Shakespeare: The World as a Stage

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9780007325238: Shakespeare: The World as a Stage

This exquisitely illustrated and updated edition of Bill Bryson's best-selling biography of William Shakespeare takes the reader on an enthralling journey through Elizabethan England and the eccentricities of Shakespearean scholarship. Includes exclusive audio of Shakespeare’s sonnets, read by Sir John Gielgud.

Bill Bryson's biography of William Shakespeare pairs the most celebrated playwright in history with one of the most popular writers in the English language today. In this exquisitely illustrated new edition, the age of Shakespeare is vividly evoked through full-colour paintings, portraits, documents and photographs.

Ever since he took the theatre of Elizabethan London by storm over 400 years ago, Shakespeare has remained centre stage. His fame stems not only from his plays - performed everywhere from school halls to the world's most illustrious theatres - but also from his enigmatic persona. His face is familiar to all, yet in reality very little is known about the man behind the masterpieces.

Taking us on a journey through the streets of Elizabethan and Jacobean England, Bryson examines centuries of myths, half-truths and downright lies surrounding our greatest dramatist. With a steady hand and his trademark wit, he introduces a host of engaging characters, as he celebrates the magic of Shakespeare's language and delights in details of the bard's life, folios, poetry and plays.

An updated preface includes the recent discoveries of the Cobbe portrait and London's first purpose-built theatre in Shoreditch. Shakespeare: The Illustrated Edition is captivating and colourful, as Bryson brings the legend into focus with unmatched clarity and amusement.

Sonnets (audio CD)
Selected and read by Sir John Gielgud, these personal and initimate poems were recorded over a period of six months, on two continents, a few at a time. They are magnificently sensitive readings by the most memorable interpreter of Shakespeare in our time. The text follows the original quarto of 1609.

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Review:

'A brilliantly funny and gently insightful travel guide to 16th century England. Bryson is great at picking out of the morass of Elizabethan fact the small details that illuminate and amuse…he also uncovers from the world that surrounded the theatre some fascinating examples of Elizabethan eccentricity…As an abbreviated tour around the world of Shakespeare, this could hardly be bettered.' Sunday Times

'Bill Bryson has always been able to spot a market; and there ought to be a market for his latest book…an accessible, sensible Life of Shakespeare…surely a fine gift for someone encountering Shakespeare for the first time…Bryson is shrewd…and as funny as you'd expect…he sets down all the important bits of evidence, and assesses them in a measured scholarly way. He's good value too.' Daily Telegraph

'Measured, sensible and, at times, as wryly humorous as you'd expect.' The Times

'Fast paced jaunt through Bardolatry…wittily evokes Elizabethan England.' Sunday Times

'A work worthy of one of the greatest writers in the English language.' Daily Express

'Bryson uses an inimitably light touch and squeezes a vast subject down to manageable proportions…he is a warm and funny guide through the whole complicated morass of Shakespearean scholarship.' Financial Times

From the Back Cover:

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 today’s most respected academics to eccentrics like Delia Bacon, an American who developed a firm but unsubstantiated conviction that her namesake Francis Bacon was the true author of Shakespeare’s plays — she spent months in silence at Bacon’s home, ‘absorbing atmospheres’ that bolstered her theory. With shades 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 a home at the tips of our tongues. His Shakespeare is like no-one else’s — the beneficiary of Bryson’s genial nature, his engaging scepticism, and a gift for storytelling unrivalled in our time.

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