Tuesday, January 5, 2010

A Midsummer Night's Dream - William Shakespeare


A Midsummer Night's Dream
William Shakespeare
Editor: Peter Holland
This edition: 2008
978-0199535866

Amazon.com blurb:
A Midsummer Night's Dream is perhaps Shakespeare's most popular play, particularly as a first introduction to Shakespeare for children--filled as it is with a marvelous mixture of aristocrats, workers, and fairies. For this edition, Peter Holland's introduction looks at dreams and dreamers, tracing the materials out of which Shakespeare constructs his world of night and shadows.
 This has been on my TBR list for a while now. I finally got around to reading it thanks to the Hidden Treasures post I read. A Midsummer Night's Dream is the book that got picked for me.

Quite the read! The Oxford Shakespeare series is packed with information. Half the length of the book is made up of an illustrated essay (the introduction) on various productions of the play, the manuscript history, fairies, Robin Goodfellow and the like in Elizabethan times. Informative, but also very dense.

Then, there's the play itself: It's well explained, sometimes half the page is taken up with footnotes of various sorts. They explain archaic uses of language, note variants in stage directions and the meter of the dialogue and much more. No wonder my teachers at university recommended this particular series!

The notes are at least as interesting as the play. On the other hand, having so much extra material was somewhat distracting from reading the play itself. I often found myself losing the flow, because I'd been reading the extra notes. Still, this has to be the best edition of any Shakespeare I've read, simply because I'm no longer going "what the heck does that mean?" as I'm reading it.
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