David Gray's Reviews > Shakespeare: The Invention of the Human

Shakespeare by Harold Bloom
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's review
Aug 16, 2011

really liked it
Read in August, 2011

It would be foolish to say much against the brilliant mind of Bloom. He knows far more about his subject than probably most anyone and provides a (mostly) readable book about Shakespeare's role in creating the western idea of the "self." I say "mostly" because though some passages are quite readable, you will periodically stumble upon a sentence like: "I do not offer a nihilistic Shakespeare or a gnostic one, but skepticism alone cannot be the origin of the cosmological degradation that contextualizes the tragedies[...]"

Bloom's basic point, that the idea of a differentiated, self-aware person didn't exist prior to Shakespeare but came to fruition with Falstaff and Hamlet... could probably be made in less than 740 pages. However, he applies his theory to every one of Shakespeare's plays in some detail.

There are some real gifts here. For example, his explanation of Titus Andronicus, that it is basically a parody of the violent plays of his competitors taken to an extreme, is worth the price of admission. It finally provides a way to read that play that makes sense (and you should read why Bloom won't go see it anymore).

Overall, incredibly valuable read, but to my mind a bit dense, repetitive in explanation of the overall theory, and long.

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