Reviews for Othello

Choice Reviews 2006 May
Targeting novice readers of Shakespeare, "The Sourcebooks Shakespeare" series presents the Bard's plays as a ground for lively debate and discussion. Each release includes a general introduction; the text of the play itself; a series of essays on the play, written by scholars who eschew technical vocabulary; and an audio CD of various performers reading selected scenes and speeches from the play. In the case of the Othello volume the recordings include rare gems performed by Paul Robeson and F. Scott Fitzgerald; the Romeo and Juliet CD features performances by Joseph Fiennes, Claire Bloom, Albert Finney, Judi Dench, and Fiona Shaw. The text of both plays is presented in an appealing font size with lots of blank space surrounding the dialogue. Notes occupy a facing page, and they are helpful without being overwhelming. Scenes or speeches performed on the CD are marked with a text box that indicates how to locate the track. Neither volume clarifies how the editors arrived at "the text," which will be a drawback to teachers who want to engage students with questions of textual bibliography. Photos of past productions aim to help students visualize the scenes.

With all this helpful commentary, however, student readers have little need to project the text imaginatively. For example, in narrating the Othello CD, Sir Derek Jacobi prefaces most tracks with a summary of the scene to follow and frames each with an interpretation. The quality of these two volumes differs somewhat. In happy contrast to the edition of Othello, the essays in the Romeo and Juliet volume do not lose sight of the fact that the play text requires active, critical reading. Facsimile pages from promptbooks of famous productions, e.g., J.P. Kemble's 1814 mounting of the play, point the reader to directors' revisions of the play as they produce it. Those with limited background in reading early modern plays will appreciate this very "friendly" Shakespeare series. Summing Up: Recommended. Lower-division undergraduates; secondary students; general readers. Copyright 2006 American Library Association.

Library Journal Reviews 2005 December #1

The new "Sourcebooks Shakespeare" series is designed to attract a wide audience by emphasizing performance as well as text. A glossary and photos from contemporary stage and film productions accompany the text of each play, and related essays offer further insights. Each title contains an integrated audio CD that is narrated by British Shakespearean actor Sir Derek Jacobi and features excerpts from memorable performances of key scenes. The series boasts stellar credits: its advisory board includes Shakespeare scholars David Bevington and Peter Holland and Chicago Shakespeare Theater director Barbara Gaines. Among the contributors are several more Shakespeare scholars as well as actress Janet Suzman and Andrew Wade, formerly head of voice for the Royal Shakespeare Company. Both volumes begin with Thomas Garvey's "In Shakespeare's 'Time,' " an essay that sets the playwright in historical context, and end with "The Cast Speaks," in which casts of 2005 productions discuss their approach to the characters they portrayed. The CD accompanying the Othello volume features a variety of noteworthy performers in the title role, including Paul Robeson, Paul Scofield, and Edwin Booth; and the CD accompanying the Romeo and Juliet volume presents recordings of Kate Beckinsale, Dame Peggy Ashcroft, and Ellen Terry as Juliet; Kenneth Branagh and Michael Sheen as Romeo; Sir Derek Jacobi as Mercutio; and Sir John Gielgud as Friar Laurence. With the number of film adaptations of Shakespeare's works in recent years, public libraries should seriously consider acquiring this series.--Carolyn M. Mulac, Chicago P.L.

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Library Journal Reviews 2005 November #2

Another cool book-and-disc combo, these editions of the bard's beloveds offer the full illustrated text with an audio CD sporting numerous key scenes. A great idea.

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School Library Journal Reviews 2005 November

Gr 9 Up -These full-text editions of the plays have clear, thoughtful annotations. Both volumes begin with the same good introductory essay about Shakespeare's life and times and include an essay that gives a voice coach's perspective on the Bard. What truly distinguishes these titles from other books, however, is the emphasis on the plays in performance. Each volume includes a discussion of a famous production and an analysis of the play in popular culture, as well as a section entitled "The Cast Speaks," which contains interviews with actors and actresses from modern productions who share their ideas about the characters and their motivations. Black-and-white photographs from contemporary stage productions and movie adaptations of each play are included. The really exciting feature of these editions is the audio CD that features recordings of famous actors such as Kenneth Branagh, Paul Robeson, and Kate Beckinsale performing scenes. The CDs include multiple readings of the same scene by different performers, which would be extremely useful for instructors who want their students to think about differing interpretations of the lines, as well as for instructors who would simply like their students to hear Shakespeare spoken by actors who have had training in speaking blank verse. Good purchases for schools in which these plays are a part of the curriculum.-Kathleen E. Gruver, Burlington County Library, Westampton, NJ

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