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William Shakespeare Complete Works [Hardcover]

William Shakespeare , Jonathan Bate , Eric Rasmussen
3.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (54 customer reviews)
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Book Description

April 3 2007 Modern Library

Skillfully assembled by Shakespeare’s fellow actors in 1623, the First Folio was the original Complete Works. It is arguably the most important literary work in the English language. But starting with Nicholas Rowe in 1709 and continuing to the present day, Shakespeare editors have mixed Folio and Quarto texts, gradually corrupting the original Complete Works with errors and conflated textual variations.

Now Jonathan Bate and Eric Rasmussen, two of today’s most accomplished Shakespearean scholars, have edited the First Folio as a complete book, resulting in a definitive Complete Works for the twenty-first century.
Combining innovative scholarship with brilliant commentary and textual analysis that emphasizes performance history and values, this landmark edition will be indispensable to students, theater professionals, and general readers alike.

For more information on this Modern Library edition, visit

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"The endurance of Shakespeare depends not only on the felt experience of good, vivid theater, but also on dynamic scholarship that reveals his living text."
–Michael Boyd, RSC artistic director

"Timely, original, and beautifully conceived, this is a remarkable edition, one that makes Shakespeare's extraordinary accomplishment more vivid than ever."
–James Shapiro, professor, Columbia University and bestselling author of A Year in the Life of Shakespeare: 1599

"The big book is a new one-volume edition of the complete works, commissioned by the Royal Shakespeare Company and published by the Modern Library. Two eminent Shakespeareans, Jonathan Bate and Eric Rasmussen, have applied modern editing techniques and recent scholarship to correct and update the First Folio, the first collection of the plays, published in 1623…. Mr. Bate writes… a superb introduction that deals with Shakespeare and his world as well as textual questions."
The New York Times

“The excellent general introduction by Jonathan Bate and the essays and notes on each play are… a feast of literary and historical information.”
The Wall Street Journal

“I look forward to using it over many years… enjoying Jonathan Bate’s perceptive comments, trusting Eric Rasmussen’s textual scholarship.”
—Peter Holland, President of the Shakespeare Association of America, editor of Shakespeare Survey

“Bate’s edition is incomparably superior to all the rest. His knowledge of textual problems and previous commentary seems to be prodigious in its detail and thoroughness…. And his comments on individual plays are unfailingly perceptive. He’s about equally fine as scholar and critic; few excel in both roles, with their very different requirements. Bate is like an all-star shortstop who can also serve as an outstanding relief pitcher…. No other edition has ever impressed me so much.”
--Joseph Sobran, author of William Shakespeare, Alias Shakespeare: Solving the Greatest Literary Mystery of All Time

Jonathan Bate is a passionate advocate of Shakespeare and his introductions to individual plays are full of striking and convincing observations…. The scholarly apparatus is discreet, elegant and pertinent. For each play, we get a set of ‘key facts’: brief accounts of plots, dates and sources, and useful statistics…. Footnotes are found snugly and legibly at the bottom of each page….There is a universe to be found in these annotations: the Renaissance world of power and fate, sex and death, language and philosophy. Jonathan Bate and Eric Rasmussen have given us an edition full of endless fascination.”
—London Times Education Supplement

"This is a glorious edition of one of the world's most important books. It's the essential reference book for anyone who's ever been in love, felt jealousy, fear, hatred, or desire. All human life is here-and every home should have one."
–Dame Judi Dench, RSC honorary associate artist

“Anyone who wants a good single volume edition of the plays…won’t do better than this.” —The International Herald Tribune

“A magnificent new volume.” —A. N. Wilson, Daily Telegraph (UK)

“A triumphant addition to our times.” —Fiona Shaw, The Times (London)

"Thanks to Bate and Rasmussen, we now have a rendering of The Complete Works that, in a rare publishing achievement, would also give complete satisfaction to the author himself."
–Robert McCrum, The Observer

"A new and thoroughly radical edition…. The editorial decisions are argued in an impeccably informative introduction by Jonathan Bate that gives a comprehensive theatrical, social, political and biographical context to the plays. There are pithy essays, also by Bate, to introduce each play as well as exemplary notes at the foot of each page... incomparably useful ... a definitive edition."
–Richard Eyre, Sunday Telegraph

“A splendid edition. The general introduction is among the best 50-page guides to Shakespeare you could hope to find, while the short essays prefixed to each play are like the best kind of programme notes - informative, thought-provoking and humane.... The RSC's edition tells you all you need to know about the life, but also, vitally, allows you to lose yourself in the wonder of the works."
–Colin Burrow, Evening Standard

“Bate’s general introduction to Shakespeare’s life, stage and reputation is superb, and the short introductions to individual works, in particular, are among the best of their kind available.”
—Michael Dobson, The London Review of Books

“Excellent, succinct notes and introductions to each play.”
—John Carey, The Sunday Times (London)

“Professor Jonathan Bate has written thought provoking essays for each play, discussing the source material and its influence on the play as well as pointing out the familiarities [for] contemporary audiences… The glossary includes much that has been ignored in the past …. This volume is an invaluable resource to anyone interested in or simply in love with Shakespeare.” —Speech and Drama

“Bate provides excellent introductory essays to each play and his terrific introduction, simply and effectively summarizing everything you need to know about Shakespeare, man and work, is alone worth buying the edition for.” —The Daily Express (UK)

“Jonathan Bate and Eric Rasmussen have bravely gone where no Bard editors have gone before, basing the entire edition on the First Folio, the rehearsal room version authorized by actors John Hemmings and Henry Condell after Shakespeare’s death. For the first time, the Royal Shakespeare Company has been closely involved in the developing of a collected works, including photography of RSC productions and insights into staging decisions… this is Shakespeare as you like it.” —What’s On Stage

About the Author

About the Editors

Jonathan Bate is professor of Shakespeare and Renaissance literature at the University of Warwick. Widely known as a critic, award-winning biographer, and broadcaster, Bate is the author of several books on Shakespeare, including Shakespeare and Ovid and The Genius of Shakespeare, which was praised by Peter Hall, founder of the RSC, as “the best modern book on Shakespeare.”

Eric Rasmussen is professor of English at the University of Nevada. He is co-editor of the Norton Anthology of English Renaissance Drama and of the works of Christopher Marlowe in the Oxford World’s Classics series as well as individual plays in the Arden Shakespeare series, the Revels Plays series, and the Malone Society series. Since 1997, he has written the annual review of editions and textual studies for Shakespeare Survey.

The RSC (Royal Shakespeare Company) is a world-renowned ensemble theater company in Stratford and London, dedicated to bringing the works of Shakespeare and his contemporaries to a modern audience.

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Customer Reviews

Most helpful customer reviews
14 of 15 people found the following review helpful
Format:Leather Bound
I originally bought this book used and later discovered that this was the ideal situation. It is handy to have all of Shakespeare's works (plays and sonnets) under one cover, but there are several drawbacks. Each page is split into two columns, causing the plays to be read like a newspaper. Since linebreaks are important in Shakespeare (remember the iambic pentameter), some lines are too long for the margins, causing the remaining words to hover like ghosts away from the sentence.
Also, this book contains no footnotes. This is mainly how buying the individual play is superior to the collected works. Olde English isn't always intuitive, and this particular book leaves you to find out a word's meaning for yourself.
But this book certainly looks pretty on your shelf. :)
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Shakespere as it was meant to be read May 18 2002
Format:Leather Bound
This book is exactly what it claims to be: the complete works of Shakespere. I strongly disagree with the reviewer who believes this is a waste of money. It is beautifully bound, has clear type, and allows you to draw your own conclusions rather than depending on the Cliffs Note summary that a paperback single will provide you. Perhaps not for the student who needs to produce an essay by morning, it is still a lovely book that puts me in the mood for a glass of wine and a leisurely read.
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3.0 out of 5 stars Not as impressed as I wanted to be Dec 8 2013
Format:Leather Bound|Verified Purchase
I think that the price is too high for the finished product. The leather does not look real and the book is smaller than I thought.
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By bernie TOP 50 REVIEWER
This book does not contain long winded dissertations or explanations. We have no distracting, no annotations, and foot notes; in fact nothing to distract us from the pure Shakespeare experience. This book naturally has all the advantages of a physical book of which I will not go in to. Among other advantaged this volume makes a great reference. Although if find myself reading for the fun and not just a reference.

I do of course have individual copies of my favorites (some with pictures). I also have kindle versions for better or worse.

Yet you cannot have too many versions and this is a keeper.

Just a note each page has a vertical line down the center so it as like two pages. I am not sure the purpose or the advantage. And do not expect a lot of illustrations they are more like black and white pictured of old paintings.
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5.0 out of 5 stars A classical "must-read" March 18 1998
By A Customer
Format:Leather Bound
William Shakespeare is the classical master of words on whom our entire foundation of literature is based. The stories of human nature and everyday people within the guise of princes, sailors, tinkers & soldiers,noble and common men and women transcend time and the archaic language the stories are in. There is a message in each story and it seems to be that as humans, we all are more alike that we believe, that we all share a bond that is a soul bound within a mortal shell. William Shakespeare speaks to all of us across time, tells us that we are not alone and that we all share a common thread of existance in this mortal toil.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Only suitable for a book shelf Oct. 18 2002
Format:Leather Bound
If you got a copy of Shakespeare's works, you might like to be able to rely on the text it presents. That would require knowing the credentials of the editor, the currency of the editing, etc...The price is excellent - what the reader receives, well... caveat emptor.
Value to beginners: none (no background on the plays, glosses of difficult words, etc.)
Value to adv. students: none .
Value to scholars: less than none.
Judge this book by its cover: not. Attractive cover hides printed pages that appear to be facsimiles of archaic, crammed-type pages from some bygone era.
Perhaps you think, 'Well, at least it's a cheap way to get a copy of the complete plays.' A few months of reading modern, respectable editions (e.g., from Routledge/Arden, Cambridge, or Oxford) for any popular Shakespeare play will help a newcomer realize that for almost all Shakespeare plays determining what is 'the text' is a vast conundrum; nay: an oxymoron. As with many aspects of Shakespeare study, 'tis not so easy: for most plays there are multiple alternative *original sources* - differing in important ways from each other. What sources did the editor of the Gramercy edition use? Well, if the publisher does not deem it necessary even to credit the editor's name in this volume or to acknowledge how outdated the editorial work is...
A better use of your money is to buy a modern edition of single plays. Even the inexpensive Folger Library paperbacks give beginners helpful definitions for difficult words.
Read more ›
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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Readers Reviews are Not Accurate May 18 2004
By A Customer
This book was just delivered, and has NO footnotes, no introduction, no glossary as readers' reviews printed above say. They were obviously talking about a different edition.
The ISBN number on the book above matches the ISBN number on the we book received, and it contains NONE of the items discussed above. Be forewarned.
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3.0 out of 5 stars Not As Seen Oct. 11 2011
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
I was a bit disapointed that the 100 year old book (that I purchased only for the shelf) was not as seen. A new cover had been put on and it does not look 100 years old on the outside.
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Most recent customer reviews
4.0 out of 5 stars It's NOT Old English
While Shakespeare was producing much of his work hundreds of years ago, he belongs to the Early Modern era of the English Language. Read more
Published on June 11 2004
5.0 out of 5 stars Outstanding Classic Updated With Great Introductions
What is so great about this book is that the complete works of William Shakespeare are not only written, but also given extraordinary introductions to each play that are... Read more
Published on April 11 2004 by Barbara Rose
5.0 out of 5 stars A bargain at twice the price!
Quite simply the greatest writer of all time, Shakespeare belongs on every bookshelf. I have this, and it is a treasure. Read more
Published on Dec 19 2003 by Jake Phillips
5.0 out of 5 stars In Defense of Shakespeare
I must say, after reading the "review" about shakespeare,
the one discussing the "cult of shakespeare"...
What is the point of this posting? Read more
Published on Nov. 19 2003
1.0 out of 5 stars Don't let academics tell you what to like
A reviewer below states that Shakespeare's literary value is unquestioned. This is patent nonsense. Every year, untold numbers of people (students, etc. Read more
Published on June 17 2003 by Ingalls
4.0 out of 5 stars The work is unquestioned; the edition, questionable.
The very idea of reviewing or giving stars to Shakespeare in this format is superfluous: he is the epitome of English literature. Read more
Published on April 15 2003 by Bill R. Moore
5.0 out of 5 stars A true master
Few writers in history have been able to come close to matching Shakespeare's astounding flair for writing, and this volume is the perfect compliment to his talent. Read more
Published on Jan. 21 2003 by Josh
5.0 out of 5 stars great
this is a worderful book for any shakespeare fan!!
Published on Dec 6 2002
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