In a magnificent feat of re-creating sixteenth-century London and Stratford, bestselling biographer and novelist Peter Ackroyd brings William Shakespeare to life in the manner of a contemporary rather than a biographer. Following his magisterial and ingenious re-creations of the lives of Chaucer, Dickens, T. S. Eliot, William Blake, and Sir Thomas More, Ackroyd delivers his crowning achievement with this definitive and imaginative biographical masterpiece.
Thousands of books have been written about the playwright, but none has borne Ackroyd's unique and accessible stamp. His method is to position the playwright in the context of his world, exploring everything from Stratford's humble town to its fields of wildflowers; discerning influences on the plays from unexpected quarters; and entering London with the playwright as modern theatre, as we know it, is just beginning to emerge.
Writing as though we are observing Shakespeare and his circle of friends, patrons, managers, and fellow actors and writers, Ackroyd is able to see Shakespeare's genius from within, so we feel that Ackroyd the writer merges with Shakespeare the writer, the poet, the man; and thus with great sympathy and clarity we experience the way in which Shakespeare worked.
Shakespeare: The Biography is quite unlike other more analytic biographies that have been written. Rather, Peter Ackroyd has used his skill, his extraordinary knowledge, and his historical intuition to craft this major full-scale book on one of the most towering figures of the English language.
Stop! Don't scroll past this book just because it's about Shakespeare. Many probably feel that they "did" Shakespeare to death during their school years and can think of few things less appealing than reading a book about him on their own time - let alone paying good money to buy it! If that sounds like you, think again - in Peter Ackroyd's hands the life and times of The Bard makes for a pretty riveting read! (Reviewed by BookBrowse Review Team).
The New York Times - John Simon
Comparisons with Dickens, who was, in a way, the Shakespeare of the novel, are
particularly suggestive; but Ackroyd, fruitfully, quotes many foreign opinions, old and new, as well. Especially effective is the brevity of his chapters, each dealing with a specific
Newcomers to Shakespearean studies will find this a good place to start. Those more familiar with the field will find that it palls in comparison to Stephen Greenblatt's Will in the World (2004).
Publishers Weekly - Roy Rosenbaum
Boxed Review. [T]he great strength of Ackroyd's book is the depth of his immersion in the culture of Shakespeare's age and the sense he gives of Shakespeare as a product of that extraordinary moment in time.
Library Journal - Shana C. Fair
This biography is distinguished from other contemporary Shakespeare studies by the author's ability to mesh the facts of Shakespeare's life with social, economic, literary, and political details of the 16th century...This book is distinctly different from Stephen Greenblatt's
Will in the World and Michael Wood's Shakespeare; though all three biographies use the same basic information, Ackroyd transforms the black-and-white sketch of Shakespeare into a richly colored portrait. Highly recommended for all public and academic libraries.
Booklist - Bryce Christensen
Starred Review. Others (including Stephen Goldblatt in his Will in the World, 2004) have likewise mined Shakespeare's plays and poetry for telling clues about the playwright's life. But Ackroyd brings to his biographical reading the imaginative insights of a gifted poet and novelist, along with the passions of a scholar .... Vivid and capacious, a life study worthy of its subject.
Peter Ackroyd was born in London, England and educated at Clare College,
Cambridge; and at Yale. He began his literary career as a poet, before turning
to fiction. Today, he is the bestselling author of at least fourteen
novels (often writing with a dual narrative style where the two voices are
separated by the centuries), fifteen non-fiction books, various collections and a history series for children.
His best known books include Hawksmoor (winner of the Whitbread Award)
and Chatterton (shortlisted for the Booker Prize) His most recent books
include The Lambs of London; Shakespeare: The Biography; and
J.M.W. Turner, the second biography in the Ackroyd Brief Lives series. He
has also written full-scale biographies of Dickens, Blake, and Thomas More and
the novels The Clerkenwell Tales, The Trial of Elizabeth Cree,
Milton in America, and The Plato Papers.
The Fall of Troy was published in the UK in September 2006, but is not
yet available in the USA. As the...
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