Book Review: Shakespeare on Toast, by Ben Crystal


Shakespeare on Toast, by Ben Crystal
Who’s afraid of William Shakespeare? Just about everyone. He wrote too much and what he did write is inaccessible and elitist. Right? Wrong. “Shakespeare on Toast” knocks the stuffing from the staid old myth of Shakespeare, revealing the man and his plays for what they really are: modern, thrilling and uplifting drama. Actor and author Ben Crystal brings the bright words and colourful characters of the world’s greatest hack writer brilliantly to life, handing over the key to Shakespeare’s plays, unlocking the so-called difficult bits and, astonishingly, finding Shakespeare’s own voice amid the poetry.Told in five fascinating Acts, “Shakespeare on Toast” sweeps the cobwebs from the Bard – from his language, his life, his time – revealing both the man and his work to be relevant, accessible and full of beans. This is a book for everyone, whether you’re reading Shakespeare for the first time, occasionally find him troublesome, think you know him backwards, or have never set foot near one of his plays but have always wanted to …It’s quick, easy and good for you. Just like beans on toast.

Paperback: 272 pages
Publisher: Icon Books Ltd. (December 1, 2010)

‘This is a brilliantly enjoyable, light-hearted look at Shakespeare which dispels the myths and makes him accessible to all. I love it!’ Judi Dench”Ben Crystal’s excellent book is an ideal way to gain an understanding of why Shakespeare is so brilliant and so enjoyable.’Sir Richard Eyre’A masterclass for modern beginners and old hands alike.’ The Times –This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

My Thoughts:
Ben Crystal takes the seemingly complicated works of William Shakespeare and puts them into context, breaks them down, and gives us a new perspective.  The writing is light and humorous at times.  Sometimes it is a bit dry, and sometimes it is a bit repetitive.

Crystal is a little too long winded for my tastes, but I did enjoy the bits of history thrown in as it helps you understand where both Shakespeare and his audiences are coming from.  I really hadn’t thought about the fact that the witch hunts were going on at the time he wrote Macbeth.  I also didn’t know that in Shakespeare’s day, plays were like soap operas.  Retellings of old stories that people were familiar with and took at face value.

About the Author:
Ben Crystal is an actor for TV, Film and Theatre and has trodden the boards at Shakespeare’s Globe. With his father David Crystal, the aclaimed English scholar, he co-authored the internationally acclaimed bestseller Shakespeare’s Words (Penguin, 2002) and The Shakespeare Miscellany (Penguin, 2005).

He played Hamlet in the Nevada Repertory Company’s Original Pronunciation tour in Fall 2011. You can follow him on twitter @bencrystal. The book’s website is

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  • Reply
    Cozy in Texas
    March 12, 2013 at 7:50 pm

    Interesting look at the master of storytelling.

  • Reply
    Adriana (BooksOnHerMind)
    March 12, 2013 at 11:00 pm

    Sounds like it was told in a more Shakespearean way (or what we think Shakespeare was like) than the author had planned. When trying to read one of Shakespeare's books myself I failed completely. The side notes were a little help but I couldn't get into it. Whenever my english teacher explained a Shakespeare book before we read I could get into it pretty fast. So I like the break down and concept of this book. Shakespeare was just writing in his own time and if we try we might be able to understand and even love his books. Hey! Do you know the Shakespeare movie that came out about a year ago? Something about a witch.

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