Cbr14Bingo – Font — While there’s a lot of talk of printing, printing errors, and handwriting in this book, I am mostly looking at this as a sober look at the facts we know about the life of Shakespeare with the dry wit and editorial selection prowess of Bill Bryson.
This book looks at the history of Shakespeare, as a person, and tries to sort out the facts. What this means is that Bryson looks squarely at what we know for sure based on specific historical evidence, starting with his parents in Stratford before he is born, and then through childhood (where the young William avoiding dying from various plagues), and then through his marriage, his lost years, his writing years, his rich years, his death, and his afterlife. Bryson will present the specific facts, such the presence of a signature, being part of a lawsuit, records of performances, and lightly extrapolates what this tells this. He also spends a lot of time making sure we know that a lot of what we think we know is often at best reasonable inference and worse, pure speculation. He also reckons with the legacy of Shakespeare in a few ways. The best chapters involve the production of the Folio edition of his works, which was a lot more chaotic and slipshod than we’d otherwise understand. It was also needlessly slipshod as Ben Jonson has a folio edition that is of stellar quality. The chapter about Shakespeare’s language is of course a joy. And lastly, the rebuffing of pretty much every theory of Shakespeare’s authorship effectively puts those to rest. The story of the first woman who published a book in the early 1800s claiming Francis Bacon was actually the writer is especially hilarious as she spent four years in England researching her theory where she read nothing, talked to no one, and mostly spent her time being around places associated with Bacon. Research by vibes. The book doesn’t even mention Bacon.
Also great about this…it’s short! Making Bryson’s point about just how little we know (and how little that matters) about Shakespeare.