Anushka's Reviews > Shakespeare on Toast: Getting a Taste for the Bard

Shakespeare on Toast by Ben Crystal
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Nov 16, 2011

really liked it

The occupational hazard of being an English B.A. (and prospective M.A. AND beyond!) student is that you tend to be skeptical of deliberately accessible, unacademic spins on loaded matter. But this book stole my heart from the start, when I noticed its cover art, title and the blurb carrying Judi Dench's recommendation (though I know that shouldn't have much to do with it.) I was not disappointed. There's enough brilliant theory and criticism on Shakespeare to last generations of Renaissance-hungry readers and scholars. Getting a modern day Shakespeare actor's perspective and tapping into a sense of real involvement with the man and his works, strikes another register, one which proved to be really engaging. Ben Crystal's citation of hilarious anecdotes, his clear presentation of the Renaissance stage and publication procedures, his ability to recreate the highly charged atmosphere that surrounded Shakespeare's plays, and his ear for metre and poetic effect on the standard audience's ear make the book eminently readable. But there's no faffing around. It's all grounded on solid fact, and I kept picking up information I didn't know and probably wouldn't have found woven together so tightly, in works which would presume more familiarity on the reader's part. For someone who's been more bent on getting through all of Shakespeare's works asap before reading up much ON him, this was a really good find at the time it came along.
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