Shakespeare for Dummies

by John Doyle and Ray Lischner

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Table of Contents

Part I: What Makes Shakespeare Special

This part tells you about William Shakespeare and his world. Don't worry; it's not a lesson in English literature, just a trip back about 400 years to drop in on an old friend. He's an actor and a writer--working in the Hollywood of his day--and he made quite a name for himself. Let us introduce you to our good friend, Will.

Chapter 1: Meet William Shakespeare

Chapter 2: Will's World

Chapter 3: Shakespeare in the Modern World

Part II: You Call That English?

Sometimes, Shakespeare doesn't make any sense. Trying to sort out the thees and thous can make Shakespeare's English seem like a foreign language. Look a little more closely, and you'll see that the language really is English--just an older form of English.

Chapter 4: Why Does Everyone Talk So Funny?

Chapter 5: Did You Hear the One About...?

Chapter 6: How to Read Shakespeare's English

Part III: The Play's The Thing

"All the world's a stage" runs the quote from As You Like It, but to Shakespeare, the stage is all the world. A theater can hold "the vasty fields of France" from King Henry V, the far-flung journeys of Pericles as he crossed and recrossed the Mediterranean Sea, or the village of Windsor, England, and its Merry Wives. Through it all, Shakespeare created stories of kings, beggars, witches, saints, and ordinary people.

Chapter 7: Once Upon a Time...

Chapter 8: Shakespeare's People: Characters, Actors, and Audiences

Chapter 9: Use Your Imagination

Chapter 10: Reading a Play

Chapter 11: At the Theater

Part IV: Scorecards and Summaries

The Play! The Play! Before watching a play, it helps to know the story and its characters. This part contains brief summaries of Shakespeare's plays. Each summary starts with a list of the key characters--not so many that you forget who's who, but enough so that you don't get entirely lost. The scorecards, explained in Chapter 12, and found at the ends of Chapters 13, 14, and 15, help you keep track of what's going on: who's winning, who's losing, and who's in love.

Chapter 12: Keeping Score

Chapter 13: Comedies

Chapter 14: Histories

Chapter 15: Tragedies

Part V: The Other Poems

Shakespeare is best known for his plays, which are a form of poetry--but he wrote other poetry, too. He borrowed the sonnet, an Italian form of love poetry, and reshaped it for the English language. He also wrote narrative poems, telling the story of Venus and her crush on Adonis and the tale of Lucrece from ancient Rome.

Chapter 16: All About the Sonnets

Chapter 17: Narrative and Other Poems

Part VI: The Part of Tens

"Nay, it is ten times strange!" (Measure for Measure 4.1.45)

If you've read this book from the start, it's time for a break. If you prefer, you can jump straight into the strange part of Shakespeare: the fun and funky lists. Find out about innovative adaptations of Shakespeare's plays, discover Shakespeare's Japan, or pop back through history and discover the top Shakespearean actors of all time.

Chapter 18: The Test Best Places to Watch Shakespeare's Plays

Chapter 19: Ten Everyday Phrases from Shakespeare

Chapter 20: The Ten Greatest Shakespearean Performers

Chapter 21: Ten Films and Shows Based on Shakespeare's Plays