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Shakespeare: The Invention of the Human

4.03  ·  Rating details ·  3,347 ratings  ·  226 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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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 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. ...more
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
Roy Lotz
Dec 26, 2019 rated it really liked it
This book is not quite as absurd as its title would seem to indicate. If anybody worshipped Shakespeare enough to think that the Bard literally did invent humanity, it would be Bloom. But Bloom’s primary thesis is the only slightly less grandiose claim that Shakespeare, by creating the most persuasively realistic mode of representing personality, shaped our ideas of what it means to be human. This at least falls within the realm of physical possibility.

I quite like the idea of approaching Shakes
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? ...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
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! :) ...more
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
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." ...more
vi macdonald
Jul 16, 2016 rated it did not like it
Just a load of shit, really.
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?”
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
Oct 28, 2020 rated it really liked it
I read Bloom's book as I made my way through the plays, then went back and finished the introductory and coda sections.

This is an often brilliant, infuriating book - penetrating at times, and absolutely hamhanded. Bloom cannot, CANNOT, get through any of the plays without bringing up the character of Falstaff, and comparing any character represented to him. But it is not Falstaff as he is on the page, but the Falstaff that Bloom carries in his head, as much embodied by Ralph Richardson and enli
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.
Jun 03, 2021 rated it liked it
I feel like we as a species have moved past Harold Bloom
Dec 30, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: shakespeare
I read to Othello in 1998, then picked it up recently as I was reading through Shakespeare. Can't remember 1998 much, but it's been brilliant since I picked it back up. Feel like I'll read the chapter on whatever play I read in the future, for a while. ...more
Timothy Koh
Jul 18, 2019 rated it it was ok
Recommends it for: no one
Bloom is a bit of a funky character to me and I approached this book with plenty of excitement but also plenty of caution. A full 700 pager with 4 essays and one essay per Shakespeare play sounded too good to resist, and I made a purchase in hopes of learning something new. Alas, in this front, I was very much mistaken. What originally began as a project to read all four general essays and each on the plays I am familiar with became a short-lived attempt to scamper my way through the undergrowth ...more
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. ...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.
David Withun
Jun 17, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: literature
Alex McVeigh
Oct 30, 2019 rated it liked it
Good read on Shakespeare's entire body of work, though I admit I skipped the chapters on the plays I haven't read. The author adores Shakespeare, and credits him with literally inventing our concept of what a human is today, which might be a little far-fetched, but makes an enjoyable read.

I did find myself more interested in the historical aspects of the plays, when revisions took place, did Shakespeare write the Ur-Hamlet, those types of ones, rather than reading about how Hamlet is more human
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.
a very dense and complicated series of essays on each play.
9/18- Othello
Kathleen M
Oct 08, 2020 rated it it was amazing
You may be too busy to read him right now but he's worth the wait ...more
Feb 07, 2021 rated it it was amazing
Reading this book is a marathon experience. The final third of it was really a slog for me. This is a play-by-play commentary on Shakespeare, in chronological order. It’s only for fervent fans of the Bard and the Bloom. This work did, I’m pleased to say, finish very strongly. I enjoyed Boom’s guidance through the Henry VIII plays—much more than anticipated—and his closing comments were fabulous.
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
Stephen Kelly
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
Mar 25, 2013 rated it it was ok
Blooms these is that Shakespeare was unique in intellect, originality and power of creation. He coined the term 'personality' (tension between person and personal ideal). Very vitalistic.
He was not a Christian, but an adept of universalism, with a nihilist sublahyer. He created a own kind Bible and founded man as we know him now
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Harold Bloom was an American literary critic and the Sterling Professor of Humanities at Yale University. Since the publication of his first book in 1959, Bloom has written more than forty books of literary criticism, several books discussing religion, and one novel. He edited hundreds of anthologies.

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