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Shakespeare by Anthony Burgess
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Shakespeare (1970)

by Anthony Burgess

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Showing 5 of 5
A joyous, intellectual read. Wasn't Burgess a genius? Truly a remarkable man. In truth, Burgess' Shakespeare has very little of factual novelty to offer my generation; all of his knowledge and intuition have formed part of the basis of the latest generation of Shakespeare biographers and writers, not to mention those like Robert Nye's The Late Mr. Shakespeare.

Nevertheless, the way that Burgess writes makes this book easily worthwhile. Taking just the facts that we know about the Bard (or, knew, in 1976), he strings a story of Shakespeare's life that is full of reasonable assumptions and some more fantastic but equally beautiful surprises. A vivid and enjoyable read. ( )
  therebelprince | Oct 30, 2018 |
Burgess's foreword tells readers exactly what to expect from this biography of Shakespeare:

This is not a book about Shakespeare's plays and poems. It is yet another attempt—the nth—to set down the main facts about the life and society from which the poems and plays arose. If I discuss the content or technique of what Shakespeare and other men wrote, it is not with a view to providing literary history or literary criticism; it is because the people in this book are mostly professional writers, and what they attempted in their art often relates closely to what they did with their lives...

What I claim here is the right of every Shakespeare-lover who has ever lived to paint his own portrait of the man.


Burgess combines the scant documentary evidence for Shakespeare's life with his knowledge of Shakespeare's works, the works of Shakespeare's contemporaries, Elizabethan theater, and Elizabethan and Jacobean society to produce a lively biography. Burgess's Shakespeare isn't a “dead white man” - he's a man, not just of his time, but of all times. This is a biography meant for lovers of Shakespeare, not for academics. Burgess provides no footnotes or bibliography. However, academics shouldn't dismiss Burgess's Shakespeare as irrelevant. It's the equivalent of classroom lectures delivered by a charismatic teacher, and his passion for his subject may continue to inspire new generations of readers to experience Shakespeare for themselves. ( )
  cbl_tn | Jun 16, 2015 |
Lively and entertaining account of Shakespeare's life and the astonishing transformation of English drama in the last 10 years of Elizabeth I's reign. Burgess's pace never flags and while much of it may not be strictly true (as he himself points out at relevant points), like the plays, it has the ring of truth. Burgess never lets his undoubted scholarship get in the way of his hugely enjoyable narrative. Especially recommended for the hundreds of illustrations of Shakespeare's contemporaries and scenes of Elizabethan life. The Penguin edition is also really nicely typeset (in Plantin). ( )
1 vote Thruston | Feb 27, 2015 |
How much money? And run did he where? Anthony Burgess was one of the few great men of letters in the 20th century. His URGENT COPY is well worth the trouble. ( )
  Porius | Oct 11, 2008 |
Burgess's attempt to argue that his romantic notion of Shakepeare's two women (set out in Nothing Like the Sun) is actually historical, is not credible --simple clerical error is much more believable. However, aside from that this is a decent basic life with lots of good illustrations ( )
  antiquary | Jan 18, 2008 |
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Epigraph
… O meraviglioso mondo nuovo

Che hai di questa gente …

                         — La Tempesta
Dedication
Alla mia cara moglie
First words
The plays of Shakespeare have much to say against the evils of social ambition, but they are merely plays, entertainments for a couple of idle hours; they are not considered and sober testimonies of their author's convictions.
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(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0786709723, Paperback)

Like Burgess's early novel, Nothing Like the Sun: A Story of Shakespeare's Love-Life, this equally delightful factual treatment of what we know of the Bard combines Burgess's stimulating erudition and his well-informed imagination. The result is at once a speculative biography, a theatrical history, and a re-creation of the Elizabethan age. Whether a vivid retracing of the evolution Elizabethan theater, a bravura reconstruction of the first performance of Hamlet, an infiltration of the intricacies of the court of the Virgin Queen, or an elegy on the era's end with the distrastrous Essex Rebellion, Burgess -- author of the classic A Clockwork Orange -- sets the stage for England's most glorious time and turns the spotlight on the figure of William Shakespeare. "Animated by affection and an understanding of the creative imagination that only a creative writer can bring to bear."—Atlantic Monthly "A smooth-flowing narrative, often enlivened by Anthony Burgess's Joycean appetite for linguistic fantasy."—Economist "Bright, racy...knowledgeable and humorous, alternately sensible and quirky."—Terry Eagleton, Commonweal "Burgess's wonderfully well-stocked mind and essentially wayward spirits are just right for summoning up an apparition of the Bard...."—Daily Telegraph

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:19:22 -0400)

(see all 3 descriptions)

Like Burgess's early novel, Nothing Like the Sun: A Story of Shakespeare's Love-Life, this equally delightful factual treatment of what we know of the Bard combines Burgess's stimulating erudition and his well-informed imagination. The result is at once a speculative biography, a theatrical history, and a re-creation of the Elizabethan age. Whether a vivid retracing of the evolution Elizabethan theater, a bravura reconstruction of the first performance of Hamlet, an infiltration of the intricacies of the court of the Virgin Queen, or an elegy on the era's end with the distrastrous Essex Rebellion, Burgess -- author of the classic A Clockwork Orange -- sets the stage for England's most glorious time and turns the spotlight on the figure of William Shakespeare. "Animated by affection and an understanding of the creative imagination that only a creative writer can bring to bear."--Atlantic Monthly "A smooth-flowing narrative, often enlivened by Anthony Burgess's Joycean appetite for linguistic fantasy."--Economist "Bright, racy...knowledgeable and humorous, alternately sensible and quirky."--Terry Eagleton, Commonweal "Burgess's wonderfully well-stocked mind and essentially wayward spirits are just right for summoning up an apparition of the Bard...."--Daily Telegraph… (more)

Legacy Library: Anthony Burgess

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