Ian Donaldson

Shakespeare was commonly regarded by his Romantic admirers as a solitary figure, whose prodigious talents were linked in some mysterious fashion to his isolation from society and from his fellow writers. ‘Shakespeare,’ wrote Coleridge in 1834, ‘is of no age – nor, I might add, of any religion, or party, or profession. The body and substance of his works came ...

Ian Donaldson reviews 'Music at Midnight'

Ian Donaldson
Tuesday, 22 July 2014

Disdaining the opening moves traditionally associated with literary biography – the expected orderly progress through ancestry, parentage, birth, schooling, juvenilia – John Drury’s masterly new account of the life and poetry of George Herbert begins instead with the poem that Drury sees as Herbert’s finest work, written in mid-career, ‘Love (III)’. Herb ...

Ian Donaldson reviews 'Shakespeare Beyond Doubt'

Ian Donaldson
Thursday, 28 November 2013

It was not until the middle years of the nineteenth century, so far as we can tell, that anyone seriously doubted that the man from Stratford-upon-Avon called William Shakespeare had written the plays that for the past two and a half centuries had passed without question under his name. In the early 1850s, however, a private scholar from Connecticut named Deli ...

Ian Donaldson reviews 'Shakespeare’s Restless World'

Ian Donaldson
Tuesday, 27 August 2013

The humanities are currently experiencing what’s been called a ‘material turn’ that is in some ways comparable to the linguistic turn that animated the academy half a century ago. Then it was language that commanded attention, and appeared to constitute a primary ‘reality’; now the focus is on physical objects, and what they can tell us about the wor ...

Two photographs from the present book, caught by the British press in 2009, vividly testify both to the fun and to the difficulty of maintaining ancient ritual in the modern world. In the first, a widely grinning Prince Harry, one leg extended in parody of traditional marching style ...

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A definitive biography of Shakespeare’s great rival

Lisa Gorton
Monday, 23 January 2012

‘O Rare Ben Jonson’

Lisa Gorton


Ben Jonson: A Life
by Ian Donaldson
Oxford University Press, $48.95 hb, 552 pp, 9780198129769


Ambitious, arrogant, talented, brave, learned, truculent, and convivial: Ben Jonson was too outstanding, too odd, and ...

During the last dozen years of his life, from the initial diagnosis of leukaemia in September 1991 until his death in September 2003, Edward Said continued to lead an astonishingly active life: travelling, lecturing, writing, conversing with seemingly undiminished energy, even as his physical powers sharply declined. When his New York physician gently suggested it might be wise to slow down, he replied that nothing would kill him more quickly than that; boredom seemed a more lethal adversary than the cells invading his body. What kept Said quite literally alive was an unflagging engagement with what he saw to be the most pressing cultural and political issues of his time. That engagement is fully evident in the works that have appeared since his death, such as Humanism and Democratic Criticism and From Oslo to Iraq and the Road Map, both published in 2004. On Late Style, another posthumous collection, reflects a further and unsurprising preoccupation throughout these final years. The book explores the manner in which artists and writers often acquire a new idiom or mode of expression – what Said terms a ‘late style’ – during the last stages of their creative lives.

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