Sunday, 17 March 2013

Shakespeare on Toast by Ben Crystal

My fascination with Shakespeare began when I was in primary school. A drama company came to my school and did a workshop and performance of A Midsummer Night’s Dream. In part of the workshop I got to play the part of Bottom, the unfortunate actor who gets his head turned into that of a donkey. I remember having a lot of fun that day, and being mesmerized by the professionals’ performance. 

Then in secondary school, I studied Macbeth and later on Romeo and Juliet for English. Now, I love the English language, and have always enjoyed many forms of literature but when you are forced to pore over every sentence and structure of a Shakespeare play, it tends to lose some of it’s magic. 

Shakespeare on Toast is an extremely accessible way of approaching Shakespeare. It reminds us that his works were originally written to be acted out rather than read as a story as I was lead to believe in school. This book isn't a preachy, patronising tome about the great bard, but it doesn't dumb it down either. The tone is just right; being humorous, intelligent and witty in all the right places. 

It covers a bit of history (I found the witchcraft bit very interesting) and explores Elizabethan events and events from Shakespeare’s personal life that help give some of his works some context. The book also looks at Elizabethan language and the structures of Shakespeare’s writing that provides helpful hints to understanding the plays better. Overall I thought that this was a fascinating insight into the works of Shakespeare, told with inspiring enthusiasm and entertaining wit, perfect for both budding and reluctant students of Shakespeare. 

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