The Tragedy of Arthur

Colin Burrow writes:

Arthur Phillips’s The Tragedy of Arthur is a topsy-turvy postmodern version of poor William Henry Ireland’s story, complete with a slightly different relationship between a Shakespeare-loving father and his son, and a fake early Shakespearean history play called The Most Excellent and Tragical Historie of Arthur, King of Britain, which is reproduced, with scholarly notes, at the end of the book. It begins, though, as a fairly orthodox novel about a man called Arthur Phillips and his twin sister, Dana. The presence of boy/girl twins warns us to watch for traces of Twelfth Night, and the fact that their mother is called Mary Arden makes it slightly surprising that they live in Minneapolis rather than, say, Stratford, Ontario. Their father (also called Arthur), who describes himself as ‘gently used. Slightly foxed. Warmly inscribed’, keeps ending up in jail for a variety of scams.

(LRB 1 December 2011)

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