Oxford Illustrated Shakespeare Dictionary by David and Ben Crystal

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Oxford Illustrated Shakespeare Dictionary by David and Ben Crystal

Category: Reference
Rating: 4.5/5
Reviewer: Tanja Jennings
Reviewed by Tanja Jennings
Summary: David Crystal, renowned linguist, writer, editor, lecturer and broadcaster has collaborated with his son Ben, Shakespearean actor, author, director and producer to create an eye catching, exquisitely detailed, carefully colour coded and incisive reference guide. It is extensive and meticulously researched- a fusion of the Crystals’ Shakespearean knowledge, linguistic skill and theatrical enthusiasm. Lavishly illustrated by Kate Bellamy, who favours a bright, attractive primary colour palette, this dictionary is a treasure trove for any student of Shakespeare. This would be a five star review but for a minor quibble - it is missing an index of characters which would have been useful for pupils assigned character studies as they could have cross referenced the explanatory entries with quotes or themes. It also only concentrates on Shakespeare’s twelve most performed plays so it is not an exhaustive treatment of his work.
Buy? Yes Borrow? Yes
Pages: 352 Date: April 2015
Publisher: Oxford University Press
External links: [http:// http://www.davidcrystal.com/ Author's website]
ISBN: 9780192737502

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This beautifully produced dictionary of Shakespeare uses savvy navigation tools, skilful indexing and clever colour coded referencing to make the reader’s journey easier. The introduction explains the different aspects of the Bard’s work-cultural setting, grammar, rhetorical style, vocabulary and syntax, included in the guide. Multiple A-Z definitions (each letter section with a differently coloured margin to aid navigation) are imbued by quotes from Shakespeare’s plays to highlight the context of a word while exploring the who, what, where and why of the etymology, whether the word was coined and whether its meanings are manifold. This is reinforced by the use of a green nib, a red triangle and purple theatre masks as symbols to denote how a word is used in Shakespeare’s text, whether a word can be mixed up with a modern meaning and how a word can reflect Elizabethan culture.

To ameliorate this intensive scholarly approach, the authors have also included attractively illustrated centre double page spreads featuring explanatory panels exploring Shakespearean allusions to armour, clothes, animals, astrology, classical mythology, occupations, culture and travel (map depicting Shakespeare’s Europe and the Mediterranean). This is particularly helpful for drama students seeking to code crack unfamiliar words such as alla stoccata, loggets, hautboy, shough or fitchew. Extra coloured panels also crown each lettered section offering guidance on Elizabethan theatre and Shakespeare’s influences. In addition parchment style inserts detail facets of Shakespearean theatre grammar examining terms of address including insults, hellos and goodbyes. They also focus on relevant Elizabethan beliefs like the four humours.

This approach results in the construction of a supportive scaffold for the first timer to Shakespeare or the student struggling to understand the bard’s meaning because of a language barrier. Bellamy’s illustrations are a happy accompaniment to the text bringing Shakespeare’s world to life. As a reader the only disappointment is that due to the lack of a character or thematic index it is impossible to look up targets for student study such as Judaism in connection with Shylock or colonialism in connection with The Tempest. That said, the book is still a valuable reference tool, often giving the reader an encyclopaedic knowledge of a specific topic. Just by dipping in and out, I gained new insights such as there are three definitions for the word before. It means ahead, in the front or in support. Teachers will also be particularly appreciative of the appendices which explore Shakespeare’s grammar, pronunciation and use of French and Latin. It also offers the reader an English translation of Act 3 Scene 5 of Henry V which is écrit en français.

To experience more linguistic magic why not dip into Spell It Out: The Singular Story of English Spelling by David Crystal, The Story Of English In 100 Words by David Crystal or How Language Works: How Babies Babble, Words Change Meaning and Languages Live or Die by David Crystal.

For an alternative punctuation adventure check out Eats, Shoots & Leaves: Why, Commas Really Do Make a Difference! by Lynne Truss, not forgetting the original version too. If etymology is your passion also try Oxford School Dictionary of Word Origins (2009) by John Ayto.

Buy Oxford Illustrated Shakespeare Dictionary by David and Ben Crystal at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy Oxford Illustrated Shakespeare Dictionary by David and Ben Crystal at Amazon.co.uk.


Buy Oxford Illustrated Shakespeare Dictionary by David and Ben Crystal at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy Oxford Illustrated Shakespeare Dictionary by David and Ben Crystal at Amazon.com.


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