How Shakespeare Changed Everything by Stephen Marche

Photo Jul 29, 12 31 42I recently read How Shakespeare Changed Everything by Stephen Marche, recommended to me by Friends of Atticus’ very own Zach MacDonald. I was at his apartment one weekend (he lives in a town about thirty minutes from me) and he had the book lying around. My studies emphasized Shakespeare while I completed my English degree and my curiosity was piqued.

Far from an academic text, the book is divided into thematic chapters. Each chapter addresses an issue faced by our (Western) society today and explores those same themes within the works of the Bard, himself as quotes, passages, and works in their entirety. Global Warming got you down? W.W.S.S. (what would Shakespeare say?)! Flip to Chapter Six, “To Hold the Mirror Up To Nature”. What does the election of Obama mean in the context of Shakespeare? Take a look at Chapter One, “The Fortunes of the Moore”.

The themes explored in this book were more or less familiar. About half of the material was new to me (it’s a short book). The author did a great job of taking the density or Shakespeare and keeping it light; it was a great summer afternoon read.

The book was fine; I recommend it; it was great, whatever. The true novelty of reading this book had nothing to do with the book itself. In fact, the most memorable part of reading this book was before I ever opened its cover.

My Kindle was one of the first things I bought after moving to Korea, the first major purchase and, arguably, the wisest expenditure I’ve made in the last three years. In that time, I have been all ebook, having read approximately 30 books between my Kindle and iPad. One of the major considerations in adapting to this new way of reading was minding their batteries. The kiss of death from an ebook is being told that you can’t read your book because of insufficient battery. If I had a free day to lounge at a cafe, a day to sit at my desk when there were no classes, go on a trip across town or across the country, I would always make sure to charge my device(s) the evening before, especially as my Kindle’s charge capacity has dwindled over the years. The Kindle’s battery used to be a rock star. In fact, about two years ago, I read the unabridged Count of Monte Cristo on a single charge.

The copy of How Shakespeare Changed Everything that I borrowed from Mr. MacDonald was a hardback and I haven’t read a physical book since I bought my Kindle in late 2010. The evening before I planned on engaging the book, I thought I should charge the book so it would be full and ready to rock n’ roll once I got to one of my favorite cafés here in Korea, Angel-In-Us Coffee. After some trial and error and deducing that neither my iPad nor my Kindle USB cables would fit the book, I slapped my forehead; I was trying to figure out which of my USB cables would charge this hardback book. For shame. To quote Much Ado About Nothing, “Oh what men dare do! what men may do! what men daily do, not knowing what they do!”

After the pall of the shame of the ages had passed, I finally got through the book and had a great time reading it. It was fun to be back in that world, New Historicism, the Elizabethan era and some food for thought. Marche did a great job of keeping it light, entertaining and thought provoking all at once. Not sure what you want to do on one of these hot, summer afternoons? Get a copy of this book, pour yourself a lemonade and prepare to feel really good about the fact that you’ll be learning and entertained over the course of a couple hours.

Number of pages: 203, FoA pages: 21,167 (The total number of pages reported upon by the Friends of Atticus)

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2 thoughts on “How Shakespeare Changed Everything by Stephen Marche

    • Sean Stanhill says:

      I’m glad you think so! My only hesitation putting this up stemmed from knowing you would probably read it! It’s both flattering and nerve-racking (Professor Green was my Shakespeare prof!)

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