The Cambridge Shakespeare Guide, By Emma Smith
Boyd Tonkin is Literary Editor at The Independent. An award-winning journalist, he was formerly Social Policy Editor of the New Statesman and has broadcast extensively for BBC arts and current affairs programmes. He has judged the Booker Prize, the Whitbread biography award, the Commonwealth Writers Prize and the David Cohen Prize for a lifetime's achievement in literature.
Saturday 12 May 2012
I road-tested this pocket-sized handbook on a cold night at the Globe, as actors from South Sudan played Cymbeline – perhaps the Bard's most convoluted plot – in Juba Arabic.
Crisp but never bland, Smith's synopses passed with flying colours. Her four-part approach to each play – plot, context, performance history, themes and interpretations – packs an immense quantity of usable information and ideas into a brief compass.
Even the most avid Shakespearean will learn from the spotlight on the works, while general essays explore the life and times.
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