Christopher Marlowe, Doctor Faustus

Doctor Faustus by Christopher Marlowe My rating: 4 of 5 stars I am neither a Marlowe scholar in particular nor an early modernist in general, but as far as I can determine—with the aid of the contextual and critical materials collected in this Signet Classics edition edited by the late Sylvan Barnet—there are three main … Continue reading Christopher Marlowe, Doctor Faustus

Back to School: Literature Springs Eternal

Most of my reading matter for the spring semester is above. (You can find the syllabi here.) As with ordering from a new and affordable menu, the digestive organ may be too small for the appetite: in other words, perhaps too many books! Extracurricularly, I am currently reading a long, dense book, Saul Bellow's The Adventures … Continue reading Back to School: Literature Springs Eternal

William Shakespeare, King Lear

King Lear by William Shakespeare My rating: 5 of 5 stars What is King Lear about? "[T]he fierce dispute, / Betwixt damnation and impassion'd clay," wrote Keats, but both terms seem inapt: "clay"—as in the moist earth from which the Creator molded us—suggests a different image from the acid, sandy soil of the heathland where … Continue reading William Shakespeare, King Lear

Brigid Brophy et al., Fifty Works of English Literature We Could Do Without

Fifty Works of English Literature We Could Do Without by Brigid Brophy My rating: 3 of 5 stars I wanted to read this 1967 book after reading about it on Anthony's blog, and now, after having it shipped from the obscure storage facility where it resides to my main library, I have. The authors—English writer … Continue reading Brigid Brophy et al., Fifty Works of English Literature We Could Do Without

Tom Stoppard, Arcadia

Arcadia by Tom Stoppard My rating: 4 of 5 stars Find me a dead cloud and a sharp piece of science I want to see the skeleton of weather And let me map all maps we have mistaken for the world And learn by heart the timetable of dice And in our clutching, self-invented steps … Continue reading Tom Stoppard, Arcadia

August Wilson, Gem of the Ocean

Gem of the Ocean by August Wilson My rating: 5 of 5 stars It is perhaps an open question as to the order in which one should read August Wilson’s plays—the chronological order of the Century Cycle, Wilson’s ten-play decade-by-decade portrayal of the African-American experience in the twentieth century, moving from Gem of the Ocean … Continue reading August Wilson, Gem of the Ocean

T. S. Eliot, Murder in the Cathedral

Murder in the Cathedral by T.S. Eliot My rating: 5 of 5 stars I should not like to close without attempting to set before you, though only in dim outline, the ideal towards which poetic drama should strive. It is an unattainable ideal: and that is why it interests me, for it provides an incentive … Continue reading T. S. Eliot, Murder in the Cathedral

Sophocles, The Complete Plays

The Complete Plays by Sophocles My rating: 5 of 5 stars It is never a bad time to get right with the classics. After having read Oedipus and Antigone several times in multiple translations (Jebb, Arnott, Fagles) over the years, I decided to read all of Sophocles’s extant plays—a mere seven out of 123 (civilization … Continue reading Sophocles, The Complete Plays

William Shakespeare, Cymbeline

The Tragedy of Cymbeline by William Shakespeare My rating: 4 of 5 stars It seems obligatory when discussing Shakespeare’s late romance Cymbeline to begin with Samuel Johnson’s dismissal of it: This play has many just sentiments, some natural dialogues, and some pleasing scenes, but they are obtained at the expense of much incongruity. To remark … Continue reading William Shakespeare, Cymbeline

Wole Soyinka, Death and the King’s Horseman

Death and the King's Horseman by Wole Soyinka My rating: 5 of 5 stars As good a modern play as any I am familiar with. Soyinka brilliantly seizes on a literary possibility granted him by a painful history: he synthesizes the festal form of traditional Yoruba drama—which he explains at length in an essay included … Continue reading Wole Soyinka, Death and the King’s Horseman