Review: The Riverside Shakespeare (The Works of William Shakespeare)

Holy fucknuts, you guys. I can’t write a straight ahead review of this. I mean for fuck’s sake, I’ve read Shakespeare. This is the man who has a richer body of work than The Bible, okay? And The Bible is by a multitude of authors. Shakespeare is one. What the fuck do you say to this? I’ve read not only all the plays in this volume (except Edward III which is almost certainly not by the Bard barring some revisions) but the poems as well (barring Passionate Pilgrim and Funeral Elegy because again they’re not Shakespeare, just read them and you’ll see).

Shakespeare wrote like no other writer be they contemporaries of him or otherwise. I mean seriously his style is so indelible, it can only be described as Shakespearean. It was in everything he did, whether it be complex out-of-order line structures, brilliant and original imagery, English-only wordplay, or anything you can think of, even layering of differently phrased same things said (line memes).

And the importance of his work is not best exemplified in any single expression so much as an intake of the complete and whole because everything interconnected. Everything built on everything else. Everything was an expansion, not just an extension. There are people who wrote singular works better than probably anything individual by Shakespeare (The Odyssey, The Divine Comedy, Moby Dick, War And Peace, Ulysses) but nothing compares to the richness of his ouvre, and I would even include Joyce in there IN SPITE of Shakespeare’s recidivism of sources (particularly Holinshed for his history plays, the history “ghostwriter”). Nobody turned of phrase like Shakespeare, nobody set up a metaphor like Shakespeare, nobody even wrote a GASTON like Shakespeare (Falstaff, people, the ultimate human).

Now, I can include Tolstoy’s criticism of Shakespeare here. That he didn’t relate to those of all walks of life. I think that means Tolstoy lived as a peasant and wrote many things for peasants and the peasant lifestyle. That’s probably an unfair potshot because I can easily imagine Shakespeare was held to standards by his often very royal audience. This makes it so his peasants aren’t always the most brilliant while the royals are almost always praised as though recognized without clothes (often incognito). Shakespeare could very well have been a heavy royalist and monarchist, but he could as easily be at least a thousand other things. Say what you want but the man hid himself better than anybody this side of Homer. I can’t personally strike him for that.

Final Grade: Ω

3 thoughts on “Review: The Riverside Shakespeare (The Works of William Shakespeare)

    • There are no words. It’s Shakespeare. Chaucer may have single-handedly legitimized the tongue, but Shakespeare completely re-wired the game. I was almost going to do a two-word review that just says “I can’t…” More ink has been spilled on this author’s work than any other writer in history. He’s probably the only person for whom it is LITERALLY impossible to say something new about. Of course, I shouldn’t be saying that, but man can it FEEL true sometimes.

      Liked by 1 person

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