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Shakespeare: The Invention of the Human

4.02  ·  Rating details ·  3,120 ratings  ·  197 reviews
"The indispensable critic on the indispensable writer." -Geoffrey O'Brien, New York Review of Books. A landmark achievement as expansive, erudite, and passionate as its renowned author, Shakespeare: The Invention of the Human is the culmination of a lifetime of reading, writing about, and teaching Shakespeare. Preeminent literary critic-and ultimate authority on the wester ...more
Paperback, 745 pages
Published September 1st 1999 by The Berkley Publishing Group (first published 1998)
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4.02  · 
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 ·  3,120 ratings  ·  197 reviews

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Jul 05, 2007 rated it did not like it
Shelves: ick
I probably should try to like Harold Bloom better, since he seems to bring people to Shakespeare who wouldn't normally read him. But I just can't.
I have to say I found this book one of the silliest things I've ever read. Bloom's suppositions that Shakespeare invented the human personality are just ludicrous. Mostly, I think he gets away with some of his more grandiose theorems because he's either preaching to the choir or to those not informed enough to know better. But really, people didn't sel
M. D.  Hudson
Jun 03, 2012 rated it it was ok
I dimly remember when this book came out (1998) how big and important and controversial it was supposed to be. Given Harold Bloom’s prodigious reputation, I was afraid of the thing, and so avoided it, figuring it to be fraught with lit theory of the densest sort. A couple years ago I found a copy dirt-cheap at some thrift store or another and its fat binding has glowered at me from the shelves since. A few weeks ago I decided to give it a try and found it to be a piece o’ cake, mostly.

To be fai
Bobby Bermea
Jun 15, 2010 rated it it was amazing
Brilliant, infuriating, dazzling, provocative, maddening, thrilling and explosive. This book is not wonderful because Bloom is always right but because he always excites and challenges. Always. Page after page after page he brashly, almost recklessly tosses out hypotheses, makes thundering assertions as though they just came down from Mount Sinai, dismisses entire populations of artists, assumes fantastic responsibilities in society not just for the artist but for the critic and generally makes ...more
Dec 04, 2007 rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: rosalind. falstaff. hamlet. hal. you, if you weren't already mentioned.
I think I like Harold Bloom even more now that you're not supposed to like him because he's a snob/misogynist/old white guy/whatever the reason is you're not supposed to like him, but this was the first book of literary theory I ever read (I was 15), so it holds a special place in my brainheart.

It also holds a special place in my brainheart because Bloom is pretty much right on about everything he's saying in regards to Shahkespeare's invention of modern personality, and because he unabashedly p
Dec 19, 2012 marked it as to-read
Yes, I'm going to read Harold Bloom's book putting forth the preposterous notion that humanity didn't exist before Shakespeare. Haters gonna hate. What, jealous?
Leonard Gaya
Jan 01, 2014 rated it it was ok
I must humbly confess that I had to stop halfway this heavy slumber-driven brick-book. In the end, I am not totally sure whether or not Shakespeare did "invent the human" as the title grandiosely seems to claim. However, I am quite sure that, with a few lines, like those spoken by Holofernes in "Love's labour's lost", he did invent Harold Bloom.
Feb 04, 2008 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: humans, and very mature chimpanzees.
The subtitle deliberately goads anyone who came of age after 1960 to pull the Eurocentric card. And given the amount of time Bloom has spent of late on a personal crusade against the Harry Potter series, you almost wonder if Bloom has landed a few steps to the wrong side of the line between provocative and senile. (It is puzzling to say the least that such a brilliant critic feels the need to officially weigh in -- vocally and repeatedly -- on an already critically agreed-upon observation about ...more
Jul 06, 2017 rated it really liked it
Recommended to Dolors by: Helle
Shelves: read-in-2017
A work in progress that will probably last several years, but I am quite enjoying Bloom's pompous, sometimes even overblown essays! :)
John Porter
Jan 25, 2008 rated it liked it
Glad it's on my shelf...but depressed about it at the same time. A big hunk of what Bloom is trying pass off as revelatory is more like a response to younger literary critics and their beliefs. (And it's kind of charmingly ironic that Bloom attacks others for their blind devotion to narrow paradigms in a book where he spends a big glob of time psychologically fawning over Falstaff.) It's not really a book about Shakespeare; it's a book about what Harold Bloom wants us to know about Shakespeare a ...more
Gustav Klimt
Dec 26, 2008 rated it did not like it
I hate to call any book worthless, but I'm having a hard time thinking of anything of value in this narcissistic bore of a tome. Bloom has done absolutely no research on Early Modern culture, has no concept of the current scholarly discussion in Shakespeare studies, and his readings of the plays amount--basically--to platitudinous gut-reactions. Sure,he has his insights here and there, but the layperson that thinks this is in any way a great contribution to Shakespeare studies is being hoodwinke ...more
Jan 14, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: thesis, non-fiction
Read only the chapters relevant for my research, but *thumbs up emoji*

• The answer to the question “Why Shakespeare?” must be “Who else is there?”
vi macdonald
Holy crap. Where to even begin with Bloom?
The guy is essentially a literary theory has-been who made his name by developing a style of literary criticism and theory based on Freudian principles and ideas that made him a big deal in the 80s but these days makes him seem like a massive joke.
This book is essentially 700+ pages of Bloom trying to reclaim the spotlight through what amounts to a string of wild assertions, pseudo-intellectualist pandering, and some of the most blatant contributions to
Ryan Creel
Mar 04, 2010 rated it it was amazing
I've read this book a couple of times, and though my criticism of it has evolved over time, I still love it because, for me, it was the first book that made Shakespeare truly accessible. Along the way to earning my English degree, I came across some legitimate criticisms of the author, most of which came from professors teaching theory classes, and they aren't without merit. For one, the fact that Professor Bloom cites nothing, seemingly wishing the reader to believe every notion in the text is ...more
The Boston Globe put it accurately: "For all its huge ambition, this book will probably prove most useful as a companion to the plays [and:] may find its longest shelf life in the homes of theatergoers who crave a literate friend who's still awake to chew things over with."
Carol Storm
Sep 21, 2017 rated it really liked it
If you can overlook a few tiresome idiosyncrasies, the appalling sentimentality about Falstaff and the callousness towards young women like Jessica in THE MERCHANT OF VENICE, this is a wonderful introduction to Shakespeare and his plays. All 37 essays are exciting and fun to read.
David Withun
Jun 17, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: literature
In his play-by-play commentary on the works of Shakespeare, Bloom avers that William Shakespeare is the one who invented us. Not that he is the created of the human race, but something close to it; he is, says Bloom, the one who introduced to us the idea of effecting change within ourselves by self-overhearing. In addition, he argues that the most remarkable representatives of this invention of the human are Sir John Falstaff and Hamlet, the melancholy prince of Denmark. Both of them, he says, r ...more
Mar 04, 2014 rated it did not like it
Calling it - too cursory and too much blockquoting; not enough academic commentary that I didn't/couldn't glean for myself from the text.

Read this book if you don't plan on actually reading the plays themselves: Bloom covers plot and middle school level analysis. And he's obsessed with Falstaff. To an unhealthy degree.

It's just lazy writing from an academic.
Jan 28, 2008 rated it it was ok
This author loves himself and consistently rips apart works by female playwrights. However, yes he does know his stuff when it comes to good old Willy Shakespeare.
Bud Smith
May 31, 2019 rated it really liked it
Read MacBeth today and wanted to see what Harold Bloom said - so today I just read the section of this book on MacBeth.

Harold Bloom said that MacBeth had epileptic fits and had psychic visions because of them. He also said Lady MacBeth had a previous husband and a baby with that previous husband and the baby died. Harold Bloom also says that Hamlet is shooting blanks or has erectile dysfunction and can’t father children that’s why he kills all McDuff’s kids. Harold Bloom thinks the witches are
May 14, 2018 rated it liked it
Overwritten, repetitive, disorganized, eyeroll-inducing, and borderline illegible in some places, but brilliantly smart and charmingly earnest. Don’t read it as a book; read one essay after an interaction with the corresponding play.
Aug 05, 2017 rated it really liked it
SO. Am I convinced that Shakespeare ~invented~ human nature? Not fully. So forget about me being convinced that he invented human nature without the squiggly lines around the word invented. BUT did I still enjoy this book? Yes.

I mean look; Harold Bloom just loves Shakespeare. I also love Shakespeare, although probably not as much as Harold Bloom does, because I think probably nobody ever has. I think he refers to like five different plays as his personal favourite/most-loved/most-enjoyed. But li
Jim Leckband
Sep 24, 2017 rated it really liked it
I mark this as read, though it is continuously being re-read as I continue to re-read the plays. I have no problem with his "Invention of the Human" shtick. What I do like is that he is a tremendous font of things to think about after I've read the plays and he is tremendously fair-minded in his interpretations. I don't always agree with him and the Falstaff crush does get a little old, but hey, that's the price to pay when reading someone's opinions.
a very dense and complicated series of essays on each play.
9/18- Othello
Apr 08, 2012 rated it really liked it
More notes from my Harold Bloom period:

“In The Birth of Tragedy, (1873), Nietzsche memorably got Hamlet right, seeing him not as a man who thinks too much but rather as the man who thinks too well:

‘For the rapture of the Dionysian state with its annihilation of the ordinary bounds and limits of existence contains, while it lasts, a lethargic element in which all personal experiences of the past become immersed. This chasm of oblivion separates the worlds of everyday reality and of Dionysian rea
Aug 11, 2011 rated it really liked it
His premise, that Shakespeare around 1595 invented our entire modern understanding of psychology, personality, and identity, is a little farfetched. And also not very thoroughly explained. Yes, Shakespeare was the first--and very possibly the best--at representing life-sized, dynamic characters, but that doesn't mean that humans were drastically different before 1595, just as we weren't two-dimensional with limbs askew, mismatched shadows, and infants who looked like tiny adults prior to the Ita ...more
Mario Russo
Sep 20, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Even tho I heard about Bloom from a long time, this is the first book I finished, after all Shakespeare plays and a couple other books on the bard. I've found "Shakespeare after all" easier to follow. Even if you disagree with Bloom you gotta respect the amount of experience, insight and knowledge the man has on the subject.
Sarah Holz
Sep 04, 2012 rated it it was ok

Some flashes of insight here and there, but Marjorie Garber's Shakespeare After All is much more interesting. And like many, I disagree with the premise of even someone as great as Will "inventing the human."
John Pistelli
Mostly read late 1990s, consulted often thereafter.
Lukas Sotola
Harold Bloom's central thesis in this book is that Shakespeare invented the way we now think about being human. Shakespeare discovered "much that was already there but to which we did not have access," to use Bloom's words from a lecture he once gave. In my humble opinion and with all due respect, that does not seem to me to be a thesis that you argue in a work of literary criticism; it is a thesis that belongs in a textbook on the history of psychology or philosophy. How can you possibly argue ...more
Brent M.  Jones
Mar 02, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2018
Harold Bloom is a well-known American literary critic, and Sterling Professor of Humanities at Yale University. He has written over 40 books and often it is his opinions that are most interesting and overshadow the book itself. It is clear, from all that he has written, that Shakespeare has a special almost scared place in his own literary hierarchy.

Bloom in the book gives analysis and overview of each of Shakespeare's 38 plays. Shakespeare’s characters in these plays reveal what it is to be hum
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Bloom is a literary critic, and currently a Sterling Professor of the Humanities at Yale University. Since the publication of his first book in 1959, Bloom has written more than 20 books of literary criticism, several books discussing religion, and one novel. He has edited hundreds of anthologies.
“...the representation of human character and personality remains always the supreme literary value, whether in drama, lyric or narrative. I am naive enough to read incessantly because I cannot, on my own, get to know enough people profoundly enough.” 20 likes
“We can be reluctant to recognize how much of our culture was literary, particularly now that so many of the institutional purveyors of literature happily have joined in proclaiming its death. A substantial number of Americans who believe they worship God actually worship three major literary characters: the Yahweh of the J Writer (earliest author of Genesis, Exodus, Numbers), the Jesus of the Gospel of Mark, and Allah of the Koran.” 10 likes
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