Friday, May 29, 2009

Shakespeare: Book Review

William Shakespeare has always been a mystery to me. He's been at the background of my awareness, with a few well-known quotations and phrases floating around. But beyond knowing that he was a playwright and poet associated with the Globe Theatre, I couldn't have told you much about him.

Having recently read Bill Bryson's biography on Shakespeare, it appears that most people, even Shakespeare scholars can't know much more for sure. Thus far, Shakespeare has been an elusive character, with little documentary evidence in the remaining legal documents from the period of his life.

Indeed, of the remaining signatures, Shakespeare doesn't even spell his name the same way twice, and never uses the now accustomed spelling of his name which I've been using throughout the review! Another mystery is the order of writing of his plays - scholars are so divided that there are almost as many chronologies as there are scholars, each with their own theory and insight.

So on one level, my quest for more information wasn't overly successful, with Bryson being frank with the lack of documentary evidence and the details of the life of one of England's greatest authors. Yet it wasn't a waste of time, as the book is laced with Bryson's characteristic humour, both in describing life in Elizabethan and Jacobean England, and in writing about the Shakespearean scholars and their weird and wacky ways. I may not know much more about Shakespeare, but I enjoyed the ride!

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