In this first of five books about Shakespearean personalities, Bloom brings erudition and boundless enthusiasm.




An ardent admirer of Shakespeare analyzes an incomparably robust character.

For esteemed literary critic Bloom (Humanities/Yale Univ.; The Daemon Knows: Literary Greatness and the American Sublime, 2015, etc.), MacArthur Fellow and winner of multiple awards and honorary degrees, Shakespeare’s Sir John Falstaff has enduring appeal, a character who “springs to life” anew each time he is read or seen on stage. Falstaff, Bloom asserts, “is as bewildering as Hamlet, as infinitely varied as Cleopatra.” Unlike the beleaguered, grieving prince or the Egyptian queen, however, Falstaff appears in plays not as frequently performed: Shakespeare’s trilogy of Henry plays. Bloom, though, assumes his readers—like students who have done their assignments—are as cognizant of these plays as he is. In 21 chapters, he analyzes excerpts from the plays to support his argument that the ribald Falstaff is life-affirming, “everliving,” and “the greatest wit in literature.” Bloom, now 86, feeling some diminishment with age, is buoyed by Falstaff, who “resolutely remains a child” and “finds fresh delight in play.” Bloom gained some insight into the character when he performed the role with the American Repertory Theatre in Cambridge, Massachusetts, in 2000 and at Yale, and he has seen a host of notable actors take it on. He especially admires the interpretations of Ralph Richardson, who played Falstaff with “a wounded dignity,” and Orson Welles, who “relished the goodness of every phrase” that Falstaff spoke, “tasting it as if it were bread and wine.” Of all Shakespeare’s characters, Falstaff and Hamlet seem to Bloom “as being creations nearest” to the “concealed inwardness” of the playwright. Indeed, he writes, “it is difficult for me to withstand the temptation of identifying the Fat Knight with Shakespeare himself.”

In this first of five books about Shakespearean personalities, Bloom brings erudition and boundless enthusiasm.

Pub Date: April 4, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-5011-6413-2

Page Count: 176

Publisher: Scribner

Review Posted Online: Jan. 24, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2017

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



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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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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