Shakespeare's Language by Frank Kermode

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Synopsis

A magnum opus from our finest interpreter of The Bard

The true biography of Shakespeare--and the only one we need to care about--is in his plays. Frank Kermode, Britain's most distinguished scholar of sixteenth-century and seventeenth-century literature, has been thinking about Shakespeare's plays all his life. This book is a distillation of that lifetime of thinking.The finest tragedies written in English were all composed in the first decade of the seventeenth century, and it is generally accepted that the best ones were Shakespeare's. Their language is often difficult, and it must have been hard even for contemporaries to understand. How did this language develop? How did it happen that Shakespeare's audience could appreciate Hamlet at the beginning of the decade and Coriolanus near the end of it?

In this long-awaited work, Kermode argues that something extraordinary started to happen to Shakespeare's language at a date close to 1600, and he sets out to explore the nature and consequences of the dynamic transformation that followed. For it is in the magnificent, suggestive power of the poetic language itself that audiences have always found meaning and value. The originality of Kermode's argument, the elegance and humor of his prose, and the intelligence of his discussion make this a landmark in Shakespearean studies.
 

About Frank Kermode

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John Frank Kermode was a writer, educator, and literary critic. He was born in Douglas, Isle of Man on November 29, 1919. Kermode received a B.A. in 1940 and an M.A. in 1947 from Liverpool University. Kermode served during World War II with the Royal Navy. After the war, Kermode held positions at Manchester University, Bristol University, University College of London, and Cambridge University, all in England, and at Columbia University in New York City. He was Charles E. Norton Professor at Harvard University in 1977-78 and Henry Luce Professor at Yale University in 1994. Kermode wrote several books on literary figures, including D.H. Lawrence and Wallace Stevens. His works of criticism include An Appetite for Poetry and The Art of Telling. Kermode was also the editor of the cultural journal, Encounter and his memoir, Not Entitled, was published in 1995. Kermode serves on the editorial board of the London Review of Books and Common Knowledge and has acted as judge for the Booker Prize. He was knighted for his service to English literature and he was named a Foreign Honorary Member of the American Academy of Arts and Letters in 1999.
 
Published May 1, 2000 by Farrar Straus Giroux. 256 pages
Genres: Education & Reference, Literature & Fiction, Humor & Entertainment. Non-fiction

Unrated Critic Reviews for Shakespeare's Language

Kirkus Reviews

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Renowned scholar Kermode (Not Entitled, 1995) explores the evolution of Shakespeare's language in a friendly, accessible, and choppy romp through the Bard's oeuvre.

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The Guardian

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The Age of Shakespeare by Frank Kermode Weidenfeld & Nicholson £12.99, pp210 Just as playing Lear is an ambition which comes over actors of a certain age and dignity, critics of equivalent seniority are drawn to writing books about Shakespeare.

Jul 04 2004 | Read Full Review of Shakespeare's Language

The Guardian

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The Age of Shakespeare by Frank Kermode 210pp, Weidenfeld & Nicolson, £12.99 Since being elected Man of the Millennium, Shakespeare has been more feted in print than ever, in the mainstream as well as in the overflowing and sometimes murky underground river of academic publications.

Jul 03 2004 | Read Full Review of Shakespeare's Language

Publishers Weekly

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While the age of Shakespeare overlapped with the both the Elizabethan and Jacobean eras, Kermode's compact, erudite appreciation of the Bard is less about Shakespeare's private life and turbulent times than his theatrical milieu and the worlds he created for the stage.

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London Review of Books

But, in a sentence that appears one full column into his recent attack on the Cambridge Studies in Renaissance Literature and Culture, after he has already denounced an entire series of 22 books, its general editor and its editorial board, Kermode writes: ‘The most recent addition to the series …...

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London Review of Books

it is a ‘kind of writing that is not immediately noticeable, but anyone who practises verse writing returns again and again and again to such passages, more than to spectacular things .

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London Review of Books

Bradley, still possessor of a fading eminence in the tradition of Shakespeare criticism, thought well but not idolatrously of Shakespeare, complaining that he ‘frequently sinned against art’.

Dec 09 1999 | Read Full Review of Shakespeare's Language

London Review of Books

he struggles with it for a while, and if it continues stubborn, comprises it in words such as occur, and leaves it to be disentangled by those who have more leisure to bestow upon it.’ A more accommodating view of the fleetingness of his language was taken by Hilda Hulme in her great study of asp...

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