"Every so often there is a rebellion against the assumption that Shakespeare is a uniquely great writer. This feeling, strong at the moment, has vociferous supporters in the academics, teachers who want to be rid of what they regard as heritage lumber. some even profess to believe that the eminence of Shakespeare is the result of an imperialist plot. There are also those, in my view almost equally wrong-headed, who continue to adore the Bard without giving much thought to the problems he sets. My belief is that, like the very critical Ben Johnson, we should admire Shakespeare "this side of idolatry"; "there was ever more to be praised in than pardoned". Like Johnson, we need not shrink from saying that some of the work is mediocre or worse. What we do need is new ways of saying why the best of him really is the best." The true biography of Shakespeare - and only one we really need to care about - is in the plays, and the plays are made of language. This book argues that something extraordinary happened to the language of Shakespeare in mid-career, somewhere around 1600. An initial discussion of the language of some of the earlier plays looks for signs as to what was afoot, and this leads to a central testament of this turning point. The rest of the book is about what came after that, in the great works between "Hamlet" and "The Tempest".
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