Posts Tagged ‘understanding shakespeare’

As a recent convert to Shakespeare, I found this book invaluable.  I used to think Shakespeare was stuffy, boring and confusing.  Ben Crystal LOVES Shakespeare; that much is evident from the way he writes about him in this book – but that wasn’t always the case – and to me, that made me feel confident about this book (because he gets that sometimes Shakespeare can seem unapproachable).  I’m am still in the early stages of discovering the beauty of Shakespeare’s work, and I can honestly say that if I had had this book when I was at school, I probably would have discovered the beauty of it years ago!

Shakespeare on Toast is sort of like a key to unlocking the Bard’s work.  As Crystal acknowledges, you don’t have to really analyse or study Shakespeare to enjoy his plays (or his sonnets, although this book concentrates more on the plays), but a bit of background knowledge and understanding will really enhance your enjoyment.  Crystal states clearly that his book is not a full guide to Shakespeare, nor is it intended to be, but it will provide you with all the tools you need to understand his plays a bit better, and thus get more out of them.  For example, the way Shakespeare uses ‘thou’ and ‘you’ to different effect; this had never occurred to me before, but once pointed out, the way in which he used these words, and his intention in doing so, become clear.

There is also a section of the book devoted to the dreaded iambic pentameter, the form of verse in which most of Shakespeare’s work is written.  When I studied poetry, I LOATHED iambic pentameter – or rather, I loathed trying to get to grips with it.  However, here it is laid out plainly, and it suddenly became clear to me.

The book is written in a chatty, laid back style, and as one of the quotes on the back says, it’s like going to the theatre with a knowledgeable friend.  I would strongly recommend anyone with a even a passing interest in Shakespeare to read this book.  Terrific!

(Author’s website can be found here.)

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