ICON £11.99 (263PP) £10.89 (FREE P&P) FROM 0870 079 8897
Shakespeare on Toast, by Ben Crystal
A tasty snack with genius
Friday 26 September 2008
The front cover of Ben Crystal's new book makes daring claims. A glowing recommendation from Dame Judi Dench calls it "brilliantly enjoyable". The title is explained inside: "[This book] is quick, easy, straightforward, and good for you. Just like beans on toast." It is a good job the book is so compelling, or the author would look like a blinking idiot. All that glisters is not gold.
These last two expressions (Shakespeare's, both) are among Crystal's armoury in his valiant battle to demystify the Bard. He is a linguist and an actor, but most of all a fan. He is convincingly blown away by Shakespeare; he would just like everyone else to be, too.
This educated enthusiasm is Crystal's greatest strength as a writer. In his previous books Shakespeare's Words and The Shakespeare Miscellany, written with his linguist father, David Crystal, he proved that he is more than capable of deconstructing a text. Here, he constructs an argument out of convincing statistics (95 per cent of of Shakespeare's words are perfectly understandable to a modern audience), historical background (Elizabethan audiences would have heckled the players), modern parallels (including Miles Davis and hip hop artist Mos Def) and theatrical anecdote (iambic pentameter is designed for the size of an actor's lungs and his ability to memorise a script).
All of this is conveyed with a touching enthusiasm that borders on geekiness. And a thoughtful recap chapter on spondees and dactyls will thrill rusty English students. But who is likely to buy this book? Is Crystal preaching to the converted? Or at Bardophobes who are unlikely to pick it up? It would be a shame if they didn't, because having Crystal as a companion through the stickier parts of Hamlet and Macbeth is like going to the theatre with an intelligent friend.
Arts & Ents blogs
- 1 What happens to your body when you give up sugar?
- 2 Have sex with your iPad thanks to the new sex toy no-one asked for
- 3 The 'sex selfie stick' lets you FaceTime the inside of a vagina
- 4 Why you're almost certainly more like your father than your mother
- 5 Westboro Baptist Church couldn't picket Leonard Nimoy's funeral because they didn't know where it was
Fifty Shades of Grey banned by Indian censors despite sex scenes being edited out
The 9 rules every Wile E. Coyote and Road Runner cartoon had to follow are wonderfully pedantic
Fifty Shades of Grey movie shows first sex scene 'after 40 minutes'
Seth Rogan's pot fumes delay hacked Sony boss’s office move
India's Daughter: BBC Four documentary provokes outrage on Twitter
Durham Free School: 'Creationism taught at' free school facing closure
Nearly 100,000 of Britain's poorest children go hungry after parents' benefits are cut
End of the licence fee: BBC to back radical overhaul of how it is funded
Nigel Farage promises Ukip will not 'stigmatise' would-be migrants – and says he wants 'everyone to speak the same language'
Ex-head of MI6: 'We shouldn't kid ourselves that Russia is on a path to democracy'
Most people think legal tax avoidance is just as wrong as illegal tax evasion, poll suggests