Joel Simon's Reviews > Shakespeare: The World as Stage

Shakespeare by Bill Bryson
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's review
Jun 03, 12

bookshelves: biography, history, non-fiction
Read from April 09 to May 21, 2012

"Shakespeare: The World as Stage" is a wonderful nugget of a book. It is probably best to know at least a little bit about the subject, but I suspect that even if you don't you would enjoy this book immensely. Bill Bryson's writing style makes it easy to read and he takes a refreshingly honest approach to the task of writing a biography about a person for whom there is preciously little hard evidence covering most of the man's life. This results in a biography that is as much about the time period and the surrounding events and places as it is about the man, William Shakespeare. We discover that what we don't know about him is almost as fascinating as what we do know about him. I particularly enjoyed reading about the different versions of Shakespeare's plays and sonnets that were preserved, reflecting the idiosyncrasies and editing style of the publishers or scriveners. But my favorite chapter was the last one in which Bryson debunks the many claims that William Shakespeare didn't write his plays after all; rather it was someone else writing under a pseudonym. But is not just the debunking itself that is so interesting. The real gem is the way in which Bryson presents the material, with just the right level of skepticism and humor. I highly recommend this book to everyone who has any interest at all in William Shakespeare.
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