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Shakespeare: The World as Stage Audio CD – Audiobook, CD, Unabridged
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From Publishers Weekly
Considering the hundreds of thousands of words that have been written about Shakespeare, relatively little is known about the man himself. In the absence of much documentation about his life, we have the plays and poetry he wrote. In this addition to the Eminent Lives series, bestselling author Bryson (The Life and Times of the Thunderbolt Kid) does what he does best: marshaling the usual little facts that others might overlook—for example, that in Shakespeare's day perhaps 40% of women were pregnant when they got married—to paint a portrait of the world in which the Bard lived and prospered. Bryson's curiosity serves him well, as he delves into subjects as diverse as the reliability of the extant images of Shakespeare, a brief history of the theater in England and the continuing debates about whether William Shakespeare of Stratford-upon-Avon really wrote Shakespeare's works. Bryson is a pleasant and funny guide to a subject at once overexposed and elusive—as Bryson puts it, he is a kind of literary equivalent of an electron—forever there and not there. (Nov.)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
From the Back Cover
Bill Bryson's Shakespeare pairs one of history's most celebrated writers with one of the most popular writers in the English language today. In this elegant, updated, illustrated edition, the superstitions, academic discoveries and myths surrounding the life of one of the world's greatest poets are evoked through a series of full-color paintings, drawings, portraits, documents and photographs. Bryson also discusses the recent discoveries of the Cobbe portrait and the remains of Shakespeare's first theatre in Shoreditch.
The centuries of mysteries, half-truths and downright lies about Shakespeare are deftly explored, as Bryson draws a picture that includes many aspects of the poet's life, making sense of the man behind the masterpieces. In a journey down the streets of Shakespeare's time, Bryson brings to life the hubbub of Elizabethan England and delights in details of his folios and quartos, poetry and plays. He celebrates the glory of Shakespeare's language and his ceaseless inventiveness, which gave us hundreds of now indispensable phrases, images and words.--This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
Top customer reviews
The treatment of any given topic wasn't superficial, but very few topics were more than 10-15 pages long so it's very readable. Bryson is very down to earth, so he makes sure that the text is understandable without worrying about a bunch of 4 syllable words. I'd give this book 5 stars, but I got the sense that I wasn't getting the full story in certain instances, but I am okay with my improved knowledge combined with what may be blissful ignorance (if I ever was to wander into a Shakespreare convention or lecture, low probability for both).
Which is one reason, of course, [that the book is] so slender."
It is amazing how Shakespeare can be a household name 400 years after he died, and yet we know few facts about him. If it hadn't been for his compatriots publishing "The First Folio" posthumously, he would have been long forgotten. Actually, as Bryson points out, he almost was forgotten anyway for the first 200 years after he died.
But thanks to the restoration of his reputation, and he had a good professional name while he was alive, people now comb his plays & poems and the public records for every meaning and every mention.
Bryson's explanation of how pronunciation has changed from Shakespeare's day is very interesting: "Much of the language Shakespeare used is lost to us now without external guidance. In and experiment in 2005, the Globe in London staged a production of 'Troilus and Cressida' in 'Early Modern English' or "Original Pronunciation'. The critic John Lahr, writing in the 'New Yorker', estimated that he could understand only about 30 percent of what was said." This is from someone who had watched a lot of Shakespeare.
I enjoyed the whole book, but the very best part is the last chapter, Chapter 9: Claimants. This covers the controversy over whether Shakespeare actually wrote Shakespeare, and in a commonsensical way debunks the claimants. I've always thought it was silly to say that Shakespeare couldn't have written "Macbeth" because he wasn't a lord or didn't go to college. He was the son of a mayor and could read and write. Why couldn't the spark of genius have shown itself?
If you want to read more, I highly recommend "The Book of William". This slim book not about the man but about the First Folio. I never would have thought there was that much to know about it. It's fascinating and humorous:
The Book of William: How Shakespeare's First Folio Conquered the World
First off, Bryson doesn't shy away from the fact that we know very little about Shakespeare, instead, he uses it to his advantage. After laying out the facts we do have about Shakespeare, Bryson turns to a description of the world in which Shakespeare lived to explain why we know so little about the man. He really brings 17th century England to life and paints a picture in which you can imagine Shakespeare operating. It's really well done and ends up being fascinating.
Second, Bryson addresses the speculation that has risen up around Shakespeare's life to fill the void of knowledge that we face. Using the information we do have about Shakespeare and the times in which he lived, he categorizes the various Shakespeare theories into more fanciful and less fanciful piles and explains why they belong there. It makes for really interesting reading.
My familiarity with and interest in Shakespeare are average to below average, and yet I found this book to be fascinating, readable and informative. It's made me more interested in Shakespeare.
Highly recommended even for those who aren't deeply interested in Shakespeare.
Most recent customer reviews
This book is just so flat, not Bryson-like at all, and I've read dozens of Brysons.Read more