For my big summer reading project, I’ve been plowing my way through The Modern Library’s Complete Works of Shakespeare. I’m currently on page 2366 out of 2485, so I hope to review that soon. In the meantime, the Las Vegas Non-Fiction Book Group of which I am a member chose Bill Bryson’s Shakespeare: The World as Stage as its latest book for discussion.
Bryson’s books is part of a Harper Collins biography series called “Eminent Lives.” The book itself isn’t very long — just under 200 pages — and as Bryson points out in the beginning, not much is really known about Shakespeare to write about.
Rather, Shakespeare: The World as Stage uses typical Bryson humor to explore Shakespeare nostalgia, poke fun at people who have devoted thousands of hours to researching obscure facts about the world’s most famous playwright and debunk Shakespeare-related conspiracy theories. And since not much about Shakespeare’s life can actually be proven — aside from a handful of details that can be gathered from a half-dozen legal documents from Shakespeare’s time — the book is interspersed with anecdotes about the Elizabethan age that will make you glad you didn’t live in that time period.
As I am currently reading The Complete Works, I didn’t especially enjoy Bryson’s book because I didn’t think it added much more to the narrative about Shakespeare’s life and what influenced his plays than I had already been reading about. In fact, I came to the conclusion that, despite how much I love studying Shakespeare’s plays, I don’t really care to know the details of his personal life at all.
I’d much rather read discussions about Shakespeare’s art rather than mundane facts about his life. For example, what inspired him to write such a twisted play as Titus Andronicus? How did the current events of Shakespeare’s day influence how the monarchy is portrayed in his history plays? I don’t really care why Shakespeare only left his wife his second-best bed and whether or not he was secretly gay.
Last night’s book club discussion also allowed an opportunity to try out a new restaurant in southern Nevada: Shakespeare’s Grille & Pub in Henderson.
On a Monday evening, the restaurant wasn’t too busy and our waitress was friendly and gave decent service. We met at 6:30 pm to take advantage of happy hour (it’s daily from 4 pm – 7pm), which turned out to be a pretty good deal.
They have over one dozen beers on tap, and while they were out of my first choice (Kilkenny), I went with a pint of Boddington’s. During happy hour, imports are $1 off and domestic pints are just $3. They also have selection of appetizers/small plates for $4.95 — chips & curry, chicken tenders, nachos, fish tacos.
I went with an order of fish tacos, which features the same deep-fried beer battered cod that’s featured in the fish & chip they claim to be the best in town and was in fact rather tasty. (For the record, the Crown & Anchor also claims to have the best fish & chips in town, but they’re in Las Vegas, not in Henderson.)
Our group of five also shared two orders of the chips & curry — thick wedges of fried potatoes with gravy. I left full and only $15 dollars poorer — including tax and tip — so it was definitely a bargain.
Our waitress was keen to point out the pub quiz nights they host every Wednesday night at 7 pm and the “Ladies Night Out” bottomless wine for $10 they have every Friday from 4 – 7 pm. I also noticed a late night menu, featuring discounted bar food such as sliders and meat pie after 10 pm.
I would come back here again soon if I didn’t live 45 minutes away.
you’re a braver woman than me to read the complete works. but I disagree on your views on how interesting his private life is in relation to his work. OK, on the face of it, who cares who got the very best bed in his will, but I think this sort of thing provides context to the plays – we learn a bit more more about the period he lived in. but then, I find the period he lived in fascinating so I’m biased