Bill Bryson – Shakespeare The World as Stage – book group discussion questions

On Monday I will meet with my fabulous Las Vegas Non-Fiction Book Group. We’re discussing Bill Bryson’s Shakespeare biography. I listened to the audiobook some years ago, and then again more recently while walking the dogs. If Bryson is doing the reading, then I’ll always choose the audiobook, because he has such a lovely voice, and the nicest American accent there is (similar to the equally wonderful John Malkovich).

Unfortunately, he doesn’t do the reading on the audiobook for “Notes From a Small Island” – about his time living in Britain. For some inexplicable reason a man who has clearly never set foot in Britain and cannot do any regional accents was chosen to do it. To my mind, authors should be required by law to read their own audiobooks. But I digress, it’s just a pet hate of mine, and I wanted to get it off my chest.

So, I’m writing a list of discussion questions, as I do for all our meetings. I’m struggling on this one, because I am a huge Bryson fan, but not the biggest Shakespeare fan in the world. Can anyone help by adding some more questions that will lead to an interesting discussion (that don’t stray too much from this particular book)?

Are you a fan of Shakespeare?

What are his plays’ themes and what is he best at?

What did you know about him before you read this?

Did he change the world/English language?

What do you think about his relationship with his wife?

Why do you think he left his family in Stratford for eight years while he was in London?

Do you think he might have been crippled? (pg17)

Was he Queen Elizabeth’s lover?

Was he really his sister?

Was he really the Earl of Oxford?

Was he really Shakespeare?

How valid is the argument that he was of lower class so he couldn’t have written the plays?

My review of this book will follow in a few days. It will be short (like the book) but positive. Oh, and if you’re reading this before the 6th August, and you live in Las Vegas, or Henderson, please come long, we’re meeting at the Shakespeare’s Grille and Pub in Henderson – where else would we meet to discuss this book?

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2 Responses to Bill Bryson – Shakespeare The World as Stage – book group discussion questions

  1. Love Bill Bryson. The man has such interesting insights–and what an ability to distill what’s important from what is.

  2. I am looking forward to tomorrow night’s discussion. While I am a big fan of Shakespeare, I didn’t much care for Bill Bryson’s book — not because I’m not a fan of Bryson, but I think because I am not a big fan of biography. I think it detracts from Shakespeare the artist.

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