Overcoming the temptation to create his own Shakespeare, Auden penetrates to the very core of Shakespeare’s originality,...


Lectures on Shakespeare delivered by British poet and critic Auden in 1946 at the New School for Social Research in New York, carefully reconstructed by Kirsch from students’ notes.

While Auden provides a thorough scholarly interpretation of Shakespeare’s works in chronological order, he also takes every opportunity to discuss them in a much broader historical and cultural context. He shares his impressions of American society, draws parallels between Richard III and Hitler, and quotes profusely from a wide range of writers and philosophers (including Dante, Eliot, and Kierkegaard). The Merchant of Venice provokes his evaluation of Elizabethan anti-Semitism (which, according to Auden, was less racial than xenophobic). In connection with As You Like It, Auden speaks of pastoral conventions, drawing on Hesiod, Virgil, Rousseau, and contemporary literary theory. He does not hesitate to voice extremely critical opinions: He declares The Taming of the Shrew a complete failure, dismisses Twelfth Night as an “unpleasant play,” and declares The Merry Wives of Windsor to be “dull” (proposing that his students listen to Verdi’s Falstaff rather than read the play that inspired it). Auden also finds fault with Hamlet: He believes that Hamlet’s boredom compels him to act theatrically, and he suggests that the play was written out of spite against actors. However, as Auden repeatedly emphasizes, only minor poets are always technically perfect, because they always tread upon familiar ground. The true genius, who explores new forms of expression as a matter of course, inevitably risks failure. Shakespeare received his training with chronicle plays, and he drew important lessons from history concerning the interdependence of characters and situations. He withstood the test of artistic freedom, creating his plays against the ill-defined and amorphous conventions of Elizabethan drama. And, most important of all, his themes are so universal that his plays can appeal to general audiences even today.

Overcoming the temptation to create his own Shakespeare, Auden penetrates to the very core of Shakespeare’s originality, expressing himself in crystalline analytical prose.

Pub Date: Jan. 1, 2001

ISBN: 0-691-05730-3

Page Count: 389

Publisher: Princeton Univ.

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2000

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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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