Measure for Measure: An Authoritative Text, Sources, Criticism, Adaptations, and Responses

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W.W. Norton, 2010 - Drama - 242 pages
This Norton Critical Edition looks at the full range of opinion and interpretation of this major play from its origins to the present day, from its "genius" (William Hazlitt) to its being a "hateful work, although Shakespearean throughout" (Samuel Taylor Coleridge), and beyond.

The Norton Critical Edition is based on the 1623 First Folio text, the only authoritative edition of the play. The editor has modernized spelling but preserves, for the most part, the original lineation and characteristically heavy punctuation. The text of Measure for Measure is accompanied by a full introduction, a note on the text, textual variants, and related illustrations.

"Sources" considers the probable, primary, and analogous sources Shakespeare drew upon while composing Measure for Measure, including excerpts from G. B. Giraldi Cinthio's Hecatommithi and The Tragedy of Epitia, King James I's Basilikon Doron, and-most directly-George Whetstone's The History of Promos and Cassandra.

"Criticism" collects seventeen important commentaries on Measure for Measure spanning four centuries, including, among others, those by Alexander Pope, Charlotte Lennox, Samuel Johnson, Elizabeth Inchbald, A. C. Bradley, G. Wilson Knight, Jonathan Dollimore, and Marliss C. Desens.

"Adaptations and Responses" reprints alternative versions of the play: William D'avenant's The Law Against Lovers (1662), Charles Gildon's Measure of Measure, or, Beauty the Best Advocate (1700), and Charles Marowitz's postmodern version (1975).

A Selected Bibliography is also included.

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About the author (2010)

William Shakespeare, 1564 - 1616 Although there are many myths and mysteries surrounding William Shakespeare, a great deal is actually known about his life. He was born in Stratford-Upon-Avon, son of John Shakespeare, a prosperous merchant and local politician and Mary Arden, who had the wealth to send their oldest son to Stratford Grammar School. At 18, Shakespeare married Anne Hathaway, the 27-year-old daughter of a local farmer, and they had their first daughter six months later. He probably developed an interest in theatre by watching plays performed by traveling players in Stratford while still in his youth. Some time before 1592, he left his family to take up residence in London, where he began acting and writing plays and poetry. By 1594 Shakespeare had become a member and part owner of an acting company called The Lord Chamberlain's Men, where he soon became the company's principal playwright. His plays enjoyed great popularity and high critical acclaim in the newly built Globe Theatre. It was through his popularity that the troupe gained the attention of the new king, James I, who appointed them the King's Players in 1603. Before retiring to Stratford in 1613, after the Globe burned down, he wrote more than three dozen plays (that we are sure of) and more than 150 sonnets. He was celebrated by Ben Jonson, one of the leading playwrights of the day, as a writer who would be "not for an age, but for all time," a prediction that has proved to be true. Today, Shakespeare towers over all other English writers and has few rivals in any language. His genius and creativity continue to astound scholars, and his plays continue to delight audiences. Many have served as the basis for operas, ballets, musical compositions, and films. While Jonson and other writers labored over their plays, Shakespeare seems to have had the ability to turn out work of exceptionally high caliber at an amazing speed. At the height of his career, he wrote an average of two plays a year as well as dozens of poems, songs, and possibly even verses for tombstones and heraldic shields, all while he continued to act in the plays performed by the Lord Chamberlain's Men. This staggering output is even more impressive when one considers its variety. Except for the English history plays, he never wrote the same kind of play twice. He seems to have had a good deal of fun in trying his hand at every kind of play. Shakespeare wrote 154 sonnets, all published on 1609, most of which were dedicated to his patron Henry Wriothsley, The Earl of Southhampton. He also wrote 13 comedies, 13 histories, 6 tragedies, and 4 tragecomedies. He died at Stratford-upon-Avon April 23, 1616, and was buried two days later on the grounds of Holy Trinity Church in Stratford. His cause of death was unknown, but it is surmised that he knew he was dying.

Grace Ioppolo is the founder and director of the Henslowe-Alleyn Digitisation Project and is Professor of Shakespearean and Early Modern Drama in the Department of English and American Literature at the University of Reading, England. She is the author of Dramatists and Their Manuscripts in the Age of Shakespeare, Jonson, Middleton, and Heywood: Authorship, Authority, and the Playhouse (2006) and Revising Shakespeare (1991). She has edited Shakespeare's King Lear for Norton and has published widely on textual transmission, the history of the book and literary and historical manuscripts, most recently as the co-editor of Elizabeth I and the Culture of Writing (2007). She is the General Editor of The Collected Works of Thomas Heywood, forthcoming 2012-15.

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