Tuesday, May 24, 2016
Shakespeare Basics for Grown-Ups by E. Foley & B. Coates
It is helpful to put Shakespeare's life and writings in the context of the times he lived in. And, the authors make it clear that the playwright did not need to give a great deal of background to his plays. The audience knew their own recent history. Why subject them to it again? Foley and Coates talk about the literature that influenced Shakespeare, earlier writings and plays. Then, they break down his plays - the comedies, histories, tragedies, discussing them, highlighting passages readers are familiar with, giving the backstory that those of us who were not Shakespeare's contemporaries may not know. And, they include a short section on his poems as well.
There are still many mysteries surrounding the greatest playwright of the English language. The authors discuss his wife, the mysteries about his life, even the debate as to whether or not he wrote the plays. In context, they discuss some of the men who wrote with him, and the ones he assisted with their plays. They discuss the difficulties with dating the plays.
My favorite part of the book was actually the Epilogue. It includes tips for watching Shakespeare, themes that recur in the plays, and a wonderful section about great Shakespearean actors.
Foley and Coates succeeded with their mission for this book. Shakespeare Basics for Grown-Ups may not be a book for experts. But, it's definitely all that most of us will ever need to appreciate Shakespeare's work.
Shakespeare Basics for Grown-Ups: Everything You Need to Know About the Bard by E. Foley & B. Coates. Plume. 2014. ISBN 9780147515360 (paperback), 326p.
FTC Full Disclosure - The publisher sent me a copy of the book, hoping I would review it.