Shakespeare for Dummies

by Ray Lischner, John Doyle


Had Shakespeare for Dummies been around in the days of the Bard, perhaps Puck would have had no reason to opine, "Oh what fools these mortals be." Despite its title, this introduction to the playwright's life and plays comes with quite a pedigree: written by John Doyle, a Shakespeare scholar and former Artistic Director of the Theatre Royal York, and Ray Lischner, a Shakespearean actor and director, this guide book even boasts a short foreword by Dame Judi Dench. Since it's a scant two paragraphs long, perhaps she intended it as a jacket testimonial. And though the approach is lighthearted, there's nothing lightweight about the treatment given such wide-ranging subjects as Shakespeare's sources, the themes of his plays, the political and social issues that influenced him, and even the Aristotelian rules that applied to comedy and tragedy. Then there are the plot synopses, a glossary of Elizabethan English, and guidelines for how to read a play or the sonnets, as well as how to prepare for viewing a theatrical performance. There's also a list of versions available on video at the end of each play's synopsis. And finally, Doyle and Lischner offer their Top 10 lists, including the 10 best places to see a play, the top 10 Shakespearean performers, the 10 most common phrases, and 10 modern shows based on Shakespeare's plays. Perfect for students or anyone hoping to brush up on the Bard, this Shakespeare for Dummies ain't anybody's fool. --Alix Wilber

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