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Saturday, March 10, 2007

Rosenbaum's The Shakespeare Wars (still unread)

We've talked a bit in the past about Ron Rosenbaum's book The Shakespeare Wars, which I haven't read. But I have just been reading Anne Barton's review of it in the New York Review of Books ('Words, Words, Words,' 29 March 2007). Barton has some rather remarkable things to say about the book. For instance, she begins her final paragraph with a sentence that I imagine many of us have often wanted to write:
It has not been a pleasure to write this review.
... adding: "The Shakespeare Wars, however, has already been much praised, and is being widely read. It seems more than time that someone pointed out that it is, in many respects, inaccurate and seriously misleading." Rough. And yet, it seems, entirely deserved. Unless Barton has had a brain-freeze, Rosenbaum commits some really egregious errors. He refers to
Othello's dying boast that "in Aleppo once I smote a turban'd Turk"
a misquotation that really ruins Othello's incredible dying speech, poetically of course, but also in destroying the irony and ambiguity of Othello's "I took by th' throat the circumcised dog, / And smote him, thus." And apparently Rosenbaum believes that, in act four of Lear, Gloucester laments:
We are to the gods as flies to wanton boys
They kill us for their sport.
Perhaps the greatest scholarly import of Rosenbaum's book will be that it provides a good empirical example of the sorts of textual derangement that occur during the process of memorial reconstruction. Maybe Laurie Maguire can run her analysis on this book, which seems to be a Shakespearean suspect text.

  • At 3/11/2007 01:13:00 AM, Blogger Inkhorn wrote…

    I love it. Though perhaps "It has not been a pleasure to write this review" can really go as a given, before any review.


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