FOREWORD by D J Etchell
“Honey tongued Shakespeare”—a description by John Weever in epigrams 1599. “The applause, delight, the wonder of our stage”—Ben Jonson in 1623. Since these and many similar comments by his contemporaries, a never ending stream of material has been produced regarding the worlds greatest poet. Although we are rapidly approaching the four hundredth anniversary of his death, there seems to be no diminution in the works devoted to him.
The potential reader must thus ask, why should I engage with Muse of Fire, is it different enough to warrant my reading it? The answer is simply yes, it is refreshingly different. These are not dry and factual plot summaries, with references included and yet not explained, neither is the book an abstruse academic text.
Here is a work by an aficionado, with a lifelong devotion to and passion for the subject matter which is explored. The style is discursive, gossipy even. The whole is built around a wonderful selection of quotes from Shakespeare and his contemporaries. These are set in their historical context and often compared with quotes taken from the original sources. Thus we can read the whole or use it as a reference work, dipped into as the need arises. This book enables us to get to the root of much of the material which provided Shakespeare with his ideas and inspiration.
We can compile a list, from the plays, of about two hundred books which Shakespeare must have been familiar with. Kay Bellinger gives us direct access to some of his most important sources from within these volumes. Though a lifelong devotee myself, I was delighted to come across new nuggets of information which I had not previously encountered. I am sure that any reader will also find that this book will, entertainingly, enrich his or her understanding and enjoyment of these wonderful works.
D. J. Etchell