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Shakespeare: The Invention of the Human
By Harold Bloom

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Shakespeare: The Invention of the Human

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Shakespeare: The Invention of the Human
By Harold Bloom
Viking Penguin Audiobooks, (1999)
Genre: Literature - Literary Criticism
Other Available Editions: Paperback

Reviewed by Herbert White - May 13, 2001

To be honest, Shakespeare is not my favorite writer. If Shakespeare was not required reading for school, I doubt very much that I would have ever taken a peak at any of his work. However, it is a requirement, and I read a little in High School and found it utterly boring. Then in college I was forced to take a Shakespearean lit course - yuk!

In hindsight, I'm glad I was forced to take this course. I'd still rather curl up with a modern work of fiction, but I did come away from this course with an appreciation for the 'bard' and I even found that I liked him. As part of this course I had to write a paper Shakespeare, for which I listened to Harold Bloom's book, Shakespeare: The Invention of the Human. I cannot say that I agreed with everything in the book. However, I did find it helped me to better understand the meaning behind some of the plays and how they influenced society.

In Shakespeare: The Invention of the Human, Bloom has provided a play by play commentary, discussing the play and how each play, in Bloom's estimation, influenced the development of western thought and society. Throughout this book, he gives his own insights, based upon his years of scholarship, into the nature of the characters, and the historical significance of the various plays. His main point is to show how the ideas, and even the vocabulary, of these plays has filtered into our daily parlance. In fact, his main theory is that everything in the Western world, artistic, that came after Shakespeare, was in fact influenced by Shakespeare.

I find this theory a bit heavy handed, and unbelievable, but you have to give Bloom credit for making a very sincere and educated effort to layout his theory. He is well credentialed to have authored this book. He has taught at a number of universities including Yale and New York University. He has authored over twenty books in the humanities, and he is a well known literary critic. If you ignore Bloom's underlaying thesis that Shakespeare is the end all and be all of the Western world, this was a wonderful book. It really made me take a deeper look at Shakespeare and to appreciate him as more than just a writer of plays. You also have to admire Bloom's phenomenal grasp of the subject matter, his fervor to share his knowledge (always the mark of a great teacher), and his graceful prose. The only draw back to this tape was that I found the reader a little dull. Someone with a more animated voice would have been better suited to read such an epic work.

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Shakespeare: The Invention of the Human is also available in Standard Print - Paperback.

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