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Shakespeare and MacBeth

Shakespeare and MacBeth

by Stewart Ross, Kenneth Branagh, Tony Karpinski (Illustrator)

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
In a successful blend of fact and fact-based fiction, Ross brings to life Shakespeare's London, going behind the scenes of the Globe Theatre to imagine the Bard's creation of Macbeth. Then Ross narrows the focus and takes the reader to a royal performance of the play before King James, building up the atmosphere and giving an impressively clear synopsis of the plot. Overall, the resulting book is intelligent and informative, and excells at introducing theater as a living art form. It does not attempt to condense or retell Macbeth; instead it takes the play as a centerpiece, expanding into a biography of Shakespeare and an overview of theater, politics and customs in 17th-century England. The text sometimes lacks immediacy (conversations are paraphrased; much is explained rather than shown), but the richness of the subject matter overcomes this flaw. Somber-hued, people-filled illustrations have the precision of photography and the look of the Dutch masters. They add authenticity and a sense of history, and they enhance the excitement of scenes of Macbeth in performance. Line drawings swirl around the borders of the play's synopsis, capturing the action contained within the words. Ages 10-up. (Oct.)
Children's Literature - Kathleen Karr
This British import is a marvelous introduction to Shakespeare. Covering the years 1605 and 1606, it's chock full of evocative drawings and fascinating information. (Who would have thought the Globe had an audience capacity of 3,000! Or that actors lived in fear of having the theatre shut down should deaths from outbreaks of the plague exceed thirty in a week?) A fine mix of both theatrical and Jacobean history, the book builds on general background material about Shakespeare and his players, through the writing stages of Macbeth, to a performance before King James himself. It should make any younger (or older) reader more than anxious to see the real thing.
Children's Literature - Jan Lieberman
A knowledge of Shakespeare is every child's birthright. The quotes, the poetry and the sayings, incorporated into everyday speech, are part of Shakespeare's legacy. Stewart Ross's Shakespeare and Macbeth is unique because it not only tells about the man and his times but provides a glimpse into how he may have conceived of writing the play, Macbeth, and how The King's Men, a troupe of actors, may have performed it. Full-color paintings add drama and vivacity to the book.
School Library Journal
Gr 6-9-A unique approach to theater history. Ross presents a quick view of Jacobean London, Shakespeare's life, the king's patronage and prejudices, the troupe of actors, and the physical layout of the Globe, and shows how these factors influenced the structure of the play. Readers are first set down in London, then introduced to the Globe during a performance of Hamlet. Afterwards, they move backstage to meet the actors. There is a bit of fictionalizing-Shakespeare talks to Burbage and the guys about his idea for a new play over wine at the Boar's Head Inn-but the device contributes to the relaxed feel of the book. The story then moves to the historical background of Macbeth, explaining the changes the playwright made and his possible reasons. This seeming overload of material is skillfully packaged, with explanatory information carried in concise sidebars. The endpapers feature a sketch of London by Wenceslaus Hollar; internally, Karpinski's vibrant paintings are reminiscent of the Dutch masters' work in their rich colors and strong light, and create dramatic impact with their unusual perspectives. Ambrus's lively sketches achieve a shift of focus for an end segment representing a performance of the new play for King James. The perpetual grouse by Shakespeare buffs that a book can't give young people the true sense of a stage production is at least partly countered by this dynamic gem.-Sally Margolis, Deerfield Public Library, IL
Bill Ott
It's a perennial question: How do you make Shakespeare interesting to young people? Recent attempts have gone the historical route. Stanley and Vennema's "Bard of Avon" (1992) placed the playwright in the vividly rendered raucousness of Elizabethan England. Ross and Karpinski take the same tack but focus on the circumstances surrounding the composition and first performance of a single play, "Macbeth". As does "Bard of Avon", this book works because it's grounded in the ordinariness of daily life. We discover that the so-called immortal bard was driven mainly by commercial considerations: "Macbeth", about a Scottish king, was written to appeal to King James, another Scottish king, in hopes that he would want it performed at court--the best gig going for a drama troupe in seventeenth-century England. Ross also shows how Shakespeare adapted his source material to appeal specifically to James and how the company set about rehearsing and staging the new play. Karpinski's illustrations, appropriately dark-hued in various shades of brown, red, and black, add texture, especially in the onstage pieces. Will kids read this for fun? No, but while they're using it as background material for reports, they might just be surprised to notice they're enjoying it. Also, high-schoolers studying Shakespeare may appreciate this picture-book approach.

Product Details

Penguin Publishing Group
Publication date:
Product dimensions:
11.52(w) x 8.80(h) x 0.39(d)
Age Range:
10 - 14 Years

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