All The World’s A Stage

 

All The World’s A Stage

As You Like It

 
 
Crook, Viv. Biographic Shakespeare. London: Ammonite Press, 2018.
 
Biographic Shakespeare is one volume in a new series of unique biographies first published in England. The series is titled Biographic: Great Lives in Graphic Form. The last two words say it all. These biographies are rendered in the popular graphic-novel format. In addition to Shakespeare, additional subjects in the series include Albert Einstein, Jane Austen, Leonardo da Vinci, Christian Dior, Frida Kahlo, and Vincent Van Gogh. All the entries have titles such as Biographic Kahlo and Biographic Dior. The volumes are primarily geared to students in the middle and high school grades. These unique biographies are presented in a much different style than the histories and biographies of popular nonfiction authors such as Russell Freedman. These life histories may have the greatest appeal to readers who want to choose a book and read one section on Monday and further chapters later in the day or week. “Infographics” is the defining word in the format used to share a minimum of 50 defining facts, dates, thoughts, habits and achievements of each world-famous subject making use of words that are greatly enhanced by the widespread use of timelines, maps, charts, figures, and colorful fact boxes presented in a cartoon format. 
 
Following a brief and primarily verbal introduction to Shakespeare’s life each following double-page spread stands alone quite well. Readers can open double-page spreads at random that highlight topics and subjects of Shakespeare’s life and times plus his great literary works. Readers may learn about important people who were born (Galileo Galilei) or died (Michelangelo Buonarrotti) and world events (global voyages) that occurred in 1564, the year of Shakespeare’s birth. Other spreads present the Bard’s Family Tree, his will, the plague years of 1593, 1603, and 1608, plots against Queen Elizabeth I and James I—the two English monarchs who reigned during Shakespeare’s lifetime, and the geographic locations or settings of the playwright’s 37 plays, as well as the manner of deaths of some of the dramatist’s most famous characters. The Globe Theatres of Shakespeare’s time and the comparative uses of verse and prose in his works are similarly revealed. His sonnets are also analyzed. Readers learn that Shakespeare used a gender double illusion in plays such as Twelfth Night. During Shakespeare’s time all female parts were played by boys. In Twelfth Night a boy actor portrayed Viola. In turn, Viola disguises herself as the boy page, Cesario. In the play’s denouement, Cesario reveals that she is not Cesario but reallyViola. The dramas  As You Like It and The Merchant of Venice also include similar gender benders. A boy actor portrays a woman who in turn pretends to be a man, but is ultimately revealed to be a woman after all.  
 
Shakespeare lived in the right place at the right time. During his career as a poet and dramatist, the Renaissance arrived in England full blown and with a definite emphasis upon literature. So many facts of Shakespeare’s life and the world in which he lived are presented in Biographic Shakespeare that even readers previously well informed about the world’s most famous dramatist will still learn fascinating new information. Readers may learn that Shakespeare died at the age of 52 on the same day upon which he was baptized (most likely three days old), April 26th. He gave his second best bed to his wife in his will. That was not a put down. The very best bed in virtually any house in Shakespeare’s lifetime was reserved exclusively for visitors. Shakespeare was no starving playwright. He was quite wealthy when he died. In 2005, Forbes magazine estimated that Shakespeare’s estate at the time of his death would today be worth $15 million dollars. One possible drawback for non-British readers of this graphic biography is that the majority of the financial references are computed using the British currency of the pound sterling. Shakespeare’s literary legacy is astounding. Hamlet is the most frequently performed drama anywhere in the world. Given the world’s 24 time zones, it may be noted that it is being constantly performed every minute of the day and every day of the week, month, and year. Hamlet is also Shakespeare’s longest play. It contains 4,042 lines created with 30,557 words. Ten percent of the 17,677 words used by Shakespeare were new to the English language. The Bard is credited with such famous phrases as “All that glitters is not gold,” “The milk of human kindness,” “Dead as a doornail,” and “Mum’s the word.” Shakespeare is the most filmed of all dramatists. Almost 1200 movie and television productions are credited to William Shakespeare’s life and writings.
 
Activities for Teachers and Home Schoolers
 
Encourage students to create their own version of “Jeopardy” – style questions or prompts about Shakespeare’s life and times to play with family members or other students. Biographic Shakespeare is a unique way of chronicling the life of a famous person. Ask creative students to  choose a famous person from the past or present, research the subject’s life, compile vital data about his or her existence, and use “infographics” as the format to create a brand new book about a hero or heroine for the Biographic: Great Lives in Graphic Form series. Read other volumes in this unique graphic approach to biography such as Biographic Kahlo or Biographic Austen and write a review or critique of the chosen volume. The great treasury of Shakespeare’s work is intended to be dramatized. Challenge students to memorize, rehearse, and deliver a famous dialogue or soliloquy from a popular play such as Romeo and Juliet. 
 
 
“He was not of an age, but for all time.”
 
Ben Jonson in praise of his friend Shakespeare in 1623