We, and much of the rest of the world, were introduced to Bill Bryson’s work in his hilarious Notes From a Small Island. We were living in London at the time, and could absolutely relate to his quirky take on being an American abroad.
He’s a fabulous story-teller and his ability to make even the most mundane minutia from everyday life interesting and frequently funny, has made us big fans throughout his career.
And as a part of the Eminent Lives series, Bill Bryson pens another entertaining and informative success in his short biography Shakespeare: The World as Stage. In his typical in-depth, clever, and entertaining fashion, Bryson sorts through research, past and present, to set the record straight on exactly what we do, and in most cases don’t, know about William Shakespeare.
The most celebrated poet in the English language left behind a literary legacy of nearly one million words of text, but in 400 years of relentless searching, only about 100 documents relating to Shakespeare have been found. Of these, most were property deeds, tax and legal records, which tell us a bit about the business of the man’s life, but amazingly little about the man.
For instance: did you know that the words “abstemious, antipathy, critical, frugal, dwindle, extract, horrid, vast, hereditary, critical, excellent, eventful, barefaced, assassination, lonely, leapfrog, indistinguishable, well-read, zany, and countless others (including countless)” were coined by Shakespeare. –Bill Bryson
In fact, these are only a few of the 2035 words, first used by The Bard of Avon.
Add to this extensive list of words phrases like: “one fell swoop, vanish into thin air, bag and baggage, play fast and loose, go down the primrose path, be in a pickle, budge an inch, the milk of human kindness…” and hundreds of others.
Even if you aren’t a huge Shakespeare fan, Bryson’s book is loaded with fascinating details about how the poet plied his trade as well as what life was like at the end of the 16th Century. It’s the best of biography and history rolled together in a very amusing and readable package. In the words of famous movie critics Gene Siskel and Robert Ebert, we give this book “”Two Thumbs Up.” Don’t miss it.
James & Terri