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Shakespeare: The World as a Stage Paperback – 24 Mar 2016

4.3 out of 5 stars 315 customer reviews

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Product details

  • Paperback: 272 pages
  • Publisher: William Collins; 01 edition (24 Mar. 2016)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 000719790X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0007197903
  • Product Dimensions: 13 x 1.6 x 19.7 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (315 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 7,511 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Product Description

Review

‘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.

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Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
This is a very entertaining and informative account of the life and works of William Shakespere. Although the book is short, there is much fascinating information packed into it. I found it particularly fascinating to read about the huge contribution Shakespeare made to the development of the English language, and the large number of words now in common usage that were originally coined by him. Many myths about Shakespeare are cheeerfuly debunked by Mr Bryson, like the one about his work as an author never being mentioned in his lifetime, and the one about less being known about him than other contemporary dramatists (apparently more is known about Shakespeare than any of the others). The final chapter, in which Mr Bryson cheerfuly disposes of the fantasies of those who claim that Shakespeare didn't write Shakespeare, is particularly entertaining.

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."
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Format: Hardcover
This is an easily readable and short life of Shakespeare written for a series called "Eminent Lives" and strangely coming after books on George Balanchine and George Crick!! In it Bill Bryson, in his inimitable witty style, tells us how little is known of WS's life but then goes on to examine what others have conjectured about it, pouring scorn on so many of the theories. I have read several attempts at Shakespeare biographies but still learned something from this [especially on the Bard's neologisms] but my favourite was the final debunking of the attempts to say the plays were written by someone else. Bryson does this so amusingly [can it be true that of the 5000 books written to prove Shakespeare's plays were written by someone other than Shakespeare, three were by Messers Looney, Silliman and Battey?!] that I was actually laughing as I read it. For example, on the claims for Marlowe to have been the real Shakespeare, Bryson writes "He was the right age ..., had the requisite talent and would certainly have had ample leisure after 1593, assuming he wasn't too dead to work."

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.
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Format: Hardcover
This book is well worth buying and is an interesting and enjoyable read. Bill Bryson is always worth reading, his common sense and down to earth style are always entertaining. What better subject could he have than our greatest writer ? So the book is onto a winner and delivers. I found it an easy and diverting read on holiday. I learned things I didn't know, about Shakespeare's "missing periods", about his relationship with Anne, about the extent to which he was a Jacobean as much as an Elizabethan writer. I particularly liked the debunking of those who claim that Shakespeare didn't write "Shakespeare".

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.
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Format: Paperback
I bought this book because I'm a fan of Bill Bryson and history books generally. (And because it was half price, but that is neither here nor there.) I must stress that my only interest in Shakespeare is as an historical figure living in interesting times. That's why I bought it. His work is for far more literate and genteel people! But I absolutely loved this book. For what it is -- a witty introduction and guide to the whole Shakespeare experience! -- I thought it was faultless. Bryson tells us what we need to know and what we need to take with a pinch of salt (which turns out to be nearly everything!) and he does it in his own inimitable avuncular style. I haven't enjoyed a book so much (or felt so intellectual!) for a long time. So Bryson's done a good job. However, I have a bone to pick with the publishers. Why no illustrations? No portraits (admittedly there are no 'cast-iron' ones), no facsimiles of the oft-cited historical documents or scratchy signatures, no quaint maps. Nothing. I don't know why this happens with Bryson particularly, but I noticed it too in his A Short History of Nearly Everything. Perhaps they were trying to avoid tired old cliches. But I like to rest every so often and a picture can be good to mull over and collect thoughts.
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Format: Hardcover
Short but enjoyable biography of Britains foremost writer. Bryson wisely stays away from pointless conjecture and unfounded speculation about The Bard and sticks to the facts scarce though they are. He concentrates instead what is known from records and contemporaries. Recommended.
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