Shakespeare is hard, but so is life A radical guide to Shakespearean tragedy

Fintan O'Toole, 1958-

Book - 2002

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Subjects
Published
London ; New York : Granta 2002.
Language
English
Physical Description
164 p. ; 20 cm
ISBN
186207528X
Main Author
Fintan O'Toole, 1958- (-)
Review by Library Journal Reviews

O'Toole, a drama critic for the Irish Times and New York Daily News and author of numerous books of literary criticism, contends that the Victorian approach to interpreting Shakespeare turns the tragedies into unintelligible mush. Here he offers a new approach, recommending that we abandon three concepts beloved by the Victorians: all tragic heroes must have a tragic flaw, the tragic hero eclipses all other characters, and the soliloquy represents the character speaking privately to him/herself. Shakespeare did not use these concepts to construct his plays, argues O'Toole; instead, he reflected the turmoil and uncertainty of his time by depicting characters struggling to resolve contradictions between feudal and mercantile value systems. Offering new interpretations of Hamlet, Othello, King Lear, and Macbeth, O'Toole's study will serve best as an introductory text for students and teachers. This purpose is underscored by both its 8" x 5" paperback format and its sensible price. However, it may not hold up under heavy use. Recommended for public and school libraries.-Shana C. Fair, Ohio Univ., Zanesville Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.

Review by Publisher Summary 1

Is Hamlet really mad or is the world mad? Is Othello merely gullible or is there something about his place in society that makes him vulnerable? Why can there be no happy ending to King Lear? In this radical approach to Shakespearean tragedy, Fintan O'Toole, Ireland's foremost theater critic, shows how Shakespeare's plays have been made unintelligible to modern students. O'Toole explains that the plays have been filtered through a series of ideas that have less to do with what Shakespeare actually wrote than with Victorian interpretations of the plots and characters. O'Toole challenges the traditional approach to the study of four key tragedies?Hamlet, Othello, King Lear, and Macbeth?and provides an entertaining appreciation of the dramatic qualities of each. This is a provocative and accessible guide for students, teachers, and anyone interested in gaining a fresh insight into the world's greatest playwright.