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Shakespeare: The World as Stage (Eminent…

Shakespeare: The World as Stage (Eminent Lives) (original 2007; edition 2007)

by Bill Bryson

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3,1371331,792 (3.82)127
Title:Shakespeare: The World as Stage (Eminent Lives)
Authors:Bill Bryson
Info:Eminent Lives (2007), Hardcover, 208 pages
Collections:Your library, To read

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

  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 128 (next | show all)
It's entertaining Bill Bryson here, but the paucity of knowledge about the man and Bryson's obvious frustration with that, are made amply clear. The best part is when he points out all the things we've assumed to be true which are just presumptions. Also, enjoyed his debunking of the who-wrote-Shakespeare gambit. ( )
  librken | Jul 2, 2016 |
Terrific presentation of the man and his world.
  ShelleyAlberta | Jun 4, 2016 |
An entertaining and easy-to-read biography with the stated aim of providing what we can "know and reasonably assume about the most venerated figure of the English language" (pg. 3). This, as Bryson freely admits on page 21, is why the book is so short, because bona fide facts about Shakespeare's life are rather thin on the ground. Bryson delves into the research and historiography that surrounds the Bard, showing us that whilst there is much that we do not know (such as the all-important 'lost years' between leaving Stratford-upon-Avon and establishing himself as a renowned playwright in London) we should be grateful for what we have. Compared to other figures of the time, we know quite a bit and, when all is said and done, what we have are the man's plays and sonnets – as rich a gift as has been provided to humankind by any one individual.

There are flaws in Bryson's approach, not least that he omits entirely any literary criticism. This may seem like a mercy to those who were made to forensically analyse Shakespeare's plays in high school English classes whilst the sun shone outside, but surely an understanding of why Shakespeare's works are so highly-regarded would be key to any understanding of the man himself and his position in history? Such a keystone is absent in Bryson's biography, with the writer limiting himself to throwaway journalistic mentions of the Bard's 'genius' and dubbing certain plays 'masterpieces'.

However, despite this almost-fatal weakness, Bryson does make the most of what he has got. He brings a ready wit and a infectious joy for the subject to his book, and mines the mysteries and unconventionalities of Shakespeare's biographical record for all they are worth. Whilst there is nothing particularly outstanding about Shakespeare: The World as a Stage, there is plenty that comes close. The denunciation of those conspiracy theorists who claim Shakespeare's plays were written by someone else is deliciously cutting, and Bryson, who made his name as a travel writer, is excellent at painting a picture of Elizabethan London – a far different and yet eerily similar beast to what it is today. Bryson does well to capture the peculiarities and the otherness of the era, whilst at the same time humanising and demythologising the elusive playwright himself. Above all, whilst it is far from comprehensive, the book serves as a fine introduction to the subject for the casual reader.
  MikeFutcher | Jun 3, 2016 |
I listened to this as read by the author. It was relatively short but interesting. He reviews just how little is known about Shakespeare as well as a lot of people of that age and the theater scene. He also goes into the conspiracy theories (Shakespeare didn't write his plays and sonnets) and shows there is no evidence that anyone else wrote them. Pretty interesting.
  taurus27 | May 29, 2016 |
The 400th anniversary of the Bard's death has prompted me to read a number of Shakespeare-themed books and this fairly short biography by Bill Bryson is the latest. It covers what we actually know about the life of Shakespeare, which is comparatively very little (though this is still more than we know about the lives of most of his contemporary authors), and about the world in which he thrived at the end of the 16th and beginning of the 17th centuries. One point that emerges clearly is how lucky we are to have nearly all his plays surviving, thanks to his colleagues John Heminges and Henry Condell who compiled the First Folio of his plays a few years after his death, and without whose endeavours we would probably lack half of his plays entirely. In the final two chapters, the author considers Shakespeare's legacy and the extraordinary claims of those who contend that Shakespeare did not really write his own plays, a claim that no contemporary ever made and that was not made by anyone until nearly two centuries after his death. This book is not a detailed literary or academic biography, but it covers the background to Shakespeare's life and times in a way that is likely to appeal to a wide range of readers. Very good. ( )
  john257hopper | May 5, 2016 |
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To Finley and Molly and in memory of Maisie
First words
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.
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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.

Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0060740221, Hardcover)

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 wild supposition arranged around scant facts. With a steady hand and his trademark wit, Bill Bryson sorts through this colorful muddle to reveal the man himself.

Bryson documents the efforts of earlier scholars, from today's most respected academics to eccentrics like Delia Bacon, an American who developed a firm but unsubstantiated conviction that her namesake, Francis Bacon, was the true author of Shakespeare's plays. Emulating the style of his famous travelogues, Bryson records episodes in his research, including a visit to a bunkerlike room in Washington, D.C., where the world's largest collection of First Folios is housed.

Bryson 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 a gift for storytelling unrivaled in our time.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:04:25 -0400)

(see all 10 descriptions)

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.… (more)

(summary from another edition)

» see all 12 descriptions

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