This clear, compact selection of Shakespeare's verse opens the door to new readers of our greatest writer and deepens lifelong readers' understanding of his work. Ted Hughes spent his life considering Shakespeare's works and drawing on them for his own poetry; his book-length account of Shakespeare's development, Shakespeare and the Goddess of Complete Being, was one of the most distinctive works of literary criticism of recent years.
For this selection, Hughes deliberately took strong, relatively self-contained passages of Shakespeare's verse out of the plays and arranged them in a pattern, including the best-known songs and sonnets. The result is at once a revealing sequence of Shakespeare's verse and an anthology of his greatest bits—"capable of striking up a life of their own in the general experience of the reader," Hughes remarks in the introduction.
"The 20th-century poet [Ted Hughes] rearranged the Bard's work in such a novel fashion that it helps us hear Shakespeare as if we were encountering him for the first time. It also provides further clarity about Hughes' philosophy of poetry . . . A Choice of Shakespeare's Verse is one of the most eccentric reinterpretations of one poet by another since the strange anthology of William Blake edited by Yeats."—Phoebe Pettingell, The New Leader
"Hughes notes that while countless anthologies and collections have made available Shakespeare's sonnets and songs, few if any have focused on lines from the plays that can stand alone as complete poems. Only a poet of Hughes's stature could put together such an informed and engaging selection of Shakespeare's verse. Rejecting the reluctance of past anthologists, he breaks 'into the sacred precincts of his drama' and starts 'looting portable chunks.' He mixes these dramatic passages with many of the strongest sonnets, arranging them thematically and structurally, creating a sequence of verse that adds new insight to the Shakespeare canon, and new pleasures for readers. This is a unique way of approaching and appreciating Shakespeare. In addition to the 218 ‘poems,' this volume, available in the U.S. for the first time, includes a brief introduction, an index of first lines, and a lengthy 'Note.' This note is a brilliant analysis of Shakespeare's solution to the problem of writing to two audiences: the highly educated, language-loving royalty, and the illiterate, action-loving groundlings."—Robert Saunderson, Berkeley Public Library, California, School Library Journal
"Admired since the 1950s for the primal force of his own verse, former British poet laureate Hughes also won praise in his home country for numerous projects of editing, literary criticism and translation, among them this enlightening selection of favorite passages from the Bard's sonnets, narrative poems, and (especially) his plays. Familiar and unfamiliar sonnets ('Not marble, nor the gilded monuments/ Of princes shall outlive this powerful rhyme') mingle with great speeches and lengthy passages, famous and not-so-famous, taken from most of the plays: 'Once more into the breach, dear friends' (Henry V), 'the great image of authority: a dog's obey'd in office' (King Lear) and over a hundred more. The reissue preserves both Hughes' brief 1991 introduction and his far more substantial 'Note' (which follows the main text): more argument than simple explanation, this superb afterward is Hughes at his critical best, showing how Shakespeare's 'common language of the highest and the lowest' set forth a 'profoundly articulated, esoteric, spiritual vision' . . . this compact volume might . . . inspire readers who already know some of Shakespeare's plays quite well to look at the rest with new eyes and ears."—Publishers Weekly