Shakespeare: The World as Stage Hardcover – Oct 23 2007
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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.)
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'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.See all Product Description
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Top Customer Reviews
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.
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.
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.
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
Most recent customer reviews
This brief book provides great insight to Shakespeare and to what it was like to live in England in the late 1500s and early 1600s. Another winner from Bill Bryson.Published 3 months ago by Dennis E. Vance
I decided to give this book a chance based on my enjoyment of other Bill Bryson works since I am not a die-hard Shakespeare fan. Read morePublished 16 months ago by C Miller
You actually can learn from this very interesting history on Shakespeare and I am giving it to my daughter who just graduated as an English major...another great book by Bill. Read morePublished 20 months ago by Christine Trillard
Bryson is always a delight. I would have loved to hear more on what we can know of Shakespeare based on logic. Read morePublished 20 months ago by Zephyris
Excellent but all too short biography. Covers familiar ground in a fast paced and compelling way. Certainly a solid recommendPublished 21 months ago by J Morton
Short, sweet and full of well researched tid bits you didn't already know about the unknowable Shakespeare. A great read.Published on Aug. 18 2013 by l richard kohler
You want to know all you need to know about the Bard? It's all right here, and entertaining as well.Published on June 12 2013 by Guy L. Storms
Wonderfully written and superbly explained, if only all books were this easy to folow and read, could not put it down.Published on March 5 2013 by Steven Scanlan