Shakespeare by Bill Bryson

OMG! 🙂 🙂 🙂 It’s a bright breezy Big Bill Bryson book about Bill !!!!!!!!!! 🙂

I hope I’m not maligning Bryson more than is strictly speaking necessary by saying this feels like a book one could write in a week or three via google. Shakespeare scholarship? He pretty much sweeps the lot aside as being out to lunch. For example, of these lines from Love’s Labours Lost:

KING. O paradox! Black is the badge of hell,
The hue of dungeons, and the school of night;
And beauty’s crest becomes the heavens well.

he says ‘What exactly he means by ‘the school of the night’ is really anybody’s guess.’

This suggests to me a complete ignorance of the idea of The School of Night which for a period kept some academics in wages and the masses like me entertained. It’s a lovely romantic idea that completely fits the period. Indeed, Cambridge University Press saw fit to reissue The School of Night A Study in the Literary Relationships of Sir Walter Ralegh by M. C. Bradbrook as recently as 2011.

It’s no wonder Bryson’s book is so short.

Still, having said that, I hadn’t realised the extent to which almost nothing is known about the man. One learns more of tidbits of the period, the sort of thing one goes to a Bryson sort of book for. It would never have occurred to me, for example, that black teeth might ever be in vogue, but indeed they were. Anything, it seems, can be spun into style.

I suppose that nothing that might be thought of Shakespeare is still waiting to be told, but it occurs to me that the reason why the Merchant of Venice is, as Robert points out in his review, such a complex character and certainly not a simplistically villainous one, is that Shakespeare’s father was involved in the dangerous practice himself. Though it is unclear whether he escaped serious consequence, one wonders what impact it had on his son, if any.

Another observation that comes to mind after reading this is that Shakespeare’s lack of education (that is, he did not go to university), must have been important in keeping him free to break rules and make them.

Although I had a vague idea that Shakespeare had invented a lot of words, I had no idea just how influential he was. What this book doesn’t attend to, being no more than an admission of failure from the start, but what I’m looking forward to investigating is how that influence unfolded, the more so since Shakespeare was out of favour for quite some time after his death.

Seriously? It’s a fun read and because it’s so short I found it easy not to get into that ‘Too much, Bill, too much’ which I felt the last time I read one of his chatty tomes.

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2 thoughts on “Shakespeare by Bill Bryson

  1. I’m afraid that I’m as ignorant as Bill Bryson concerning the School of Night. What an admission.

    • I was interested in the period – there’s no reason you should know it, but somebody writing a book about Shakespeare should!

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