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New. 978-0195372991. Marfree, acidfree Fine 2008 illus Ed IS NEW as shown Gift Qual; no names, not marked-in, underscored, clearance or discard. Mails from NYC usually within 12 hours.; 1.3 x 9 x 6.1 Inches; 402 pages; The genius of Bate! Jan 24, 2001 By Amanda E M Wright (Cambridge, England)-Jonathan Bate's THE GENIUS OF SHAKESPEARE takes issue with cultural conservatives and with politically correct radicals to explain how a dramatist of humble orgins became the best known author in history. In what is described as "a new kind of biography", Bate offers a two-part history of Shakespeare's talent and reputation. Instead of the usual life story or play-by-play account, Bate begins part one by discussing the anecdotes that were told about Shakespeare during his life, looking at how his contemporaries saw him. Then he moves on to dissect the sonnets showing the various ways they have been used to provide a biographical key to their author's life. Wielding Occam's razor, Bate attacks the tendency of the "life and works" approach to over-interpret the poems to illuminate the dark corners of the life. Bate's willingness to admit that much will never be known is refreshing. His suggestion about the Dark Lady's identity is delightfully mischievous: she could have been the wife of John Florio, Italian secretary to the Earl of Southampton. Given the sources, this is as credible as most other interpretations, even though Bate is attempting to convict the poet Samuel Daniel's sister of multiple adultery on circumstantial evidence that would not have persuaded Othello. More daring is Bate's solution to the conclusion of "Master W H", the unknown "begetter" of the sonnets. This, he argues, is just a printer's error for "W S" (William Shakespeare). When addressing the authorship question, Bate uses knockabout tactics to demolish alternative candidates-from Francis Bacon to sundry lords-but he does so in a more profound question: why should anyone doubt that Shakespeare wrote the plays? As so often, the answer concerns class. Cultural conservatives could not bear the idea that a mere grammer-school boy and butcher's son was as talented as university-trained wits. In part two, Bate deals with the gradual growth of Shakespeare's reputation after his death. Since the Bard's plays broke the rules of classical decorum, his eighteenth-century admirers were forced to "invent" a new category of "native genius" to account for his talent. Shakespeare's apparent weakness, his lack of a university education, turned out to be his greatest strength. Aided by sundry Romantics, Britain's national poet was defined a "natural" genius. Other emerging nations also adopted Shakespeare as a cultural icon, but usually in opposition to the classical culture of oppressive rulers. In Germany, for example, the Bard was reinvented as a symbol of anti-Gallic, pro-Teutonic identity. As a large part of Shakespeare's rise to universal deification was his ability to inspire other artists, Bate considers the reworking of his plays by artists such as Hector Berlioz, Giuseppe Verdi and Henry Fuseli. Although everyone knows that Shakespeare has been used for conservative propaganda, Bate is at his best when he reminds us that the Bard was once also the people's playwright. The use of Shakespeare by Quakers, Chartists and other nonconformists as a counter-tradition-"one nurtured in the dissenting academies in which those excluded from the old universities found an educational community"-powerfully suggests that Shakespeare's genius was rooted in the ability to represent so many different aspects of life that all social groups could find cofirmation of their world-view in his books. Bate goes further. Rather than being a reactionary Dead White European Male, Shakespeare was also an inspiration to black writers such as George Lamming and Aime Cesaire, who used THE TEMPEST as a critique of colonialism and as "the voice of the recovered black identity". Examples such as these seem to prove Bate's...
Oxford University Press, USA, Oxford, England
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