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Shakespeare: The World as Stage Hardcover – Oct 23 2007

4.7 out of 5 stars 18 customer reviews

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 208 pages
  • Publisher: Eminent Lives (Oct. 23 2007)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0060740221
  • ISBN-13: 978-0060740221
  • Product Dimensions: 14 x 2.1 x 21 cm
  • Shipping Weight: 363 g
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars 18 customer reviews
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #799,903 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Product Description

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.


'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 'Bill Bryson has always been able to spot a market; and there ought to be a market for his latest book!an accessible, sensible Life of Shakespeare!surely a fine gift for someone encountering Shakespeare for the first time!Bryson is shrewd!and as funny as you'd expect!he sets down all the important bits of evidence, and assesses them in a measured scholarly way. He's good value too.' Daily Telegraph 'Measured, sensible and, at times, as wryly humorous as you'd expect.' The Times 'Fast paced jaunt through Bardolatry!wittily evokes Elizabethan England.' Sunday Times 'A work worthy of one of the greatest writers in the English language.' Daily Express '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 --This text refers to an alternate Hardcover edition.

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Format: Kindle Edition
Nobody needs to really introduce what this book is about because this is about Shakespeare.

As someone who has read a little bit of Shakespeare, I thought I knew a little bit about the man and his written words. I definitely like Bill Bryson’s style here though as he chisels back the suppositions and hypotheticals of those before him and delivers a piece of writing which establishes Shakespeare in his historical context.

Nobody really knows for sure what Shakespeare looked like by the way, according to the work here. Nobody really knows where he was when he wrote his great works. Shakespeare is acknowledged as a great romantic writer but his own real life romances were probably few in number and perhaps fraught. He was apparently not the standout playwright of his time and his amazing fame today is more about what behavioural economists might call ‘survivor bias’.

Some may read Shakespeare by Bill Bryson and bemoan the scepticism of an idol. For me, this work shows puts him in his historical context and leaves much room for imagination. I am of the view that one can read someone’s work and let it speak for itself anyway. Why do we always need to know so much about an author or an artist? Five Stars.
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Format: Paperback
For anyone interested in understanding the immensity of Shakespeare's contribution to Western culture, I can think of no better place to start than Bill Bryson's Shakespeare: The World as Stage. What makes this such a delightful read is not simply Bryson's capacity for being both informative and entertaining, but his ability to be genuinely awed by his subject and to communicate that sense of awe to his readers. He readily admits that there is much that is unknown about Shakespeare's life but he does a remarkable job of reconstructing the so-called "lost years" based on legal documents, references to Shakespeare by his contemporaries and insight gleaned from the plays and sonnets themselves. In addition, Bryson provides helpful background information on the political and cultural climate of Elizabethan England, including an illuminating overview of the London theatre scene and its major playwrights. Bryson's trademark wit and his passion for unearthing arcane facts makes this one of the liveliest accounts of Shakespeare's life and times ever written.
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By James Gallen TOP 500 REVIEWER on June 12 2009
Format: Paperback
As readers of my Amazon reviews are aware, I have read several Shakespeare biographies. This one is short, concise and, thankfully, sticks to known facts. Unlike some, author Bill Bryson refrains from wild speculation based on a reference in a play or poem which is taken as revealing some hidden aspect in Shakespeare's life. If it cannot be found in the historical record, Bryson does not dabble in it. Because of the requirements of the series of which it is a part, Bryson has to use his words sparingly, but he still finds time to promote his ideas about Shakespeare and to oppose the concepts of others which he does not accept. At the end he does a thorough job of discrediting the claim that someone else must have written Shakespeare's works. There is not much known about Shakespeare's life and this book covers it. No other book is needed.
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Format: Hardcover
I'm an ardent Bryson fan ...and although this is a departure from his normal fare, I still very much enjoyed it. I may not agree with his views on Shakespeare as the real author of the works attributed to the bard, but he tells his side of the story in an interesting and entertaining way as always. I'd recommend this to anyone who is unsure whether to follow Bryson off his normal beaten track.
As an aside, I'd also suggest you get 'Shakespeare My Butt!' and put it on your bookshelf next to Bryson's Shakespeare just to balance the 'did he or didn't he' debate - even if just for show!. Oddly enough, Shakespeare My Butt isn't about Shakespeare at all - but is a lot more Brysonesque (if that's a word) than this actual Bryson book.
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Format: Audio CD
Bill Bryson's book on Shakespeare is excellent. Bryson outlines all the available evidence on Shakespeare - and, surprisingly, there really isn't that much direct evidence available - and uses that evidence to produce a fascinating book on William Shakespeare's life, times and literary output. He also includes an excellent chapter attacking the dissenting scholarly view that William Shakespeare wasn't actually the author of the works attributed to Shakespeare.

This is, quite simply, an excellent book. Highly recommended for anyone interested in English literature and/or English history.

The audio book version is unabridged. The only downside to the audio book is that while Bill Bryson is a first class writer, he's not a first class narrator. His narrative voice takes some getting used to.

Despite that limitation this is really worthwhile audio book. I have a 40 minute highway commute to/from work and I ususally pass the time listening to audio books. I thoroughly enjoyed this one. Highly recommended.
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Format: Hardcover
This book had me glued to my seat. What a fascinating subject, and who better to investigate it than Bill Bryson? For those who might be put off by academic prose, Mr. Bryson has a remedy: Shakespeare's life, and the story of the search for just what that entailed, rendered in that highly-intelligent yet breezy and unaffected style that has made this author one of the most appreciated figures of our time. The sheer volume of researh he has done and wittled down for presentation is exceptional, and his depictions of Elizabethan and Jacobean England - just for starters - are perfectly executed. The final chapter, entitled 'Claiments,' made me miss my subway stop, so bound up in the "story" had I become.

Although Shakespeare's life is largely a series of "sightings" we may deduce from signatures (some of which might not actually be his), Bryson's account causes the reader to think very hard about just who Shakespeare was. Like many, I learned something of the bard in high school, but I never learned that he was "a country boy" or that he was "naturally learned." Here is a book that ought to supplement the teaching of Shakespeare's plays. One wonders just how many writers could take a subject on which virtually nothing is known, and turn it into a couple of hundred pages that cause you to become so absorbed, you all but shut out the world. Shakespeare: The World as Stage is not one Bill Bryson's more popular books, but it is one his best ones.

Troy Parfitt, author of Why China Will Never Rule the World
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