Discover the legacy - The Complete Works of William Shakespeare.
Shakespeare: The World as a Stage (Eminent Lives) Paperback – 1 Apr 2008
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‘A delight…A gem of a book.’ Mail on Sunday
‘Witty and infectiously enthusiastic.’ Spectator
'A brilliantly funny and gently insightful travel guide to 16th century England. Bryson is great at picking out of the morass of Elizabethan fact the small details that illuminate and amuse…he also uncovers from the world that surrounded the theatre some fascinating examples of Elizabethan eccentricity…As an abbreviated tour around the world of Shakespeare, this could hardly be bettered.' Sunday Times
‘Bryson uses an inimitably light touch and squeezes a vast subject down to manageable proportions…he is a warm and funny guide through the whole complicated morass of Shakespearean scholarship.’ Financial Times
From the Back Cover
William Shakespeare, the most celebrated poet in the English language, left behind nearly a million words of text, but his biography has long been a thicket of wild supposition arranged around scant facts. With a steady hand and his trademark wit, Bill Bryson sorts through this colorful muddle to reveal the man himself.
Bryson documents the efforts of earlier scholars, from today’s most respected academics to eccentrics like Delia Bacon, an American who developed a firm but unsubstantiated conviction that her namesake Francis Bacon was the true author of Shakespeare’s plays ― she spent months in silence at Bacon’s home, ‘absorbing atmospheres’ that bolstered her theory. With shades of his famous travelogues, Bryson records episodes in his research, including a visit to a bunker-like basement room in Washington, D.C., where the world’s largest collection of First Folios is housed.
Bryson celebrates Shakespeare as a writer of unimaginable talent and enormous inventiveness, a coiner of phrases (‘vanish into thin air’, ‘foregone conclusion’, ‘one fell swoop’) that even today have a home at the tips of our tongues. His Shakespeare is like no-one else’s ― the beneficiary of Bryson’s genial nature, his engaging scepticism, and a gift for storytelling unrivalled in our time.--This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title. See all Product Description
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Top Customer Reviews
The only complaint I have about this book is that I wish it had been longer, since Bill Bryson writes about his subject so entertainingly. However, Mr Bryson has evidentl taken to heart Shakespeare's own aphorism "brevity is the soul of wit."
I have very many Bryson audio CDs and enjoy them all, but this suffers from a delivery that seldom rises above a drone. Frankly, he sounds like he had a heavy cold.
That said - and it does take a bit of getting over - the content is good. As with 'A Short History of Nearly Everything' it provides the listener with a very accessible and entertaining way into and through a lot of information and research.
I suspect Shakespeare experts will learn little, but if, like me, you studied a few plays at school and watch the odd - and some decidedly odd - movie adaptation then this will easily fascinate you.
So, Bryson has produced just what his publishers wanted, a brief biography that anyone can read and learn from, which appears both learned and well researched on the one hand, but also enjoyable and amusing on the other.
So why only three stars? Well, the book comes across exactly as what it is, a commission. "Bill, could you write us a brief book about Shakespeare?" As such it firstly it feels a bit cobbled together, a bit rushed off. Secondly it is rather lacking in depth. Thirdly it rather lacks structure jumping erractically between the specifics of Shakespeare's life and the generalities of the world around him.
I am probably being over critical, in that the book does exactly what it says on the tin and is well worth a read. I just feel that if the drive to write the book had come from Bill Bryson rather than being a commission, the end result would have been a deeper more satisfying work.
So in summary, recommended as a good light read, just don't expect too much.
As one who obviously enjoys stringing words together and, moreover, has written books on the subject (THE MOTHER TONGUE and BRYSON'S DICTIONARY OF TROUBLESOME WORDS), it's not terribly surprising that Bill has combined his affections for England and its language in a volume about its greatest (play)writer, SHAKESPEARE: THE WORLD AS STAGE. And, of course, they're both named William.
Bryson admits up front that there's very little in the way of hard facts about William Shakespeare. But, in Bill's hands, that plus what can be deduced or inferred expands to a very satisfying and entertaining volume even for the culturally destitute reader who may not be a aficionado of the Bard's stuff. Like myself.
Bill sets the stage, so to speak, with a cursory examination of the English period contemporary with his subject: the monarchy of Elizabeth I, certain London structures (London Bridge, St. Paul's Cathedral), the Thames, religious turmoil, public pastimes, the state of the London theater scene, the business of being a playwright, the structure of contemporary plays, and the art of bookbinding.Read more ›
Most Recent Customer Reviews
Bill has brought together much of what has been researched and written about Shakespeare and I found it mesmerizing. Read morePublished 1 month ago by Lyn H
Bryson brings his incisive wit and study to the thorny subject of Shakespeare. Despite what many self appointed experts pontificate on Shakespeare Bryson reveals the truth early on... Read morePublished 2 months ago by Darren Selby
A shortish and very interesting appraisal of the known facts about Shakespeare, his life and times. It was good to read the background to places, people and events important to... Read morePublished 3 months ago by Wiz
American Bryson brings his own humour and vast knowledge to the most British of people. I am a big fan of the works of WS but even learned a few things from this book.Published 3 months ago by David
This well researched book by Bill Bryson is a well written, fascinating and entertaining read. In true Bryson style he covers lots of ground, and questions everything he comes... Read morePublished 4 months ago by bruno
Really enjoying this book.Amazing facts but told in a humorous way.Published 5 months ago by Denis McCarthy