Books: Brush Up Your Shakespeare

John Updike's witty Gertrude and Claudius is a prequel to Hamlet

Students of Shakespeare know, or are supposed to, that the characters in his plays exist only while they are on the stage or the page. The rest, as far as they and we are concerned, is silence. Thus the eminent scholars and critics who once busied themselves in disputations about the number of Lady Macbeth's children or Hamlet's course of study at Wittenberg were actually engaged in nothing more than romantic woolgathering. But the urge to think of Shakespeare's people as real dies hard, and woolgathering has its charms, as John Updike wittily demonstrates anew in Gertrude and Claudius (Knopf; 212...

Want the full story?

Subscribe Now


Get TIME the way you want it

  • One Week Digital Pass — $4.99
  • Monthly Pay-As-You-Go DIGITAL ACCESS$2.99
  • One Year ALL ACCESSJust $30!   Best Deal!
    Print Magazine + Digital Edition + Subscriber-only Content on

Learn more about the benefits of being a TIME subscriber

If you are already a subscriber sign up — registration is free!