Book Review: How Shakespeare Changed Everything by Stephen Marche

I received this book for free from Publisher in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

Book Review: How Shakespeare Changed Everything by Stephen MarcheHow Shakespeare Changed Everything by Stephen Marche
Published by Harper Collins on May 10th 2011
Genres: History, General
Pages: 224
Format: ARC
Source: Publisher
Buy on Amazon
ISBN: 9780062079381
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three-stars

Did you know the name Jessica was first used in The Merchant of Venice?
Or that Freud's idea of a healthy sex life came from Shakespeake?
Nearly four hundred years after his death, Shakespeare permeates our everyday lives: from the words we speak to the teenage heartthrobs we worship to the political rhetoric spewed by the twenty-four-hour news cycle.
In the pages of this wickedly clever little book, Esquire columnist Stephen Marche uncovers the hidden influence of Shakespeare in our culture, including these fascinating tidbits:

Shakespeare coined over 1,700 words, including hobnob, glow, lackluster, and dawn.
Paul Robeson's 1943 performance as Othello on Broadway was a seminal moment in black history.
Tolstoy wrote an entire book about Shakespeare's failures as a writer.
In 1936, the Nazi Party tried to claim Shakespeare as a Germanic writer.
Without Shakespeare, the book titles Infinite Jest, The Sound and the Fury, and Brave New World wouldn't exist.

Stephen Marche has cherry-picked the sweetest and most savory historical footnotes from Shakespeare's work and life to create this unique celebration of the greatest writer of all time.

How Shakespeare Changed Everything by Stephen Marche is a tiny, pretty (well, I like the cover and color) non-fiction book on the impact Shakespeare has had on culture and society. I found this to be fascinating. Old Shakes has changed everything from starlings in America to words in our lexicon.

As a Shakespeare novice – I’ve only read one play all the way through, Romeo And Juliet, although I did watch Julius Caesar and used Spark Notes for Hamlet- I found How Shakespeare Changed Everything by Stephen Marche to be relatively easy to follow. There are short chapters on different aspects of culture which Willy S. left his imprint on. Never did I feel like I needed to be a Shakespeare expert to get this book. The writing was straight and to the point, but conversational. The best way I can describe it is that it is like having a beer with a college professor, you aren’t in lecture hall, but the conversation is on an intellectual plane, rather than the let’s pound this drink plane.

However, How Shakespeare Changed Everything by Stephen Marche is not all roses. There were some parts that I definitely disagreed with. For example, there is a chapter on how Shakespeare changed sex. Apparently people only have crazy uninhibited sex because Shakes wrote about it? I’m pretty sure that statement is a stretch. Hello, what about the Kama Sutra? Also, from my sex in the middle ages class, we learned that a prevalent belief was that both people had to um, spill seed and stuff, to conceive. I just didn’t buy into that chapter at all.

As far as non-fiction goes, How Shakespeare Changed Everything by Stephen Marche is completely engaging. I never found the words dry. Nor did I find myself wanting to be reading something else. I enjoyed my brief time with this book. Also, I feel slightly more knowledgeable about Shakespeare, and thus more interesting.

Disclosure: Received for review.

Other Reviews of How Shakespeare Changed Everything by Stephen Marche:

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About April (Books&Wine)

April is 28 years old and created Good Books And Good Wine. She works for a non-profit. In her free time she can be found reading, working out, or eating junk food. She often wears her sunglasses at night.

Comments

  1. Sounds awkwardly intriguing. I admit, I laughed out loud at the spilling of the seed and I’m sure people were experimenting and have wild sex before Shakespeare too. Nice to see something out the box though. And I got me a giggle for the day. Thanks.
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  2. Haha, I see how you got through high school (Sparknotes and watching the movie versions)! =P
    I’m glad you found the book (mostly) enjoyable. It sounds interesting! =)

  3. This sounds pretty entertaining and I do love Shakespeare! I’ll have to read this soon.
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  4. This book sounds interesting to me. However, I’m the complete opposite of you in that not only did I read Julius Caesar, R&J, Hamlet, and MacBeth all the way through, but also I took two courses at university, or a full year, of Shakespeare. From those courses plus MacBeth, I’ve read almost every play he wrote. I wonder if it would have new info for me or if it would be information that I already knew.
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