Tuesday, January 8, 2008

Me and Shakespeare - Herman Gollob - Book Review

Me and Shakespeare
By Herman Gollob
Doubleday 2002

Herman Gollob was an editor for Doubleday when he retired in the mid 1990s. Just before he retired he went to see a Broadway play of Hamlet starring Ralph Fiennes. Gollob was blown away by Fiennes' performance, and immediately started a "love affair" with the Bard. He read anything he could find about Shakespeare, including the Plays and the Sonnets.

As a sort-of-practising Jew, Gollob was reading King Lear and sensed some Hebraic tones in the play. The more Gollob studied King Lear, the more he was convinced that King Lear had some origins in Judaism.

During his study of Shakespeare, Gollob began teaching Shakespeare to seniors at the local community college in New Jersey where he lives. He also went to Oxford University in England to study Shakespeare for three weeks. While he was there, he was required to write a paper on Shakespeare, so Gollob started writing about the Jewish themes in King Lear. He ended up forming a theory that Shakespeare had a "jewish spy". His teacher thought it was an excellent paper.

Later Gollob made another trip to England to see Hamlet being played the New Globe Theatre in London. He also visited the Folger Library in Washington DC - I really enjoyed that chapter. I enjoyed the book for the memoir narrative, the long list of books he found about Shakespeare (most of them concering Shakespeare and the Bible) and the things he learned about Shakespeare at Oxford, at the Folger Library, and in the chats he had with various directors and producers.

But in my opinion, he wrote too much about King Lear and the Jewish themes he saw in that play. I am not Jewish, and they didn't interest me. Also Gollob firmly believed that Shakespeare really was the author of the plays - unlike me.

So if you're Jewish or have an interest in the Jewish themes, as well in King Lear, I'm sure you'll find this book very interesting.

I read this book for the Memoirs and the Shakespeare Challenges.

No comments: