Peter Levi

Something Useful in the New Shakespeare

The Oxford Shakespeare

By Stanley Wells and Gary Taylor (edd)

OUP 1432pp £29.50 order from our bookshop

The formidable bulk of the new Oxford Shakespeare invites mockery, and the long time that elapsed between the publication of Volume One (the modernised text without a commentary), Volume Two (the text unmodernised but still without a commentary) which followed within months, and now the long promised third volume which has just appeared, invites suspicion and beady-eyed examination. The commentary is absolutely necessary, not only because a lot of Shakespeare is hard to understand, but because the choices made by the editors need to be defended step by step if we arc going to begin to trust their text. To this extent, the reviewers who greeted Volume One on its own with ritual salutes of praise must be considered to be charlatans.

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