cover image Acting Shakespeare

Acting Shakespeare

John Gielgud, John Miller. Scribner Book Company, $20 (0pp) ISBN 978-0-684-19511-7

Now 88, the distinguished British actor here offers random notes on the works of his country's most famous dramatist, whose plays he has been performing for more than 70 years. Gielgud is particularly well known for his interpretations of Richard II, Hamlet, King Lear, Benedick in Much Ado About Nothing, Cassius in Julius Caesar and Prospers in The Tempest (and in the Peter Greenaway film Prospero's Books), all of which he discusses in a light, unpretentious style. His rambling prose tends toward anecdotes and flashes of intriguing insight-- Lear should be witty and sly as well as wicked and mad--rather than sustained discussion of the roles' deeper meanings. Miller, coauthor with Gielgud of An Actor in His Time, provides an introduction tracing the history of Gielgud's Shakespearean productions and appendices reprinting contemporary reviews, cast lists and notes on King Lear by famed director Harley Granville-Barker. This blatant padding doubles the book's length to a still-meager 192 pages but adds little substance. Nevertheless, the book is a pleasant diversion for ardent theater lovers looking for lightweight reading. (Oct.)