- Megan Bingham
William Shakespeare is considered to be one of the most influential playwrights in literature. Over four hundred years ago, he lit up the stage at the famous Globe Theater in 16th- and 17th-century England with his lavish histories, comedies, and tragedies. In William Shakespeare: Scenes from the Life of the World's Greatest Writer, by Mick Manning and Brita Granström, Shakespeare's amazing life and works are examined through detailed stories and colorful illustrations.
Shakespeare was born in 1564 in the town of Stratford-upon-Avon to a glove maker and his wife. Although it was a time of war and turbulence, it was also the astounding Renaissance age—when art, science, and literature were pushing new boundaries. Manning and Granström spend time explaining the background of Shakespeare's childhood, his lessons in school, and the street fairs that inspired him. Young Shakespeare began to develop his fluid and high-style language while working in his father's glove shop. They even cover the "lost years" of the playwright, which are considered to be his late teens to early adulthood.
History saw Shakespeare again in 1582, when he courted a young woman named Anne Hathaway, who would eventually be his wife and the mother of his children. He wrote sonnets for her, such as the "Shall I compare thee to a summer's day..." and many other famous declarations of love. Manning and Granström say that not much is known about Shakespeare's first theatre group, but, by 1594, he had moved to London to be in the Lord Chamberlain's Men, a famous and talented troupe of players. Shakespeare found many inspirations for his plays in London, including other playwrights of the day, such as Thomas Kyd, Robert Greene, and Christopher Marlowe.
My favorite part of the book is when Manning and Granström write of Shakespeare's plays and add vivid graphic dramatizations to match. This is especially important to any young reader. Because Shakespeare's dialogue is difficult to understand, imagery helps children imagine what the play might have been like if they were watching it in person. They won't necessarily understand what is happening within the plot of the play, but they will captivated by the lavish costumes and props. Manning and Granström created this fluid narration for Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet, A Midsummer's Night Dream, Henry V, Hamlet, Macbeth, Twelfth Night, and Shakespeare's final masterpiece, The Tempest.
William Shakespeare died on April 23, 1616. His plays are largely accepted to be the greatest written anywhere in the world. Manning and Granström argie that no matter how old the reader or viewer, Shakespeare can serve as muse, inspiring actors and writers alike.
Below, eight-year-old Alexis Rosinsky performs Shakespeare's Sonnet 18.