Is it possible for one not-very-large volume to contain pop-up summaries of the Bard’s every play and poem, with representative scenes, settings, quotes, and historical notes?
Leave it to the managing partners of the Reduced Shakespeare Company to manage the deed—with plenty of help from Maizels (Pop-Up New York, 2014, etc.). She places brightly costumed actors (all white except for Othello) on both sides of numerous flaps and pop-up forests, tempests, and throne rooms while somehow preserving gaps to rest the eye and leaving space for the snarky commentary. The fast-break literary tour begins with a spread of general background, including a stand-up model of the Globe (the immolation of which while hosting Henry VIII resulted in “the only exciting performance of that play ever”), then goes on to devote successive spreads to the comedies, histories, romances (including sonnets and other poetry), and tragedies. Each work comes with an opinionated summary of its plot and major themes, plus a summary of the summary—“Much ado leads to much ‘I do!’ ”; “The couple that slays together stays together”—snatches of more-or-less actual dialogue, and a famous line or two. Broader themes, from all the cross-dressing in the plays and the notion of “comic relief” to the anti-Semitism in Merchant of Venice, rate mentions. There’s even an entry for the lost play Cardenio.
The plays are really the thing, but these concise and often hilarious takes offer tantalizing hints of their enduring value, along with their content. (Informational pop-up. 12-adult)