A brisk, informative, and startling look at Shakespeare.

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DEATH BY SHAKESPEARE

SNAKEBITES, STABBINGS AND BROKEN HEARTS

Chemist, journalist, and blogger Harkup examines the many ways Shakespeare chose to kill off his characters—something that happens in most of his plays.

“Shakespeare’s tragedies and histories,” writes the author, “are littered with the bodies of characters who got in the way of someone’s ambition or were cut down because of some perceived insult.” Readers will need a strong stomach to get through many of Harkup’s descriptions: of the process of hanging, drawing, and quartering, for example, where convicted individuals were cut down from the scaffold before death “and were still able to watch as their entrails and heart were drawn out of their abdomen and burnt on a fire in front of them.” Or consider the visceral effects of various poisons: Cyanide, for one, causes “massive cell death,” resulting in “headache, dizziness and convulsions, as well as vomiting and rapid pulse, before collapse and death.” Cleopatra’s snake bite was not likely to have been “soft as air,” as Shakespeare described it, since Egyptian cobra bites are very painful, especially on the breast, which is where Cleopatra placed the snake. Most of Shakespeare’s victims die in sword fights; Harkup notes that his actors were expected to be skilled at swordsmanship, and many trained at fencing schools. With battles an important feature in Shakespeare’s histories, it’s no wonder that death by sword recurred, but there were other causes, too, including smothering, beheading, drowning, and suicide. In an appendix, the author provides a chart listing all of the plays’ victims and the means by which they died. A few, like Othello, took their own lives out of guilt; others, like Lady Montague in Romeo and Juliet, died of grief. Besides investigating the plays, Harkup gives historical background about Elizabethan perils, such as executions, plague, syphilis, death in childbirth, tuberculosis, and infected wounds. She speculates about what Shakespeare knew about causes of death; like other contemporary playwrights, he did know that audiences loved violence.

A brisk, informative, and startling look at Shakespeare.

Pub Date: May 5, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-4729-5822-8

Page Count: 368

Publisher: Bloomsbury Sigma

Review Posted Online: Jan. 21, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2020

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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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WHAT A WONDERFUL WORLD

A LIFETIME OF RECORDINGS

Noted jazz and pop record producer Thiele offers a chatty autobiography. Aided by record-business colleague Golden, Thiele traces his career from his start as a ``pubescent, novice jazz record producer'' in the 1940s through the '50s, when he headed Coral, Dot, and Roulette Records, and the '60s, when he worked for ABC and ran the famous Impulse! jazz label. At Coral, Thiele championed the work of ``hillbilly'' singer Buddy Holly, although the only sessions he produced with Holly were marred by saccharine strings. The producer specialized in more mainstream popsters like the irrepressibly perky Teresa Brewer (who later became his fourth wife) and the bubble-machine muzak-meister Lawrence Welk. At Dot, Thiele was instrumental in recording Jack Kerouac's famous beat- generation ramblings to jazz accompaniment (recordings that Dot's president found ``pornographic''), while also overseeing a steady stream of pop hits. He then moved to the Mafia-controlled Roulette label, where he observed the ``silk-suited, pinky-ringed'' entourage who frequented the label's offices. Incredibly, however, Thiele remembers the famously hard-nosed Morris Levy, who ran the label and was eventually convicted of extortion, as ``one of the kindest, most warm-hearted, and classiest music men I have ever known.'' At ABC/Impulse!, Thiele oversaw the classic recordings of John Coltrane, although he is the first to admit that Coltrane essentially produced his own sessions. Like many producers of the day, Thiele participated in the ownership of publishing rights to some of the songs he recorded; he makes no apology for this practice, which he calls ``entirely appropriate and without any ethical conflicts.'' A pleasant, if not exactly riveting, memoir that will be of most interest to those with a thirst for cocktail-hour stories of the record biz. (25 halftones, not seen)

Pub Date: May 1, 1995

ISBN: 0-19-508629-4

Page Count: 224

Publisher: Oxford Univ.

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 1995

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