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Becoming Shakespeare: The Unlikely Afterlife That Turned a Provincial Playwright into the Bard
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Becoming Shakespeare: The Unlikely Afterlife That Turned a Provincial Playwright into the Bard

3.76  ·  Rating details ·  160 ratings  ·  29 reviews
Becoming Shakespeare begins where most Shakespeare stories end—with his death in 1616—and relates the fascinating story of his unlikely transformation from provincial playwright to universal Bard. Unlike later literary giants, Shakespeare created no stir when he died. Though he'd once had a string of hit plays, he had been retired in the country for six years, and only his ...more
Hardcover, 320 pages
Published June 12th 2007 by Walker Books
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Riku Sayuj
Shakespeare: The Invention of Genius

Shakespeare was not always the unquestionable genius that he has been for the past few centuries. It would surprise most literature students to be told that few people thought highly of Shakespeare back in the 17th C, based on what evidence we have (though we can conjecture that he always had good entertainment value). He might have been the [insert objectionable writer/director] of his age.

Of course, to most literature students that bit of information would
Kathie Harper
Mar 05, 2017 rated it liked it
I love finding the unexpected on library shelves. This book is one of those gems. The author takes the reader on a well-researched and interesting journey into how Shakespeare became "The Bard" from the time of his death in 1616 up through his 300th anniversary. Like his plays, Shakespeare's identity was shaped by history, interpretations, reinventions, academic research, and personal tastes. There are lots of great and interesting facts about actors who played the roles, the changed endings ...more
Basma Aal
Apr 01, 2017 rated it really liked it
Great read!
Well organized. Written for the general public. Lots of detail but the good kind and not a burdensome amount. Makes nods to other scholars but without getting too deep in to academic debate. Demystifies and clarifies but not a hatchet job. Worth reading for anyone with any sort of interest in Shakespeare, myth-making, cultural studies or just plain good general interest scholarship.
Nathan Albright
Aug 14, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: challenge2017
This book is an interesting piece of history, in that it presupposes the life and writing career of Shakespeare [1] and looks at the afterlife of his career showing how he went from a popular playwright among many to his place at the top of the writers of his age or any age. As the author admits, this is by no means an exhaustive book. The book includes no chapters on illustrating Shakespeare, setting his plays into operas, or the burgeoning industry of snobs who posits other writers besides ...more
David P
Nov 28, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: history

If you last saw or read a Shakespeare play because it was a required study at high school or college, maybe this is not your book. But for a playgoer, a lover of literature or of history, or for anyone who appreciates the Bard, here is a rare treat. This book traces the rise of Shakespeare's reputation after his death, from a relatively minor figure in Elizabethan society to a cultural icon admired across the world, while also telling about many of the persons who had a hand in the process.

Jan 09, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Wonderful exploration of the ups and downs of Shakespeare's reputation in the English literary and social world. Lots of things I'd never read or considered about the process of his works becoming the icons they have become. BTW, Lynch is firmly in the Shakespeare wrote Shakespeare camp, with interesting evidence to back that up.
Carl Rollyson
Aug 29, 2012 rated it really liked it

Jack Lynch's argument in "Becoming Shakespeare: The Unlikely Afterlife That Turned a Provincial Playwright Into the Bard" is reminiscent of Walter Pater's idea that the greatness of "Mona Lisa" depends on the masses of people who have projected greatness onto the painting. This is not to say that Leonardo's work is not a masterpiece, any more than it is to suggest that Shakespeare is not the immortal bard. On the contrary, the Leonardos and the Shakespeares both create and benefit from our
Apr 14, 2016 rated it really liked it
The history of the concept “Shakespeare” becomes more fascinating with each book about him that I read. This book opens up the historical facts of how Shakespeare became who we know today.

We know that he became a playwright and actor in his adult years. What is not covered so thoroughly in this book is the crucial fact that Elizabethan plays were written quickly, to be produced in rapid sequence for the unquenchable desires for entertainment of their audience, both high and low: those who
Aug 30, 2013 rated it really liked it
Shelves: readin2013
I'm so glad whimsy led me to Becoming Shakespeare! This is a little book about how Shakespeare became SHAKESPEARE, the one and only. After all, in his lifetime, he was one of many successful playwrights in Elizabethan England. But he wasn't recognized as THE BARD during his life. His universal genius was far from recognized. In chapter one, "Reviving Shakespeare" Lynch discusses how Shakespeare's resurrection was due in part to the restoration of the monarchy. Before Charles II was restored to ...more
Bill Hammack
Dec 26, 2012 rated it it was amazing
I had heard the end of an interview with the author and was intrigued by how he said that Shakespeare wasn't great, but simply defined what it mean to be great. I read the book, carefully listening to the whole argument: I conclude the author to be dead on. Here's the argument in a nutshell (p. 171) "By 1800 Shakespeare was secure in his position at the head of the English literary pantheon. To admit to dislking him was to admit to having no taste. What were once seen as 'flaws' now came to be ...more
Feb 18, 2016 rated it really liked it
“Becoming Shakespeare” is not as good as other books I have read concerning things Shakespeare, but it is the only one I have read on how his work and reputation survived and grew despite the Puritan shutdown of the theatres in the 1640s, which killed off the memory of many of his contemporaries. I give this text kudos for simply being unique in that respect.
The author, Jack Lynch, writes in a colloquial style aimed at connecting with the general reader and I appreciated that approach. He also
Austin Murphy
May 06, 2010 rated it really liked it
Even as a Shakespeare lover, I was surprised by how interesting I found this book. History has never been my biggest passion, but the way Jack Lynch writes is very engaging, clear, and filled with interesting tidbits. I find myself slipping his stories into my conversations - did you know that musical theater was invented as a way to get around the fact that only two theaters were allowed to show "plays" after the Restoration? did you know that a forged Shakespeare play actually made it to a ...more
Aug 04, 2012 rated it really liked it
I love historical books like this one, and the subject of Shakespeare seems particularly interesting to me. Time and circumstances work strange magic on many things and people, but on literature and literary masters, it can make a person a legend or a truly forgettable character. For Shakespeare, the circumstances and the passage of time are what created him and made him a most memorable literary and historical figure. Although successful and well known in his own time, he did not become The ...more
Jun 08, 2008 rated it it was ok
Shelves: non-fiction, history, 2007
This book doesn't quite do exactly what it claims it is going to do. It seems from this book that Shakespeare really became Shakespeare right after the restoration of the crown in 1660, instead of taking until the mid-1800's as the book jacket and introduction purport. I think the biggest problem witht he book is how it is structured. Instead of dealing with Shakespeare's growth historically, it deals with different groups in each chapter, and covers the entire period in each chapter. I did ...more
This book follows the rise of Shakespeare's popularity in the centuries following the Bard's death. Lynch points out authors, playwrights and political figures who were instrumental in ensuring that Shakespeare would become one of the best known writers of all time.

The research and history presented in the book are interesting and certainly give a deeper understanding of Shakespeare and his popularity through the centuries. The book is a bit dry in places and could have been edited down a bit,
Meredith Walker
Jul 23, 2011 rated it really liked it
This is a well written, interesting journey through Shakespeare’s biographical epilogue. As such, it chronicles the unique series of events that made William Shakespear become Shakespeare, about how his genius was only known of after his death and how the biggest testimony to Shakespeare's greatness may be that he changed what it means to be great. If you are into this kind of thing, it is a worthwhile account of the history of Shakespeare's plays and reputation, from how his plays were first ...more
Jul 15, 2011 rated it liked it
Shelves: non-fiction
An interesting and readily accessible overview on how Shakespeare was elevated to the English canon, with some interesting anecdotes and discussions especially in regards to the Puritan attacks on theatre, Shakespearean forgeries and my personal favourite topic (mainly because it was something one had to contend with in school among a wide variety of editions), a little history of Shakespearean editing.

Also it completely changed my view of the line "Nothing will come of nothing" from King Lear
Sep 22, 2008 rated it really liked it
Shelves: thebard
I didn't know Mary Lamb was a convicted murderer when she wrote Tales from Shakespeare with her brother. I didn't know about the wars between the actors and the hundred-year lapse of Shakespeare performance after Charles I's beheading. I knew quite a bit about Shakespeare being politicized (see Henry V Olivier's version versus Branagh's version), but I didn't know how it was politicized in his own time. I knew nothing about all the fake folios engineered in the eighteenth centuries. A lot here I ...more
Beth Harper
Feb 02, 2016 rated it really liked it
About how Shakespeare moved from just one of quite a few 17th-century playrights to becoming the "immortal bard." That history, as told by Lynch, zigzags quite a bit. It didn't flow together for me exactly, but I certainly learned a lot. His chapters are divided by theme rather than chronology, though you could argue the themes are kinds of stages Shakespeare went through. There are chapters on performing, altering, domesticating, co-opting, and forging Shakespeare, and eventually worshipping ...more
Feb 16, 2014 rated it really liked it
Shelves: biography, history
One of my favorite books on Shakespeare. Lots of facts, very little conjecture. An interesting afterword is alone worth the price of admission. (Apropos of nothing, I'm still quite certain that Shakespeare's life included some time in the army. The minutiae in Henry V I think shows a firsthand knowledge of battle, and day to day life in a military campaign.
Aug 29, 2007 rated it liked it
Shelves: bookclub
It was not what I expected. Beyond that, I really don't know what to say. It's not an attack or a justification on the Bard, just an examination of why a man not really revered in his day and age became idol like in the English language.

Also, it may be, to some degree, Shakespeare's fault, that we have actor/celebrities. Damn you, Shakespeare.
Jay Szpirs
Sep 01, 2011 rated it really liked it
Shelves: stage-craft, non-fic
A well written, compelling journey through an interesting period in Shakespeare's history. Less successful as a meditation on fame than a biographical epilogue. For students, there are several interesting hooks that could warrant follow-up, particularly the story of Shakespeare's forgers and the competition between London's playhouses during the Restoration.
Nov 01, 2007 rated it liked it
Recommends it for: Shakespeare fanciers
A good collection of stories about how Shakespeare became Shakespeare, beginning with the Bard's death and ending in the modern age. The guy who wrote it is a Dr. Johnson scholar, and so that's the era that gets the most attention. I'd have liked more detail in a lot of places; it was a quick read, though, so if you prefer your histories concise, then go for it.
Gary Baughn
Jul 07, 2013 rated it liked it
Doesn't quite answer the question of Why Shakespeare became the central author of British Literature (surely there could have been some analysis of universality), but certainly shows that it was a convoluted process and never a sure thing.
Jeffrey Taylor
Jul 03, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Well written and organized. An impressive explanation of the development of Shakespeare's reputation in the critical world and those who built it. Don't buy the abominable e-test though. It is full of errors and is nothing short of an embarrassment, or should be, for the publisher.
Feb 07, 2014 rated it really liked it
Great, very readable book that explains how Shakespeare became the classic author he is considered to be even though his works virtually disappeared for nearly 100 years after his death.
Blake Charlton
Jul 08, 2012 rated it liked it
solid scholarship and writing style about a questioned rarely considered: how have we come to idealize shakespeare? however, at times...a bit slow, a bit dry. still, recommended for the enthusiast.
Jul 22, 2012 rated it really liked it

Surprisingly engaging, full of the kinds of witticisms and anecdotes Bardlings tend to cherish. Equally entertaining and enlightening.
rated it liked it
Oct 11, 2011
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