A Choice of Shakespeare's Verse by William Shakespeare

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Synopsis

Shakespeare's best as chosen by the great English poet

"According to most anthologies, [Shakespeare] wrote only sonnets and songs for his plays. The reason for this [is the] reluctance of anthologists to break into the sacred precincts of his drama and start looting portable chunks . . . Yet when he great speeches of his plays are taken out of context they are no more difficult to understand and appropriate than those by other great poets."

This clear, compact, inviting selection of Shakespeare's verse opens the door to new readers of our greatest writer and deepens lifelong readers' understanding of his work. Ted Hughes spent his life considering Shakespeare's works and drawing on them for his own poetry; his book-length account of Shakespeare's development, Shakespeare and the Goddess of Complete Being, was one of the most distinctive works of literary criticism of recent years.

For this selection, Hughes deliberately took strong, relatively self-contained passages of Shakespeare's verse out of the plays and arranged them in a pattern, like beads on a string, including the best-known songs and sonnets. The result is at once a revealing sequence of Shakespeare's verse and an anthology of his greatest bits--"read in less than a minute, learned in less than five," Hughes remarks in the introduction, and always "capable of striking up a life of their own in the general experience of the reader."
 

About William Shakespeare

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William Shakespeare, 1564 - 1616 Although there are many myths and mysteries surrounding William Shakespeare, a great deal is actually known about his life. He was born in Stratford-Upon-Avon, son of John Shakespeare, a prosperous merchant and local politician and Mary Arden, who had the wealth to send their oldest son to Stratford Grammar School. At 18, Shakespeare married Anne Hathaway, the 27-year-old daughter of a local farmer, and they had their first daughter six months later. He probably developed an interest in theatre by watching plays performed by traveling players in Stratford while still in his youth. Some time before 1592, he left his family to take up residence in London, where he began acting and writing plays and poetry. By 1594 Shakespeare had become a member and part owner of an acting company called The Lord Chamberlain's Men, where he soon became the company's principal playwright. His plays enjoyed great popularity and high critical acclaim in the newly built Globe Theatre. It was through his popularity that the troupe gained the attention of the new king, James I, who appointed them the King's Players in 1603. Before retiring to Stratford in 1613, after the Globe burned down, he wrote more than three dozen plays (that we are sure of) and more than 150 sonnets. He was celebrated by Ben Jonson, one of the leading playwrights of the day, as a writer who would be "not for an age, but for all time," a prediction that has proved to be true. Today, Shakespeare towers over all other English writers and has few rivals in any language. His genius and creativity continue to astound scholars, and his plays continue to delight audiences. Many have served as the basis for operas, ballets, musical compositions, and films. While Jonson and other writers labored over their plays, Shakespeare seems to have had the ability to turn out work of exceptionally high caliber at an amazing speed. At the height of his career, he wrote an average of two plays a year as well as dozens of poems, songs, and possibly even verses for tombstones and heraldic shields, all while he continued to act in the plays performed by the Lord Chamberlain's Men. This staggering output is even more impressive when one considers its variety. Except for the English history plays, he never wrote the same kind of play twice. He seems to have had a good deal of fun in trying his hand at every kind of play. Shakespeare wrote 154 sonnets, all published on 1609, most of which were dedicated to his patron Henry Wriothsley, The Earl of Southhampton. He also wrote 13 comedies, 13 histories, 6 tragedies, and 4 tragecomedies. He died at Stratford-upon-Avon April 23, 1616, and was buried two days later on the grounds of Holy Trinity Church in Stratford. His cause of death was unknown, but it is surmised that he knew he was dying. Ted Hughes was born on August 17, 1930 in England and attended Cambridge University, where he became interested in anthropology and folklore. These interests would have a profound effect on his poetry. In 1956, Hughes married famed poet Sylvia Plath. He taught at the University of Massachusetts at Amherst from 1957 until 1959, and he stopped writing altogether for several years after Plath's suicide in 1963. Hughes's poetry is highly marked by harsh and savage language and depictions, emphasizing the animal quality of life. He soon developed a creature called Crow who appeared in several volumes of poetry including A Crow Hymn and Crow Wakes. A creature of mythic proportions, Crow symbolizes the victim, the outcast, and a witness to life and destruction. Hughes's other works also created controversy because of their style, manner, and matter, but he has won numerous honors, including the Somerset Maugham Award in 1960, and the Queen's Medal for Poetry in 1974. His greatest honor came in 1984, when he was named Poet Laureate of England. Ted Hughes died in 1998.
 
Published June 1, 1971 by Faber & Faber. 212 pages
Genres: Literature & Fiction. Fiction

Unrated Critic Reviews for A Choice of Shakespeare's Verse

Publishers Weekly

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Admired since the 1950s for the primal force of his own verse, former British poet laureate Hughes (1930-1998) also won praise in his home country for numerous projects of editing, literary criticism

Sep 03 2007 | Read Full Review of A Choice of Shakespeare's Verse

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