Synopses & Reviews
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.
"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.
“[A] charming tribute...This highly accessible paean to someone whom Marche describes as “the worlds most powerful writer” serves as yet another reminder of the impact Shakespeare has had on culture worldwide.” Quill & Quire
“An ambitious and entertaining new book...[How Shakespeare Changed Everything] explores the many, often unsuspected ways in which the great playwright shaped just about every facet of contemporary culture.” Maria Popova, BrainPickings.com
“A sprightly, erudite sampling of Shakespeares influence on absolutely everything.” National Post
“How Shakespeare Changed Everything is a joyful little book that is a love note to the greatest writer in the English language: never syrupy or over the top, its a pleasure to read.” Bookreporter.com
“Theres not a drop of boredom in this little book.” Huntington News
“In his highly readable, never ponderous, sometimes funny, often insightful new book, [Stephen Marche] credits the Bard with everything from shaping American history (the rise of Obama, the fall of Lincoln) to the very enjoyable sex you had last night.” Wicked Local
“We are lucky that Stephen Marche had his mind blown by Shakespeare; we are luckier still that in making the argument for Shakespeares inextinguishable relevance, he has given us a contact high.” Tom Junod
“Informed, ebullient and profoundly respectful.” Kirkus Reviews
“How Shakespeare Changed Everything is fun and informative, with more than its share of ‘Aha! moments packed between its diminutive covers. Mr. Marches thesis is compelling and probably more true than we ever imagined.” New York Journal of Books
“This is a wonderful book about seeing the world through Shakespeare-tinted glasses. Youll never look at the food court, Justin Beiberor, for that matter, the English languagethe same way again.” A. J. Jacobs, author of The Year of Living Biblically
“[How Shakespeare Changed Everything] is informative and entertaining.” Publishers Weekly
“How Shakespeare Changed Everything will provide the details and keep you amused while it does. A teacher who makes the class read the book wont get much backlash from the sourpuss who calls Shakespeare dull and out-of-date.” Associated Press
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 <>.