Thursday, February 19, 2009

Shakespeare; Bill Bryson: February 2009

This biography of William Shakespeare, the most celebrated poet in the English language, is a delight to read. Bill Bryson writes beautiful, lucid English, and paints a clear picture of Shakespeare in this book. He admits that there is not much really known about the Bard, but what is known is simple.

He outlines the facts of Shakespeare's life, and discusses the controversy around who did write the plays. I found this particularly interesting as I remember being taught about this in Paisley Grammar School, Scotland. The master stated the argument, and a list of possible, alternative authors. He was objective about it, leaving the pupils to make up their own minds.

The argument is that the plays cover so much geography, history, law, medicine, court life, statemanship, life abroad, military affairs, life at sea, that they couldn't possibly have been written by a person from the countryside, educated at a local Grammar School.

Having been educated myself at a local Grammar School, I disagreed strongly. I know how much knowledge was crammed into the pupils of my school. When I look back now, I am so grateful to my teachers for having forced on me the discipline necessary to develop the love of learning that has stayed with me, and enriched my life. I have no doubt Shakespeare would have echoed my sentiments. He had Latin and Greek stuffed into his head, and with those languages, all the wonderful history, myths, and stories that he used in his plays.

As a schoolgirl, in my opinion there was no argument that Shakespeare had written the plays. He was a businessman, and wrote what he knew his market wanted; great stories with lots of action. He owned and operated his own theatre; of course he wrote the plays.

I am delighted to say that Bill Bryson agrees with me, and is of the same opinion as that schoolgirl I once was.

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