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.
Art Piece taken off website amid 'severe security alert'
Maisie Williams single-handedly rises to the challengeTV
Academy criticised after no non-white actors nominated
tvAn expose of hooliganism masquerading as an ideological battle
artLee Hadwin can't draw when he's awake, but by night he's an artist
‘Remember the attackers are a cold-blooded, crazy minority’, says Blek le Rat
Arts & Ents blogs
- 1 Benedict Cumberbatch says Hollywood is better for black British actors: 'I think as far as coloured actors go it gets really difficult in the UK'
- 2 Man who held up 'hire me' sign at Waterloo station returns a year later with 'I'm hiring' sign
- 3 UK weather: Snow to fall in the coming week with sub-zero temperatures to last until early February
- 4 Saudi preacher who 'raped and tortured' his five -year-old daughter to death is released after paying 'blood money'
- 5 Warriors in ancient Iraq suffered Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder more than 3,000 years ago, say researchers
Heavy metal producer's corpse to be mutilated by models as per his dying wish
Mr Selfridge series 3: Actress Kara Tointon says 'We're starting to see his demise'
Benedict Cumberbatch says Hollywood is better for black British actors: 'I think as far as coloured actors go it gets really difficult in the UK'
Sia apologises for 'Elastic Heart' music video that sees Shia LaBeouf wrestle 12-year-old Maddie Ziegler
V&A removes depiction of Prophet Mohamed from website amid 'severe security alert'
Nigel Farage: NHS might have to be replaced by private health insurance
'We would evict Queen from Buckingham Palace and allocate her council house,' say Greens
French court convicts three over homophobic tweets, in case hailed as a 'significant victory' by LGBT rights campaigners
British Muslim school children suffering a backlash of abuse following Paris attacks
George Galloway condemns 'racist, Islamophobic, hypocritical rag' Charlie Hebdo at freedom of speech rally
Islamic history is full of free thinkers - but recent attempts to suppress critical thought are verging on the absurd