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In a nutshell…

Enjoyable, light-hearted, accessible guide to Shakespeare.

What’s it all about?

Shakespeare On Toast is a step-by-step manual to unlocking the ‘difficult bits’ of Shakespeare, and bringing his works to life. Covering everything from context to metre, Crystal blows the cobwebs from the Bard and reveals his plays for what they are: thrilling and uplifting drama.

Who’s it by?

Ben Crystal is an actor and writer who regularly gives talks and workshops on Shakespeare. He co-authored the acclaimed bestseller Shakespeare’s Words and The Shakespeare Miscellany with his father, David Crystal.

As an example…

“Too many people forget that at the end of the day, Shakespeare was just a man. He ate, he drank, he had sex, he laughed he p****d, he cried, he woke up hangover, he wrote, he ran out of ideas.”

Likelihood of becoming a Hollywood Blockbuster

Perhaps more a small-screen success than a box-office hit. There is definitely the potential here for an engaging, interesting mini-series about Shakespeare. Could Ben Crystal be the Simon Schama of literature?

What the others say

“A light-hearted look at Shakespeare which dispels the myths and makes him accessible to all. I love it!” – Dame Judi Dench

“An ideal way to gain an understanding of why Shakespeare is so brilliant and so enjoyable.” – Sir Richard Eyre

“Like going to the theatre with an intelligent friend.” – Independent

So is it any good?

The celebrity endorsements that adorn the front of this book make such astounding claims that one might well be dubious. However, Crystal more than lives up to the hype generated by these ‘luvvies’, and succeeds in providing a pacey, informative and accessible ‘manual’ to Shakespeare.

Unlike many books that promise to ‘unlock’ Shakespeare, Crystal successfully avoids becoming too bogged down in literary technique or individual scenes, and rather gives readers an understanding of the basics. His superbly simple strategies (from historical background to just what iambic pentameter really is) are underscored with relevant and humorous analogies ranging from Mos Def’s rap lyrics to Miles Davis’ musical experimentation.

It is this infectious enthusiasm for all things Shakespeare that ensures the book remains fast paced and good humoured, sweeping the reader along through strategies which even had this drama-phobic reader chanting scenes aloud.


Ashley Cook

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