Book Review: Marianne Novy’s Shakespeare & Outsiders


Only a short book, yet once I’d understood its central premise, it felt too long.

Far too long.

The point, made articulately enough, is that ‘outsider’ is a pretty subjective and fluid term. Thus, Shakespeare’s characters become almost akin to sub-atomic particles, capable of holding either state – insider or outsider – depending on various ever-changing contextual factors and, dizzyingly, can be insiders AND outsiders at the same time.

BH optical illusionI don’t disagree with the argument, but the more you extrapolate it, the more dilute it becomes until, eventually, it has no savour or impact. If everyone is simultaneously an insider and an outsider, the terms become redundant, at least in any way that is useful to me.

This could have been written economically and tightly as a really decent 4,000-word piece. Its impact would have been greater, and I could have taken the argument and made it my own in analysing the plays. As it is, I’ve been left feeling like I’ve playing some kind of intellectual hokey-cokey: ‘in, out, in, out, shake it all about‘.

Now, brain hurting, I’m less clear than I was before, ‘what it’s all about‘ …

Author: Boar's Head, Eastcheap

Hyperactive English Teacher and Tutor; Shakespeare-obsessed 'Villainous abominable misleader of youth'; 'old white-bearded Satan'; Friend of the Orangutan

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