by John Doyle and Ray Lischner
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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.
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.
"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.
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.
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.
"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 birthplace...in Japan, or pop back through history and discover the top Shakespearean actors of all time.