Book Review

Shakespeare by Bill Bryson

I have never been into reading poetry, poems or other forms of heavy literature. I have only read Shakespeare’s works in few chapters in English textbooks and seeing the plays in few movies. So why did I pick this book, which is a biography of Shakespeare – it was simply because of “Bill Bryson” name in the title. I have enjoyed so much his previous books “The Thunderbolt Kid” and  “Neither here Nor there“, that the minute I saw his name I bought the book. Anyways after buying it, I decided to read it. And in the course of reading, I learned a great deal about Elizabethan times and of course about Shakespeare. Of course, Bryson with his signature humour has handled the subject very easy to read and enjoy.ShakeSpeare by Bill Bryson

Little is known about Shakespeare’s life, and in this biography, Bryson makes no attempt to expand on the known details. Starting by presenting the paucity of facts, he goes on to sketch the life of the worlds greatest playwright, from Stratford to London and back again. He also discusses the theories suggesting that Shakespeare’s works were written by someone else, dismissing them as ludicrous.

We learn a great deal from the book:

  • That Shakespeare names are written with different spellings throughout his life and after. Oxford English Dictionary endorses the spelling Shakspere.
  • He created the most number of un-prefixes words including unmask, unhand, unlock, untie, unveil and more
  • He created numerous new words in English including excellent, extract, frugal, critical, antipathy, hereditary, assassination, lonely, leapfrog, well-read, indistinguishable and others. Imagine an English language without these words!
  • In his works, Shakespeare is known to have used over 29,066 words
  • If we take Oxford Dictionary of Quotations as our guide, then Shakespeare produced roughly one-tenth of all the most quotable utterances written or spoken in English. These included Vanish into thin air, budge an inch, bag and baggage, cold comfort, flesh and blood, foul play, tower of strength, a foregone conclusion and many others.
  • English was rising in his times as it is telling, that William Shakespeare’s birth is recorded in Latin but that he dies in English as “William Shakespeare, Gentleman”

Also published on Medium.