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How the Classics Made Shakespeare

Jonathan Bate

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Princeton University Pres
01 December 2020
Ben Jonson famously accused Shakespeare of having 'small Latin and less Greek.' But he was exaggerating. Shakespeare was steeped in the classics. Shaped by his grammar school education in Roman literature, history, and rhetoric, he moved to London, a city that modeled itself on ancient Rome. He worked in a theatrical profession that had inherited the conventions and forms of classical drama, and he read deeply in Ovid, Virgil, and Seneca. In a book that combines stylistic brilliance, accessibility, and extraordinary range, acclaimed literary critic and biographer Jonathan Bate, one of the world's leading authorities on Shakespeare, offers groundbreaking insights into how, perhaps more than any other influence, the classics made Shakespeare the writer he became.
By:   Jonathan Bate
Imprint:   Princeton University Pres
Country of Publication:   United States
Dimensions:   Height: 216mm,  Width: 140mm, 
ISBN:   9780691210148
ISBN 10:   0691210144
Series:   E. H. Gombrich Lecture Series
Pages:   384
Publication Date:   01 December 2020
Audience:   General/trade ,  ELT Advanced
Format:   Paperback
Publisher's Status:   Active

Jonathan Bate is Foundation Professor of Environmental Humanities at Arizona State University and Senior Research Fellow at Oxford University. His many books include Soul of the Age: A Biography of the Mind of William Shakespeare. He broadcasts regularly for the BBC, is the coeditor of The RSC Shakespeare: Complete Works, and wrote an acclaimed one-man play for Simon Callow, Being Shakespeare. Twitter @profbate

Reviews for How the Classics Made Shakespeare

Bate is excellent at discussing text and context, Shakespeare and his contemporaries as well as the classics. Bate's style is elegant, his learning informative, and his book rich beyond what a review can tell. ---Jonathan Locke Hart, Renaissance & Reformation At his best, Bate is utterly enthralling . . . . [How the Classics Made Shakespeare] is a wonderful, enlightening read. ---Chris Tudor, Argo Bate well reminds us that the survival of the classical world he has explored is under an even greater threat, as its literature and history recede from our educational curricula. We have even smaller Latin and even less Greek. ---Paul Dean, The New Criterion His scholarship is impeccable, his writing clear and vibrant. The study is a real delight, never ponderous, wonderfully insightful. ---Alan Dent, Penniless Press How the Classics Made Shakespeare deserves an accolade too seldom awarded to academic works: Besides being eminently readable, it proffers illuminating observations and facts on every page. ---Michael Dirda, Washington Post Jonathan Bate does not disappoint. . . . An absolute tour de force, a scholar non pareil, in every regard. ---Ian Lipke, Queensland Reviewers Collective [How the Classics Made Shakespeare is] frequently exquisite. ---Elizabeth Winkler, Wall Street Journal [In this] amazingly erudite new study . . . Jonathan Bate shows that this process of repurposing old stories has always been the point of Shakespeare. ---Daniel Swift, The Spectator This book is a wonderful treat for all. Scholars who thought that they knew all about the influence of the classics on Shakespeare will have to think again. Bate explains with unparalleled synthesis and lucidity why Shakespeare was 'the Cicero of his age' and how and why he modeled his lifework on Horace. General readers will not be able to put this book down: it is beautifully written and packed with arresting insights. --Sonia Massai, King's College London A rich and varied tapestry, this is a masterly exploration of Shakespeare's uses of classical authors, and of the wider uses of classical history and tradition in the political and cultural life of Renaissance Britain. The writing is graceful and the scholarship is worn lightly, making the book widely accessible. --Philip Hardie, Trinity College, University of Cambridge Jonathan Bate's How the Classics Made Shakespeare is the fruit of wide reading, rich learning, and a lifetime of singularly intelligent reflection on the playwright and his sources. Bate's fresh insights into even the most familiar of plays amply justifies his claim that Shakespeare's imagination had its birth in his Latin lessons in the Stratford-upon-Avon schoolroom and that throughout his career he turned for inspiration to the heritage of Greece and Rome. --Stephen Greenblatt, author of Will in the World: How Shakespeare Became Shakespeare


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