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This title in other editions

How Shakespeare Changed Everything

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How Shakespeare Changed Everything Cover

ISBN13: 9780061965531
ISBN10: 0061965537
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Synopses & Reviews

Publisher Comments:

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.

Review:

"According to novelist and Esquire columnist Marche, Shakespeare was 'the most influential person who ever lived,' and his works frame how we understand the world. Obama, for instance, obliquely and redemptively replayed the story of Othello in the 2008 election, and for many Americans, he is the noble Moor, a courageous, charismatic outsider. Actor John Wilkes Booth apparently borrowed heavily from Shakespeare's Julius Caesar for his theatrical assassination of Lincoln. Shakespeare enriched the English language by coining hundreds of words, like 'assassination,' 'bandit,' 'hobnob,' and 'traditional,' and expressions with amazing staying power, like 'green-eyed,' 'tongue-tied,' and 'dead as a doornail.' Marche claims that Shakespeare's frankness about sexuality has done more to foster open attitudes than even Freud (who gained his humanism from Shakespeare). Romeo and Juliet's profound portraits of teenagers in all their absurdity, nastiness, and 'terrifying beauty' have shaped our understanding of adolescence; and Shakespeare, the author claims, is the dominant influence in Hollywood and was wildly popular in Nazi Germany. Marche's essay is informative and entertaining, but also rambling. None of this adds up to Marche's claim that Shakespeare is more important than Obama or John Wilkes Booth or Freud. And only the Bard-obsessed will need a whole chapter on Shakespeare-inspired starling overpopulation. Illus. (May)" Publishers Weekly Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.

Synopsis:

Esquirecolumnist Stephen Marche gives an expansive and exciting look at WilliamShakespeares pervasive influence on every aspect of modern culture—showing ushow we can find Shakespeare even where we least expect him. In the spirit ofAlain de Bottons How Proust Can Change Your Life,Marche reveals how Shakespeares influence is everywhere—from politics topsychotherapy, broadway to botany, emo teenagers to outrageous baby names, even zoology (didyou know its the Bard who is responsible for the starlings terrorizing NewYork Citys Central Park?). Fans of literary trivia and readers of StephenGreenblatts Will in the World and Bill Brysons Shakespeare: TheWorld as Stage will be captivated by Marches artful reading of how everyday can bring a fresh reading of the Immortal Bard of Avon.

About the Author

STEPHEN MARCHE is a novelist who also writes for newspapers and magazines. He currently writes a monthly column about culture for Esquire magazine. Ten years ago, he chose Shakespeare as the subject of his PhD because, he believed, Shakespeare would never bore him. He was correct. The best job he ever had was as a professor of Renaissance drama at the City College of New York, which he quit in 2007 to write full time. Visit him online at <>.

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Gypsi, March 8, 2011 (view all comments by Gypsi)
(Review based on reading ARC.)


I expected How Shakespeare Changed Everything to be a lighthearted look at various ways that Shakespeare's influence can be found in the world today. What I did not expect was a near fanatical, quite serious, series of essays about, well, how Shakespeare changed everything.

The first line of Marche's introduction sets his tone: "William Shakespeare was the most influential person who ever lived."

Well, all right. . .

In his first essay, "the Fortunes of the Moor", Marche gives Shakespeare credit for the election of the first African American President. According to Marche, because Shakespeare wrote Othello, and because Paul Robeson acted the part in the 1940's, the United States has it's first African American President. I am not simplifying his argument. I suppose, for Marche, the entire Civil Rights Movement was unimportant?

In another essay, "Words, Words, Words", he credits Shakespeare with creating more words than any other author--any word not previously recorded prior to Shakespeare's writing it down is, according to Marche, a Shakespeare invention. Marche seems to forget that Shakespeare was a man of the streets, and what he was writing down was slang. Did the first journalist (or script writer) to use the word "noob" invent it? No. Did Shakespeare invent the words he wrote? No. Shakespeare was a writer of popular, low brow entrainment, the equivalent of a sitcom or soap opera writer today. He was writing for his audience, using their words. Bravo for Shakespeare for recording so many, but only a history-ignorant hero-worshiper could think that he invented them all.

In "Not Marbles, nor the Gilded Monuments", Marche states "the greater the artist, the more he or she was influenced by Shakespeare". For blind fanaticism, this is a great line. For truth about literary greatness, it doesn't even deserve a response.

One of Marche's arguments is that the introduction of Starlings to NYC came from Eugene Schieffelin's attempt to introduce all the birds of Shakespeare to the United States. I was fascinated by this, actually giving Marche his due for a way that Shakespeare really did change the world, until I looked it up myself. While it may be true, there is no factual evidence to prove that the given reason is more than the equivalent of an urban legend.

Marche, with the zeal of a school boy writing his first opinion essay, finds Shakespeare as the source for everything from the sexual revolution to the assassination of Lincoln, to the idea of teenagers to the use of skulls as decoration. He often proved himself wrong with the few contrary facts he allows into his essays. An easy bit of research will show contrary views and facts for those that don't find his obsessive devotion easy to swallow.

Marche's mediocre writing does nothing to help his case. Despite being a novelist and regular magazine contributor, his prose in How Shakespeare Changed Everything is juvenile, dull and overtly slanted.

I was unconvinced and thoroughly disappointed. I had expected a lively, entertaining book and instead found a series of essays that might have been written for a high school English class
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Product Details

ISBN:
9780061965531
Author:
Marche, Stephen
Publisher:
Harper
Subject:
General History
Subject:
World History-General
Subject:
Literary Criticism : General
Edition Description:
Hardcover
Publication Date:
20110531
Binding:
HARDCOVER
Grade Level:
General/trade
Language:
English
Pages:
224
Dimensions:
7.25 x 5 x 0.81 in 22.8 oz

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Related Subjects

Arts and Entertainment » Drama » History and Criticism
Arts and Entertainment » Drama » Shakespeare » Criticism
History and Social Science » World History » 1650 to Present
History and Social Science » World History » General
Humanities » Literary Criticism » General
Science and Mathematics » Nature Studies » Zoology

How Shakespeare Changed Everything New Hardcover
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Product details 224 pages Harper - English 9780061965531 Reviews:
"Publishers Weekly Review" by , "According to novelist and Esquire columnist Marche, Shakespeare was 'the most influential person who ever lived,' and his works frame how we understand the world. Obama, for instance, obliquely and redemptively replayed the story of Othello in the 2008 election, and for many Americans, he is the noble Moor, a courageous, charismatic outsider. Actor John Wilkes Booth apparently borrowed heavily from Shakespeare's Julius Caesar for his theatrical assassination of Lincoln. Shakespeare enriched the English language by coining hundreds of words, like 'assassination,' 'bandit,' 'hobnob,' and 'traditional,' and expressions with amazing staying power, like 'green-eyed,' 'tongue-tied,' and 'dead as a doornail.' Marche claims that Shakespeare's frankness about sexuality has done more to foster open attitudes than even Freud (who gained his humanism from Shakespeare). Romeo and Juliet's profound portraits of teenagers in all their absurdity, nastiness, and 'terrifying beauty' have shaped our understanding of adolescence; and Shakespeare, the author claims, is the dominant influence in Hollywood and was wildly popular in Nazi Germany. Marche's essay is informative and entertaining, but also rambling. None of this adds up to Marche's claim that Shakespeare is more important than Obama or John Wilkes Booth or Freud. And only the Bard-obsessed will need a whole chapter on Shakespeare-inspired starling overpopulation. Illus. (May)" Publishers Weekly Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.
"Synopsis" by , Esquirecolumnist Stephen Marche gives an expansive and exciting look at WilliamShakespeares pervasive influence on every aspect of modern culture&#8212;showing ushow we can find Shakespeare even where we least expect him. In the spirit ofAlain de Bottons How Proust Can Change Your Life,Marche reveals how Shakespeares influence is everywhere&#8212;from politics topsychotherapy, broadway to botany, emo teenagers to outrageous baby names, even zoology (didyou know its the Bard who is responsible for the starlings terrorizing NewYork Citys Central Park?). Fans of literary trivia and readers of StephenGreenblatts Will in the World and Bill Brysons Shakespeare: TheWorld as Stage will be captivated by Marches artful reading of how everyday can bring a fresh reading of the Immortal Bard of Avon.
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