Friday, November 9, 2012

Book Review: Shakespeare and Co.

I've just read a most remarkable book by Prof Stanley Wells, a renowned Shakespeare expert and the book was so absorbing I read every word of the Appendices as well.  It is a comprehensive examination of the Bard working in a literary environment where he influenced and was influenced by other writers of his time.

Having read and studied every poem that Shakespeare wrote and almost every play of his including his apocryphal works, I am naturally very partial to books about Shakespeare and his writings.   Since I have also read every surviving play written by Marlowe and Jonson and a couple of plays by Middleton including a play he wrote with Shakespeare but which I have always regarded and still regard as Shakespeare's, it's not surprising that I found Well's book immensely delightful as it examines the lives and works of Shakespeare's contemporaries, notably Marlowe, Dekker, Jonson, Middleton and Fletcher.

Although I'm aware that this book can't possibly command a wide appeal among general readers today, I believe there is a sizeable number of readers who love and have read most of the works of Shakespeare and his contemporaries.  It is to this group of readers that I highly recommend Well's scholastic examination of the works of Shakespeare and his contemporaries and how they influence one another.

Lovers of Shakespeare can set their minds at ease if I say at the outset that this study of how Shakespeare influenced the Elizabethan and Jacobean literati and was influenced by them does not in any way detract from the Bard's unparallelled importance and the considerable value of his works.  As Wells concludes in his book, Shakespeare "was deeply immersed in the world around him, and to see him as one among a great company is only to enhance our sense of what made him unique."

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