Nicolas Brannon's Reviews > The Tragedy of Arthur

The Tragedy of Arthur by Arthur Phillips
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Mar 06, 2012

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An amazing undertaking by Arthur Phillips which he accomplishes admirably. The novel's conceit is that it is an edition of a previously unknown Shakespeare play discovered by Phillips' fictional father, a Shakespeare nut and professional forger. The first half of the book is this edition's Introduction, in which Phillips tells the story of the play's appearance: his father's "discovery" of it, Phillips' own wavering doubts about its authenticity, similarities between the play and his own life, and the authentication process undertaken by Random House. The second half of the book is the play itself. That's right--this book is half novella, half 5 act Shakespearean verse tragedy. Phillips seems to have done an amazing amount of research for this book and replicates Shakespeare admirably. At one point, one of the fictional authenticating Shakespeare scholars claims that not one word appears in the play that is not also used elsewhere in Shakespeare, and that all of the play's unusual phrases can be found elsewhere in the canonical works. If that's true, this is a brilliant achievement in technical skill and scholarship by Phillips. This book is the semi-autobiographical novel turned on its head and done very well.
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