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TOPIC: New Oxford Shakespeare--Thoughts?

New Oxford Shakespeare--Thoughts? 8 months 4 weeks ago #7409

  • Cory Howell
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A couple months ago, I received my copy of the New Oxford Shakespeare, which had gotten quite a bit of press attention a couple months before its release, due mainly to the editors' decision to include "co-authors" (Marlowe, Peele, etc.) along with Shakespeare's name on several plays.

I've been digging into the NOS here and there over the past couple months since I received my copy, and even though I am impressed with the scope of the work, it's not my favorite edition of the Complete Works. I think the Norton Shakespeare far surpasses the New Oxford, as far as annotated editions go. The introductions to the plays in the Norton are very well written essays on the plays. Meanwhile, the Oxford editors chose in this edition to present collections of quotes to introduce each play, so each play comes with what the editors call a "bricolage," that shows a glimpse of the spectrum of criticism on the plays. An interesting feature, but not as satisfying for this reader as a well written essay.

The oddest feature to my way of thinking is the introduction of Performance Notes, which present options for possible actions or attitudes to accompany certain lines. For example, "Hamlet might speak his first words aside to himself, to the audience, in the hearing of all, or directly, and only, to the King..." As interesting as some of these suggestions may be, I hardly think that they are comprehensive in any way; surely one of the great things about acting Shakespeare throughout history has been the almost infinite variety in the way different actors can approach characters and gestures. For an editor to simply pick two or three of his/her favorite line readings strikes me as interesting, but fairly useless.

I'm not completely disappointed by the NOS, mind you. I just think it doesn't quite compare to the Norton, or Bevington's Complete Works. If anyone else has encountered the NOS, I'd love to hear your thoughts!
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