Saturday, June 28, 2008

Shakespeare: The World as Stage

Shakespeare: The World as Stage
by Bill Bryson

I listened to this book on CD during a recent trip. It is a short history of Shakespeare and his times read by the author. I thoroughly enjoyed it.

Mr. Bryson is honest right from the beginning. He shares that he wrote this biography not because the world needed another book about Shakespeare but because it is part of a series. He states up front that there is a great deal we don't know about the Bard and his time in history. His work is for the lay scholar, the person like myself who wants to know about Shakespeare and his times but doesn't want to spend a lifetime in study. I don't need to know all the authorship debate or what in his life influenced him to write which play when. I want more than a morsel but not a college level class. This book fit my needs perfectly.

Bryson appears to have done a good deal of work. He lays out some of the main thoughts about certain areas, like the order the plays are believed to have been written in (no two scholars agree), then reminds the reader (or listener) about the lack of evidence to support any viewpoint. When he has an opinion to share he follows it with a brief explanation. The final chapter that deals with the authorship debate and where it stems from was interesting and I tend to agree with him. Why challenge Shakespeare as the author when there is no substantial evidence for or against and the circumstantial evidence is stronger for his being the author than for anyone else, especially when you consider where the challenge stemmed from?

I'm glad I listened to this one. I can recommend it happily.

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