Days of our Lives!

June 11, 2012

Book Review: Shakespeare: The World as a Stage – Bill Bryson

Filed under: Books — Santhosh @ 8:17 PM
Book Name: Shakespeare: The World as a Stage
Author: Bill Bryson
Genre: Biography

Shakespeare: The World as a Stage has GOT to be the liberal arts equivalent of the thesis reports on “strategic realignment of organization to external exigencies using a process driven approach and scalable, replicable models that offer long-term sustainability” that we wrote during my MBA days. I mean, seriously! An entire book that basically talks about how little there is to talk about what the book is supposed to talk about!

The fact is, and this is something that was an eye-opener for me, we hardly know anything about Shakespeare the person. The master of irony does indeed have the last laugh because we know naught about the most well known playwright in history, whose works have been the best preserved and the most researched. There are Shakespeare scholars who have dedicated careers to poring over the number of times the word “dunghill” appears in his works (it appears 10 times), but nobody knows for certain how “Shakespeare” is spelt (Shakespeare himself signed it 6 different ways, but never as “Shakespeare”).

What Shakespeare: The World as a Stage does provide is

  • a context for Shakespeare’s works
  • Bryson’s love of quirky facts
  • Shakespeare’s works and his contribution to literature
  • words and phrases that he coined that are very much part of daily English, and the even more interesting list of words that couldn’t catch on to common usage
  • contemporaries and luminaries who contributed to, derived from, patronised, and built Shakespeare
  • common life during Elizabethan London
  • anecdotes about researchers who’ve spent careers trying to get to the man behind the name
  • debunking of quite a few Shakespearean myths and conspiracy theories with their often hilarious lack of proof and logic
A quick read, even if I’m now not too sure about listing this under Biographies. 
My Rating: 3.5/5
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