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Shakespeare: The World As A Stage by Bill…

Shakespeare: The World As A Stage (original 2007; edition 2007)

by Bill Bryson (Author)

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3,7831502,155 (3.82)151
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 supposition arranged around scant facts. With his trademark wit, Bill Bryson sorts through this colorful muddle to reveal the man himself. Bryson documents the efforts of earlier scholars, and, emulating the style of his travelogues, records episodes in his own research. He 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 common currency. His Shakespeare is like no one else's--the beneficiary of Bryson's genial nature, his engaging skepticism, and an unrivaled gift for storytelling.--From publisher description.… (more)
Title:Shakespeare: The World As A Stage
Authors:Bill Bryson (Author)
Info:Harper (2007), 272 pages
Collections:Your library, Currently reading

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Shakespeare: The World as Stage (Eminent Lives) by Bill Bryson (2007)

Recently added byribond, private library, SarahPepper, jnbard, Andres_Beltran, GraceNoelleB, RABateman
  1. 00
    Introducing Shakespeare by G. B. Harrison (Waldstein)
    Waldstein: Older and shorter, more scholarly but only slightly less witty, introduction. Mr Harrison's accounts of the Elizabethan playhouse and the development of Shakespeare's style are erudite and illuminating. Contains also revealing excerpts from Shakespearean criticism through the centuries (Dryden, Pope, Dr Jonhson, Coleridge). Excellent complement to Mr Bryson's book. Be sure to get (post-)1954 edition (the year of last revision, first published in 1939). Very little dated. Excellent bibliography of scholarly editions of original documents (Henslowe's Diary and Papers, the volumes edited by E. K. Chambers, Mr Harrison's own Elizabethan Journals, and others).… (more)
  2. 11
    Shakespeare by Anthony Burgess (edwinbcn)

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Showing 1-5 of 144 (next | show all)
Bill Bryson makes just about any topic entertaining, yet educational. Despite the fact that there are a million scholars out there who have been studying Shakespeare for ages, which Bryson fully admits, this book gives us the skinny about what we actually know for sure about Shakespeare. Which is precious little. Bryson simultaneously respects and mocks Shakespeare scholarship, and how desperately people want to prove things about his life and works. Or disprove them. So fun! ( )
  Zaiga | Sep 23, 2019 |
We listened to this one on a road trip to the Oregon Shakespeare Festival. We were there to the last play we needed to check off seeing all of the Shakespeare's Canon. We've been going there for over twenty years and have finally seen all the plays. It just seemed appropriate to listen to this on that trip.

Bryson wrote this as part of Harper Collins' Eminent Lives series. It's a rather light biography of Shakespeare and in typical Bryson fashion bounces around quite a bit with various detours of topic but in a fun way.

We learned a lot about Shakespeare and his family as well as about theater in London at that time. Much of what we think we know about Shakespeare is not certain at all.

This was the first of Bryson's books that I've listened to and I enjoy his narration of his work. I will definitely consider the audio edition next time I plan to read a book by Bryson.

If you're looking for a scholarly biography about Shakespeare, this is not the book. If you want about five and a half hours of entertaining tidbits about what might be true about Shakespeare, then consider this one for your next road trip. ( )
  SuziQoregon | Jun 24, 2019 |
An entertaining, informative, and concise account of Shakespeare's life and plays: mainly, Bryson tells us what we can't possibly know about the Bard (unless and until further evidence is discovered, but much of what we could have known is forever lost; no one, for example, thought to interview Shakespeare's siblings or offspring while they were still living). It is a small miracle that so many of the plays survive, thanks to Henry Condell and John Heminges putting together the First Folio from a variety of quartos, good and bad, to render the best versions they could. Even so, none of the First Folios are identical to each other.

Other things we can't know: in which order the plays were written and performed; the identity of the "dark lady"; where exactly Shakespeare was between leaving Stratford-upon-Avon and arriving in London; and almost everything else. What we have is the plays, and as we all know, the play's the thing.


In fact it cannot be emphasized too strenuously that there is nothing - not a scrap, not a mote - that gives any certain insight into Shakespeare's feelings or beliefs as a private person. We can know only what came out of his qork, never what went into it. (17)

By the time [Shakespeare] arrived in London in (presumably) the late 1580s, theaters dotted the outskirts and would continue to rise throughout his career. All were compelled to reside in "liberties," areas mostly outside London's walls where City laws and regulations did not apply. (71)

In classical drama plays were strictly either comedies or tragedies. Elizabethan playwrights refused to be bound by such rigidities and put comic scenes in the darkest tragedies....in doing so they invented comic relief. (102)

Words and phrases first found in Shakespeare: abstemious, antipathy, critical, frugal, dwindle, extract, horrid, vast, hereditary, excellent, eventful, barefaced, assassination, lonely, leapfrog, indistinguishable, well-read, zany, unmask, unhand, unveil, unlock, untie...vanish into thin air, play fast and loose, budge an inch, remembrance of things past, more sinned against than sinning, beggar all description, salad days, blinking idiot, with bated breath... (114-115)

Such distinguishing habits [seldom using the word "also"] constitute what is known as a person's idiolect, and Shakespeare's, as one would expect, is unlike any other person's. (195) ( )
  JennyArch | Mar 4, 2019 |
Bill Bryson's wit is unmatched in so many ways. I absolutely loved this book. I read it when I first started teaching and had to teach Shakespeare for the very first time. I wanted to know more about him and I had no clue what I was getting into when I picked this book up. I love Bryson's vast knowledge of different topics and the humor he brings to everything. Highly recommend. ( )
  justagirlwithabook | Aug 1, 2018 |
What a fun little tome.

[a:Bill Bryson|7|Bill Bryson|http://d202m5krfqbpi5.cloudfront.net/authors/1189096502p2/7.jpg] is a writer I adore, and having him write about Shakespeare... well, what's not to love?

This book probably won't explain anything that a fan of the Bard of Avon and his history isn't already aware of, but [a:Bill Bryson|7|Bill Bryson|http://d202m5krfqbpi5.cloudfront.net/authors/1189096502p2/7.jpg] warns of this in the very beginning of the book. If you're after a refresher of Shakespearean history, a quick book on the subject for fun, or just a nice romp... well, this is perfect. At under 200 pages, this is a quick read that is engaging and entertaining.

[a:Bill Bryson|7|Bill Bryson|http://d202m5krfqbpi5.cloudfront.net/authors/1189096502p2/7.jpg] sums up how little we know about Shakespeare and how exactly we've come across what knowledge we do have. He explains the history of theater in that time and place, along with the influence that Shakespeare had upon our modern English.

I came away from this book with a few things learned, a grin on my face, and a good refresher in the arguments that support the Stradfordian. What more do you want from a book like this, really? :) ( )
  Lepophagus | Jun 14, 2018 |
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To Finley and Molly and in memory of Maisie
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Before he came into a lot of money in 1839, Richard Plantagenet Temple Nugent Brydges Chandos Grenville, second Duke of Buckingham and Chandos, led a largely uneventful life.
We don't know if [Shakespeare] ever left England. We don't know who his principal companions were or how he amused himself. His sexuality is an irreconcilable mystery. On only a handful of days in his life can we say with complete certainty where he was. . . . For the rest, he is a kind of literary equivalent of an electron—forever there and not there.
In fact it cannot be emphasized too strenuously that there is nothing—not a scrap, not a mote—that gives any certain insight into Shakespeare's feelings or beliefs as a private person. We can know only what came out of his work, never what went into it.
One variation [of bearbaiting] was to put a chimpanzee on the back of a horse and let the dogs go for both together. The sight of a screeching ape clinging for dear life to a bucking horse while dogs leaped at it from below was considered about as rich an amusement as public life could offer. That an audience that could be moved to tears one day by a performance of Doctor Faustus could return the next to the same space and be just as entertained by the frantic deaths of helpless animals may say as much about the age as any single statement could.
[I]t needs to be said that nearly all of the anti-Shakespeare sentiment—actually all of it, every bit—involves manipulative scholarship or sweeping misstatements of fact.
"In some ways the records are extremely good," Thomas told me. "Sheepskin is a marvellously durable medium, though it has to be treated with some care. Whereas ink soaks into the fibres on paper, on sheepskin it stays on the surface, rather like chalk on a blackboard, and so can be rubbed away comparatively easily. Sixteenth-century paper was of good quality ... It was made of rags and was virtually acid free, so it has lasted very well." ... Paper and parchment were expensive, so no space was wasted. There were no gaps between paragraphs - indeed, no paragraphs.
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Haiku summary
William Shakespeare: at
Once the best and least known of
Figures. Well put, Bill!
A biography
Of the Bard: amazingly
Little is known, though.
Shakespeare: Who? What? Why?
Bill can't answer these questions
In extensive depth.

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