Cahn goes through each of Shakespeare’s plays practically line by line, explaining what’s going on, character motivation, and other additional background information that may strike you as either very interesting or very boring, depending on your level of infatuation with old Billy. There’s a chapter devoted to each play, with an introduction to each. Most of Cahn’s information was interesting to me (for instance: Beatrice and Benedick of Much Ado About Nothing are thought to be one of the few original couples Shakespeare created, and their names mean “blesser” and “blessed”, respectively), although I’d like it if he stopped writing as if his personal interpretation of the plays was the only one that mattered. For instance, here’s what he has to say about Kate’s final “Men are awesome and women suck” speech at the end of The Taming of the Shrew: “[Katherine:] has not lost any of her spunk, and Petruchio’s cheering her on indicates he enjoys it. He has not crushed her vitality. He has instead brought out her softer side, previously suppressed by a society unable to appreciate her….We may not approve completely of the relationship they establish, but we cannot doubt that on their own terms they have achieved a love that surpasses any in their world.”
Um, Mr. Cahn, I think I actually can doubt that. Maybe that’s just me, though.
So, why am I giving this book four stars? Simply put, my rating of this book is based on the circumstances that it came into my possession, rather than the content of the book itself. (and I’m the only one who’s reviewed this thing so far, so I can do what I want.) Shakespeare the Playwright was actually left to me by a very good friend and fellow Shakespeare fan who died several years ago. He made arrangements for his collection of Shakespeare plays and books to be given to his friends after his death, and I was one of the people who received one. Because of that, this is a four-star book as far as I’m concerned, and I’ll probably make sure it stays with me for a very long time.
Rest in peace, Tom.
Verdict: four out of five stars