Becoming Shakespeare: The Unlikely Afterlife That Turned a Provincial Playwright Into the Bard

Art Winslow on the book by Jack Lynch, in the Chicago Tribune:

ShakespeareIn one of the more amusing sections of “Becoming Shakespeare,” Jack Lynch’s examination of the afterlife of William Shakespeare — that is, how what we recognize as “Shakespearean” has acquired, over the centuries, its specific qualities and shape — he juxtaposes versions of what should be the same line from “Hamlet.”

“O that this too too solid flesh would melt,” the Danish prince soliloquizes in “The Oxford Shakespeare”; “O, that this too too sallied flesh would melt,” is how the “Norton Critical Edition” has it; “O that this too too sullied flesh would melt,” is Hamlet’s utterance in “The Pelican Shakespeare.”

As Lynch points out, “This is one of Hamlet’s most important speeches”; the answer to the question of which version is correct “presumably matters,” and yet “there are hundreds of problems like this in every single play.” It is as if the ambiguities of Shakespeare’s wordplay carried on of their own accord, even after (and long before postmodernism) the death of the author.

More here.