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What makes Shakespeare great? Why do we still read and perform his works? In this deft, witty, and unpretentiously short book, David Bevington argues that Shakespeare continues to live among us today because his representations of the human condition are believable, endearing and touchingly human. The book is structured around Shakespeare's arc of human life from infancy and childhood to adulthood, advancing age and eventual death, as set out by Jaques in the so-called 'Seven Ages of Man' speech from As You Like It. Each stage in the life cycle acts as a lens through which the reader can view Shakespeare's major works. The result is a dazzling series of explorations on childhood, sibling rivalry, courtship, the competition of sons with their fathers, career choices and ambitions, disillusionment and loss of traditional faith, marriage, jealousy, midlife crisis, ageing fathers worrying about their daughters' marrying, retirement, and so onward to 'second childishness and mere oblivion'. Bevington reveals that Shakespeare wrote not just about human experience, but from human experience. His works represent a deeply humane portrait of humankind, and of the author himself, in a series of compelling dramatic representations. This is a virtuoso performance by an eminent scholar, widely noted for his great gifts of explication and for his mastery of accessible prose.
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Table of Contents

1. All the World's a Stage: Poetry and Theatre. 2. Creeping Like Snail: Childhood, Education, Early Friendship, Sibling Rivalries. 3. Sighing Like Furnace: Courtship and Sexual Desire. 4. Full of Strange oaths and Bearded Like the Pard: The Coming of Age of the Male. 5. Jealous in Honor: Love and Friendship in Crisis. 6. Wise Saws: Political and Social Disillusionment, Humankind's Relationship to the Divine, and Philosophical Skepticism. 7. Modern Instances: Misogyny, Jealousy, Pessimism, and Midlife Crisis. 8. The Lean and Slippered Pantaloon: Aging Fathers and their Daughters.

About the Author

David Bevington is Professor of English and of Comparative Literature (with a special interest in literature and music), also in the Committee on General Studies, and Phyllis Fay Horton Professor in the Humanities at the University of Chicago since 1967. His numerous publications include the Arden Shakespeare edition of Troilus and Cressida (1998), a critical edition of John Lyly's Endymion (1588), The Jacobean Court Masque (1998). He has recently published on the motif of characters asleep onstage in medieval and Tudor drama. He is senior editor in a team of four editors preparing The Norton Anthology of Renaissance Drama (2002?) and is one of the three senior editors of an edition of The Complete Works of Ben Jonson, to be published by CUP in 2003 in multiple volumes. He is also a senior editor of the Revels series, and is the senior editor of a relatively new series of Revels student editions.


"David Bevington's knowledge of Shakespeare is formidable. In this wonderful new book, Bevington uses the "seven ages of man" speech from As You Like It to weave together Shakespeare's plays and poems with what is known of Shakespeare's life." Barbara Mowat, Folger Shakespeare Institute "This is a book from [...] one of the great Shakespeare scholars of his generation. The book is well-written, at once lively and learned, engaging and informative. It is perfectly designed to help non-specialist readers enjoy Shakespeare's plays better and yet it is also rich with insights that will challenge the specialist reader." David Scott Kastan, Columbia University "Recommended for all public and academic libraries in need of fresh introductory materials on Shakespeare." Library Journal "Essential. A must for lower-amd upper-division undergraduates; a pleasure for graduate students through faculty and for general readers." Choice.

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