William Shakespeare: The World as Stage
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William Shakespeare: The World as Stage

3.76 of 5 stars 3.76  ·  rating details  ·  15,437 ratings  ·  1,525 reviews
William Shakespeare, the most celebrated poet in the English language, left behind nearly a million words of text, but his biography has long been a thicket of wild supposition arranged around scant facts. With a steady hand and his trademark wit, Bill Bryson sorts through this colorful muddle to reveal the man himself. His Shakespeare is like no one else's—the beneficiary...more
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Published October 23rd 2007 by HarperAudio (first published 2007)
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Kalliope
If you wanted to know more about William Shakespeare, his life, his writings, his times…etc, you would have to embark in the reading of an endless amount of written material that would fill trucks and trucks. Alternatively, you could choose a more expedite path. If instead of rummaging through tons of printed paper one could find a capsule of uncorrupted and distilled Shakespeare, would you not pick this?

And this is what Bill Bryson offers us with his book, Shakespeare The World as Stage.

Why ano...more
Diane
This audiobook was a perfect companion for a long road trip. 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 chil...more
Shovelmonkey1
Jun 21, 2011 Shovelmonkey1 rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: people who want to read a book which will teach them nothing in a fun and informative way
Recommended to Shovelmonkey1 by: bookcrossers and the big general Bill Bryson fuzzy seal of approval
Well, that was a quick and easy read, very pleasant too thank you Mr Bryson. After reading this book I have learned loads about Shakespeare - NOT! Having being forced to study him for A-Level English and worship at the alter of Shakespeare like a good student I was also suprised how little is known about him. My best memory of learning about Shakespeare was being asked to write an essay on the use of natural symbolism in "A Winters Tale". Being a slightly cocky and beligerent teenager I turned i...more
Jason Pettus
(Reprinted from the Chicago Center for Literature and Photography [cclapcenter.com:]. I am the original author of this essay, as well as the owner of CCLaP; it is not being reprinted here illegally.)

No matter where on the planet you're from, it seems that there is at least one figure from the early Renaissance period (1400-1600 AD) who's had a huge and profound impact on your society's culture ever since: here in the English-speaking world, for example, that would be playwright and poet William...more
Fewlas
La prossima volta che a scuola vi ammoniscono per aver scritto o pronunciato male il nome di William Shakespeare voi dite questo: che di Shakespeare a noi sono arrivate solo sei firme autografe (tre delle quali contenute nel suo testamento). Bene, ecco le sei firme: Willm Shaksp, William Shakespe, Wm Shakspe, William Shakspere, Willm Shakspere e William Shakspeare. Insomma, non si è mai firmato (nei documenti che ci sono arrivati) con il nome che noi gli affibbiamo. Inoltre, lo spelling nel sedi...more
Jeanette
Shakespeare's biography is sketchy, and ever thus it shall remain. This little book represents Bill Bryson's attempt to collect what scant information exists, and to debunk a few spurious claims. I can't say I know much more about Sweet Will now than I did before reading the book, but Bryson is not to blame. People didn't reliably keep records 400 years ago. There were no standardized spellings for English words, so a lot of what was written down is indecipherable. Furthermore, no one anticipate...more
Tracey, librarian on strike
I have reviewed this book; the review can be found here, on Booklikes, and here, on my blog. (Also, go check out Leafmarks - it's going to be terrific.) However, I will no longer be posting reviews on Goodreads, due to its recent changes to terms of service and, far worse, the boneheaded and incomprehensible way it is proceeding with the new policy. Deleting content, almost randomly, and without warning (whatever they may have said) is wrong, and a half-hearted apology later doesn't make it all...more
Matt
Feb 17, 2008 Matt added it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: a much broader audience than the AP Lit and Drama Club crowds
Recommended to Matt by: Valerie Marshall (gift)
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Cecily
This is a very strange and frustrating book: it reads like a lighthearted text book for teenagers - except that it has no index (a cardinal sin for any non-fiction book). It is about a wordsmith, but the first chapter focuses on what he may have looked like. Its mission and content is to tell us about Shakespeare, yet it tells us in exhaustive and repetitive detail that almost nothing is or can be known about the man ("a wealth of text but poverty of context").

There are pages of disjointed facts...more
Martine
I love Bill Bryson. The man can take any subject and make it interesting, simply because he has this unfailing flair for adding details which make you grin. He does so to great effect in Shakespeare, his two-hundred-page biography of the man affectionately known as the Bard, which will delight Shakespeare aficionados as well as people who know virtually nothing about Stratford's most famous export product, such as myself.

Two hundred pages is not much for a biography of the world's greatest play...more
Nikki
Refreshingly honest, Bryson admits that he has nothing new to say about Shakespeare from the very outset, and in fact spends most of the book demolishing some of the generally accepted facts about Shakespeare, pointing out the lack of evidence. It's useful for a casual reader and the casual interest in Shakespeare, but obviously you'd want to go elsewhere if you have an academic interest in it. It serves as an excellent rundown of what we do know about the Bard, though.

He writes clearly and ofte...more
Connie
Bill Bryson has written an entertaining, humorous biography of Shakespeare. There is little concrete evidence about Shakespeare's life four hundred years ago since few records were kept, spelling was not standardized, and many records were destroyed by fire. The book gives us an overview of British history of the era, the history of the theater at that time, and where Shakespeare probably fit into it.

Shakespeare gave the English language new words that have never been heard before, especially by...more
Jerzy
There's nothing wrong with Bryson's writing... but he just doesn't say very much, because there ISN'T anything to say. Apparently NOBODY knows anything interesting about Shakespeare's life or personality -- all we have are 3 bad portraits (one sketch from memory, one statue that was whitewashed of all detailed features, and one decent portrait that might be of someone else entirely); a few legal documents (with only 6 signatures, 3 of which may have been forged for him since he was too ill to wr...more
Jenny
Two of my favorite things: Bryson and Shakespeare! Together! And they don't disappoint! Bryson is just witty and clever enough to spice up what is otherwise merely a thorough debunking of the classic Shakespearean biography. Truth is, we know almost nothing about The Bard's real life, and Bryson chronicles this non-knowledge for just under two hundred fairly entertaining pages. A quick read, but a worthy one. (It must be said: not knowing much about the man who wrote Shakespeare's plays does not...more
Rikke
I never expected a biography to be such a quick and entertaining read. But as this particular biography was written by Bill Bryson, of course it would prove to be the exception. I giggled, laughed and chuckled while reading this little gem. It was brilliant.

Bill Bryson sets out to tell everything we know about Shakespeare in order to show how much we don't know about Shakespeare. But he also argues that we actually know a lot about Shakespeare considering the general lack of information from the...more
Chris
I wish I owned Shakespeare because man, would I be richer than Bill Gates.

Bryson's book is okay. It's a quick read and is ideal for any student who is starting at in the study of Shakespeare. For a long time student, the best bit of the book is the last chapter where Bryson demolished the "Shakespeare didn't write Shakespeare" heretics, sillies, nutters, people's arguments.

Overall Bryson simply presents the facts and doesn't not speculate or guess (I love what he said about A. L. Rowse). He has...more
Tony
SHAKESPEARE: The World as Stage. (2007). Bill Bryson. ****.
This book was written to be part of the Eminent Lives Series, published by Atlas Books, a division of Harper Collins. Bryson takes a no nonsense approach to his subject. He makes no claims about Shakespeare that can’t be substantiated by hard facts. When you get right down to it, there are few facts to base claims on – at least claims dealing with Shakespeare’s life. He can make quite a story, however, about his works, and proceeds to d...more
Mazzeo
Dec 27, 2007 Mazzeo rated it 3 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: Anyone interested in learning about Shakespeare
This audio book focuses on the concrete facts known about the life and works of William Shakespeare starting in his life time and coming through to the present. Given the volume of work available on Shakespeare it surprised me that Bill Bryson, who until recently focused on personal experiences, in a memoir sort of way, would tackles the subject. It’s not a question of talent, but his work is interesting largely because of his views, reactions, and musings on the topic. Additionally, this is not...more
Christopher
Entertaining and well-researched overview of Shakespeare's life and his career in the theatre--Bill Bryson is such a great writer and his characteristic sense of humor is in full swing in the chapter on "who really wrote Shakespeare". Especially interesting was the chapter on Shakespeare's influence on the English language, such as the 2,035 words that he was the first to make recorded use of, including abstemious, antipathy, critical, frugal, dwindle, extract, horrid, vast, hereditary, excellen...more
Stephanie
Bryson has always been one of my favorite writers, but here, wherein he turns his attention to a subject near and dear to my heart... just, wow. It's such a splendid book, marvelously written and well-researched. He focuses more on all that we do not know about Shakespeare, and how facts about him have been invented for centuries to fill in gaps. He also reflects on the Elizabethan and Jacobean societies and the role of Shakespeare's work within them. Loved it. Seriously. Adored. **Swoon**
Steven Peterson
This is one volume in the series "Eminent Lives." After having read this book, I am interested in exploring this series further.

William Shakespeare, of course, was a great playwright, whether of comedy or tragedy, and a fine poet as well. Bill Bryson, the author of this slender volume, notes how little we actually know of Shakespeare, when he says (Page 7): ". . .all we know about Shakespeare is contained within a few scanty facts: that he was born in Stratford-upon-Avon, produced a family ther...more
astried

I had the first inkling of mistery surrounding Shakespeare's history from Jasper Fforde's Friday Next series. Reading this books gave me more background of what the problem really was and people involved in it. It was astounding how little the scholars know about Shakespeare's life and how much assumptions and wild guesses gotten print across the years. As Bryson said, he tried to only present the fact, which why his book is so short :) Had he really only wrote about Shakespeare's life fact, the...more
Trevor
I really like Bryson - he has a wonderfully dry sense of humour and at times can have me in stitches laughing. His travel books have delighted me for years and his books on English usage have also been very amusing and fun.

I've never bothered reading much about Shakespeare's life - I have always thought I should, but never seemed to get around to it.

This is a very short biography and no wonder there are so many people out there prepared to put forward so many alternative names for exactly who w...more
Robin
Dec 04, 2007 Robin rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: anyone curious about Shakespeare
I've always been a Shakespeare fan since I first saw Julius Caesar performed in my school cafeteria in 6th grade. Like a lot of people, I do rather wonder what the man himself was like -- and this book is a wonderful look at just why we'll likely never know. Bill Bryson is just as witty and readable as always -- the man does have a flair for making apparently difficult topics appealing to almost everyone, see A Short History of Nearly Everything. The great thing is that while there are hundreds...more
Jenifer
Audio. Narrated by the author.

I'm a big Bryson fan and this was much more to my taste than reading actual Shakespeare. Bryson admits that he is not an historian, but that's okay by me. He does his research and then boils it down to taste for the normal palate. I thought the facts about geography, history, art and culture, health and custom were fascinating without exception. He seems able to both revere and humanize his subject fairly and objectively, professing Shakespeare's great genius while...more
Heather
I just adore Bill Bryson's voice and style, so to read his work on the most mysterious, brilliant playwright of our time was truly delightful, I appreciate his conservative stance and his deconstruction of the many unsubstantiated theories about Will. Thoroughly enjoyed it.
Barbara
Bryson is a natural teacher. He does a review of what is known about Shakespeare, the age in which he lived, the state of drama during that time and the controversy concerning the authorship of his plays. He breaks those facts down into interesting pieces and then makes them come alive. He made science compelling (for me) in A Short History of Nearly Everything. Since I find Shakespeare a more naturally intriguing topic, I had high hopes and I wasn't disappointed. There is also an outstanding in...more
Elizabeth
Finished this book and especially enjoyed the end where Bryson talks about the rise of the notion that Shakespeare was not the author of the plays attributed to him. It is fascinating the way people (and even respected scholars) love conspiracy theories; I often wonder if some just need a thesis topic. Bryson effectively traces the origin and development of this nutty theory. Basically not much is known about Shakespeare but Bryson takes the little known evidence and adds interest by elaborating...more
Jocelyn
As usual, Bill Bryson tells a great story even though he isn't making it up. Consistently funny. I love the way he uses adverbs and adjectives. The thing about this book is that he hasn't actually got much to say about Shakespeare, because so little is known about him. Bryson spends a lot of time discussing Shakespeare's contemporaries, and Elizabethan/Jacobean theater, and what we don't know, and wild scholarly theories with absolutely no real evidence to back them up. But even though a lot of...more
Lynne
Let me start out...I am not a fan of Shakespeare (or Shakspere, Shaxspier, Shkspr - see book), never was. Yet this book was great, delving into the mystery of his life. I had no idea just how little we know of him and how scholars spend their whole careers in pure conjecture about him. This is a well written, fascinating book and even made me just a little curious to go out and read Shakespeare...ok well maybe not that curious. Anyway, I recommend it to anyone who likes a little mystery mixed wi...more
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Bill 13 86 Jan 31, 2014 05:13PM  
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7
Bill Bryson was born in Des Moines, Iowa, in 1951. He settled in England in 1977, and worked in journalism until he became a full time writer. He lived for many years with his English wife and four children in North Yorkshire. He and his family then moved to New Hampshire in America for a few years, but they have now returned to live in the UK.

In The Lost Continent, Bill Bryson's hilarious first t...more
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“A third...candidate for Shakespearean authorship was Christopher Marlowe. He was the right age (just two months older than Shakespeare), had the requisite talent, and would certainly have had ample leisure after 1593, assuming he wasn't too dead to work.” 13 likes
“Only one man had the circumstances and gifts to give us such incomparable works, and William Shakespeare of Stratfrod was unquestionably that man -- whoever he was.” 5 likes
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