Great Nonfiction: How Shakespeare Changed Everything, by Henning Mankell

How Shakespeare Changed EverythingWhat we owe to the Bard of Avon 

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

It’s evident from page 1 that Stephen Marche is a great admirer of Shakespeare. How fortunate that Marche is a good enough writer himself to convey some of his own enthusiasm to his reader. How Shakespeare Changed Everything is a carefully researched compendium of ten essays, each of which describes The Bard’s influence on contemporary issues. Among the topics are race, sex, adolescence, starlings (yes, the birds), history, and Shakespeare’s identity. Marche contends, and makes a good case of it, that Freud developed his psycho-sexual theories as a result of Shakespeare’s treatment of sex, especially Oedipal themes, in his work. By citing passages from Romeo and Juliet, Marche shows how today’s concept of adolescence came about. He is convincing in his belief that John Wilkes Booth’s formulated his assassination plans based upon his own experiences acting in Julius Caesar. And he includes a fascinating chapter about all the words that we use as colloquialisms today without thinking about their origins – Shakespeare is credited with coining and/or recording hundreds of them. Marche includes a humorous paragraph compiled by journalist Bernard Levin, in which strings of them are joined into a coherent paragraph.

How Shakespeare Changed Everything is a lighthearted but heartfelt homage to the greatest, most enduring writer/poet in the English language. If you’re an admirer as well, you’ll enjoy this little (190 pages) volume.

 

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