Saturday, April 26, 2008

On reading Stanley Wells ...

His introduction to:



(compact edition).

In the frantic moments of reading here and there, getting things down on video and audio, finishing reading texts to deadlines and generally surviving the departure of journeys (not to mention it is Easter here in Romania this week) - I took time out yesterday to sit by the Bega River and read through the 'General Introduction' Stanley Wells wrote for the Oxford Shakespeare back in 1988.

It stands up well to time.

I have to admit it did a great job in calming me down - of giving a firm platform on which to stage the plays (pun intended) and of reminding me I am here for pleasure ... this is not a duty, not work.

It is a hefty volume - I'd borrowed it from the local British Library (never got around to buying it - although I am thinking of getting my own edition, in the spirit of trophy hunting) and had it balanced on my knees as I sat on a variety of benches - moving with the sun, 'sometime too hot', 'often ... dimmed'.

The local pigeons seemed interested - especially one with a deformed foot, toes sliced off, which I thought was distinctly Shakespearean - several blackbirds took the opportunity to berate me; the sparrows: Tribal.

Wells has a clear style - and his facts are mainly just that - not an over extended 'Life'; firm-based supposition when appropriate; a good section on the theatre buildings and their relationship to the plays.

This last point again struck home - and the assertion that "the theatre" was Shakespeare's, "greatest collaborator," and, "encouraged his genius to flourish," found a warm welcome in this bosom.

Wells also provided useful information on the printing history of the plays and on the editing process - that was neither excessive nor unfitting for anyone coming to any edition of the works of Shakespeare either for the first time, or even after some acquaintance.

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