Synopses & Reviews
George Lyman Kittredgeand#8217;s insightful editions of Shakespeare have endured in part because of his eclecticism, his diversity of interests, and his wide-ranging accomplishments, all of which are reflected in the valuable notes in each volume.
These new editions have specific emphasis on the performance histories of the plays (on stage and screen).
Features of each edition include:
- The original introduction to the Kittredge Edition
- Editorand#8217;s Introduction to the Focus Edition. An overview on major themes of the plays, and sections on the playand#8217;s performance history on stage and screen.
- Explanatory Notes. The explanatory notes either expand on Kittredgeand#8217;s superb glosses, or, in the case of plays for which he did not write notes, give the needed explanations for Shakespeareand#8217;s sometimes demanding language.
- Performance notes. These appear separately and immediately below the textual footnotes and include discussions of noteworthy stagings of the plays, issues of interpretation, and film and stage choices.
- How to read the play as Performance Section. A discussion of the written play vs. the play as performed and the various ways in which Shakespeareand#8217;s words allow the reader to envision the work "off the page."
- Comprehensive Timeline. Covering major historical events (with brief annotations) as well as relevant details from Shakespeareand#8217;s life. Some of the Chronologies include time chronologies within the plays.
- Topics for Discussion and Further Study Section. Critical Issues: Dealing with the text in a larger context and considerations of character, genre, language, and interpretative problems. Performance Issues: Problems and intricacies of staging the play connected to chief issues discussed in the Focus Editionsand#8217; Introduction.
- Select Bibliography and Filmography
Each New Kittredge edition also includes screen grabs from major productions, for comparison and scene study.
This is an edition of Othello whose conversational introduction and unobtrusive but thorough notes will make the first-time visitor to the text an expert on the play. By keeping her own focus on the issue of performance andndash; including her nuanced descriptions of the major films andndash; editor Gretchen Schulz not only helps readers see Othello in the theatre of the imagination, she helps them to direct it as well.
- Ralph Alan Cohen, American Shakespeare Center, Co-founder and Director of Mission; Gonder Professor of Shakespeare, Mary Baldwin College
Even as the New Kittredge Shakespeare series glances back to George Lyman Kittredge's student editions of the plays, it is very much of our current moment: the slim editions are targeted largely at high school and first-year college students who are more versed in visual than in print culture. Not only are the texts of the plays accompanied by photographs or stills from various stage and cinema performances: the editorial contributions are performance-oriented, offering surveys of contemporary film interpretations, essays on the plays as performance pieces, and an annotated filmography. Traditional editorial issues (competing versions of the text, cruxes, editorial emendation history) are for the most part excluded; the editions focus instead on clarifying the text with an eye to performing it. There is no disputing the pedagogic usefulness of the New Kittredge Shakespeare's performance-oriented approach. At times, however, it can run the risk of treating textual issues as impediments, rather than partners, to issues of performance. This is particularly the case with a textually vexed play such as Pericles: Prince of Tyre. In the introduction to the latter, Jeffrey Kahan notes the frequent unintelligibility of the play as originally published: andquot;the chances of a reconstructed text matching what Shakespeare actually wrote are about 'nil'andquot; (p. xiii) But his solution andmdash; to use a andquot;traditional textandquot; rather than one corrected as are the Oxford and Norton Pericles andmdash; obscures how this andquot;traditional text,andquot; including its act and scene division, is itself a palimpsest produced through three centuries of editorial intervention. Nevertheless, the series does a service to its target audience with its emphasis on performance and dramaturgy. Kahan's own essay about his experiences as dramaturge for a college production of Pericles is very good indeed, particularly on the play's inability to purge the trace of incestuous desire that Pericles first encounters in Antioch. Other plays' cinematic histories: Annalisa Castaldo's edition of Henry V contrasts Laurence Oliver's and Branagh's film productions; Samuel Crowl's and James Wells's edition of (respectively) I and 2 Henry IV concentrate on Welle's Chimes at Midnight and Gus Van Sant's My Own Private Idaho; Patricia Lennox's edition of As You Like It offers an overview of four Hollywood and British film adaptations; and John R. Ford's edition of A Midsummer Night's Dream provides a spirited survey of the play's rich film history.
The differences between, and comparative merits of, various editorial series are suggested by the three editions of The Taming of the Shrew published this year. Laury Magnus's New Kittredge Shakespeare edition is, like the other New Kittredge volumes, a workable text for high school and first year college students interested in film and theater. The introduction elaborates on one theme andmdash; Elizabethan constructions of gender andmdash; and offers a very broad performance history, focusing on Sam Taylor's and Zeffirelli's film versions as well as adaptations such as Kiss Me Kate and Ten Things I Hate About You (accompanied by a still of ten hearthtrobs Heath Ledger and Julia Stiles). The volume is determined to eradicate any confusion that a first time reader of the play might experience: the dramatis personae page explains that andquot;Bianca Minolaandquot; is andquot;younger daughter to Baptista, wooed by Lucentio-in-disguise (as Cambio) and then wife to him, also wooed by the elderly Gremio and Hortensio-in-disguise (as Licio)andquot; (p.1). Other editorial notes, based on Kittredge's own, are confined mostly to explaining individual words and phrases: additional footnotes discuss interpretive choices made by film and stage productions. Throughout, the editorial emphasis is on the play less as text than as performance piece, culminating in fifteen largely performance-oriented andquot;study questionsandquot; on topics such as disguise, misogyny, and violence.Studies in English Literature, Tudor and Stuart Drama, Volume 51, Spring 2011, Number 2, pages 497-499.
New Kittredge Shakespeare editions combine performance issues in feature films with the clarity of Kittredge's notes to provide an entry for students to Shakespeare's plays. Included: performance notes, essays on reading that play as a performance.
Appropriate for all level of Shakespeare courses, including courses on Shakespeare, or drama, or Renaissance drama as taught in departments of English, courses in Shakespeare or drama taught in departments of theater, Great Books programs where individual volumes might be used, or high school level courses.
About the Author
Gretchen Schulz is Professor Emerita of English at Oxford College of Emory University where she taught Shakespeare and supervised student productions of the plays for many years. She serves as Resident Scholar of the Atlanta Shakespeare Company. She has published and presented in multiple venues and worked with other Shakespeareans in two National Endowment for the Humanities institutes and a year-long Folger Seminar.