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3.86  ·  Rating details ·  342 ratings  ·  27 reviews
Shakespeare has been the lodestar of English literature, not only to our finest biographers & critics but to our greatest imaginative writers as well. Oscar Wilde, Mark Twain & James Joyce have all written of the man— as enigma, ancestor or phantom. In Shakespeare Burgess, whose Nothing Like the Sun Harold Bloom called "the only successful novel ever written about ...more
Hardcover, 259 pages
Published 2015 by The Folio Society (first published 1970)
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Average rating 3.86  · 
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 ·  342 ratings  ·  27 reviews

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Sean Barrs the Bookdragon
So after yesterday’s post it seems only fair to reveal what my hidden quotes were. Everything in bold is a Shakespeare quote. I did say they were hidden. Perhaps even in plain sight! (Don't hate me when you read the first one)

(1)“There’s Rosemary. That’s for remembrance.”


It’s the 400th anniversary since Shakespeare’s death! I just had to post something Shakespeare related on this day of all days. I mean can you blame me? Shakespeare’s just awesome. Also to liven things up a bit, I’ve
Feb 17, 2008 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Perhaps the most distinctive and pleasing element of Burgess' book lies not in its ability to inform by dissecting the "raw facts" of history, but rather in its reflection of one accomplished writer's speculative musings on the great--yet altogether elusive--details of the life of one of his literary heroes. In this playful biographical study, the author pieces together the scant surviving historical accounts of the life of The Bard and acknowledges them as the thin and inadequate skeleton that ...more
Big Al
Dec 19, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2019, biography
Not the most reliable biography of Will floating around out there, but Burgess is fully upfront whenever he is indulging in a flight of fancy or making a bold speculation. The few hard facts that we have about Shakespeare don’t make for a very riveting read, so I immensely enjoyed following Burgess into the realm of imagination in order to conjure up vivid depiction of Shakespeare’s London, his cranky contemporaries, and of course the mysterious man himself.
Rimgailė Kasparaitė
I am not sure was I prepared to read this work by Anthony Burgess about Shakespeare. I get that a lot of it was a speculation and fiction written about Shakespeare. It was an interesting piece of work, however it took me forever to read it. Some places were intriguing, had a lot of historical facts which amazed me and I felt that they were useful. Yet, in some cases the speculation of facts was too long and complicated to understand.
Ryan Bastian
Jul 03, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: shakespeare
Who better to tell the life of Shakespeare than the author of A Clockwork Orange (where he invented a sort of Russian/Shakespearean dialect amongst his fictional world of chaos). Unlike other biographies of Shakespeare, this one doesn't run on too long, finishing just a little north of 200 pages. And Burgess glides you along the read with ease and humor. He's also not afraid to voice his opinion regarding specific plays from the Bard (he hates Pericles and Winter's Tale), and he never lets you ...more
Rachael Mills
Jan 14, 2020 rated it liked it
I enjoyed the author's witty writing style but it didn't really add anything new to my knowledge of Shakespeare. It's always interesting to read a new perspective though.
Feb 14, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: biography
Burgess's novelistic skills enrich this erudite (but not stuffy) and entertaining portrait of Shakespeare and his times.
Aug 25, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction
Written by a fine writer in his own write, this book imagines Shakesepeare as he could be intuitively imagined through the eyes of a novelist. There are multiple technical observations. Chiefly among them, I was very interested in Burgess’s take on Shakespeare’s predecessor’s and contemporaries. The Earl of Surrey’s innovation in 1557 was key to the development of Elizabethan drama. The book was a translation of Virgil and written “in blank verse, a form Surrey devised in order to meet the ...more
Oct 29, 2011 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: those looking for a good introduction to Shakespeare
Shelves: bins, londoncalling
A very deft overview of the life and works of Shakespeare. Burgess painstakingly hews to the documented facts about the Bard, and then indulges in occasional flights of fancy, which are carefully announced as such. Not as copious in scope as Ackroyd or Greenblatt's biographies (and much shorter than either), and obviously not as fun as his own novel,
Nothing Like the Sun, this is still a valuable bit of Bardology.

"We need not repine at the lack of a satisfactory Shakespeare portrait. To see his
Apr 22, 2008 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This book was a scholary biography salted with a fair deal of artistic liberty. Burgess does a good job of filling in the gaps that history has left in Shakespeare's life. While I am not a real Shakespeare fan I thought it was an interesting book. Despite being a struggle at times it was definetly worth it. My only criticism would be that he tends to over play the relationship between the art and the artist's life, constantly looking for parallels between Shakespeare's characters and his real ...more
Mar 06, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
A joyous, intellectual read. Wasn't Burgess a genius? Truly a remarkable man. In truth, Burgess' Shakespeare has very little of factual novelty to offer my generation; all of his knowledge and intuition have formed part of the basis of the latest generation of Shakespeare biographers and writers, not to mention those like Robert Nye's The Late Mr. Shakespeare.

Nevertheless, the way that Burgess writes makes this book easily worthwhile. Taking just the facts that we know about the Bard (or, knew,
Adam Floridia
I'm torn on this one. As far as Shakespeare biographies go, it's probably pretty good (I have nothing to judge it by!). At times some of the conjecture on Burgess' part bothered me, but a biography of The Bard can be little more than supposition. At other times, particularly during his narrative concerning the performance of Hamlet, I was enchanted by the reality of attending an Elizabethan play.

Heavy on historical context--that being the only concrete detail available--the biography provided a
Nov 23, 2013 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
This should be called, 'an inferred' biography. Anthony Burgess, using historical context, peer histories (Marlow, Greene and Johnson) and the bards own writing attempts an educated guess at the less documented particulars of the life of one Will Shakespeare. The sleuthing and organization of the material is half the pleasure of the book. Worth a read for Shakespeare junkies, everybody else is going to have to plow hard and learn much corollary material to get even a glimpse the shadow that is ...more
Very good, if a bit speculative. On the other hand, Burgess makes no apologies: "This book contains conjecture - duly and timidly signaled with phrases like "It may well be that..." or "Conceivably, about this time..."

Good quote: "All that young men of learning like Greene and Nashe and Peele and Kyd could do was write eyecatching pamphlets and essay the drama (unless, of course, they wished to take up espionage like Marlowe and end up with a dagger in the frontal lobes)..."
Nov 16, 2007 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
If you are looking for any biography on Shakes, you should go to this one. Burgess understands that next to nothing is known about him, so he does well with creative speculation and gives us an overall picture of what life was like back then and an appreciation for how strange it is that we don't know anything about Shakespeare.
Steven Belanger
Jul 11, 2010 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Absolutely gorgeous writing. Didn't tell me anything I didn't already know, but put it all together very, very succinctly. Tight writing with a very strong voice. An absolute breeze to read. Puts the whole era and Will's genius in context. Ties up all the known facts, the supposed facts, and the outright myths and lies in one nice pie that you couldn't eat fast enough.
Jul 28, 2010 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I've read several biographies of Shakespeare but this one is special. Burgess not only had a deep grasp of the poet but also of the times. Unlike "Will in the World" which has many "Could it be that..." detours, Burgess uses some speculation but always within reason.
James Anton
Jan 02, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Wonderful life of the man in context of the times.
Robert Gourley
Oct 17, 2015 rated it it was amazing
A delight, and wickedly funny.
Dec 26, 2011 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: books-i-own
This is a decent biography. It's well-written and somewhat interesting although I just don't know enough to know whether it's based on good research or not. I just tend not to like biographies.
Oct 21, 2018 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Couldn't read this. There's nothing wrong with it; I'm just not interested.
John Constantine
Jan 30, 2010 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Not necessarily as well researched as Greenblatt's study, but certainly more poetic.
Carole B
An imaginative and effective biography.
May 24, 2015 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Negalima teigti, kad knyga neįdomi, tačiau sunkoka. Ypač jei žinai tik dvi pagrindines Vilio pjeses:) Nors perskaityti reikia ir tikrai įmanoma.
Tatli Cadi
Apr 05, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Contraversial, though I enjoyed fresh and unforgettable language of the author.
Mar 18, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Very nicely illustrated and a interesting look-see at the possible Dark Lady...
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Librarian Note: There is more than one author in the Goodreads database with this name.

Anthony Burgess was a British novelist, critic and composer. He was also a librettist, poet, playwright, screenwriter, essayist, travel writer, broadcaster, translator, linguist and educationalist. Born in Manchester, he lived for long periods in Southeast Asia, the USA and Mediterranean Europe as well as in
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