Bill Bryson: Shakespeare Book Review

Bill Bryson: Shakespeare Book Review

The idea [of this book] is a simple one: to see how much of Shakespeare we can know, really know, from the record. Which is one reason, of course, it’s so slender.

It’s a wonder that the life of one of Britain’s greatest and most renowned writers can be condensed into less than 200 pages. Still, as Bill Bryson tells us engagingly and succinctly throughout this biography, there is scant information on the life of William Shakespeare, despite many later historians’ attempts to fill in the gaps. With the dry wit and humour Bryson is adored for, he sets out the meagre facts we know about Shakespeare, if that is even his real name (as Bryson explains - there are only six known signatures attributed to the Bard, and each has his name spelt differently!), alongside a bevy of entertaining historical facts and anecdotes from the same era, as well as conjecture and theories posited by later scholars. Unlike many researchers who have tried and failed to discover the mysteries of Shakespeare’s lost years or the authenticity of his writing, Bryson sticks to the definite facts, connecting these with concurring historical information and stories that are as engaging as one of Shakespeare’s works.

From the guesstimate of Shakespeare’s birth, shoddy record keeping of the 1500s, Samuel Pepys disdain for A Midsummer Night’s Dream, and modern theories on Shakespeare’s sexuality to academic espionage and theft, this is an eminently readable, enlightening, detailed yet concise book that can be enjoyed by young and old. It is a true celebration of one of the world’s most recognisable and yet, ironically, completely unknown figures, reaching through the Tudor times to the present, all with a wry sense of humour and Bryson’s infectious adoration for British culture, no matter how frustratingly baffling it may be at times!

Reviewed by Laura (Commercial Events Manager) 


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