...magnificent ... Clearly McCrum is engaged with his own era. In a discussion of Shakespeare’s humor, he quotes from and analyzes a BBC interview with Phoebe Waller-Bridge, creator of Fleabag, about how comedy works ... In McCrum’s thoughtful explorations of modern Shakespearean tragedy, Donald Trump naturally comes up ... In his enthusiasm, McCrum doesn’t flinch from expressing broad-brush opinions, but he does it so well it doesn’t matter if occasionally he dresses opinion as fact ... I had the odd feeling that Mr. McCrum had written this book for me ... I am not a Shakespearean scholar, but I have hiked around in this habitat, and Shakespearean is the first such tome that I have found not only thought-provoking but also moving and inspirational. McCrum’s living and breathing book reminds us why the fire of literature warms the soul.
...engaging and animated ... Robert McCrum helps us see just how many other dimensions there are to a 'Shakespearean' sensibility. For one thing, there is the intoxicating, addictive spiral of self exploration in words, words and more words ... there is the not unrelated intoxication of writing in code: how far can you go in dangerous allusion, inviting your audience – an audience that regularly includes the most powerful, suspicious and merciless in the land – to see (without ever quite naming) their own danger, their own fragility and lack of substance? ... McCrum makes good use of Philip Davis’s recent work on the measurable neurological impact of some of Shakespeare’s verbal violences – adjectives or nouns turned into verbs ('He childed as I father’d'), pronouns into nouns ('the cruellest she alive'), and the like ... McCrum does not analyse Shakespeare’s supposed theories or trace any arguments through the plays; he offers a loose biographical framework and guides us rather like someone walking through a gallery – pointing here, hurrying past there because time’s getting on, stopping to turn and elucidate or invite a response ... One of my few moments of disagreement with McCrum is when he describes the late plays as inviting the judgement that they are 'dramatised poems' more than dramas. It’s clear what he means; but in fact these are plays that outrageously display their theatricality, making fewer and fewer concessions to anything you could call realism ... McCrum’s Shakespeare for 'times of disruption' is a welcome participant in the contemporary conversation about the insanities that are taking over 'democratic' politics.
Robert McCrum’s focus is broad, his range diffuse. Disarmingly, he describes Shakespearean as 'a personal inquiry into Shakespeare’s life and works, a literary and biographical essay for the general reader, not a work of cutting-edge academic prowess for Shakespeare scholars, though I hope they may profit in passing here and there' ... As McCrum points out, threats of civic rebellion and the plague 'overshadowed Shakespeare’s entire creative career.' Shakespearean turns on the interplay between past and present – meaning our past and our present, but also what would have been the past and the present for Shakespeare ... All this helps to justify the author’s broad-brush survey of all Shakespeare’s writings treated in conjectural order of composition. He is adept at drawing parallels between the subject matter of the plays and events of Shakespeare’s time ... Clearly, then, this book is the work of an enthusiast. Its subtitle, 'On Life and Language in Times of Disruption,' points to its topicality. It bears witness to a wide, if unfocused, range of reading in Shakespeare scholarship, scrupulously and generously acknowledged, although the author is occasionally let down by his sources.
Robert McCrum loves the Bard well but none too wisely in Shakespearean, his sloppy amalgamation of biography, literary history, and memoir ... McCrum ignores Shakespeare’s memorable female characters as well as his astute examination of the dynamics between the sexes. So Shakespearean‘s version of the Bard comes off as somewhat Monty Pythonesque — we are usually marching along with 'Men Men Men' ... McCrum stays away from anything in the selected texts that might cast serious doubt on his literary idol ... McCrum is all thunderous effusion with little discrimination ... Worse is a bit on Othello that does not make much of an attempt to look at what the play means in the era of Black Lives Matter and #Me Too ... Shakespearean is at its best when it is dealing with concrete historical matters, chronicling how Shakespeare survived in a treacherous period ... Still, even some of the volume’s speculation about the past falls short, with potted stuff about Shakespeare’s competition with Christopher Marlowe and the Bard’s reception in America. McCrum is also a bit gullible.
McCrum attempts to weave together themes from Shakespeare’s personal biography (although he acknowledges how insufficient our knowledge is on this topic) with a deep and personal engagement with many of the plays and poems. Occasionally the order of discussions is confusing ... The author assumes that readers will understand references from a wide variety of time periods and plays, embedded in a narrative that follows not chronology but instead a thematic structure. Despite that limitation, McCrum’s discussions of both Shakespeare’s biography and his plays are smart and full of not only thoughtful insight but great wit ... McCrum is at his absolute best as he describes the pleasure and excitement of watching various actors and theatres across the globe interpret these timeless plays and allow them to speak anew ... Readers who are searching for a strong analysis of Shakespeare’s plays might be better served by Emma Smith’s recent This is Shakespeare ... But Shakespearean shines because it provides an intensely personal and engaging account of life lived with Shakespeare at its core.
In this biography and literary analysis, McCrum finds plenty of parallels to contemporary events within Shakespeare’s life, poetry, and drama ... McCrum covers authorship controversies but always puts the Bard’s words front and center. Shakespeare fans will find this book engrossing, comprehensive, challenging, and thrilling.
[An] amiable and informed take on Shakespeare’s everlasting impact in this fascinating account ... He also makes entertaining connections between Shakespeare and contemporary pop culture ... Full of close readings and enlightening observations, this is a poignant immersion ... Readers looking for an unpretentious introduction to the Bard should check this out.
An affectionate, personal homage to the Bard ... At the heart of his book—a mix of biography, literary history, and memoir—is a profound pondering: 'How was it…that he became, and still becomes, ‘"Shakespearean’"?' Writing in lively, conversational prose, McCrum sets off to find an answer ... McCrum’s enthusiastic paean is a warm, welcoming place for Shakespeare novices and veterans alike.