The Great William: Writers Reading Shakespeare

Hardcover | May 2, 2016

byTheodore Leinwand

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The Great William is the first book to explore how seven renowned writers—Samuel Taylor Coleridge, John Keats, Virginia Woolf, Charles Olson, John Berryman, Allen Ginsberg, and Ted Hughes—wrestled with Shakespeare in the very moments when they were reading his work. What emerges is a constellation of remarkable intellectual and emotional encounters.

Theodore Leinwand builds impressively detailed accounts of these writers’ experiences through their marginalia, lectures, letters, journals, and reading notes. We learn why Woolf associated reading Shakespeare with her brother Thoby, and what Ginsberg meant when referring to the mouth feel of Shakespeare’s verse. From Hughes’s attempts to find a “skeleton key” to all of Shakespeare’s plays to Berryman’s tormented efforts to edit King Lear, Leinwand reveals the palpable energy and conviction with which these seven writers engaged with Shakespeare, their moments of utter self-confidence and profound vexation. In uncovering these intense public and private reactions, The Great William connects major writers’ hitherto unremarked scenes of reading Shakespeare with our own.

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From the Publisher

The Great William is the first book to explore how seven renowned writers—Samuel Taylor Coleridge, John Keats, Virginia Woolf, Charles Olson, John Berryman, Allen Ginsberg, and Ted Hughes—wrestled with Shakespeare in the very moments when they were reading his work. What emerges is a constellation of remarkable intellectual and emotion...

Theodore Leinwand is professor of English at the University of Maryland. He is the author of The City Staged and Theatre, Finance, and Society in Early Modern England, as well as a consulting editor for Shakespeare Quarterly.

other books by Theodore Leinwand

Format:HardcoverDimensions:240 pages, 9 × 6 × 0.9 inPublished:May 2, 2016Publisher:University Of Chicago PressLanguage:English

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10:022636755X

ISBN - 13:9780226367552

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Extra Content

Table of Contents

Acknowledgments
Introduction

Chapter I Samuel Taylor Coleridge’s “Impelling Thoughts” about Shakespeare
Chapter II John Keats on Sitting Down to Read Shakespeare Once Again
Chapter III Virginia Woolf Reads “the Great William”
Chapter IV Charles Olson’s “Objectist Shakespeare”
Chapter V John Berryman’s Shakespeare / Shakespeare’s John Berryman
Chapter VI Allen Ginsberg on Shakespeare’s Funny Mouthings
Chapter VII Ted Hughes Reads the Complete Shakespeare

Conclusion
Notes
Index

Editorial Reviews

“The Great William—which at one point imagines Shakespeare as a gigantic walking ear taking in all the words of his world—shows us the strange, often wild life that the playwright’s own words lived in the ears and minds of seven uncommon readers. Leinwand catches beautifully the distinct colors of voice, and the distinctly Shakespearean touch, in each of his authors. One comes away from this probing, continually surprising study with a more urgent sense of how any of us engage with Shakespeare’s texts, conversing with them in the margins and in our memories.”