26 October 2009

Shakespeare: The Invention of the Human

This will be a short review. For a long book.

I started Bloom's Shakespeare: The Invention of the Human because Bloom looms large in the halls of Shakespeare criticism (no pun intended). You have to read it sometime so I figured I'd read it a bit at a time, not too awful. I'd listened to Bloom's Portable Professor lectures on Shakespeare's tragedies and thought them not bad (if you can get around Bloom's voice, which sounds like the Impressive Clergyman from The Princess Bride, reading Juliet's speeches) as well as reading The Western Canon the year prior (also not bad).

But the Shakespeare book? Well....Bloom likes Falstaff. A lot. A lot, a lot. Enough to make you want to gouge your eyes out during the very, very, very long chapter on Henry IV Parts 1 and 2. Which is what I wanted to do and caused me to put the book away for a long time; the cats helped by shoving it behind the nightstand. I did eventually dig it back out from behind the nightstand, finished the Falstaff love-fest, slogged through the commentary on Hamlet, and polished off the last 200 pages during the readathon. I am glad I finished because the Antony and Cleopatra chapter had some good insights but the reading was pretty painful for a while.

One thing that baffles me is a complete lack of bibliography, index, and annotations. Bloom quotes any number of different critics during the book but I would have quite a hard time finding the correct AC Bradley source (for example) because I don't know which piece of criticism supplied the quote. No index makes this look like Shakespeare is for a layman, which might be the intent, but the language structure is advanced and assumes the reader has prior knowledge of the entire Shakespeare canon; at that point, you need at minimum a bibliography.

Clear Off Your Shelves Challenge Count: 5/7

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