Bill Bryson’s Shakespeare: World as Stage is a deviation from Bryson’s norm. Here, he contributes to the Eminent Lives series, which uses well-known authors to biography famous figures . As we quickly find in this work, there is not much known about William Shakespeare, and much of what we thought we knew is unconfirmed or down-right fabricated. We don’t even know what he truly looked like, because the portraits we have have either been retouched or were painted well after his death. The authorities on Shakespeare know barely more than the average man, and much “information” is conjecture from analysis of his work. Bryson does a magnificent job sticking to the facts, and illuminating the controversial arguments as to who this Shakespeare fellow really was. I especially enjoyed when Bryson pointed out the absurd things scholars do to try and learn more about Shakespeare, including counting every word he wrote (that we have), or how many times a certain word appears in his plays. Shakespeare: World as Stage is brief, but it has to be considering how little we know about the most famous author of all time. As always, Bryson is quite charming, but if you want a true taste of Bryson’s work, I wouldn’t recommend this as the first to pick up by the author.
Check out my review of Bryson’s The Life and Times of the Thunderbolt Kid.