William Shakespeare, Love’s Labour’s Lost

Love's Labor's Lost by William Shakespeare My rating: 4 of 5 stars This early Shakespearean comedy, dating from the 1590s, is paradoxically slight but weighty, thin but dense. That's no doubt partially owing to the lavish verbal resources it spends on such a simple plot. The story it tells is this: the King of Navarre… Continue reading William Shakespeare, Love’s Labour’s Lost

William Shakespeare, Hamlet

Hamlet by William Shakespeare My rating: 5 of 5 stars Why is this bizarre, disorderly, long, and poorly transmitted tragedy from the turn of the seventeenth century the central work of the western literary tradition, its hero the keystone in the arch of modern literature? Because the distance he created between himself and the world… Continue reading William Shakespeare, Hamlet

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

Herman Melville, Moby-Dick

Moby-Dick by Herman Melville My rating: 5 of 5 stars [Note: all quotations from essays, letters, and reviews below come from documents included in this Norton Critical Edition.] In his 1850 manifesto-essay in praise of Nathaniel Hawthorne, "Hawthorne and His Mosses," Herman Melville scorns the Anglophile polish and traditionalism of Washington Irving, then considered the… Continue reading Herman Melville, Moby-Dick

Aldous Huxley, Brave New World

Brave New World by Aldous Huxley My rating: 2 of 5 stars Don't ask me why I didn't read Brave New World when I was sixteen the way everybody else did—the powers-that-be never assigned it to me in school, and I'm only now catching up to it on my own. I should have read it… Continue reading Aldous Huxley, Brave New World

William Shakespeare, 2 Henry IV

Henry IV, Part 2 by William Shakespeare My rating: 4 of 5 stars A strange play, even disturbing. The first part was a crowd-pleaser, full of action, comedy, and strongly individualized characters representing ideologies and ways of life from which Prince Hal, on his path to the throne, will have to choose. In this second… Continue reading William Shakespeare, 2 Henry IV

William Shakespeare, 1 Henry IV

Henry IV, Part I by William Shakespeare My rating: 5 of 5 stars In the excerpt from The Plays of William Shakespeare collected in this volume, Dr. Johnson asserts that, "None of Shakespeare's plays are more read than the First and Second Parts of Henry the Fourth. Perhaps no author has ever in two plays… Continue reading William Shakespeare, 1 Henry IV

William Shakespeare, Richard II

Richard II by William Shakespeare My rating: 4 of 5 stars It seems that most Shakespeare plays trail famous commentary from luminaries of British letters, usually Johnson or Hazlitt or Coleridge. But this Signet Classics edition puts at the head of its criticism section what appears to be the most famous commentary on this play… Continue reading William Shakespeare, Richard II