The Plays of Shakespeare: A Thematic Guide

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Greenwood Publishing Group, 2001 - Drama - 361 pages

Touching viewers and readers with his presentation of social, moral, and political issues, Shakespeare holds ageless and unequaled appeal primarily because of the universal themes at the heart of his dramatic works. Shakespeare scholar Victor Cahn takes a unique approach to exploring the plays by identifying and explicating the themes that recur throughout the canon. Written in lively language, each of the 35 essays explores a core theme or topic and discusses its implications in several key plays in which it figures prominently. This user-friendly guide not only allows readers to better understand the significance of concepts such as power, politics, marriage or money; the organization by theme also helps users to compare and contrast these important topics across relevant plays. Cahn draws vivid connections between related works of Shakespeare, but just as importantly, enlightens readers as to the pertinence of these themes in contemporary life.

While this thematic guide examines all of Shakespeare's plays, particular attention is devoted to those works most often read by students; the tragedies such as Romeo and Juliet, Julius Caesar, Hamlet, and Macbeth, the comedies including A Midsummer Night's Dream and Merchant of Venice, as well as the historical plays like Richard II, and the romantic works such as The Tempest. Students who wish to investigate a particular play in greater depth can refer to this book's title index to identify all citations of that work. This valuable literary resource serves myriad uses, enabling students to trace the thread of a theme, to compare its treatment in several plays, and to understand better a play, its characters, plot and language, by examining Shakespeare's central themes.

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The plays of Shakespeare: a thematic guide

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Cahn (English, Skidmore Coll.; Shakespeare the Playwright) discusses 35 recurring motifs in Shakespeare's plays, each in a different chapter and illustrated by examples from eight to ten plays ... Read full review

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Contents

Acting
1
Appearance versus Reality
9
Clerics
23
Commoners
35
Cynicism
45
Divine Right
53
Fate
63
Fathers and Daughters
71
Madness
199
Male Friendship
211
Marriage
219
Money
229
Mortality
237
Nationalistic Pride and Prejudice
245
Nature
255
Order
263

Fidelity
81
Fools
89
Forgiveness
99
Gender
107
Generations
117
Honor
127
Innocence
135
Intoxication
143
Justice
151
Language
161
Love and Romance
171
Machiavels
187
Politics
273
Power
285
Reason versus Passion
295
Revenge
305
Supernatural Phenomena
315
The Tragic Flaw
325
War
335
Conclusion
345
Further Reading
347
Index
349
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Page 192 - This is the excellent foppery of the world, that, when we are sick in fortune, — often the surfeit of our own behaviour, — we make guilty of our disasters the sun, the moon, and the stars...
Page 320 - Could you on this fair mountain leave to feed, And batten on this moor ? Ha ! have you eyes ? You cannot call it love ; for at your age The hey-day in the blood is tame, it's humble, And waits upon the judgment...
Page 65 - tis not to come; if it be not to come, it will be now ; if it be not now, yet it will come : the readiness is all : Since no man, of aught he leaves, knows, what is't to leave betimes ?
Page 91 - Give me leave. Here lies the water ; good : here stands the man ; good : If the man go to this water, and drown himself, it is, will he, nill he, he goes ; mark you that ? but if the water come to him, and drown him, he drowns not himself: argal, he that is not guilty of his own death, shortens not his own life. 2 Clo. But is this law ? 1 Clo. Ay, marry is 't ; crowner's-quest law. 2 Clo. Will you ha...
Page 242 - Give me my robe, put on my crown; I have Immortal longings in me: Now no more The juice of Egypt's grape shall moist this lip: — Yare, yare, good Iras; quick. — Methinks, I hear Antony call; I see him rouse himself To praise my noble act; I hear him mock The luck of Caesar...
Page 184 - His legs bestrid the ocean : his rear'd arm Crested the world: * his voice was propertied As all the tuned spheres, and that to friends; But when he meant to quail' and shake the orb, He was as rattling thunder.
Page 178 - My story being done, She gave me for my pains a world of sighs; She swore, in faith, 'twas strange, 'twas passing strange; Twas pitiful, 'twas wondrous pitiful.
Page 242 - Had I but died an hour before this chance, I had liv'da blessed time; for, from this instant, There's nothing serious in mortality : All is but toys : renown, and grace, is dead ; The wine of life is drawn, and the mere lees Is left this vault to brag of.
Page 280 - So, when this loose behaviour I throw off, And pay the debt I never promised, By how much better than my word I am, By so much shall I falsify men's hopes ; And, like bright metal on a sullen ground, My reformation, glittering o'er my fault, Shall show more goodly and attract more eyes Than that which hath no foil to set it off.

About the author (2001)

VICTOR L. CAHN is Professor of English at Skidmore College, where he teaches courses in the history of drama, Shakespeare, and modern drama. Dr. Cahn's book Shakespeare the Playwright: A Companion to the Complete Tragedies, Histories, Comedies, and Romances (Greenwood 1991 & 1996) was selected as an Outstanding Academic Book by Choice. He has also written studies of contemporary British dramatists Tom Stoppard and Harold Pinter, and his numerous articles and reviews have appeared in such diverse publications as Modern Drama, The Literary Review, The New York Times, and Variety. An actor by avocation, Dr. Cahn is the author of several produced plays.

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