I enjoyed the book though, I learnt a lot I didn't know before and I think the author did a good job going over the information we have about Shakespeare as well as the popular theories involving him, especially all the things about who actually wrote the plays attributed to Shakespeare.
If you wanted to know more about William Shakespeare, his life, his writings, his timesetc, you would have to embark in the reading of an endless amount of written material that would fill trucks and trucks. And this is what Bill Bryson offers us with his book, Shakespeare The World as Stage. Bryson himself says that the world does not need yet another biography but the series Eminent Lives by Harper-Collins did. For a better assimilation of the capsule, Bryson needs to correct our modern expectations, and remind us that to know so little about a sixteenth century craftsman is nothing out of the ordinary. We should be glad that Harper-Collins chose Bryson, whose writing style, so very limpid and fluid and clear, is entirely suitable for the making of this capsule.
Absence of Facts All the way through, Bryson alternates between cagtaloguing all the unknowns of Shakespeare's life and trying to describe it; consequently, his text is heavily sprinkled with "probably" and other, even weaker caveats. He describes his subject as "ever elusive", despite stressing the fact that we know far more about Shakespeare than almost anyone else who lived at that time. Bryson identifies three options for researchers in the absence of hard facts: "pick minutely over legal documents... Related to that, Shakespeare is credited with coining huge numbers of words, but in truth, its often just that his texts are the oldest authentic documents to use them; we dont know if he actually coined them, or they were common parlance down his way (as Blackadder said to Dr Johnson in my favourite episode: Ink and Incapability - but the link isn't to that line).
A lot of biographies can be bogged down by completely unnecessary information which causes the page number to rise to the thousands.
It is by choosing a gift to the biography department that my eye has been attracted by this little pocket lost in the middle of other historical bios. This was the case with most of the known authors of the 16th century in England who left no trace of them either. This book tells us in great lengths that there is nothing to affirm, about the man Shakespeare was, on his emotional side, about his sexuality. Bryson imagines Shakespeare in the hard times of the 16th century. The theatrical activity was enormous at the time, which involved a lot of competition between the different rooms. It is also specified that for the majority of his plays, Shakespeare sought his ideas elsewhere, while sublimating the text. I was fascinated to learn that Shakespeare created new words for his time as "excellent, vast, lonely, frugal, ..." I strongly advise this small book exciting and instructive, and that also fun of the genre of biography in general.
a short biography The book is in the Eminent Lives series by HarperCollins. This is not a disadvantage (for me) at all; and particularly for a biography of Shakespeare, a man about whom, Bryson never tires of reminding us, the provable facts concerning his life are not numerous. The book is quite packed with delightful facts (or near-facts) about Shakespeare and the England/London of his day. Bryson presents a great number of interesting comparisons between the Shakespeare we know, and his fellow playwrights of the era: John Fletcher, Ben Johnson, Christopher Marlowe, Thomas Kyd, Thomas Decker, John Webster, Cyril Tourneur and others. He informed me (I knew it not) that Shakespeare was an actor as well as a writer, and appeared frequently in the plays he wrote which, by the way, were not his property. The penultimate chapter, titled Shakespeares Death, is a hodge-podge of stuff thrown together that varied considerably in interest, from my point of view: his will; the later deaths of his family; the subsequent popularity of theater in London (until shut down by the puritans in 1642); many pages devoted to the first publication of the folio edition of his works, and on and on with that folio topic; etc. Far worse (and perhaps a consequence of Bryson coming up against the stops for the publishers short requirement) was the fact that, for a non-fiction work, the format of the book is dreadful.
What Bryson does do here is provide us with (as his regular readers would expect) a very witty, insightful, but unsentimental portrait of Shakespeare and his burgeoning and everlasting literary genius.
This is a cheerful and entertaining read where Bryson is doing just that - so little is known about Shakespeare's life. (view spoiler) The First Folio What we do have for Shakespeare are his plays - all of them but one or two. It cannot be over-emphasized how fortunate we are to have so many of Shakespeare's works, for the usual condition of sixteenth and early seventeenth-century plays is to be lost. Of the approximate three thousand plays thought to have been staged in London from about the time of Shakespeare's birth to the closure of the theatres by the Puritans in 1642, 80 per cent are known only by title.... They can tells us (and have done so) that Shakespeare's works contain 138,198 commas, 26,794 colons, and 15,785 question marks; that ears are spoken of 401 times in his plays; that dunghill is used ten times and dullard twice; that his characters refer to love 2,259 times but to hate just 183 times.... The Library of Congress in Washington contains about seven thousand works on Shakespeare - twenty years' worth of reading if read at the rate of one a day....and the number keeps growing. Shakespeare Quarterly the most exhaustive of bibliographers, logs about four thousand serious new works - books, monographs, other studies - every year. Between the opening of the Red Lion in 1567 and the closing of all the theatres by the Puritans seventy-five years later, London's playhouses are thought to have attracted fifty million paying customers, something like ten times the entire country's population in Shakespeare's day. To prosper, a theatre in London needed to draw as many as two thousand spectators a day - about 1 per cent of the city's population - two hundred or so times a year, and to do so repeatedly against stiff competition. According to tradition Shakespeare specialized in good but fairly undemanding roles in his own plays. That isn't because people today are more articulate or imaginatively expressive, but simple because we have at our disposal thousand of common words - television, sandwich, seatbelt, Chardonnay, cinematographer - that Shakespeare couldn't know because they didn't yet exist. In plays written during his most productive and inventive period - Macbeth, Hamlet, Lear neologisms occur at the fairly astonishing rate of one ever two and a half lines. Imagine what it must have been like to watch Macbeth without knowing the outcome, to be part of a hushed audience hearing Hamlet's soliloquy for the first time, to witness Shakespeare speaking his own lines.
Bill Bryson, who has now written books on everything from the history of the universe to the origins of our domesticity to America in the 1920s and, perhaps most endearingly, stories of his various travels around the world, here turns his attention to William Shakespeare. In this relatively slim volume (it's less than 200 pages), Bryson researched what few facts are known about Shakespeare and synthesized them into chapters on his childhood, his "lost years" (1585-1592), his time in London, his plays, his fame, his death and, finally, the strange claims that Shakespeare did not write the works attributed to him. After reading Bryson's book, I feel like I know as much as any modern person can know, simply because so few facts have survived. Only one man had the circumstances and gifts to give us such incomparable works, and William Shakespeare of Stratford was unquestionably that man -- whoever he was." I would heartily recommend this book to fans of English literature and history. On a more alarming note, I'm nearly out of Bryson books to read.
Secondly, there isn't much known about Shakespeare, so biographies of him should be short. "Did Shakespeare write all this stuff?" I entertained the notion when I encountered it back in school, but having looked at the evidence and given it a good think, I've come to the conclusion that it is a ludicrous question. Is this a scholarly work? Looking for a basic bio on Shakespeare?
In The Lost Continent, Bill Bryson's hilarious first travel book, he chronicled a trip in his mother's Chevy around small town America. Bill Bryson has also written several highly praised books on the English language, including Mother Tongue and Made in America.