Shakespeare – The World as a Stage by Bill Bryson
Opening sentence: ‘Before he came into a lot of money in 1839, Richard Plantagent Temple Nugent Chandos Grenville, second Duke of Buckingham and Chandos, led a largely uneventful life.’
On a recent weekend away in Bath with my fiancé, we visited the Roman Bath Museum, where one of the optional commentaries was by Bill Bryson, giving his wonderful take on the traditions and architecture of ancient Rome. Being a fan of fateful encounters, when I was later that day in a charity shop and saw this book, it seemed obvious that Bath was telling me I needed to read it. And Bath was correct. Bill’s biography of Shakespeare brilliantly sums up all that is known of the great man’s life and that, interestingly, is not very much.
Shakespeare has been the subject of so much theory and speculation, the most common being that he didn’t actually write the works attributed to him, a notion which Bill dispels and considering the massive work of literature that Shakespeare left us, the known facts of his life only cover 195 pages. I loved this book for that very reason, it focused on facts only and still provided an informative account as it presented Shakespeare’s life in historical context.