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The Genius of Shakespeare

4.07  ·  Rating details ·  230 ratings  ·  35 reviews
Judgements about the quality of works of art begin in opinion. But for the last two hundred years only the wilfully perverse (and Tolstoy) have denied the validity of the opinion that Shakespeare was a genius.

Who was Shakespeare? Why has his writing endured? And what makes it so endlessly adaptable to different times and cultures? Exploring Shakespeare's life, including qu
Paperback, Picador Classics, 432 pages
Published April 7th 2016 by Picador (first published 1997)
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4.07  · 
Rating details
 ·  230 ratings  ·  35 reviews

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John Purcell
Jun 05, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
 This is a very readable, thought provoking book. It is certainly a book for lifelong lovers of Shakespeare and yet, is also, due to Jonathan Bate's enthusiasm and his light-hearted approach, a perfect introduction to the life and work of the Bard for those who have decided its time to know more.
Oct 13, 2014 marked it as wish-list  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Bettie☯ by: FutureLearn
The main educator on Shakespeare and his World, The University of Warwick
Michael Lydon
Feb 24, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I never would have guessed that a thorough understanding of Shakespeare's aspectuality and performativity required a primer in quantum mechanics and the Heisenberg uncertainty principle, but by book's end it somehow all makes sense. Despite its deceptively stale, broad title, this study is written by a scholar keenly aware of the critical pratfalls that have plagued Shakespeareans in the past. Bate's conclusions on the Bard are properly nuanced and non-dogmatic, but at the same time still pointe ...more
Mark Donnelly
Mar 19, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: poetry
Jonathan Bate surprised and amazed me. His writing style drives the narrative, which in some cases is quite detailed, forward at a steady pace. I devoured this book in a few days. He had me at the first section all the way through to the last page.

In the 1580s, and in the first couple of years of the 1590s, the university wits, namely: Greene, Marlowe, Nashe, and Pearle had the stage. Around that time Greene protested with this statement:

"Yes, trust them not: for there is an upstart Crow, beaut
Jan 19, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
There is a veritable industry of Shakespeare books, and has been for centuries, but interestingly it had settled into being rather an academic preserve prior to the arrival of this book in 1997. Then the success of this intelligent and detailed but clearly generalist and more-or-less introductory work was then magnified with the release of various Hollywood movies based on Shakespeare plays (Romeo + Juliet, Branagh's Hamlet and All's Well That Ends Well etc.) as well as the Oscar-winning Shakesp ...more
Nicholas Whyte[return][return]A jolly good look at various aspects of Shakespeare, trying to identofy what, if anything. The first half includes a chapter on the documents we have relating to Shakespeare, another on the Sonnets (where, against his will, Bate identifies his own candidate for the Dark Lady), a brilliant one on the authorship question, an analysis of Marlowe's inflience on Shakespeare, and a look at the way Shakespeare uses his other sources. [return][retur ...more
This isn't your standard biography of Shakespeare - point of fact, it isn't a biography at all. It's more of an attempt to explain: why Shakespeare? Why is he considered the ultimate literary genius? Why does he occupy an exalted position scarcely rivalled by anyone else in any other field, let alone literature? What is it about Shakespeare and his work that we esteem so highly? Why has Shakespeare survived and thrived? Why does Shakespeare continue to appeal not just to new generations but othe ...more
Apr 11, 2012 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction
"The Genius of Shakespeare" is written in distinctly dry prose, features unusual critiques of various Shakespearean characters and plays, and doesn't seem to be dense enough for the Shakespeare expert yet nor is it enlivening enough for the novice.

Conversely, Bate's analysis is intelligent and well-researched: how does one man go from citizen to great talent to idol of the Western world? Why must fools insist on denying Shakespeare's authorship of the plays, in the face of overwhelming evidence
Roman Clodia
This isn’t a biography but is one of the best general introductions to Shakespeare and how we can think about his works that I have read. It would be perfect for both general popular readers and undergraduates, and takes an eminently – and refreshingly – sensible approach to issues such as the authorship controversy, canonicity, and ‘global Shakespeare’.

The ‘genius’ of the title is itself a play on words since genius in Shakespeare’s time meant not the transcendence that we give it but more a so
Jan 17, 2009 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
not really a scholarly monograph, but not pop history, either. If you've been away from Shakespeare as long as I have, this is a great way to situate him and his work. My favorite takeaways were 1. the discussion of the Romantic fallacy of reading Elizabethan sonnets as autobiographical, and 2. the work on ambiguity, or the simultaneous validity of contradictory readings. An enjoyable and educational read!
Liz Polding
Jun 17, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Clever, well researched and beautifully written, with one of the best refutations of the argument that Shakespeare did not, in fact, write Shakespeare. Interesting comparison with the prolific Lope de Vega, too. Excellent.
Boar's Head Eastcheap
Sep 04, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: biography
Professor Bate will probably be a familiar face, or voice, to anyone on the 'Shake-scene' in the UK.  You can hear him participating in Shakespeare-themed episodes of BBC Radio's 'In Our Time', he heads a University of Warwick MOOC on 'Shakespeare and his World', and amongst his many written accomplishments, he edited the Arden third edition of Titus Andronicus.

This is such an engaging book. Because you don't read Shakespeare, he reads you'', we learn almost as much about Professor Bate as we d
Mr Stewart F Chanter
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Jan 15, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
The genius of Jonathan Bate more like! The first half of the book spends time looking at all the influences upon Shakespeare from reading the classics at grammar school to the university writers and scholars such as Christopher Marlowe. He also shows how Shakespeare borrowed hugely from literature through a wide range of books and Chronicles. The second half of the book looks at his "afterlife", his adoption and adaptation by the Restoration, the Romantic movement, the German nation and ultimate ...more
Sep 28, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This book blew my mind when I first read it and its still the book I recommend to anyone who wants to learn more about Shakespeare. The first 5 chapters look at Shakespeare in the context of his contemporaries, the rest of the book looks at how we look at him ever since. Heavily researched but extremely readable.

I also have this book to thank for introducing me to Lope de Vega, another author who should be in the literature canon but because he wrote in Spanish, is not.
Jun 08, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: uni, books-i-own
I read this book for one of my study units at University. However, it has proven to be a really great read, not only for university purposes but even for myself as a Shakespeare lover to get more insight on his works as well as many debates that have risen on the 'genius' of Shakespeare.
Mar 17, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: shakespeare
Takeaway: Aspectuality

He could have gone further to Godel and Turing in the end.

Lovely book in so many ways. I really like the tragedies and he discussed them in the second to last chapter. So many ideas in this book. Lovely.
Stuart Cole
Nov 21, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Scholarly and well-written, a very thorough introduction to all aspects of Shakespeare and Shakespeare scholarship.
Jun 07, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Tough in places but entirely readable and informative making me want to take to the plays either for s first time or a return visit after the detailed consideration in his part two. Recommended.
"Shakespeare and Mozart are the archetypal Original Geniuses because the idea of original [unique, embodied:] genius emerged as a way of explaining the phenomenon of Shakespeare [long after his death:] and because Mozart appeared as a child prodigy at the precise historical moment -- the late eighteenth century -- when pure native endowment was becoming the vital test of true creative greatness. [. . . .:] It has been suggested that genius became a Romantic obsession because it was a conception ...more
Didn't really finish this book. Found myself sighing every time I picked it up. Is fantastic for an overview of Shakespeare studies, very thorough, but not always interesting ...
John Fredrickson
This is an amazing book. It is not a particularly easy read, and was not what I was anticipating (I was expecting a book that explored the techniques, art, humor of Shakespeare).

Mr Bate traces the history of Shakespeare in print, performance, and appreciation, through the ages. He explores how our sense of Shakespeare has changed over time, but also explores differences in interpretation of some of the plays and sonnets. The latter explorations were what I especially appreciated. The exploratio
Jon Frum
Feb 20, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I'm one of those people who belongs in the 'really should know more about Shakespeare' category. Are you frustrated by all the allusions to and quotes from Shakespeare you read without knowing the context? That's me. So I picked up this book to help fill in my lack of knowledge about the Bard and his works. It really tells more about Shakespeare and his influence than it does about his sonnets and plays. There's a nice section on the foolishness of the 'who wrote Shakespeare's plays' crowd, and ...more
Dec 02, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: literature
This is one of the better Shakespeare books on the market. I came to it having read Bate's book on John Clare previously and was pleased to join him on what is obviously his home territory. He makes the most comprehensive Stratfordian case I have read and is so convincing in his common-sense that you will come away wondering what all the fuss is about.

The history of the reception of Shakespeare is comprehensive and illuminating. At times it seems like there could not be anything new to say about
Frank Roberts
Jul 26, 2013 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: classics
The first half of this book was a page-turner. I didn't put it down. This was the portion that covered the actual documentary history of Shakespeare the man, as well as the authorship question, the influence of Marlowe, and Shakespeare the actor.

The second half, which dealt with Shakespeare's legacy, had high points and low points. From Shakespeare as England's national poet (dull) to Shakespeare's characters as icons of our culture (interesting).
Oct 01, 2014 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Ran out of steam reading this. Traditionally evasive and esoteric for an academic's yet plenty of clarity in its interpretations and evaluations. Bate isn't swayed by one view. He considers and weighs up them all, however extreme they may be.
Jan 25, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A nice little book that presents the overall influence that Shakespeare has had on our life and times.
Ade Couper
Dec 13, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A good, well-written resource: recommended.
Mar 17, 2009 marked it as to-read  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: shakespeariana
To be or not to be...I have to return to this someday when I'm more in the mood for that Shakespeherian rag.
Mar 09, 2009 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Made me want to read/see Histories and Measure for Measure especially. Very interesting and only slight made-up feel that often annoys me about lit crit
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  • Northrop Frye on Shakespeare
  • The Book of William: How Shakespeare's First Folio Conquered the World
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  • Shakespeare
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Jonathan Bate CBE FBA FRSL is a British academic, biographer, critic, broadcaster, novelist and scholar of Shakespeare, Romanticism and Ecocriticism. He is also Professor of English Literature at the University of Oxford and Provost of Worcester College, Oxford. A Man Booker Prize judge in 2014.

He studied at the University of Cambridge and Harvard University. He has been King Alfred Professor of E