The Oxford Shakespeare by Stanley Wells and Gary Taylor (edd) - review by Peter Levi

Peter Levi

Something Useful in the New Shakespeare

The Oxford Shakespeare


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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.

Now that we have Volume Three, it turns out to contain only strictly textual arguments and arguments about authenticity. What the head editor Stanley Wells calls his 'glossarial commentary' remains unpublished; no announcement of its publication has been made. So the Oxford Shakespeare alone, although it extends to three massive

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