The Comedies with Introductions by Judith Buchanan:
These Comedies are among the best loved of Shakespeare's plays. In each a problem emerges, is then intensified to a point of maximum confusion and potential upset, before the chaos is resolved, however improbably, into general goodwill and a spate of marriages. The triumph of these plays lies in the way they mingle humorous stage business and dexterous word play with a more serious study of identity, gender, dreaming, the meaning of love, even of the theatre itself. They reassure us that with all its faults, the world will always in the end be redeemable.
Shelley's short, prolific life produced some of the most memorable and well-known lyrics of the Romantic period. But he was also the most radical writer in the English literary tradition of his day, a fiery political visionary committed to social change and progress.
The generous selection in this volume represents the wide range of his writing, both poetry and prose. Arranged chronologically, the accompanying introductory essays set Shelley's works in their historical, social and political context.
They provide a vivid insight into the life and times of this volcanic spirit whose inspiring voice called on ...|
The Black Death is sweeping through Europe. In Florence, plague has carried off one hundred thousand people. In their Tuscan villas, seven young women and three young men tell tales to recreate the world they have lost, weaving a rich tapestry of comedy, tragedy, ribaldry and farce.
Giovanni Boccaccio's Decameron recasts the storytelling heritage of the ancient and medieval worlds into perennial forms that inspired writers from Chaucer and Shakespeare down to our own day. Boccaccio makes the incredible believable, with detail so sharp we can look straight into the lives of people who lived six hundred years ago. ...|
Walt Whitman's verse gave the poetry of America a distinctive national voice. It reflects the unique vitality of the new nation, the vastness of the land and the emergence of a sometimes troubled consciousness, communicated in language and idiom regarded by many at the time as shocking.
Whitman's poems are organic and free flowing, fit into no previously defined genre and skilfully combine autobiographical, sociological and religious themes with lyrical sensuality. His verse is a fitting celebration of a new breed of American and includes "Song of Myself", "Crossing Brooklyn Ferry", the ...|
Adultery is not a typical Jane Austen theme, but when it disturbs the relatively peaceful household at Mansfield Park, it has quite unexpected results.
The diffident and much put-upon heroine Fanny Price has to struggle to cope with the results, re-examining her own feelings while enduring the cheerful amorality, old-fashioned indifference and priggish disapproval of those around her. ...|
Jane Austen teased readers with the idea of a "heroine whom no one but myself will much like", but Emma is irresistible. "Handsome, clever, and rich", Emma is also an "imaginist", "on fire with speculation and foresight". She sees the signs of romance all around her, but thinks she will never be married.
Her matchmaking maps out relationships that Jane Austen ironically tweaks into a clearer perspective. Judgement and imagination are matched in games the reader too can enjoy, and the end is a triumph of understanding. ...|
The Brothers Grimm rediscovered a host of fairy tales, telling of princes and princesses in their castles, witches in their towers and forests, of giants and dwarfs, of fabulous animals and dark deeds.
This selection of their folk tales was made and translated by Lucy Crane, and includes firm favourites such as "Cinderella", "Rapunzel", "The Goose Girl", "Sleeping Beauty", "Hansel and Gretel", and "Snow White".
It is illustrated throughout by Walter Crane's charming line drawings. ...|
"Treasure Island" is a tale of pirates and villains, maps, treasure and shipwreck. When young Jim Hawkins finds a packet in Captain Flint's sea chest, he could not know that the map inside it would lead him to unimaginable treasure. Shipping as cabin boy on the Hispaniola, he sails with Squire Trelawney, Captain Smollett, Dr. Livesey, the sinister Long John Silver and a frightening crew to "Treasure Island". There, mutiny, murder and mayhem lead to a thrilling climax. ...|
Set in Hardy's Wessex, Tess is a moving novel of hypocrisy and double standards. Its challenging sub-title, A Pure Woman, infuriated critics when the book was first published in 1891, and it was condemned as immoral and pessimistic.
It tells of Tess Durbeyfield, the daughter of a poor and dissipated villager, who learns that she may be descended from the ancient family of d'Urbeville. In her search for respectability her fortunes fluctuate wildly, and the story assumes the proportions of a Greek tragedy. It explores Tess's relationships with two very different men, her struggle against the social mores of ...|
"Wuthering Heights" is a wild, passionate story of the intense and almost demonic love between Catherine Earnshaw and Heathcliff, a foundling adopted by Catherine's father.
After Mr Earnshaw's death, Heathcliff is bullied and humiliated by Catherine's brother Hindley and wrongly believing that his love for Catherine is not reciprocated, leaves Wuthering Heights, only to return years later as a wealthy and polished man. He proceeds to exact a terrible revenge for his former miseries.
The action of the story is chaotic and unremittingly violent, but the accomplished handling of a complex ...|
From its first publication in 1719, "Robinson Crusoe" has been printed in over 700 editions. It has inspired almost every conceivable kind of imitation and variation, and been the subject of plays, opera, cartoons, and computer games. The character of Crusoe has entered the consciousness of each succeeding generation as readers add their own interpretation to the adventures so thrillingly "recorded" by Defoe.
Praised by eminent figures such as Coleridge, Rousseau and Wordsworth, this perennially popular book was cited by Karl Marx in Das Kapital to illustrate economic theory. However it is readers of ...|
"My name is Sherlock Holmes. It is my business to know what other people don't know." ... "The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes" first introduced Arthur Conan Doyle's brilliant detective to the readers Strand Magazine. The runaway success of this series promoted a second set of stories, "The Memoirs". In these twenty three tales, collected here in one volume, you have some of the best detective yarns ever penned. In his consulting room at 221B Baker Street, the master sleuth receives a stream of clients all presenting him with baffling and bizarre mysteries to unravel. There is, for ...|