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How Shakespeare Changed Everything Hardcover – Deckle Edge, May 10, 2011


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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 224 pages
  • Publisher: Harper; First Edition edition (May 10, 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0061965537
  • ISBN-13: 978-0061965531
  • Product Dimensions: 0.8 x 5.2 x 7.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 11.4 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (68 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #580,751 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Review

“How Shakespeare Changed Everything will provide the details and keep you amused while it does. A teacher who makes the class read the book won’t get much backlash from the sourpuss who calls Shakespeare dull and out-of-date.” (Associated Press)

“How Shakespeare Changed Everything is a joyful little book that is a love note to the greatest writer in the English language: never syrupy or over the top, it’s a pleasure to read.” (Bookreporter.com)

“This is a wonderful book about seeing the world through Shakespeare-tinted glasses. You’ll never look at the food court, Justin Beiber—or, for that matter, the English language—the same way again.” (A. J. Jacobs, author of The Year of Living Biblically)

“How Shakespeare Changed Everything is fun and informative, with more than its share of ‘Aha!’ moments packed between its diminutive covers. Mr. Marche’s thesis is compelling and probably more true than we ever imagined.” (New York Journal of Books)

“A sprightly, erudite sampling of Shakespeare’s influence on absolutely everything.” (National Post)

“An ambitious and entertaining new book...[How Shakespeare Changed Everything] explores the many, often unsuspected ways in which the great playwright shaped just about every facet of contemporary culture.” (Maria Popova, BrainPickings.com)

“In his highly readable, never ponderous, sometimes funny, often insightful new book, [Stephen Marche] credits the Bard with everything from shaping American history (the rise of Obama, the fall of Lincoln) to the very enjoyable sex you had last night.” (Wicked Local)

“Informed, ebullient and profoundly respectful.” (Kirkus Reviews)

“[How Shakespeare Changed Everything] is informative and entertaining.” (Publishers Weekly)

“[A] charming tribute...This highly accessible paean to someone whom Marche describes as “the world’s most powerful writer” serves as yet another reminder of the impact Shakespeare has had on culture worldwide.” (Quill & Quire)

“We are lucky that Stephen Marche had his mind blown by Shakespeare; we are luckier still that in making the argument for Shakespeare’s inextinguishable relevance, he has given us a contact high.” (Tom Junod)

“There’s not a drop of boredom in this little book.” (Huntington News)

From the Back Cover

Did you know the name Jessica was first used in The Merchant of Venice?

Or that Freud's idea of a healthy sex life came from Shakespeake?

Nearly four hundred years after his death, Shakespeare permeates our everyday lives: from the words we speak to the teenage heartthrobs we worship to the political rhetoric spewed by the twenty-four-hour news cycle.

In the pages of this wickedly clever little book, Esquire columnist Stephen Marche uncovers the hidden influence of Shakespeare in our culture, including these fascinating tidbits:

  • Shakespeare coined over 1,700 words, including hobnob, glow, lackluster, and dawn.
  • Paul Robeson's 1943 performance as Othello on Broadway was a seminal moment in black history.
  • Tolstoy wrote an entire book about Shakespeare's failures as a writer.
  • In 1936, the Nazi Party tried to claim Shakespeare as a Germanic writer.
  • Without Shakespeare, the book titles Infinite Jest, The Sound and the Fury, and Brave New World wouldn't exist.

Stephen Marche has cherry-picked the sweetest and most savory historical footnotes from Shakespeare's work and life to create this unique celebration of the greatest writer of all time.


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Customer Reviews

Also, this last bit really doesn't fit the book's overall theme at all.
J. Roberts
This book is a fun, quick read suitable for former English majors or those currently slogging through a less-than-interesting Intro to Shakespeare class.
Carol C.
I really enjoyed reading this just for the fact that I learned so many new things about Shakespeare.
Harold Harefoot

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

17 of 18 people found the following review helpful By J. Roberts VINE VOICE on March 7, 2011
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
The book covers almost no new ground, and only reaches it's relatively tiny page count by repeating ideas two or three different ways within the same paragraph, but the ground it covers - Shakespeare's impact on modern life - is worthy and as a summary on the topic, it's really quite good.

Apart from the above-mentioned repetitiousness, the writing style is fast-paced and engaging, moving from topic to topic quickly enough to keep the reader interested by not so fast that you lose track of what's going on. The book really hits its stride in the passages on Shakespeare's impact on English vocabulary and modern sexuality. The last chapter, which focuses on the questionable authorship of Shakespeare's work, is a bit of a muddle, gliding past complicated criticisms and arguments in favour of a more populist approach. Also, this last bit really doesn't fit the book's overall theme at all. I much rather would've preferred an expansion on any or all of the previous chapters than a slapdash rehash of an old argument.
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44 of 53 people found the following review helpful By Dave Schwartz VINE VOICE on May 20, 2011
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
Stephen Marche's HOW SHAKESPEARE CHANGED EVERYTHING makes some bold claims: namely, that Shakespeare changed everything, including your life, whether you know it or not. To pull that off, the reader needs to trust implicitly in the author's judgment; when that fails, you're left with a bunch of words that you don't have any real faith in. That's my main indictment against HOW SHAKESPEARE.

I'll cut to the chase and tell you the exact sentence that killed this book for me. On page 33, after recounting Paul Robeson's experiences playing Othello, Marche makes the leap that O is the first letter not just of Othello, but also O.J. and Obama. Certainly that must signify something, right? Well, according to Marche it's because the two stories are linked: the black man who kills his white wife, and the black man who is "savior of the republic" (political rhetoric that is an eyeroll itself). Exactly how they're linked, we're to guess for ourselves. To my knowledge, O.J. and Obama have never met, or had any meaningful interaction with each other.

But then, we get this gem: "If O.J. did it, which he did not, he did it just the way Othello did."

Unless Marche was the real killer, or was with O.J. that night in Brentwood, there's no possible way that he could say that O.J. didn't do it with that kind of smug self-assurance, unless he's convinced O.J. is innocent because he (Marche) believes he is. DNA evidence? Motive? Doesn't matter.

That kind of lapse in judgment makes me really wonder about Marche's scholarship. If you're willing to stake your integrity on something like O.J.'s innocence and offer no evidence to back up your claim, I have a hard time trusting you enough to let you tell me your story.
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8 of 9 people found the following review helpful By Linda Pagliuco VINE VOICE on March 10, 2011
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
It's evident from page 1 that Stephen Marche is a great admirer of Shakespeare. How fortunate that Marche is a good enough writer himself to convey some of his own enthusiasm to his reader. How Shakespeare Changed Everything is a carefully researched compendium of ten essays, each of which describes The Bard's influence on contemporary issues. Among the topics are race, sex, adolescence, starlings (yes, the birds), history, and Shakespeare's identity. Marche contends, and makes a good case of it, that Freud developed his psycho-sexual theories as a result of Shakespeare's treatment of sex, especially Oedipal themes, in his work. By citing passages from Romeo and Juliet, Marche shows how today's concept of adolescence came about. He is convincing in his belief that John Wilkes Booth's formulated his assassination plans based upon his own experiences acting in Julius Caesar. And he includes a fascinating chapter about all the words that we use as colloquialisms today without thinking about their origins - Shakespeare is credited with coining and/or recording hundreds of them. Marche includes a humorous paragraph compiled by journalist Bernard Levin, in which strings of them are joined into a coherent paragraph.

How Shakespeare Changed Everything is a lighthearted but heartfelt homage to the greatest, most enduring writer/poet in the English language. If you're an admirer as well, you'll enjoy this little (190 pages) volume.
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10 of 12 people found the following review helpful By timelyreader on August 17, 2011
Format: Hardcover
This book is full of interesting facts that are not true. Check for yourself, because the writer didn't.

For example, Marche talks about all the words that Shakespeare invented, but includes words that people were using years before Shakespeare was born. This isn't rocket science, and you don't need a Ph.D. to figure it out. These are mistakes that you could catch with one solid afternoon in a good public library.

The book is also full of silly arguments that you could have made up yourself, if you didn't have any basic common sense. For example, Othello is black, and his name starts with an O. Barack Obama is also black, and his name also starts with O! Holy moley! That couldn't be a coincidence, could it? (Yup. It totally could.)

Shakespeare really is great. He doesn't need people to make things up or to say goofy things in order to convince people that he was important. And one of the greatest things about Shakespeare, brilliant as he was, is that he never treated his audience as if they were stupid. Stephen Marche should learn from that.
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