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Shakespeare: The Biography | [Peter Ackroyd]

Shakespeare: The Biography

In a magnificent feat of re-creating sixteenth-century London and Stratford, best-selling biographer and novelist Peter Ackroyd brings William Shakespeare to life in the manner of a contemporary rather than a biographer. Following his magisterial and ingenious re-creations of the lives of Chaucer, Dickens, T. S. Eliot, William Blake, and Sir Thomas More, Ackroyd delivers his crowning achievement with this definitive and imaginative biographical masterpiece.
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Publisher's Summary

In a magnificent feat of re-creating sixteenth-century London and Stratford, best-selling biographer and novelist Peter Ackroyd brings William Shakespeare to life in the manner of a contemporary rather than a biographer. Following his magisterial and ingenious re-creations of the lives of Chaucer, Dickens, T. S. Eliot, William Blake, and Sir Thomas More, Ackroyd delivers his crowning achievement with this definitive and imaginative biographical masterpiece.

Thousands of books have been written about the playwright, but none has borne Ackroyd's unique and accessible stamp. His method is to position the playwright in the context of his world, exploring everything from Stratford's humble town to its fields of wildflowers; discerning influences on the plays from unexpected quarters; and entering London with the playwright as modern theatre, as we know it, is just beginning to emerge.

Writing as though we are observing Shakespeare and his circle of friends, patrons, managers, and fellow actors and writers, Ackroyd is able to see Shakespeare's genius from within, so we feel that Ackroyd the writer merges with Shakespeare the writer, the poet, the man; and thus with great sympathy and clarity we experience the way in which Shakespeare worked.

Shakespeare: The Biography is quite unlike other more analytic biographies that have been written. Rather, Peter Ackroyd has used his skill, his extraordinary knowledge, and his historical intuition to craft this major full-scale book on one of the most towering figures of the English language.

©2005 Peter Ackroyd; (P)2005 Random House, Inc.

What the Critics Say

"Ackroyd's biography cumulatively gives one a feeling that one has lived for a brief time in Shakespeare's world. Ackroyd constructs an intricate mosaic of Elizabethan context, which brings us closer to the shadowy figure." (Publishers Weekly)
"Ackroyd brings to his biographical reading the imaginative insights of a gifted poet and novelist, along with the passions of a scholar....Vivid and capacious, a life study worthy of its subject." (Booklist)

What Members Say

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  •  
    Susan Houston, TX, United States 10-16-06
    Susan Houston, TX, United States 10-16-06 Member Since 2001
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    "Shakespeare by Peter Ackroyd"

    I've loved all of Ackroyd's biographies (Dickens, TS Eliot, Blake). One thing Ackroyd does better than anyone else is explain the texts of a writer in contemporary terms, so that here he explains Shakespeare's imagery (flowers, trees, landscapes, even books and events) in terms of what the man probably experienced. It made me want to reread Shakespeare from start to finish--surely how a biographer wants a reader to react.

    13 of 13 people found this review helpful
  •  
    W.Denis Savannah, GA, United States 12-09-05
    W.Denis Savannah, GA, United States 12-09-05
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    "Much ado about something"

    This is a wonderful book. I never read nor heard nor watched Shakespeare's plays, but now I will and will have benefitted from the understanding that Mr Ackroid provids. I listened to the book because I knew I had missed an experience.

    The reader, Simon Vance, was excellent and must have tried to connect Shakespeare's friend John Aubry with Patrick O'Brian's Captain of the "Surprise".

    9 of 9 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Darkcoffee Allen, TX, United States 09-22-09
    Darkcoffee Allen, TX, United States 09-22-09 Member Since 2009
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    "Vivid Portrait of an Elusive Man"

    A very nicely put together portrait of Shakespeare and his time, the late 1500s, early 1600s in London. Ackroyd plays out the consequences of most of the mainstream conjectures on Shakespeare's life (no one really knows much about him, of course; he left barely a personal trace at all in the records even after centuries of digging). I would've liked a bit more general historical background, especially on the everyday cultural life of London, but Ackroyd had only so many pages to work with, and it's pretty long and full of detail as is! There's perhaps a bit too much conjecture and conclusion drawn on thin evidence on Shakespeare's alleged crypto-Catholicism. This seems to be a particular hobbyhorse of Ackroyd's, and the evidence is slim that it mattered that much to Shakespeare or that any Catholic underground culture shaped his life and work. Ackroyd always seems to be reaching when he makes these conclusions in the book. But I was generally enthralled throughout this account; Ackroyd's novelist's skills made the writing clear and vivid and those qualities in the prose made listening extremely easy and enjoyable.

    5 of 5 people found this review helpful
  •  
    09-21-10
    09-21-10 Member Since 2010
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    "A marvelous biography"

    A comprehensive, fascinating biography of Shakespeare, comprehensive in its grasp of the age. The reading is also top-notch.

    4 of 4 people found this review helpful
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    James Williamstown, NJ, USA 08-27-06
    James Williamstown, NJ, USA 08-27-06
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    "What about Bill?"

    The book tells us little about Shakespeare himself. Rather, it is a chronicle of Elizabethan times in England. We learn more about his contemporaries, e.g. Johnson, than we do about Shakespeare. There is even more information in the book that touches on the physical layout of the Globe Theater than the playwrite. The book is, however, a fairly concise, yet informative listing of his plays.

    5 of 10 people found this review helpful
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