Seven Wonders of Shakespeare

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264 pages, 6" x 9", introduction, notes, index

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Seven Wonders of Shakespeare

Platt, Michael

After a long life with Shakespeare, seeing, reading, studying, playing, and teaching the works, Michael Platt has bequeathed to after-livers an appreciation of some of the many wonders of Shakespeare. Seven discerned here are: first, how vast his learning is; second, how witty in expression, how rich in thought, and inventive in coinage his language; third, that he is the first poet ever to write both comedy and tragedy, and beyond that, history, thus making him the English Aristophanes, Sophocles, and Thucydides; fourth, that, unlike his great poetic predecessors, he presents life without the presence of the gods or God and yet, though hidden, everywhere Christian teachings illuminate life; fifth, that he so abundantly multiplies instances, so skillfully juxtaposes them, and so frames them with wisdom, that to understand him you must become philosophic; sixth, that each of his near nine hundred characters is so himself, speaking like no other, that we marvel how a man is is what he is like others, and yet who he is is utterly self-referential and seventh, though Shakespeare is invisible in his own works, like water in water, still in one brief run of words, he tells himself the secrets of all his artful life.

Throughout, there are epitomes of interpretations of whole works, still fragrant bouquets of long vivacious studies. Ever a friend to lovers, a counselor to statesmen, and a comfort to sufferers— Shakespeare has pleased audiences and readers from the first, instructed them in virtue, and filled them with wonders.

In the Comedies he marries aspiring youths and intelligent lasses, provides a bounty of bumptious persons whose unexamined lives are worth living, and increases our amity for all. In the Histories he sustains statesmen and citizens, with unforgettable portraits of both tyranny and civil war, and in Henry V the model of a Christian Prince—a figure both atheists and some Christians deny can exist. And in the Tragedies he presents flawed heroes brought low, makes their virtues shine in suffering, and all the brighter for the truly evil foes they oppose. In the Comedies he teaches us charity; in the Histories sagacity; and in the Tragedies nobility.

Throughout, how humorous, how serious, and how lovely is life, Shakespeare shows us. His wonders, if shared, if examined, call us to philosophy, that is, to thinking, thinking, thinking. To love Shakespeare is easy, to know him hard. Michael Platt helps us both love and know Shakespeare and what he knows better.

Early responses to The Seven Wonders of Shakespeare

“Best and most comprehensive praise of Shakespeare I know of, and right on Statesmanship.”—Harry Jaffa

“[The] Seven Wonders is witty, splendid, formidable, lovely, amiable, sane. There are so many things to like. Best, most mysterious, [of things to like] that the absence of God on stage, but his teachings everywhere, makes Him hidden in Shakespeare, but unlike Pascal with charity over all his creation and among men. You seize on a topic and take it all the way. And this is but one of seven Himalayan peaks. Deo gratias.”—Tom Howard