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Shakespeare's unity comprehends and reconciles much diversity, whether that university be in language, characterization, dramatic styles, or historical effects and usages-a sentiment (rather trite) which might serve as the rubric for the set of assays here, all delivered recently at London University's fourth centenary commemoration. Eight professors and one provost handle the chores; their aim was ""to place Shakespeare in his own age, to deal with some of the major aspects of his work and with his critical reputation, and to address....a public that was by no means drawn exclusively from students of the period."" Thus a certain amount of leveling goes on, and while the scholarship is acute, generally the points made are not. Hamlet, Lear and Macbeth draw the heaviest references; the Sonnets are barely touched. Questions concerning the Elizabethan idiom and the varying speech patterns (prose for the servants, blank verse for the elite, etc.) are interestingly developed, as are the political events or readings behind the chronicle plays, and the treatment of comedy. Far and away the best of the efforts is Miss Nowottny on Shakespeare's tragic sense and symbolic constructs-quite intensive and rewarding.

Pub Date: Sept. 9th, 1964
Publisher: St Martin's