William Empson: Essays on Shakespeare

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Overview

At the time of his death in 1984, the poet and critic William Empson was preparing and revising a collection of his essays on Shakespeare. This collection edited by David Pirie, is a book which the literary world has wanted for over half a century. Here, in a single volume, are major readings of Hamlet and Macbeth; a witty and sometimes impassioned defence of Falstaff, and a new piece on the architecture of the Globe theatre and other Renaissance playhouses, in which Empson explores the problems that the design of contemporary stages posed for a working playwright; there are also essays on the narrative poems, A Midsummer Night's Dream and the last plays. The essays demonstrate the subtlety and agility of Empson's mind, as well as his remarkable breadth of knowledge, while the almost racy wit of his informal prose style argues for a literary criticism which should never become solemn if it is to be truly serious.
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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
'Academic scholars may bar his way, but Empson wheedles past with his charm and common sense.' The Times Literary Supplement

'Empson was a professor, but he had all the qualities that academics are often accused of lacking: he was humane, intense, eccentric, passionately hostile to Christianity, never dull, and very very clever … The blurb calls this book … a book which the literary world has wanted for half a century, and for once I think the publisher is not exaggerating. Today as much as ever, literary criticism needs its William Empsons.' The Spectator

Library Journal
Before his death in 1984 Empson revised and expanded these essays, all previously published. In them he argues that the ``mysteries'' and ``inconsistencies'' found in Shakespeare's works are examples of ambiguity, a dramatic shorthand that assumes a universally shared set of perceptions. Empson perceives Shakespeare's plays not as self-contained but as open-ended, dependent as much on what the audience brings to them as on what the author offers. Although his seminal treatment ( Seven Types of Ambiguity , 1930) is perhaps his most cohesive, this varied collection is recommended as a cold dose of common sense much to be desired in the sometimes fevered world of Shakespearean scholarship. James Stephenson, Gelman Lib., George Washington Univ., Washington, D.C.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780521311502
  • Publisher: Cambridge University Press
  • Publication date: 5/28/1986
  • Edition description: New Edition
  • Pages: 260
  • Product dimensions: 5.43 (w) x 8.50 (h) x 0.59 (d)

Table of Contents

Preface; Sources and acknowledgements; 1. The narrative poems; 2. Falstaff; 3. Hamlet; 4. Macbeth; 5. The Globe theatre; 6. Fairy flight in A Midsummer Night's Dream; 7. Hunt the symbol; Select bibliography.
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