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One of the odd aspects of East-West relations is the New Look in Shakespeare criticism currently generating behind the Iron Curtain. Poland's ex-Stalinist, Jan Kott, mixed anti-totalitarian politics and Beckett nuances in Shakespeare Our Contemporary, a theoretical exercise which has markedly influenced the English directors, Peter Hall and Peter Brook. Now Grigori Kozintsev, a Bolshoi impressario, is enjoying New York acclaim for his film version of Hamlet, using the Pasternak translation. The Russian is much less radical in his interpretation than Kott, but the essays collected here do signify a surprisingly liberal approach, and are extremely interesting in both technical matters of staging and in the more complex, subjective concern with theme, characterization, and historical forces, past and present. Kozintsev can be a very eloquent partisan and his readings of Lear, Hamlet, and some of the chronicle plays are rendered with an extraordinary sympathy rarely achieved by our Anglo-American academicians. The analysis of Lear, for example, while verging on the sentimental in its humanist position, nevertheless creates a bold, vivid, impressionistic landscape in which the embattled king is illuminated via the medieval preoccupations with avarice and folly, counter-balanced by marxist existential overtones. The angle of vision, incidentally, is far richer than Kott's fashionably austere account. Psychological factors and the subtleties of royalist stratagems are emphasized in the frustrations of Hamlet and the turnabout haughtiness of Prince Hal. A weak idolization of a Stratford pilgrimage and an overly-professional logbook of Hamlet stagings complete the volume.

Publisher: Hill & Wang