The Biography

Book - 2005
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Peter Ackroyd's method is to position Shakespeare in the close context of his world. In this way, Ackroyd not only richly conjures up the texture of Shakespeare's life, but also imparts an amazing amount of vivid, interesting material about place, period and background. The book is packed with gems - and the reader turns the pages eagerly, keen to absorb the next nugget of information. Some snippets: Shakespeare was secretly a Roman Catholic; he wrote many more plays but these have been lost; the witches in Macbeth were not hags but women fairies or nymphs played by boys; the 'best' bed was for guests which was why he bequeathed his wife his 'second best' bed (the matrimonial bed in which he probably died); 'ham acting' derives from the strutting walk which showed off the ham-strings; an actor called 'Will' played female parts - could it have been Shakespeare himself?; and the strongest bond in the plays is between father and daughter perhaps reflecting Shakespeare's own family life.
Publisher: London, Eng. : Chatto & Windus, c2005
ISBN: 9781856197267
Branch Call Number: 822.33 B ACK
Characteristics: xiii, 546 p., [16] p. of plates : ill. (some col.), ports. (some col.) ; 24 cm


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Mar 02, 2012

I wanted a straightforward biography of William Shakespeare to help me better understand his works. This book is a tome. I wouldn't mind the book's length. Many of my favorites biographies - Ron Chernow's Hamilton and The Titan, Robert Massie's Peter the Great - are over 700 pages long. Though well-written and researched, Mr. Ackroyd's tome is more a history on Shakespeare's England than on Shakespeare himself. Any mention of Shakespeare, his works or his family seem to be incidental touchstones for another topic of British history.
If you want a story of England at the time of Shakespeare, this is ok. If, like me, you want a biography focusing on the Bard, look somewhere else.

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