Shakespeare by Peter Ackroyd
Peter Ackroyd's method is to position Shakespeare in the close context of his world. In this way, Ackroyd not only richly conjures up the texture of Shakespeare's life, but also imparts an amazing amount of vivid, interesting material about place, period and background. The book is packed with gems - and the reader turns the pages eagerly, keen to absorb the next nugget of information. Some snippets: Shakespeare was secretly a Roman Catholic; he wrote many more plays but these have been lost; the witches in Macbeth were not hags but women fairies or nymphs played by boys; the 'best' bed was for guests which was why he bequeathed his wife his 'second best' bed (the matrimonial bed in which he probably died); 'ham acting' derives from the strutting walk which showed off the ham-strings; an actor called 'Will' played female parts - could it have been Shakespeare himself?; and the strongest bond in the plays is between father and daughter perhaps reflecting Shakespeare's own family life.