Shakespeare's Montaigne: The Florio Translation of the Essays, A Selection

Shakespeare's Montaigne: The Florio Translation of the Essays, A Selection

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by Michel de Montaigne, John Florio, Stephen Greenblatt, Peter G. Platt
     
 

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An NYRB Classics Original

Shakespeare, Nietzsche wrote, was Montaigne’s best reader—a typically brilliant Nietzschean insight, capturing the intimate relationship between Montaigne’s ever-changing record of the self and Shakespeare’s kaleidoscopic register of human character. And there is no doubt that Shakespeare read… See more details below

Overview

An NYRB Classics Original

Shakespeare, Nietzsche wrote, was Montaigne’s best reader—a typically brilliant Nietzschean insight, capturing the intimate relationship between Montaigne’s ever-changing record of the self and Shakespeare’s kaleidoscopic register of human character. And there is no doubt that Shakespeare read Montaigne—though how extensively remains a matter of debate—and that the translation he read him in was that of John Florio, a fascinating polymath, man-about-town, and dazzlingly inventive writer himself.

Florio’s Montaigne is in fact one of the masterpieces of English prose, with a stylistic range and felicity and passages of deep lingering music that make it comparable to Sir Robert Burton’s Anatomy of Melancholy and the works of Sir Thomas Browne. This new edition of this seminal work, edited by Stephen Greenblatt and Peter G. Platt, features an adroitly modernized text, an essay in which Greenblatt discusses both the resemblances and real tensions between Montaigne’s and Shakespeare’s visions of the world, and Platt’s introduction to the life and times of the extraordinary Florio. Altogether, this book provides a remarkable new experience of not just two but three great writers who ushered in the modern world.

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Editorial Reviews

Library Journal
04/01/2014
Despite its title, this is not a book about William Shakespeare. It is, rather, a reprint of the English-language edition of Montaigne's essays that was available during the Bard's lifetime—the deeply personal and philosophical essays by French author Montaigne (1533–92) were popular in England when they appeared in John Florio's 1603 version. While this is neither the most accurate translation of those works (subsequent ones have corrected Florio's errors and tried for a tone more representative of Montaigne's), nor the most accessible to today's readers, its editors Greenblatt (Cogan University Professor of English & American Literature & Language, Harvard Univ.; Will in the World) and Platt (English, Bard Coll.; Shakespeare and the Culture of Paradox) argue for its significance because of its influence on important English authors, most notably Shakespeare. Helpful introductory essays discuss the significance of Montaigne, his influence on the playwright, and the importance of Florio as both an author and translator. VERDICT Florio's prose can be a tough read for modern audiences. Recommended only for specialists who want to examine the influence of Montaigne on Shakespeare and other English writers. Readers can find more complete and approachable translations of Montaigne's essays in recent volumes published by Penguin Classics (1993) and Everyman's Library (2003).—Nicholas Graham, Univ. of North Carolina, Chapel Hill
From the Publisher
“Read Montaigne in order to live.” —Gustave Flaubert

"Stephen Greenblatt and Peter Platt have annotated selections in Shakespeare's Montaigne and the result is a crash course in Elizabethan lit, a multiculti study of the development of English, and, above all, a revisionist biography of a monumental dramatist who not only cribbed the classical education he lacked but also responded to his sources with a fierce and censorious intelligence." —Joshua Cohen, Harper's Magazine

“Like Montaigne, Florio wrote by exuding ever more complex thoughts as a spider exudes silk. But while Montaigne always moves forward, Florio winds back on himself and scrunches his sentences into ever tighter baroque spirals until their meaning disappears in a puff of syntax. The real magic happens when the two writers meet. Montaigne’s earthiness holds Florio’s convolutions in check, while Florio gives Montaigne an Elizabethan English quality, as well as a lot of sheer fun.” —Sarah Bakewell, How to Live, or, A Life of Montaigne

“He was the first who had the courage to say as an author what he felt as a man.” —William Hazlitt
 
“That such a man wrote has truly augmented the joy of living on Earth.” —Friedrich Nietzsche
 
“Montaigne is the frankest and honestest of all writers.” —Ralph Waldo Emerson
 
“I defy any reader of Montaigne not to put down the book at some point and say with incredulity: ‘How did he know all that about me?’ ” —Bernard Levin, The Times (London)
 
“So much have I made him my own, that it seems he is my very self.” —André Gide
 
“Here is a ‘you’ in which ‘I’ is reflected; here is where all distance is abolished.” —Stefan Zweig
 
“It is not in Montaigne but in myself that I find everything I see there.” —Blaise Pascal
 
“Upon his version of Montaigne’s Essays [Florio] exhausted his gifts and lavished his temperament. ...Turn where you will in his translation, and you will find flowers of speech.” —The Cambridge History of English and American Literature

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Product Details

ISBN-13:
9781590177341
Publisher:
New York Review Books
Publication date:
04/08/2014
Sold by:
Barnes & Noble
Format:
NOOK Book
Pages:
480
Sales rank:
582,186
File size:
2 MB

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