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Shakespeare: The World as Stage | [Bill Bryson]

Shakespeare: The World as Stage

William Shakespeare, the most celebrated poet in the English language, left behind nearly a million words of text, but his biography has long been a thicket of wild supposition arranged around scant facts. With a steady hand and his trademark wit, Bill Bryson sorts through this colorful muddle to reveal the man himself.
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Publisher's Summary

William Shakespeare, the most celebrated poet in the English language, left behind nearly a million words of text, but his biography has long been a thicket of wild supposition arranged around scant facts. With a steady hand and his trademark wit, Bill Bryson sorts through this colorful muddle to reveal the man himself.

Bryson documents the efforts of earlier scholars, from academics to eccentrics. Emulating the style of his famous travelogues, Bryson records episodes in his research, including a visit to a bunker-like basement room in Washington, D.C., where the world's largest collection of First Folios is housed.

Bryson celebrates Shakespeare as a writer of unimaginable talent and enormous inventiveness, a coiner of phrases ("vanish into thin air", "foregone conclusion", "one fell swoop") that even today have common currency. His Shakespeare is like no one else's: the beneficiary of Bryson's genial nature, his engaging skepticism, and a gift for storytelling unrivaled in our time.

©2007 Bill Bryson; (P)2007 HarperCollins Publishers

What the Critics Say

"Bryson is a pleasant and funny guide to a subject at once overexposed and elusive." (Publishers Weekly)

What Members Say

Average Customer Rating

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Performance
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  •  
    William Prescott, AZ, United States 01-23-12
    William Prescott, AZ, United States 01-23-12 Member Since 2001

    Takes me a year to read a paper book, three pages a night before I crash. Audible has increased my reading by an unknowable percentage.

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    "Very good book"
    Would you consider the audio edition of Shakespeare to be better than the print version?

    An excellent book, as is everything from Bryson.


    What was one of the most memorable moments of Shakespeare?

    The debunking of whether Shakespeare wrote his own stuff or not.


    Any additional comments?

    It is fascinating that Shakespeare's work has such an influence on our modern world and so little is actually known about him. Bryson handles this well and at the end of it... Shakespeare is still Shakespeare.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
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    01-23-12
    01-23-12 Member Since 2009
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    "Shakespeare is Shakespeare"
    If you could sum up Shakespeare in three words, what would they be?

    Shakespeare is Shakespeare


    What did you like best about this story?

    Balanced view of the evidence


    Which character ??? as performed by Bill Bryson ??? was your favorite?

    Not an appropriate question


    If you were to make a film of this book, what would be the tag line be?

    I wouldn't even try to make this into a film.


    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Sheila STEVENS POINT, WI, United States 01-23-12
    Sheila STEVENS POINT, WI, United States 01-23-12 Member Since 2008
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    "A fun read/listen"
    Would you listen to Shakespeare again? Why?

    Yes, to go over historical facts as Bryson saw them.


    What about Bill Bryson’s performance did you like?

    He is some what different from other performers, it's his own book and he read it with energy.


    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Lisa Yarmouth, ME, United States 04-09-11
    Lisa Yarmouth, ME, United States 04-09-11
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    "Too little..."

    I have always been a fan of Bill Bryson, but this was his first book to disappoint... The simple truth is there is too little to know about Shakespeare to justify the book. This is, of course, really too bad as I would really love to know more about it.

    That being said, Bryson is fabulous as usual, his writing is terrific, and so is his narration. In certain parts you can hear he is having trouble not laughing, causing me too laugh out loud myself, attracting strange looks from people on the subway.

    Over all - The subject matter gets 3 stars (for while it was interesting, as I said above, the actual facts were few and far between). However, the writing gets five stars as usual, thus garnishing a four star review.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Gary 03-15-11
    Gary 03-15-11 Member Since 2000
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    "Only Bryson book I gave up on"

    The very long prelude is persuasive that there's not much known for sure about Shakespeare... and then goes into absurdly tiny detail about the supposed life he led.

    I couldn't force myself to continue... but based on my prior enjoyment of Bryson's OTHER work, I would still try another of his books without concern.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Geri Sunnyvale, CA, United States 03-13-11
    Geri Sunnyvale, CA, United States 03-13-11 Member Since 2007
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    "fascinating"

    I thoroughly enjoyed this book. I learned all sorts of fascinating facts about Shakespeare and his time.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Laura Meyer 07-12-10
    Laura Meyer 07-12-10 Member Since 2010
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    "Great info about Shakespeare"

    I didn't realize how little I knew about the Bard until I listened to this book. Bryson does an excellent job of summing up Shakespeare's life in an engaging way. He reads it well, too. He points out where the historical record is thin and where we have solid information about Shakespeare. It's incredible to learn how we know what we do (and don't) about the Bard. The last chapter is great. I wouldn't say this is a comedic book, but it's very entertaining and does have some good laughing moments too.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Laura Fillmore, CA, United States 01-23-09
    Laura Fillmore, CA, United States 01-23-09 Member Since 2007
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    "very enjoyable!!"

    I downloaded this book to kill time while driving but found that I really wanted to pay more attention to it than I could while on the road. Bill Bryson's lyric humor and research of the subject makes this most enjoyable.

    1 of 2 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Don Falls Church, VA, USA 04-04-08
    Don Falls Church, VA, USA 04-04-08
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    "Great audio - Disjointed book"

    I don't know what it is...I have each of his other book on my iPod and I love them all. This just seemed so unorganized, such a clunker, that I was hoping someone wrote this and not him.

    The audio does make up for it with his great delivery. But material is far from stellar. I'd avoid this selection and focus on his other material

    3 of 7 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Espen Kvalheim 10-22-14 Member Since 2012
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    "Read the paper (or Kindle) version instead!"
    Who would you have cast as narrator instead of Bill Bryson?

    I have read several of Bryson's books, and I have enjoyed them tremendously. I am a big, big fan of his works, and I particularly love that delightful wit of his, but this is the first time I've heard him read his work. When I read his books, I invariably picture him sitting with that mischievous grin he sometimes wears in photos, and I'd suspected him to be veritably bubbling with his next wisecrack or funny formulation - which even this book is richly adorned with. However, there was absolutely no delivery of these punch lines - he just read on like it was a laundry list.


    Any additional comments?

    The book isn't bad at all, and the final chapter - in which Bryson kills dead any and all of the theories that Shakespeare wasn't actually Shakespeare - is simply phenomenal, and in itself worth the price of the book. But in my opinion, you'll have a better experience if you read it yourself than let Bryson do it for you...

    0 of 1 people found this review helpful
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