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Othello
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New or Used: $16.04
New or Used: $16.04

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Gr 9 Up-These full-text editions of the plays have clear, thoughtful annotations. Both volumes begin with the same good introductory essay about Shakespeare's life and times and include an essay that gives a voice coach's perspective on the Bard. What truly distinguishes these titles from other books, however, is the emphasis on the plays in performance. Each volume includes a discussion of a famous production and an analysis of the play in popular culture, as well as a section entitled "The Cast Speaks," which contains interviews with actors and actresses from modern productions who share their ideas about the characters and their motivations. Black-and-white photographs from contemporary stage productions and movie adaptations of each play are included. The really exciting feature of these editions is the audio CD that features recordings of famous actors such as Kenneth Branagh, Paul Robeson, and Kate Beckinsale performing scenes. The CDs include multiple readings of the same scene by different performers, which would be extremely useful for instructors who want their students to think about differing interpretations of the lines, as well as for instructors who would simply like their students to hear Shakespeare spoken by actors who have had training in speaking blank verse. Good purchases for schools in which these plays are a part of the curriculum.-Kathleen E. Gruver, Burlington County Library, Westampton, NJ Copyright 2005 Reed Business Information.

More than a retelling, this aptly termed "reconceptualization" provocatively modernizes Shakespeare's play. As in the original, the middle-aged general Othello the ``moor'' and young European noblewoman Desdemona fall in love and marry secretly. But Lester (To Be a Slave; John Henry) transplants the action from Venice and Cyprus to Elizabethan England and turns Iago and Emily into Africans like Othello, so that the three of them share a distinctly non-European point of view. Iago's envy of Othello and ability to whip him into a jealous rage at Desdemona are thus cast in a new light, though the tragic outcome remains the same. While the ending feels abrupt, Lester's novel succeeds in holding up a mirror to contemporary society. Phrases and passages directly based on Shakespeare's language are printed in a different typeface, a device that may distract the reader but eases comparisons with the original work. Ages 8-12. (Apr.)

The new "Sourcebooks Shakespeare" series is designed to attract a wide audience by emphasizing performance as well as text. A glossary and photos from contemporary stage and film productions accompany the text of each play, and related essays offer further insights. Each title contains an integrated audio CD that is narrated by British Shakespearean actor Sir Derek Jacobi and features excerpts from memorable performances of key scenes. The series boasts stellar credits: its advisory board includes Shakespeare scholars David Bevington and Peter Holland and Chicago Shakespeare Theater director Barbara Gaines. Among the contributors are several more Shakespeare scholars as well as actress Janet Suzman and Andrew Wade, formerly head of voice for the Royal Shakespeare Company. Both volumes begin with Thomas Garvey's "In Shakespeare's `Time,' " an essay that sets the playwright in historical context, and end with "The Cast Speaks," in which casts of 2005 productions discuss their approach to the characters they portrayed. The CD accompanying the Othello volume features a variety of noteworthy performers in the title role, including Paul Robeson, Paul Scofield, and Edwin Booth; and the CD accompanying the Romeo and Juliet volume presents recordings of Kate Beckinsale, Dame Peggy Ashcroft, and Ellen Terry as Juliet; Kenneth Branagh and Michael Sheen as Romeo; Sir Derek Jacobi as Mercutio; and Sir John Gielgud as Friar Laurence. With the number of film adaptations of Shakespeare's works in recent years, public libraries should seriously consider acquiring this series.-Carolyn M. Mulac, Chicago P.L. Copyright 2005 Reed Business Information.

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