The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 12.2726  Monday, 3 December 2001

From:           Karen Peterson <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>
Date:           Monday, 3 Dec 2001 06:18:19 -0800 (PST)
Subject:        Eighth Wonder of the Literary World?

From yesterday's Observer.  Full article plus link are pasted in below.

I'm curious about what SHAKSPERians think about this kind of thing.  Do
"Top Ten" lists of whatever stripe encourage anyone to actually read or
study the works in question?  Is it helpful to build a hierarchy in
which *Hamlet* (and by extension, probably, Shakespeare's works in
general) are placed before important texts from different genres (like
*Middlemarch*, for example?) Is Hamlet's prime claim to fame as a
repository for "catch-phrases"?

In any case, a curious news item in an otherwise bleak and depressing
day in UK-newspaper-land.


Hamlet will reign for the English
Readers' poll chooses classic work of Shakespeare to join the eight
wonders of the literary world, reports

Vanessa Thorpe
Sunday December 2, 2001
The Observer

For generations, readers and scholars have passionately argued the
merits of the best works of English-language literature ever written.
Few have been able to agree on the choice of greatest.

But after one of the most exhaustive readers' polls ever undertaken,
William Shakespeare's Hamlet has been selected to join international
classics such as Cervantes's Don Quixote and Homer's Odyssey as one of
the eight wonders of the literary world.

Editors at Penguin Books have already chosen seven international
classics of literature and plan to bring them out this spring, in the
translations they judge the most successful. Hamlet now completes the

The national poll to select the English-language entry to the list - the
eighth literary wonder - was launched two months ago. Since then,
thousands of book club members have voted for their favourite English
language classics in an internet and postal poll.

Hamlet has seen off competition from Geoffrey Chaucer, John Milton and
John Bunyan to join the global elite.  The revenge tragedy that has
provided more Shakespearean 'catchphrases' than any other of his plays -
including the line 'To be, or not to be' - will represent the summit of
creative achievement in the English language.

If Hamlet is publicly confirmed as the winner this Christmas, the votes
of several modern literary figures will have counted for nothing. Toby
Litt, author of the novel Deadkidsongs , argued that another
Shakespearean tragedy should take the laurels. 'I'll take King Lear for
its deranged greatness,' he said.

The Poet Laureate, Andrew Motion, voted for John Keats's collected
letters 'for their astounding, con temporary-seeming brilliance and
their deep wisdom about writers and writing'.

Professor Hermione Lee, who chaired an international conference of
Jewish American writing at Oxford University, chose George Eliot's
Middlemarch , as 'the most profound, wise and absorbing of English
novels, historically far-sighted, politically acute, deeply evocative of
provincial lives in a particular landscape and moment of time and, above
all, truthful and forgiving about human behaviour'.

The novelist and critic Philip Hensher nominated Dickens's Bleak House .
'Dickens is the grandest, maddest novelist in English and Bleak House is
an incomparable, tumultuous statement of furious dramatic force,
expressed in the wildest poetry; there is nothing like it in the world,'
he said.

Writer Simon Winchester wanted Evelyn Waugh's Decline and Fall 'not
least because of Paul Pennyfeather's assertion that anyone who has been
at an English boarding school will feel comparatively at home in prison.
Having been to both, I entirely concur.'

When voting closed this weekend, the top 10 British titles included
three other standards of the literary canon, with Bunyan's Pilgrim's
Progress chasing Milton's Paradise Lost and Chaucer's Canterbury Tales .
However, women writers dominate the conventional novels that came out

Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice , George Eliot's Middlemarch ,
Charlotte Bront 

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