Summaries, Commentaries, and Original Articles
on Selected Books, Plays, Poems, Courses,
and Other Topics of Interest

Some books are to be tasted, others to be swallowed,
and some few to be chewed and digested.
(Francis Bacon)

Rogier van der Weyden, Portrait of a Man Holding a Book
Rogier van der Weyden, 
Portrait of a Man Holding a Book, before 1437

Table of Contents

All summaries, commentaries, and articles linked on this page have been written and/or prepared by Michael McGoodwin unless otherwise noted.  Where a line item refers to a single specific work, I have listed it under the author of that work—otherwise, especially if the summary deals with more than one author's books, I have given my name as the author of the article about the subject.  The year appearing in parentheses after the title is the approximate year of the subject work's composition or publication, or (when I am listed as the author) the year I wrote the article.

Please feel free to make use of these summaries as you please, but kindly acknowledge their source if you do use them.  Many of the earlier summaries here were originally prepared simply as a study aid and not with an eye on publication.  Some summaries have quotations and paraphrases extracted from copyrighted works, which I sincerely hope do not exceed fair use limits, but they may not always be properly enclosed in quotation marks.  You should therefore exercise caution when including text verbatim from any of these articles without checking and acknowledging the original source.  On most of these subjects, I am only an interested amateur, and make no personal claims regarding scholarly accuracy or originality of thought.

Ancient and Medieval Writings

Author Time Written Title in English (and in Original)
Unknown 3rd-2nd Millennium BCE Gilgamesh
Multiple 2nd-1st Millennium BCE The Bible: Old Testament and Related
Herodotus of Halicarnassus c. 425 BCE The History
Plato c. 400 - 347 BCE Dialogs
Apollonius of Rhodes c. 250 BCE Jason and the Golden Fleece (The Argonautica)
Lucretius c. 59 BCE On the Nature of Things (De Rerum Natura)
Gaius Julius Caesar c. 45 BCE The Civil War (Commentarii de bello civili)
Virgil 29 BCE - 19 BCE Aeneid
Flavius Josephus c. 75 CE The Jewish War (Bellum Judaicum)
Multiple 1st Century CE The Bible: New Testament
Arrian c. 150 CE The Campaigns of Alexander (Anabasis Alexandrou)
Multiple/Unknown 7th Century CE The Koran
Multiple/Unknown c. 900 CE or earlier The Thousand And One Nights (The Arabian Nights)
Unknown c. 650 - 1000 CE Beowulf
Chrétien de Troyes c. 1181-1191 CE The Story of the Grail (Li Contes del Graal; Perceval)
Wolfram von Eschenbach c. 1197 - 1215 CE Parzival
Dante Alighieri c. 1308 - 1320 CE Inferno (from Commedia)
Torquato Tasso c. 1581 CE Jerusalem Delivered (Gerusalemme liberata)

William Shakespeare (writings dated c. 1588  - 1613)

All of these Shakespeare works have been summarized by me using The Complete Works of Shakespeare Updated Fourth Ed., Longman Addison-Wesley, edited by David Bevington, 1997.  Quotations are for the most part taken from that work, as are paraphrases of his commentary.  This is an outstanding book, with a highly scholarly introduction and excellent detailed annotations throughout, which are invaluable for making the meaning of Shakespeare as clear as possible. Spellings have been modernized and Americanized, and the whole approach is designed to demystify and make Shakespeare comprehensible, not always an easy task.  I highly recommend this particular compilation of the Shakespeare works.  For all summaries, I have usually provided (1) a few initial overall impressions, (2) some additional comments extracted from Bevington, plus (3) historical notes as appropriate, and then (4) a scene by scene summary, stating the locale at the start of each scene when it has changed.

Antony and Cleopatra As You Like It Comedy of Errors, The
Coriolanus Cymbeline Hamlet
Julius Caesar King Henry Eighth (Henry VIII), 
The Life of
King Henry the Fifth (Henry V), 
The Life of
King Henry the Fourth (Henry IV), 
The First Part of
King Henry the Fourth (Henry IV), 
The Second Part of
King Henry the Sixth [Henry VI], 
The First Part of
King Henry the Sixth [Henry VI], 
The Second Part of
King Henry the Sixth [Henry VI], 
The Third Part of
King John, 
The Life and Death of
King Lear King Richard the Second [Richard II],
The Tragedy of
King Richard The Third [Richard III],
The Tragedy of
Love's Labor's Lost A Lover's Complaint Macbeth
Measure for Measure Merchant of Venice, The Merry Wives of Windsor, The
Midsummer Night's Dream, A Much Ado About Nothing Othello, the Moor of Venice
Pericles Phoenix and Turtle, The Rape of Lucrece, The
Romeo and Juliet Sonnets Taming of the Shrew, The
Tempest, The Timon of Athens Titus Andronicus
Troilus and Cressida Twelfth Night; or, What You Will Two Gentlemen of Verona, The
Venus and Adonis Winter's Tale, The

Post-Medieval English-Language Fiction, Plays, and Misc. Literature

Austen, Jane Emma (1816) Persuasion (1818)
Pride and Prejudice (1813) Sense and Sensibility (c. 1797) 
Brontë, Charlotte Jane Eyre (1847)
Brown, Robert A. The Tree and the Panzaic Plea (2010)
Byatt, A. S. Possession (1990)
Byron, Lord Don Juan (1818-23)
Carroll, Lewis Alice's Adventures in Wonderland (1865) Through the Looking Glass (1872)
Conrad, Joseph Lord Jim (1900)
Dickens, Charles Bleak House (1853) A Tale of Two Cities (1859)
Eliot, George Silas Marner (c. 1861)
Fitzgerald, F. Scott  The Great Gatsby (1925) Tender Is The Night (1934)
Guterson, David  Snow Falling On Cedars (1994)
Hardy, Thomas Far from the Madding Crowd (1874) Jude the Obscure (1896)
Hemingway, Ernest  A Moveable Feast (1964) The Sun Also Rises (1926)
James, Henry The Wings of the Dove (1902)
Mawer, Simon The Glass Room (2009)
McGoodwin, Michael C. Aspects of Poetry (MCM: 2000)
Melville, Herman Billy Budd (c. 1891)
Milton, John  Paradise Lost (1674)
Scott, Walter Waverley (1814)
Twain, Mark Adventures Of Huckleberry Finn (1876-1883)

Post-Medieval Non-English Language Fiction, Plays, and Misc. Literature

Cervantes, Miguel de Don Quixote (El ingenioso hidalgo don Quijote de la Mancha, 1605/1615)
Dostoevski, Fyodor Crime and Punishment (1866)
Flaubert, Gustave Madame Bovary (1857)
García Márquez, Gabriel Love in the Time of Cholera (El amor en los tiempos del cólera, c. 1988)
Goethe, Johann Wolfgang von The Sorrows of Young Werther (Die Leiden des jungen Werthers, 1774)
Mann, Thomas Buddenbrooks: The Decline of a Family (1901)

History and Biography

Bergreen, Laurence Over the Edge of the World (2003)
Drews, Robert  The End of the Bronze Age (1993)
Gibbon, Edward The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire (c. 1776)
Mandela, Nelson  Long Walk to Freedom: The Autobiography of Nelson Mandela (1994)
McCullough, David G.  John Adams (2001)
Sobel, Dava  Galileo's Daughter: A Historical Memoir of Science, Faith, and Love (1999)

Medicine

McGoodwin, Michael C. History of Nuclear Cardiovascular Imaging Procedures
at Providence Seattle Medical Center, 1978-94
(MCM: 1999)

Science, Mathematics, and Other Nonfiction Works

Brown, Lester Plan B: Rescuing a Planet Under Stress and a Civilization in Trouble (2003)
Diamond, Jared Guns, Germs, and Steel (1997)
Gleick, James Chaos: Making A New Science (1987)
Greene, Brian The Elegant Universe (1999)
Hartmann, William K. A Traveler's Guide to Mars (2003)
McGoodwin, James R. Crisis in the World's Fisheries (1990)
McGoodwin, Michael C. Aspects of Black American Music (MCM: 2014, PDF)
McGoodwin, Michael C. Astronomy and Astrophysics of Stars, Galaxies, and Beyond (MCM: 2012, PDF)
McGoodwin, Michael C. Atmospheric Science Introduction (MCM: 2010, PDF)
McGoodwin, Michael C. Atmospheric Chemistry: Air Pollution and Global Warming (MCM: 2014, PDF)
McGoodwin, Michael C. Credo for the Third Millennium (MCM: 2015, PDF)
McGoodwin, Michael C. Electrical Energy Systems (MCM: 2015-2016, PDF)
McGoodwin, Michael C. Geological Time (MCM: 2010, PDF)
McGoodwin, Michael C. Julia Jewels: An Exploration of Julia Sets (MCM: 2000)
McGoodwin, Michael C. Notes of a Geobiology Watcher, or How to Love Your Bacteria (MCM: 2007, PDF)
McGoodwin, Michael C. Plant Physiology Outline (MCM: 2008, PDF)
McGoodwin, Michael C. Relativity Primer (MCM: 2008)
McGoodwin, Michael C. Remote Sensing of Earth Environments (MCM: 2015, PDF)
McGoodwin, Michael C. Space Physics Introduction (MCM: 2009, PDF)
McGoodwin, Michael C. Thermodynamics (MCM: 2016, PDF)
Pais, Abraham  'Subtle is the Lord...': The Science and the Life of Albert Einstein (1982)
Pohlmann, Ken C. Principles of Digital Audio, 4th Ed. (2000)
Rhodes, Richard  Dark Sun: The Making of the Hydrogen Bomb (1995)
Ridley, Matt  The Red Queen: Sex and the Evolution of Human Nature (1993)
Wilson, Edward O.  On Human Nature (1978)