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on January 29, 2008
in response to 'Much Better to Use Than Norton', Harold Bloom wrote that the New Oxford edition was the worst, I don't know which version this is based on.
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on February 24, 2004
I bought this edition after using the Norton in my last semester Shakespeare class, and have found my reading of the plays for this semester's class much more enjoyable. The format is beautiful: the pages are thicker, lie flatter, and hold more content. Unlike the Norton, whose footnote numbers interrupt the reading of the text, forcing you to lose momemtum, the Riverside's are unobtrusive, available if you need them and when you want them. The introductions are prescient, interesting, and well-written. The text itself is more accurate, also. Harold Bloom, for example, in his introduction to The Invention of The Human, says he uses the Riverside and Arden, and that the Oxford (upon which the Norton is based) tries to publish the worst possible poetry. This I found amusing, if not also accurate.
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on April 7, 2003
I haven't read the other completed works extensively (although the Bevington and Norton editions seem to be the ones most highly praised), but the footnote format of the Riverside is so irritating that I'm selling the copy I bought last year for the first half of my 2nd-year Shakespeare survey course, and picking up either the Norton or the Bevington (although I have yet to personally see Bevington's footnote format). As was stated before, here are the problems with the annotation/footnotes:
The lines are numbered in a standard "every-fifth-line" format. This would be fine if we as readers weren't required to know exactly what line we're on at all times, but the footnotes demand this.
For example:
"Therefore thy threat'ning colors now wind up" is King John, V.ii.73. Unless you are counting the actual number of each line in your head as you read (impossible, it seems) you will only know we're on line 73 when you look over to the right, see lines 70 and 75 marked, and then quickly estimate/count the lines in between. The problem is the note at the bottom, which simply says:
73. wind: furl.
Like the earlier reviewer said, to figure out whether or not a footnote exists, you must read a line or two, determine what line number(s) you've just read through a line-counting process, and then go down to the footnotes to see if anything matches. Once you've matched the line number to the footnote, you have to go back to the line and find the word that's footnoted, because it's not marked in any way.
The Norton method (while some find it intrusive) is certainly easier for students, and the Bevington method sounds interesting (giving the line numbers in the margin only where there is a footnote existsing). The Riverside is just too irritating for most students to use.
Some say this method slows the reading process down, and forces one to go through the text more slowly, thus giving a closer reading. To this I'd say that the process of line-counting and stopping every 2-3 lines to "check" for footnotes that may not exist (besides the process of word-matching once a footnote is found) perverts the close reading just as much or moreso than any sort of footnotes condusive to easier, faster reading ever could.
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on June 18, 2002
My favorite part of acting are the the little rituals that ALL actors have. As a young actor, and one who hopes to focus mainly on the classical stage, my most important ritual is reading the play for the first time, unencumbered by ideas of "How am I going to do this?" I like to sit with a nice stogie and a drink and read the thing for all that's there. Not just my part. That being said. I love this edition of Shakespeare more than any other. It seems to me to be fairly close to the first folio and has a good deal of notes, while not too intrusive in the flow of reading. It feels like a great religious tome. And I hauled it all over London for a summer for an added workout. Great!!
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on March 31, 2001
As an actor, director, and scholar, I must say that The Riverside Shakespeare is the most complete Shakespeare collection on the market. It is an excellent buy for anyone who will be studying the plays in depth, since it gives background in the introduction as well as extensive notes to the text. This text clarifies some tricky questions about the Bard's works. Its value lies in the careful attention to detail, but this does mean that the reader looking for specific elements will have to sort through a wealth of information -- not necessarily a bad thing, yes? I highly recommend this to anyone serious about Shakespeare.
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on February 14, 2001
I was introduced to the Riverside Shakespeare for my undergraduate Shakespeare class and have used it in every semester since (both undergrad and grad). It provides a complete collection of the Bard's works with wonderfully enlightening notes and glosses. The essays that introduce each section provide readers with some of the historical and cultural influences on the plays and poems at hand.
This work, as others have noted, is not portable so if you're looking to read Shakespeare on the beach you might want a different edition. However, you won't find an edition as well put together as this.
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on September 25, 2000
This one-volume edition of Shakespeare's works is the most complete I found on the market: it includes "The Two Noble Kinsmen", Shakespeare's addition to "Sir Thomas More" (with photographical reproduction of the pages believed to be in his handwrite), the currently hot debated poem "A Funeral Elegy by W. S." and, above all, "The Reign of King Edward III", a new play recently accepted in the canon by many authoritative editors (Arden, Cambridge, Oxford). The text of each work is carefully edited and accompanied by helpful glossarial notes, a textual discussion with short bibliography, and an impressive collation which allows the reader to find variant readings and emendations. An exhaustive critical introduction precedes each play and poem, dealing with authorship, date, sources, textual differences between quarto and folio texts, and of course the principal thematic issues. What makes this a superb edition - and indeed a real "companion" to Shakespeare studies! - is the great amount of subsidiary material, including a general introduction - focusing on Shakespeare's life, art, language, style, and on the Elizabethan historical and theatrical background - and a series of useful essays on various themes: critical approaches to the plays and poems, philological issues, history of the plays on the stage, television and cinema. There are also many interesting documents, synoptic tables, glossaries, indexes, illustrated tables (both coloured and b&w) , the reproduction of the introductory pages of the First Folio of 1623, and a rich bibliography. I personally consider this book a must have for every teacher, scholar, or simply amateur of the greatest of all poets. Buy it!
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on June 21, 2000
While I sympathize somewhat with the review below -- the introductions do quibble a bit over the differences between Folio and Quarto versions, the exact source material etc. -- I found this to be an excellent version of the complete works. The essay before each play is very helpful toward understanding the literary context of the play--they _do_ talk about the characters and the action of the play, in a way that nicely complements the text. The illustrations (some black and white, some color) are also interesting and helpful. The book contains both a general introduction, which is accessible, if slightly daunting, to a reader who might not be intimately familiar with all of the plays, serving to excite interest at least. It also contains an essay on 20th century Shakespeare criticism, which introduces many of the newer movements in Shakespeare criticism that are not included in the general introduction (which focuses more on the Elizabethan historical period, and more immediate reactions to the plays). The footnotes, while they are not indicated on the line itself, are located on the same page. In looking at several other editions, I found that footnotes were sometimes actually endnotes--i.e. located in one section at the end of the play, which would be very disruptive to reading. Happily, this is not the case in this edition.
The book, as the title claims, includes all of Shakespeare's plays, Sonnets, and poems. The appendices include many other interesting tidbits that help shine some light on old Billy's life, including his will, in which he enigmatically bequeathed a "second-best bed" to his wife. Other documents are included, often with explanations to help the reader to understand (as the documents are printed verbatim, the Elizabethan spelling and punctuation is a slight impediment).
Overall, I found this to be the best of the paperback and hardcover editions I examined.
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on April 17, 1999
This book has useful (though not terribly complete) introductions to each of the plays, focusing mainly on comparing various Folio and Quarto editions of the plays. It also contains some nice pictures, though I wish the Latin in them were translated or shown at a legible size. It has very nice appendicies nothing the first appearances of all the characters in the plays, and a timeline showing what historical events were occuring in relation to works written by Shakespeare and events in his life, as well as to plays by other playwrights and other literature produced at that time. The pages are relatively thin and the print small. However (this referes to the '74 edition, maybe they have changed it since then) the plays are a royal pain to read. The pages are about a foot high and the notes are at the bottom. There is no marking to indicate whether a line has a note, so the reader must read a line or two, glance down at the notes, read another few lines, look at the notes again, and so on. Were it not for this major annoyance, this would be a very good (and very complete) edition of Shakespeare's works.
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on September 15, 1998
This is one of the best Shakespeare collections today. It contains all of the plays and sonnets, plus the poems that the Bard wrote. Each piece is introduced by a scholar who tells the history of each play, gives a synopsis of the action, and analyzes major themes as they develop through the plays. The scholars also connect Shakespeare's work to that of other writers' of his time. This is a good reference for anyone who is studying Shakespeare or who just loves to read his work.
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