“Ben Crystal has written a highly accessilbe and thoroughly entertaining little tome which is informative and funny.”see full review » see other reviews »
“Ben Crystal has written a highly accessilbe and thoroughly entertaining little tome which is informative and funny.”Mittagongbookgirl wrote this review Tuesday, September 24, 2013. ( reply | permalink ) Was this review helpful? Yes | No
“A thoroughly readable, enjoyable and understandable introduction to Shakespeare which explains how to approach the plays in particular.”Julian B wrote this review Sunday, June 2, 2013. ( reply | permalink ) Was this review helpful? Yes | No
“Shakespeare has always been a bit of an enigma to me. Like most Shakespeare heathens, I don’t mind the odd Rome and Juliet here and there, and comparing people to a summer’s day is fun, but mostly it’s just too much work. I wanted to read this because it seemed like a nice, friendly introduction to Shakespeare, not taking itself too seriously, and thus I could see if I was missing out on anything good.
After reading, I came to the conclusion that I probably am missing out a lot, but that it really is a bit too much like hard work for me.
However, I really enjoyed this book, it opens up the myths of Shakespeare, dusts them down and then rips them to shreds. I love that it doesn’t try to make Shakespeare a big literary god to be bowed down to. He’s a genius, no question, but his work is not something to be scared of, it’s there to be picked at and pored over and, most of all, enjoyed.
A lot of this introduction to Shakespeare is involved in setting the scene for where the works take place. To get your head around Shakespeare and his plays, you really need to imagine what it was like to be an Elizabethan. Comparing the plays to soap operas and really digging in to why the witches were so terrifying was fascinating to me.
When it came to the nitty gritty, I was interested to read about the format of poetry, about the fact that Shakespeare was guiding pauses and stage directions simply through the rhythm of his writing, but then actually dissecting a scene failed to get me as excited as the writer may have hoped. I really recommend this book as a good place to start for Shakespeare newbies, though, because you may just find it opens up a whole new world for you!”
“All too often people are put off reading Shakespeare for pleasure, because they think it is too difficult, too stuffy and too downright boring. What this book aims to do is demystify the bard by presenting snippets of Shakespearean anecdotes in easy to read chunks. From great actors, like Sir John Gielgud, who made Shakespearean interpretation all their own, to Shakespeare’s introduction of over 1700 words into the English language, even to Elvis’s Presley’s use of Shakespeare in “Are you lonesome tonight?” – Shakespeare’s literary contribution to the world as we know it today is boundless.
I really enjoyed this book, it contains answers to all those questions about Shakespeare you never knew you needed answers for, and presents the facts in a relaxed and easy to manage style. It even touches on the great debate as to whether Shakespeare actually wrote his own plays, or whether they were in fact written by someone else, I’ll let you make your own mind up on that question.
Overall, this book is a delightfully informative look at the mystery that still surrounds the life of William Shakespeare, but the undoubted truth is that his literary legacy still lives on.
I only wish I’d had it to browse through when I was struggling to learn chunks of Richard III for my English A ‘Level.
“ Ben Crystal attempts the “impossible”: to make readers feel relaxed, calm, and comfortable with The Bard. If the title does not relax you and lure you into reading it with a cup of coffee, then Crystal’s writing style surely will.
The author has a relaxed style that is inviting to even the most hesitant reader. After all, we’ve all read books on and/or about Willy Shakes, right? Well, this is not a typical biography. Actually, it’s no biography at all. It is a well-executed piece of literature that covers all facets of Elizabethan England as well as James I.
The layout of the book mirrors that of a Shakespearean play, Acts I to V. He brings readers into the world of Shakespeare with a light-hearted, realistic approach to Shakespeare’s life and work. The historical context in which he places readers helps create a world that is accessible instead of one that is ancient and far past. This is not about Shakespeare, or Queen Elizabeth I, or King James I – this is about how life and culture merge and how Shakespeare created a theater experience through his writing.
There are biographical elements, ones that I found interesting and plan to share with my students. These biographical snapshots are necessary for context of the information, not just there to say, “Hey, look at me and what I know about Shakespeare!” and I appreciate that.
With interesting tidbits such as an American Civil War soldier finding himself so wrapped into the world of one of Shakespeare’s plays that he found it necessary to act himself, Crystal makes Shakespeare’s writing accessible to even the most novice reader.
But what I loved most about the book as a whole is how approachable the material truly is. The author teaches readers how to relish the words of Shakespeare, and through providing a meter lesson with Hamlet and Macbeth, he helps teachers like myself to take his strategy and apply it within my own classroom. I even found myself counting meter with him as he explains Shakespeare’s genius in not only using exact meter but also in breaking it, begging the audience to pay attention to the character/plot at that particular moment, asking themselves why, and opening a discussion about meaning.
And while this is not a teacher’s guide to Shakespeare, Crystal made me feel so comfortable with the book that I found myself nodding along, counting along, cheering and laughing as he delved into the writing of Shakespeare. I teach Hamlet, and I plan to take his meter lesson and using it in my own classroom, which is a sneaky way to teach students how to measure meter without realizing they are truly “learning.”
I recommend this book to everyone – teachers and anyone who has felt he/she did not understand Shakespeare.
And a final plug for why you should read this book: "A brilliantly enjoyable, light-hearted look at Shakespeare which dispels the myths and makes him accessible to all. I love it!” – Judi Dench
Judi Dench has spoken. If it's good enough for Judi, a Shakespearean actress of awesomeness, it's good enough for you too!
“very light reading...for the Shakespeare novice. However, it has a good explanation of how Shakespeare used iambic pentameter like an improvising jazz player. Also, the author does a good job of helping us to understand why there weren't any complete manuscripts for the ages to treasure.”karen mg wrote this review Sunday, December 27, 2009. ( reply | permalink ) Was this review helpful? Yes | No
“Actually, I dont own it yet, but I know I'm getting it for my birthday. I'm not supposed to know, so SHHHHHHHHHHH!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!”Milli Force-Mellark-McCorkingdale-Keller-Montague-Temple-Reid-Hudson-Hummel-Evans Mmm...Cheese Buns :) wrote this review Friday, October 16, 2009. ( reply | permalink ) Was this review helpful? Yes | No
“Great, unexpected insights in the ways Shakeaspeare ticked. I was expecting more analysis of the plots and character-shapes, but it was quite refreshing to learn about the basics Shakespeare is all about - language and namely poetry.”Vicky M wrote this review Wednesday, July 1, 2009. ( reply | permalink ) Was this review helpful? Yes | No