Michael Wood
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Buy *Shakespeare* online


Michael Wood
Basic Books
352 pages
October 2003
rated 3 1/2 of 5 possible stars

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Shakespeare is a titillating glimpse into the influences on “the Bard”. From his fortuitous birth before strict religious curtailment was enforced to his living through the church reformation precipitated by King Henry VIII’s peculiar method of changing wives, the reader sees the defining particulars of William’s life.

As with many people who were as famous as they were talented, many legends have sprung up around Shakespeare. Wood attempts to separate fact from fiction and makes many convincing arguments for and against the sundry rumors.

In an effort to immerse the reader in the look and feel of the time, Wood provides many interesting illustrations, including a photograph of a schoolroom where the great man studied before he became a great man. There are descriptions of scandals both of the regency and the common man which, unfortunately, include William’s own father. Upon seeing the details in print (or on PBS) one cannot help but look at Shakespeare’s works with new eyes. His descriptions of rural life must surely be more poignant once the reader knows that he actually did live it.

The portrait of William as a bit of a rake is somewhat at odds with our modern perception of him as balding and middle-aged. It is interesting to imagine him in his wild oat-sowing days. There is no lack of rumored scandals to be explored in search of the real man.

The pacing of the book is brisk and easy to follow. Wood does an excellent job of relating anecdotes without running them into the ground. He provides a fresh slant on age-old debates and makes many logical arguments of why this is so and that is no.

Shakespeare is a delight for fans of the Shakespearean works as well as those who have a love of history. As the story of an extraordinary man living in extraordinary times, William Shakespeare’s life proves to be a thoroughly good read.

© 2004 by Camden Alexander for Curled Up With a Good Book

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