Synopses & Reviews
“A LIVING, POWERFULLY PHYSICAL WORK . . . UPDIKE IS A SUPERBLY SKILLFUL WRITER.”
-The Wall Street Journal
“WHAT A PIECE OF WORK IS UPDIKE! Our own king of erudition has gone back to the Hamlet story to imagine its inception: its offstage pre-story, when Claudius fell in love with his brothers queen and that first dastardly deed in the garden was set in motion. Wickedly replete with allusions, weaving the history of ideas with the lustier possibilities of adulterous coupling. . . . There is something delightful about following Updike down this path, seeing his sentiments and sympathies unfold.”
-The Boston Globe
“WITTY . . . FRESH AND MOVING . . . Engrossing enough on its own terms to stand independently of Shakespeares play.”
“[UPDIKE] HAS MANAGED TO CREATE IN GERTRUDE A GENUINELY COMPELLING CHARACTER, a woman who is, by turns, vulnerable and outspoken, daring and naïve. . . . One of his most sympathetic and persuasive female characters.”
-The New York Times
In his brilliant novel, Updike tells the story of Gertrude and Claudius, Kingand Queen of Denmark, before the action of Shakespeare's "Hamlet" begins.
Gertrude and Claudius are the “villains” of Hamlet: he the killer of Hamlet’s father and usurper of the Danish throne; she his lusty consort, who marries Claudius before her late husband’s body is cold. But in this imaginative “prequel” to the play, John Updike makes a case for the royal couple that Shakespeare only hinted at. Gertrude and Claudius are seen afresh against a background of fond intentions and family dysfunction, on a stage darkened by the ominous shadow of a sullen, erratic, disaffected prince. “I hoped to keep the texture light,” Updike said of this novel, “to move from the mists of Scandinavian legend into the daylight atmosphere of the Globe. I sought to narrate the romance that preceded the tragedy.”
About the Author
John Updike was born in Shillington, Pennsylvania, in 1932. He graduated from Harvard College in 1954 and spent a year in Oxford, England, at the Ruskin School of Drawing and Fine Art. From 1955 to 1957 he was a member of the staff of The New Yorker. His novels have won the Pulitzer Prize, the National Book Award, the National Book Critics Circle Award, the Rosenthal Foundation Award, and the William Dean Howells Medal. In 2007 he received the Gold Medal for Fiction from the American Academy of Arts and Letters. John Updike died in January 2009.