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Friday, July 8, 2016

Shakespeare in Art

In this year marking the 400th anniversary of Shakespeare’s death, I have posted about a number of books about the playwright and his plays and poetry.  Today I thought I’d feature the Shakespeare book from Schatje’s Shelves which I probably browse most often:  Shakespeare in Art by Jane Martineau et al.

Here’s a summary of the book from the flyleaf: 
“Shakespeare is one of the most influential writers of all time, but it was the rediscovery of his work in the eighteenth century that was a key factor in launching the Romantic movement.  At the height of the Shakespeare craze of the early nineteenth century a handful of plays--Hamlet, Othello, Macbeth, King Lear and Romeo and Juliet--created the mindset of a generation, affecting every artist, writer, composer and politician in Europe. Shakespeare in Art tells the remarkable story of how one of many Elizabethan dramatists, for centuries virtually unknown outside England, became a truly European author, inspiring German nationalist thinkers, French dramatists, Italian opera composers, Russian novelists and painters everywhere. Everyone agreed that the plays were untranslatable and yet everyone tried to translate them.
“Shakespeare in Art looks especially at the huge variety of painters who made Shakespeare's extremes of passion, his evocations of nature, his spirit world and his eternally familiar characters the subjects of their own work. Also explored is the influence of Shakespeare on eighteenth- and nineteenth-century literature, theatre, music and printmaking.”

The book includes 11 in-depth essays by ten different contributors. One of my favourite is “Shakespeare and Music” by John Warrack (pp. 40 – 47).  But the highlight of the book is 88 full-page, colour reproductions of artworks.  Each plate is accompanied by particulars about the plate and an explanatory text.  21 of Shakespeare’s plays are represented. 

This is a book to treasure and savour.