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Publisher's Summary

Shakespeare's life, despite the scrutiny of generations of biographers and scholars, is still a thicket of myths and traditions. Some are preposterous, some are conflicting, all are arranged around the few scant facts known about the Bard, from his birth in Stratford to the bequest of his "second best bed" to his wife when he died.Following his international best-sellers A Short History of Nearly Everything and The Life and Times of the Thunderbolt Kid, Bill Bryson has written a short biography of William Shakespeare for the Eminent Lives series, which seeks to pair great subjects with writers known for their strong sensibilities and sharp, lively points of view.
©2007 Bill Bryson; (P)2007 HarperCollins Publishers Ltd, London, UK

What members say

Average Customer Ratings

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  • Overall
  • Russell
  • BrisbaneAustralia
  • 10-11-09

Not the book you might think it is...

This is a book about Shakespeare the man (and the times he lived in) - it is not a guide to his works. But given that qualification, it is an intriguing account. It flows easily into the ear, constantly asking interesting questions, and answering many. But in the end, we are still left wondering how any person could grasp so much and penetrate so deeply into humankind.

3 of 3 people found this review helpful

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another Bryson best

If you could sum up Shakespeare in three words, what would they be?

a good read

Have you listened to any of Bill Bryson’s other performances before? How does this one compare?

as good as 'at home' also excellent work

Any additional comments?

keep up the good work Bill

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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  • Steven
  • Auckland, New Zealand
  • 12-27-11

Wit wittled down by voice

As a Bryson fan I have thoroughly enjoyed his books and was looking forward to his insightful and irreverent treatment of this noble subject. He lived up to expectations with a rather concise account of the life, times and work of Shakespeare with generous dollops of sarcasm, humour and derision thrown in. It would have been a splendid piece of work had Bryson settled for a professional narrator (as in Short History of Nearly Everything). Instead Bryson's clipped, clumsy and poorly enunciated voice is intrusive and jarring. What a pity. I hope the publishers consider another edition with a trained actor as narrator.

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  • Emily
  • 10-12-07

cuts through the rubbish

If shakespeare interests you in any way this book is wonderful. Bill Bryson cuts through the mountains of information about the bard and gives you the facts. It is a facinating and informative piece of work which is totally and uttterly enjoyable!

20 of 21 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
  • Sara
  • 11-22-07

Good Summary

This is a good book for most people who have an interest in Shakespeare. Bryson has put together all that we actually know about Shakespeare and discussed the well known theories that surround him. Well written and informative whilst being interesting and entertaining, as all Bryson's books are.

9 of 9 people found this review helpful

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  • LilyRose
  • 12-20-13

No conspiracy theories here!

An excellent, straightforward guide to Shakespeare's life. Quite brief, but Bryson lays out everything we know about Shakespeare and the world in which he lived without any supposition or extravagant theories clouding the tale. We don't know very much about Shakespeare, but then we don't know very much about any of the Elizabethan or Stuart playwrights - so little survives from that period. Bryson deals with Shakespeare in his context admirably. He resists the urge to speculate or guess about anything we don't know for sure. It's a fascinating listen, and he despatches the idea that Shakespeare did not write the plays with clarity and conviction. The few details we do have about the writer's life are laid out well and this is a really interesting and enjoyable book.

4 of 4 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
  • Malcolm
  • 01-27-09

Another side of Bill Bryson

I have, for a long time, been a 'fan' of the writing of Bill Bryson, however his book Shakespeare not only informs the reader/listener about the life of William Shakespeare, but, also highlights just want a wonderful writer Bill Bryson.

I have most of Bryson's works and this one is as good as the others.

I hope that you enjoy it as much as I did

4 of 4 people found this review helpful

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  • Chris Lilly
  • 11-26-14

Easy, not stupid, introduction to Shakespeare

Effortless scholarship, warm and engaging delivery, fascinating topic. What's not to like? Bill Bryson takes his 'ordinary bloke' persona deep into the thickets of Shakespearean scholarship, gives all the facts, of which there are not a lot, punctures a bunch of theories many of which are examples of the High Stupid, and leaves me wanting more Bryson AND more Shakespeare.

2 of 2 people found this review helpful

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  • N. T. Southorn
  • 10-05-13

Hurrah for Bryson

Where does Shakespeare rank among all the audiobooks you’ve listened to so far?

Very highly. As always, Bryson's dulcet tones and arresting wit turns the otherwise inaccessible enigma that is the world of Shakespeare (however you spell it) into an engaging journey. Light is cast on the sometimes convoluted prose of this highly regarded scribe, and goes someway to help the uninitiated understand who Shakespeare is.<br/><br/>

What did you like best about this story?

The format of Bryson's informal biography which has the investigative diligence of a journalist forces the listener to challenge more oblique concepts rather than the purely linear biographies one sometimes encounters.

Would you listen to another book narrated by Bill Bryson?

Yes. Bryson has a soothing tone and uses simple but eloquent language - he isn't one of the insufferable lexicon wielding authors who use language to encrypt the message.

Was this a book you wanted to listen to all in one sitting?

Yes. But then having kids means it will never happen

Any additional comments?

Highly recommended. Thanks Bill

2 of 2 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
  • Charlie P
  • 03-31-11

Brevity is the soul of wit

As Bill Bryson points out this is a short book! Why? Because there are so few confirmed facts about about The Bard. That, however, hasn't stopped scholars and academics alike speculating on the most surprising details of Shakespeare's life. Bryson sets out on a fact finding mission with his usual wit, the results are as entertaining as they are informative. I loved it!

2 of 2 people found this review helpful

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  • Andrew
  • 09-30-15

Shakespeare

An interesting book, well read by Bryson. I learnt a lot without having to concentrate too hard - exactly what I want from an audiobook

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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  • andy wright
  • 02-23-15

Try this much better than you might think

A great listen well worth a visit , you learn alot more about the history of times try it treat yourself

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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  • Amazon Customer
  • 10-12-17

Shakespeare

This audiobook went through Shakespeare's life: what do we know and how do we know it? What are guesses / assumptions.
I really liked it.
One minor niggle: the chapters do not line up with the chapters in the book. I got the feeling that it was converted from CD and each audiobook chapter equals one CD. Odd.

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  • Ballina Beach
  • 04-11-16

Enjoyable, fun, & informative

Bill Bryson has done a terrific job distilling Shakespeare scholarship into a very enjoyable 5 hours. He covers all the big issues & even the silly ones (did Shakespeare really write his plays?). His chapters on the life in London & theatre- going public were fabulous. We even learnt what people could buy for snacks (apples, pears, nuts, ale). Highly recommend this.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful