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How Shakespeare Changed Everything

3.36  ·  Rating Details ·  440 Ratings  ·  119 Reviews
Esquirecolumnist Stephen Marche gives an expansive and exciting look at WilliamShakespeare’s pervasive influence on every aspect of modern culture—showing ushow we can find Shakespeare even where we least expect him. In the spirit ofAlain de Botton’s How Proust Can Change Your Life,Marche reveals how Shakespeare’s influence is everywhere—from politics topsychotherapy, broa ...more
Hardcover, 224 pages
Published May 10th 2011 by Harper (first published 2011)
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Community Reviews

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Apr 06, 2012 Joel rated it did not like it
I'd heard some positive noise about Marche's book, and at first glance that noise seemed well-founded. Marche clearly loves Shakespeare and wants to share his excitement with the rest of us. To create a facade of respectability in his life while embarking on a career as a novelist, Marche pursued a PhD; his subject of research was Shakespeare. "I chose Shakespeare because I thought he would never bore me. And I was right. He has never bored me." Likewise, Marche never bored me. He did frustrate ...more
Elizabeth McCollum
Dec 09, 2014 Elizabeth McCollum rated it did not like it
Well, it started out really well, lots of interesting stuff about the first African-American actor to play Othello, long before Paul Robeson, back in the 19th century. Really good stuff. Then he got to talking about sex in Shakespeare's plays and he says, in the first paragraph of the chapter, "The sexual revolution of the sixties and the smaller sexual revolution we are undergoing now, with the normalization of homosexuality and every other kind of freakishness, both derive directly from ...more
Sheryl Tribble
Apr 15, 2014 Sheryl Tribble rated it it was ok
I could tell early on this book was going to annoy me. I actually didn’t mind the “aren’t I witty” prose much, or the fact that his claim that “William Shakespeare is the most influential person who ever lived” is absurd. Fans are fannish, and I’m fine with that.

But he opens his first chapter with the Paul Robeson quote, “Othello has taken away from me all kinds of fears, all sense of limitation, and all racial prejudice. Othello has made me free.” And then he proceeds to insist, “Othello was a
Särah Nour
Oct 31, 2011 Särah Nour rated it really liked it
If you’re not a Shakespeare fan, you will almost certainly become one upon reading Stephen Marche’s How Shakespeare Changed Everything. Marche dexterously crafts an ode of rhyme and reason to the Bard’s towering influence on the working-day world, from the words and phrases he coined to his contribution to the Civil Rights Movement to his popularity among the Nazi party. In one fell swoop, this book compellingly chronicles the ubiquitous presence of the Bard in our politics, our language and our ...more
Mar 10, 2011 Linda rated it it was amazing
Shelves: non-fic
It's evident from page 1 that Stephen Marche is a great admirer of Shakespeare. How fortunate that Marche is a good enough writer himself to convey some of his own enthusiasm to his reader. How Shakespeare Changed Everything is a carefully researched compendium of ten essays, each of which describes The Bard's influence on contemporary issues. Among the topics are race, sex, adolescence, starlings (yes, the birds), history, and Shakespeare's identity. Marche contends, and makes a good case of it ...more
Nov 22, 2014 Shirlei rated it really liked it
So, I've read "How Shakespeare changed everything" by Stephen Marche...

Although, I have thought that this reading was a little complicated to me (I'm Brazilian, my mother tongue is Portuguese) with all these sentences in ancient English (circa 1500 English) the book shows us a Shakespeare that we don't see everyday, like:
- birds that are overflowing New York city or;
- the name Jessica (that was used for the first time in "The Merchant of Venice") and became an epidemy in Brazil in the 90's;
- cer
Oct 26, 2011 Chris rated it really liked it
True fact - The first performance of Romeo and Juliet in America had a son playing Romeo to his mother's Juliet.

Appartently having sisters play both parts was also common. I wasn't the only one who found Romeo to be a bit of a wuss.

This book explains and examines the influence that Shakespeare has had not only on literature and language, but on society in general. Some of the facts, I already knew, such as the connection to starlings. Some I didn't or at least didn't really think about - Shakesp
Leanne M.
Feb 12, 2013 Leanne M. rated it it was ok

I should have realized by the sensationalist title that this book wasn't going to be my cup of tea. Everything. That's a big word with a lot of meaning, but Marche truly seems to believe that Shakespeare did change everything. He divides the chapters into separate sections of what Shakespeare changed--racism, vocabulary, sex, etc. The idea the book is based on is wonderful, but in the end it fails; the sensationalism from the title carries on into the book, to the point of the ridiculous.

Take t

Nov 03, 2012 Pearl rated it liked it
I really wanted to give this book 3 1/2 stars but not quite 4, so I've settled for three.

Marche begins by writing "William Shakespeare was the most influential person who ever lived." An arguable assertion at best. One that dovetails with his book's title, "How Shakespeare Changed Everything." Really - Everything? Marche, a college professor who received his doctorate in Shakespearean studies at the University of Toronto, is a Shakespeare enthusiast. His enthusiasm is infectious; his classes mus
Alyssa Archambo Nelson
Having been accepted into a teaching program, and knowing that I will most likely being teaching high school English in a few years, I have become a little obsessed with reading things about works I'll probably be teaching. Shakespeare is top on that list since I hated studying his plays in high school, and I want my future students to actually enjoy the experience. As the title suggests, How Shakespeare Changed Everything is a collection of anecdotes about Shakespeare's influence on society.

Margaret Sankey
Aug 16, 2013 Margaret Sankey rated it liked it
I had loved Shakespeare since first encountering him, so I was baffled at why the room full of Auburn football players I was tutoring as a grad school job were sighing and rolling their eyes when I told them that Othello was a living, breathing, work with great relevance to them. It turned out that the English Lit adjunct teaching their class had neglected to tell them that "moor" meant "black." That changed things considerably (and made me think a lot about incompetent teaching). Marche is ...more
Sep 04, 2013 K. rated it it was ok
I so wanted to give this more stars. Marche is very, very enthusiastic about Shakespeare. It is hard to fault his general argument: it is hard to put a limit on how much Shakespeare has impacted culture, sometimes on a worldwide basis. But is he really the reason why so many teenagers tend to doodle skulls over everything? Can we thank Will for the progress of civil rights, and the election of President Obama? And is Freud so deeply indebted to Shakespeare as to base much of his theories on ...more
Ann Santori
Nov 21, 2011 Ann Santori rated it it was ok
Shelves: read-2011
For a book by a Shakespeare scholar, this one is disturbingly poorly researched with rumors thrown out as facts (Edward de Vere, the Seventeenth Earl of Oxford, who the 'Oxfordians' believe is the true author of Shakespeare's works is not a confirmed pedophile, as Marche claims "recent biographies have uncovered," but rather was accused of this heinous crime by three enemies who included several other charges that were proven to be slanderous lies) and odd conclusions (Obama as the modern-day ...more
May 18, 2012 Femmefrugality rated it it was ok
Shelves: non-fiction
I was so excited to read this book. So disappointing. Quite a few of the ideas he claims are originally Shakespeare's actually came to be via the Greeks. For example, his entire expansion on how we view youth can be attributed to Shakespeare comes from Romeo and Juliet, which is simply a retelling and tweaking of Pyramus and Thisbe. Perhaps the story is even older than that. The section that gained the biggest credence with me was about his abilities as a wordsmith, and, honestly, that wasn't ...more
Joel Nunez
Apr 20, 2012 Joel Nunez rated it it was amazing
Light but exhaustive take on the depth and breadth of the Bard's influence on flora and fauna (yes!), language, culture, and yes, politics. Trivia lovers will find this book handy, those who do not know of Shakespeare (if such creatures do exist) will find this intriguing primer, and Shakespeare lovers will enjoy this validation of his influence and the intelligent discussion of the theories that he did not exist but is the assumed identity of several writers.
Apr 26, 2016 Mike rated it liked it
Interesting, but not outstanding. Too much is based on the idea that Shakespeare actually did change everything. The simple answer to that is 'No, he didn't.' Marche discusses frauds in the last chapter of the book: the idea that Shakespeare changed everything is also a fraud, a theory without real substance.
May 11, 2011 Emily rated it it was amazing
This little book is my new obsession. I practically read it in one sitting today and it was so fascinating, I did not want it to end. Whether you love Shakespeare(ME!) or loathe him, you can't deny his impact for the past 400 years and Stephen Marche brings to light all the little and big ways The Bard has shaped our world. So, so interesting.
الكتاب لا يدل عنوانه على محتواه بالشكل الدقيق. ولكنه مهم للراغب في القراءة عن النقد الأدبي الإنجليزي. وكنت قد قرأت مقدمته فاعتقدت أنه يفصل في التأثير الثقافي لكتابات شيكسبير ، ولكن هذا لا يمثل إلا عشرين في المائة من الكتاب.
Daniel Kukwa
May 28, 2012 Daniel Kukwa rated it really liked it
Shelves: non-fiction
As perfect a summation of Shakespeare's legacy and impact as you could hope to find. Concise, witty, thorough, and completely enjoyable...whether you're a student, a scholar, or simply curious. Shakespeare himself would have approved of this volume.
One chapter in: I love the topic, but the author is a little hyperbolic from the title, to the first line of the introduction, to the very tenuous claims that both Obama's popularity and hatred of Obama stem from some subconscious societal take on Othello.

The second chapter about Shakespeare's influence on language looks more promising.

Finished: I’ll start with the positive. There were interesting factoids about Shakespeare and related cultural influences in every chapter. I liked the chapter t
Oct 04, 2016 Fay added it
I think this book could have been more detailed. There's always something new to learn about Shakespeare and how he impacted world culture. The King James Bible and Shakespeare together helped standardize English, for example.

That said, the facts the book brought up were very interesting and Stephen Marche's style is engaging and to the point. It's also a quick read. I read this during my 10 minute breaks working crew for a live musical, so I can attest that it's an ideal "break book." Educatio
Jul 26, 2016 Gypsi rated it did not like it
I expectedHow Shakespeare Changed Everythingto be a lighthearted look at various ways that Shakespeare's influence can be found in the world today. What I did not expect was a near fanatical, quite serious, series of essays about, well, how Shakespeare changed everything.

The first line of Marche's introduction sets his tone: "William Shakespeare was the most influential person who ever lived."

Well, all right. . .

In his first essay, "the Fortunes of the Moor", Marche gives Shakespeare credit for
Lakshmanan Valliappa
When a book's title is "How Shakespeare Changed Everything", one expects either hyperbole or an underwhelming list. But Shakespeare, it turns out, did change everything.

He changed the nature of adolescence. When he wrote "Romeo and Juliet", most children (whether rich or poor) were expected to become apprentices at around the age of 10 or 12. It was Shakespeare who described roving bands of young people, thugs and mall rats, and the impact of raging hormones. Essentially, he invented teenagers a
Jan 01, 2016 Heather rated it liked it
This was a very interesting book about just how influential Shakespeare was – and still is. His phrases, words, and even whole works still are integrated throughout society. And not just that of those who speak English. According to Marche, Shakespeare has found his way into cultures all over the world: “Shakespeare is an English writer only in the sense that soccer is an English sport.” (page 119 ARC)

I would agree that “Shakespeare is the world’s most powerful writer.” (ARC page 146) I would no
Feb 26, 2012 Eve rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Shakespeare fans, students
Shelves: kindle
Oh, how disappointing! I love Shakespeare and was eager to read something that would bring the fun back (not that it ever left...) and show general audiences how relatable and relevant his writings are.

Shakespeare shouldn't be a slog or a highbrow pursuit, people; accordingly, the first few chapters of HOW SHAKESPEARE CHANGED EVERYTHING were a blast. It's clear that the author LOVES his Bard. His enthusiasm is infectious! Who would have thought that an African-American actor in the 1830s(!), Ir
Mel Foster
Feb 22, 2016 Mel Foster rated it liked it
Marche's first two sentences boldly declare, "William Shakespeare was the most influential person who ever lived. He shaped our world more than any political or religious leader, more than any explorer or engineer." More influential than Mohammed? Than Jesus? I'm a pretty big Shakespeare fan, but that is quite an unqualified assertion, which immediately put me on my guard. How he can comfortably make such a rash claim is exposited by the author himself later: "I have found in Shakespeare the ...more
Shakespeare’s works retain a profound and undeniable source of fascination nearly four centuries after his death. How this man had the genius to write plays that display all manner of human activities is a mystery that never fails to grip the imagination.

Here, in this book, Mr. Marche sets out to prove how Shakespeare left his stamp on everything, from speeches in politics to the way we view and think about sex. While some of Mr. Marche’s statements can be quibbled with (he claims Shakespeare n
Nov 20, 2013 Tiemu rated it it was ok
From the very first sentence Marche sets out to prove he's a moron.

"William Shakespeare", he goes, "was the most influencial person who ever lived. He shaped our world more than any political or religious leader, more than any explorer or engineer."

This is one of the dumbest, most absurd statements ever printed. Sometimes an idea is so poorly formed that it's difficult to know even where to start as a response.

Marche could have qualified his opening statement of Shakespeare being the most influ
Nov 17, 2015 Harold rated it liked it
A better title for this book might have been Why Shakespeare Matters, as only one of the chapters really makes a convincing argument for the Bards transformative effect on the modern world. Not surprisingly, it's the section that deals with the playwright's contribution to the English language. Shakespeare coined approximately 1700 words in his time - including common ones like bandit, blanket, dawn, eyeball, fashionable, luggage, outbreak, and rant. The rest of the book is full of interesting f ...more
Dani (The Pluviophile Reader)
What a disappointing read! I've been waiting for a something I could show to people that would prove how important literature is to our society and was hoping this was going to be it. For someone who has a PhD in Shakespearean literature I found Marche's work carried little evidence of quality because and it was written more like a blog post to appeal to the masses rather than a factual essay. I do understand why he tried to write in this manner; he wanted something for the person who does not ...more
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Stephen Marche is the author of The Hunger of the Wolf (2015), Love and the Mess We’re In (2013), How Shakespeare Changed Everything (2012), Shining at the Bottom of the Sea (2007) and Raymond and Hannah (2005). He currently writes “A Thousand Words About Our Culture,” a monthly column for Esquire magazine, and “Close Reading,” a weekly column for The National Post, in addition to opinion pieces ...more
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