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How Shakespeare Changed Everything
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How Shakespeare Changed Everything

3.31 of 5 stars 3.31  ·  rating details  ·  330 ratings  ·  100 reviews
Did you know that Freud's idea of a healthy sex life came from Shakespeare? Or that the name Jessica was first used in The Merchant of Venice? Nearly four hundred year after his death, Shakespeare permeates our everyday lives: from the words we speak to the teenage heartthrobs we worship to the political rhetoric spewed by the twenty-four-hour news cycle.

In this wickedly c...more
Paperback, 203 pages
Published 2012 by Harper Perennial (first published 2011)
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Joel
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
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 Freud'...more
Sheryl Tribble
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...more
Särah Nour
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
Linda
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
Chris
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...more
Alyssa Archambo
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.

Mos...more
Margaret Sankey
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 anot...more
Leanne

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

...more
Pearl
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...more
Ann Santori
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 in...more
Femmefrugality
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 so...more
Joel Nunez
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.
Emily
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.
Marsha
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...more
Daniel Kukwa
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.
مؤرخ
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.
Rach
What I learned from this book: Stephen Marche REALLY loves Shakespeare. Like, REALLY really. While I agree that Shakespeare is the most widely-known writer in the world, and many of our common turns of phrase can be attributed to him, I'm still not convinced you can ascribe the wide spread influence over other ideas of thought to him that Marche does throughout this book. Marche's comparisons and conclusions are flimsy and overreaching at times.

I can't say I particularly enjoyed reading this one...more
Patrick
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...more
Hal Johnson
The problem with this book is that the author tried to emulate the breathless style of Cracked.com, but was too intelligent to let himself actually do it. The result is half-baked: flip without being amusing, glib without being interesting. All he manages to emulate is a propensity for oversimplification, moronic generalizations, and a constant self-advertisement that wants to assure you that gee whiz! every sentence is going to blow your mind. “Any chapter of this book is enough to show that [S...more
Eve
Feb 26, 2012 Eve rated it 3 of 5 stars  ·  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...more
Tiemu
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...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 c...more
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...more
cheryl
How Shakespeare Changed Everything by Stephen Marche is a short book looking at how Shakespeare influences the world. Each chapter focuses on a specific arena such as adolescence, sex, and race. It was a quick read and the right length for the project...Marche avoided the pitfall of writing more than an average reader would want to read. He makes some good arguments but I just don't always buy his thesis. There are a few moments in which I do see a causal relationship between Shakespeare and the...more
The Bookwyrm's Hoard
Excerpted from a post originally published at The Bookwyrm's Hoard.

If you're interested in reading more about the ways in which Shakespeare and his works have impacted our language, our history, and our culture, read Stephen Marche's How Shakespeare Changed Everything, a delightful collection of essays masquerading as chapters. From race (Othello) to teenagers (Romeo and Juliet and, surprisingly, Hamlet) to sex (almost everything Shakespeare wrote) to the links between Julius Caesar and Lincoln'...more
Richard Martin
Rather a bold statement. "Changed," no; influenced, yes. And, hardly "Everything." Marche views Shakespeare with seeming idolatry which gets a bit heavy-handed at times. Then counter-balanced this with "the stupidity of Shakespeare" who is "a messy writer." Despite this, the selected topics cover a wide range from racism to sexuality to environmentalism. Over all, a readable work with an interesting scope.
Lauren Hyde
Borrowed this little puppy from my English-Honours roommate - every other sentence is a supposition, a sweeping declaration, a grandiose statement, and so on. I'm choosing to believe that the author, a self-professed "Doctor of Shakespeare," is purposely exaggerating to make a point. Indeed, Shakespeare has had a fair influence on multiple facets of society. That said, I rather disagree with the opening statement "William Shakespeare was the most influential person who ever lived."
Having now fi...more
Drew
His heart is in the right place and I hope this book helps inspire kids who might've otherwise ignored Shakespeare... but I'm sick and tired of authors who want to write the cool hip Gawker article on Shakespeare. Yes, he did change everything. Yes, half of the things you say on any given day probably came out of Shakespeare's plays and poems. Yes, his work has sustained because it continues to hold the mirror up to reality and take on whatever reflection it needs to in order to present the fair...more
Thomas Vree
Undeniably Shakespeare has had a very profound effect on many things, the English language in particular. While my appreciation of Shakespeare has grown greatly since being forced to read him in high school, and have come to find the whole topic intriguing, the author was really reaching in an effort to justify a conclusion in many instances. Because of Hamlet’s skull speech, teenagers wear skulls on their shirts. Our modern take on sexuality is informed by Shakespeare. Our notion of teenagerhoo...more
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Stephen Marche is a novelist and culture columnist. Marche received his Ph.D in Early Modern Drama in 2005 from the University of Toronto. He went on to teach Renaissance Drama at City College in New York.

He is the author of two novels – Shining at the Bottom of the Sea (2007) and Raymond and Hannah (2005), which was shortlisted for the Toronto Book Award in 2006. His recent non-fiction project,...more
More about Stephen Marche...
Raymond and Hannah Shining at the Bottom of the Sea Love and the Mess We're In The Hunger of the Wolf: A Novel The Hunger of the Wolf

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