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Shakespeare (NYRB Classics)

Shakespeare (NYRB Classics)
Your Price: $20.95 CDN
Author: Mark Van Doren
Foreword by: David Lehman
Publisher: New York Review Books
Series: NYRB Classics
Format: Softcover
# of Pages: 302
Pub. Date: 2005
ISBN-10: 1590171683
ISBN-13: 9781590171684

About the Book:

This legendary book by an esteemed poet and beloved professor at Columbia University features a series of smart, witty, deeply perceptive essays about each of Shakespeare's plays, together with a further discussion of the poems.

From the 1920s through the 1960s, Mark Van Doren was one of the most respected professors at Columbia University — which would later name its "Great Teacher" award after him. His Shakespeare classes are the stuff of legend. He used no notes. He would open a book and begin dealing with a particular passage. His mode was conversational. You would see very little note taking; there was too much in the way of thoughtful and easy-flowing talk to dwell on. Often, he would single out an individual student and draw him into the conversation. He sometimes stayed with such a student through much of the hour, drawing out thoughts the student himself had not dreamed he had.

Mark Van Doren, himself a Pulitzer Prize-winning poet, had been teaching his popular course on Shakespeare for seven years when a colleague convinced him to collect his thoughts in a book. Each play would get a chapter, and there would be an additional chapter devoted to the sonnets and other poems. Each chapter would be written in a sustained burst of concentrated energy. He kept his students in mind as he wrote. "Things they had said to me, things I had said to them and things they now might learn for the first time as I myself was learning them" all went into the writing. Published to great acclaim in 1938 — The New York Times welcomed it as "by far the best modern commentary" — Shakespeare draws on this master teacher's long years in the classroom to present a play-by-play account of the works of the Bard, with an added chapter on the poems.

Writing with an incomparable knowledge of his subject but without a hint of pedantry, Mark Van Doren elucidates both the astonishing boldness and myriad subtleties of Shakespeare's protean art. W. H. Auden is quoted in David Lehman's foreword: "Professor Van Doren enlightens us, not because he has any special knowledge or private advantages, but because his love of Shakespeare has been greater than our own." His Shakespeare is an indispensable and beautifully written book to be treasured by both new and longtime students of the Bard.

What people say:

"Published in 1939, this essay collection is recommended for readers who, having just read or seen one of Shakespeare's plays, are in search of a short but thoughtful interpretation." — Library Journal

"Van Doren's Shakespeare got me through Harry Levin's [Harvard] course back in 1951. Whenever I read a Shakespeare play I reread what Van Doren said about it." — John Updike

"If during my stay at Columbia I had met only Mark Van Doren and his work, it would have been worth the trouble." — Delmore Schwartz

"It was the force of his example that made me a poet." — John Berryman

About the Author:

Mark Van Doren (1894-1972) was an American poet, writer, and eminent teacher. As a teacher at Columbia University for nearly forty years, he exercised a profound influence on generations of students, including Thomas Merton, John Berryman, and Allen Ginsberg. He was literary editor of The Nation and president of the American Academy of Arts and Letters. Among his books are critical biographies of such writers as Dryden and Hawthorne; a study of epic poetry, The Noble Voice; several plays; an auto-biography; novels; and many volumes of poetry, including the Pulitzer Prize winning Collected Poems, 1922-1938.

David Lehman is a poet and the series editor for The Best American Poetry series. He teaches at The New School in New York City.