Shakespeare was my introduction to Bryson’s work after I realized that I could easily grab one of his titles from my public library. Essentially, Bryson’s Shakespeare exists to emphasize the fact that, despite the number of biographies written about Shakespeare, the prolific writer’s life is mostly a mystery. A mystery that's driven thousands of individuals to engage in painstaking research to uncover truth.
Ok, so what’s the difference? How is Bryson any different than the lot of these Shakespeare hounds?
Bryson doesn’t claim to have made any new or shocking discoveries about the writer’s life, and he dispels many common myths along the way. Using keen research skills, which indicate that many biographers often penned false, fairy-tale like situations/conclusions, he emphasizes that most failed to make any factual connections.
The novel’s exploration of people’s fascination with Shakespeare, a playwright among many other accomplished and learned men of his time, is the real subject of the title. Shakespeare’s elusive history is appealing, and begs to be, if not deserves a mostly imagined, and definitely spectacular, background. This is most certain if he is to remain at the epicenter of dramatic interpretation—a playwright of the gods.
And, however subtle, it’s clear that Bryson pokes fun at this hysteria.
Don’t get me wrong. Please refrain from your rotten tomatoes and your apple cores, folks! Bryson didn’t publish this title to say that Shakespeare is a fraud, or a playwright who received undeserved praises; no, he’s simply presenting the reader with snap shots of intense fixations with Shakespeare. In addition, he offers quite a number of facts about Shakespeare’s life through legal documents preserved from this period.
I really enjoyed this title because I have an insatiable want for obscure details of the day-to-day routines in different time periods. He provides many informative and entertaining details about the Elizabethan period. Some facets of this period may even leave the reader wondering how humanity progressed to its present state. It’s especially interesting to understand the development of today’s English, and the acceptance of writing produced during this period, which was devoid of a collective system of punctuation and spelling.
All in all, Bryson’s Shakespeare was fun and informative. I read it quickly and without feeling overwhelmed by tedious details. The reader may walk away learning a little more about Shakespeare’s life (like me), or nothing at all. Either way, you’re sure to get a kick out of this entertaining piece of historical nonfiction.