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shakespeare basics for grown ups book coverReviewed by Nina Longfield

I read an article somewhere recently about some institution that is translating the works of Shakespeare into contemporary English. I say contemporary because Shakespeare’s English is modern. Although, perhaps Shakespeare is a bit dated for the contemporary casual reader (or theatergoer). It could be this idea that led to the writing of Shakespeare Basics for Grown-Ups: Everything You Need to Know About the Bard. After all, Foley and Coates sum up all of The Bard’s plays with a single sentence synopsis each.

Shakespeare Basics for Grown-Ups is so much more than a simple summary of the man’s plays.  Foley and Coates present exactly what they claim: “everything you need to know about The Bard.” Shakespeare Basics For Grown-Ups is not a dry, pedagogical, pedantic tome of heavy explanation into the meanings derived from Williams Shakespeare’s multitude of works. Foley and Coates break down Shakespeare’s massive library into digestible chunks. Beyond the one sentence summations, Foley and Coates separate Shakespeare’s works into their respective categories: the comedies, the histories, the tragedies, and the poems. The authors offer up thematic references that appear throughout each category then delve into the high concept reviews of many pieces (they do not cover every sonnet within the poems section).

Beyond the many works of Shakespeare, Foley and Coates also dig into the history of The Bard (they do explain why he is called The Bard). They review the politics and culture of England during Shakespeare’s time. They examine current and age-old questions relating to themes, symbols, character, sex, and intrigue associated with Shakespeare, his life and his works. Foley and Coates even address the controversy as to who William Shakespeare really was and whether the man wrote all of the works associated with his name.

I greatly enjoyed Shakespeare Basics for Grown-Ups. Even having read many of Shakespeare’s works, more than some, less than others, I found interesting tidbits of literary geekiness sprinkled throughout Foley and Coates easily read creation. I would recommend this general reference on anyone’s bookshelf who appreciates literature, theater, history, or intrigue. Shakespeare Basics for Grown-Ups is a book for the literary geek, the casual reader trying to understand The Bard’s work before heading out to the theater, and the parent trying to keep up with their child(ren)’s education. Shakespeare Basics for Grown-Ups is well written, easily read (all at once or chunks at a time), and a fascinating look at possibly the greatest literary figure of the English language.

Rating: ★★★★★ 

Nina Longfield is a writer living in Oregon’s fertile wine country. When she is not reading or writing in her spare time, Nina enjoys hiking in the hills surrounding her cabin.

Review copy was provided by Plume. No monetary or any other form of compensation was received.