.

David Marx


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