WITCHES AND JESUITS

SHAKESPEARE'S MACBETH

The much celebrated master of nonfiction works his magic on Macbeth, using the ingredients of a mere monograph to conjure a vision of politics, theology, and theatrical practice in King James's England. Wills, winner of a Pulitzer Prize and a National Book Critics Circle Award for Lincoln at Gettysburg (1992), argues that Shakespeare's Macbeth should be understood in the context of the contemporaneous Gunpowder Plot of 1605. This attempt to blow up England's king and Parliament gripped the British imagination then much as the Red Menace and the assassinations of the 1960s dominated postwar American consciousness. Wills frames his examination of Macbeth with such parallels. The heart of his book, which grew out of lectures given at the New York Public Library, shows how the play bristles with the ideology prevalent in the Plot's aftermath, when King James and his spokesmen condemned the Jesuit-led rebellion using metaphors of witchcraft. Wills juxtaposes close readings of the play's language, imagery, and stage history with details of the Plot's representation in propaganda and popular culture. Shakespeare's famous witches take center stage as Wills shows how they draw the regicide Macbeth into their circle. Explicating Shakespeare's demonization of verbal ``equivocation,'' purported to be the Jesuitical method for dissembling in an unfriendly realm, Wills forges a new understanding of the play's second half. He justifies its attentions to the witch Hecate and to the Scottish prince Malcolm as crucial to Shakespeare's exploration of rituals of truth in demonology and kingship. Envisioning Macbeth as an integrated rhetorical presentation of a theological politics, Wills hopes, will enable us to once again find theatrical power in the whole play—especially given the neat conjunction of England's 160506 crisis with our contemporary obsessions about plots and princes. Wills's latest essay portends a renewed Macbeth for the theater; his critical performance, meanwhile, manifests the power of literary criticism that is simultaneously scholarly and popular.

Pub Date: Oct. 1, 1994

ISBN: 0-19-508879-4

Page Count: 208

Publisher: Oxford Univ.

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 1994

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Stricter than, say, Bergen Evans or W3 ("disinterested" means impartial — period), Strunk is in the last analysis...

THE ELEMENTS OF STYLE

50TH ANNIVERSARY EDITION

Privately published by Strunk of Cornell in 1918 and revised by his student E. B. White in 1959, that "little book" is back again with more White updatings.

Stricter than, say, Bergen Evans or W3 ("disinterested" means impartial — period), Strunk is in the last analysis (whoops — "A bankrupt expression") a unique guide (which means "without like or equal").

Pub Date: May 15, 1972

ISBN: 0205632645

Page Count: 105

Publisher: Macmillan

Review Posted Online: Oct. 28, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 1972

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DEAR MR. HENSHAW

Possibly inspired by the letters Cleary has received as a children's author, this begins with second-grader Leigh Botts' misspelled fan letter to Mr. Henshaw, whose fictitious book itself derives from the old take-off title Forty Ways W. Amuse a Dog. Soon Leigh is in sixth grade and bombarding his still-favorite author with a list of questions to be answered and returned by "next Friday," the day his author report is due. Leigh is disgruntled when Mr. Henshaw's answer comes late, and accompanied by a set of questions for Leigh to answer. He threatens not to, but as "Mom keeps nagging me about your dumb old questions" he finally gets the job done—and through his answers Mr. Henshaw and readers learn that Leigh considers himself "the mediumest boy in school," that his parents have split up, and that he dreams of his truck-driver dad driving him to school "hauling a forty-foot reefer, which would make his outfit add up to eighteen wheels altogether. . . . I guess I wouldn't seem so medium then." Soon Mr. Henshaw recommends keeping a diary (at least partly to get Leigh off his own back) and so the real letters to Mr. Henshaw taper off, with "pretend," unmailed letters (the diary) taking over. . . until Leigh can write "I don't have to pretend to write to Mr. Henshaw anymore. I have learned to say what I think on a piece of paper." Meanwhile Mr. Henshaw offers writing tips, and Leigh, struggling with a story for a school contest, concludes "I think you're right. Maybe I am not ready to write a story." Instead he writes a "true story" about a truck haul with his father in Leigh's real past, and this wins praise from "a real live author" Leigh meets through the school program. Mr. Henshaw has also advised that "a character in a story should solve a problem or change in some way," a standard juvenile-fiction dictum which Cleary herself applies modestly by having Leigh solve his disappearing lunch problem with a burglar-alarmed lunch box—and, more seriously, come to recognize and accept that his father can't be counted on. All of this, in Leigh's simple words, is capably and unobtrusively structured as well as valid and realistic. From the writing tips to the divorced-kid blues, however, it tends to substitute prevailing wisdom for the little jolts of recognition that made the Ramona books so rewarding.

Pub Date: Aug. 22, 1983

ISBN: 143511096X

Page Count: 133

Publisher: Morrow/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Oct. 16, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 1983

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