Know It All Shakespeare

50 Key Aspects of the Bard's Works, Life & Legacy, Each Explained in Under a Minute

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Pub Date 01 Jun 2017 | Archive Date 29 Aug 2017


The works of William Shakespeare can be intimidating monoliths for the uninitiated. Know It All Shakespeare is your chance to finally jump into the works of the Bard painlessly and without confusion.

Know It All: Shakespeare uses a unique approach to grapple with the work and influence of the world's most famous playwright. This absorbing crash course in William Shakespeare takes the reader through what we know of his life and then turns to uncoding key concepts, themes, and motifs in his plays and works. Finally, the reader is given a succinct look at the Bard's extraordinary literary and linguistic legacy.

More than just a study in Shakespeare's writing, Know It All: Shakeseare also looks at what we know about the Bard's life. Whether you're an amateur in the world of plays and poetry or are a well-read scholar, this succinct and easy-to-understand reference makes potentially material quick and easy to read. And the sleek, visually appealing design means to looks just as good on the shelf as it does in your hands.

The Know It All series takes a revolutionary approach to learning about the subjects you really feel you should understand but have never gotten around to studying. Each book selects a popular topic and dissects it into the 50 most significant ideas at its heart. Each idea, no matter how complex, is explained in 300 words and one picture, all digestible in under a minute.

Other titles in this series include: Know It All Anthropology, Know It All Chemistry, Know It All Classical Music, Know It All Energy, Know It All Fashion, Know It All Great Inventions, Know It All Jazz, Know It All Medicine,  Know It All Whiskey, Know It All Wine, Space In 30 Seconds, Sports in 30 Seconds.

The works of William Shakespeare can be intimidating monoliths for the uninitiated. Know It All Shakespeare is your chance to finally jump into the works of the Bard painlessly and without confusion.


Marketing Plan

·      Series pitch to: Library Journal, Publishers Weekly, Shelf Awareness, Booklist, Bookriot.  Series presented at ALA.  National Publicity Campaign to top pop culture and book media as well as top Shakespeare sites online. 

· Series pitch to: Library Journal, Publishers Weekly, Shelf Awareness, Booklist, Bookriot. Series presented at ALA. National Publicity Campaign to top pop culture and book media as well as...

Available Editions

EDITION Other Format
ISBN 9781577151487
PRICE $14.99 (USD)

Average rating from 20 members

Featured Reviews

This is a cool little book. A lot of solid information on Shakespeare for the layman.

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There are lots of books which claim to make you appear ridiculously well-read for little effort and ‘Know-It-All Shakespeare’ superficially resembles these.

After all, its stated aim is “to make Shakespeare interesting and comprehensible by … boiling down the subject to its essence” by examining – to quote the book’s subtitle - ‘The 50 Key Aspects of the Bard’s Works, Life & Legacy, Each Explained in Under a Minute’.

The book will serve the needs of those students coming to Shakespeare afresh, who wish to have a potted summary of his life, times, themes, methods and legacy but should also entertain and inform those already possessed of a working knowledge of at least the most popular Shakespeare plays.

The ten contributors certainly provide plenty of interesting ideas and fascinating facts, including the following: thirty-three characters in 18 of the plays are wrongly thought to be dead; more than 20 characters are exiled; 12 women defy their fathers to marry the men they chose; 5 women are unjustly accused of infidelity by jealous husbands; Margaret of Anjou is Shakespeare’s only female character to kill someone on stage; and Fulvia is never seen in ‘Antony and Cleopatra’ but is mentioned 18 times.

The book is also very attractively illustrated throughout, although an English royal family tree would have been a useful addition.

There are bound to be omissions in any book which seeks to be this succinct. There is, for example, no mention of the impact of the plague on Shakespeare’s life. The only serious problem with the book, however, lies in its glossary, or rather in its multiple glossaries. There are seven: one at the start of each of the book’s seven main sections.

Some terms - such as stock-fish, bull-pizzle, seditious and puritan – are not defined, despite appearing in the main text. Other entries – “Hamlet Perhaps Shakespeare’s most famous play and the name of its leading character” – seem redundant. “Allusion” receives different (but equally valid) definitions in two glossaries. “Great Chain of Being” appears in two glossaries, the second entry representing an extension of the first. “Elixir” is first mentioned in the text roughly fifty pages before its glossary entry. “Soliloquy” is first used by Mark Rylance in his Foreword but doesn’t appear in a glossary until much later in the book, and then appears again, in the same words, yet later in the book. Other terms which appear in identical words in two glossaries include “Bohemia”; “satire”; “rude mechanicals”; “sonnet”; “tetralogy”; and “alchemy”. “History play”; “metaphor” and “blank verse” all boast identical entries in three glossaries apiece.

This mess could so easily have been avoided by having one glossary at the back of the book.

I do not, however, want to end on a negative note. This is a very enjoyable book (if you can largely ignore the glossaries) which will genuinely enlighten on topics as varied as Shakespeare’s knowledge of medicine and the law, the extent of his vocabulary, his use of rhyme and his attitude towards the monarchy.

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This is the book I wished I had read when I took my Shakespeare’s class back in college. The book is appealing for those who are new to Shakespeare and want to get a feel of the author, his world, and his works; but it is also a delight for confirmed fans of Shakespeare. The book makes an interesting showcase of Shakespearean topics such as his context, heroes and villans, and other interesting elements of his works. The layout of the book is easy to read and inviting. It is not intimidating for the new readers of Shakespeare and the pictures are varied and colorful. I really liked that the author included a short glossary at the beginning of each chapter explaining some of the words to better understand the subjects presented there; this was a nice and thoughtful touch that many publishers and authors do not always care to offer their readers. Overall, great presentation of an old; nonetheless, eternally interesting author.

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Good fun, and I enjoyed the format-- seems like a good way to get younger people interested in Shakespeare and his work, which I'm all for!

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Before I begin, I feel I should declare my love of Shakespeare. This isn't a topic on which I'm a newbie; I'm an English teacher, regular attendee of the Royal Shakespeare Company productions in Stratford and have spent many a happy year studying and contemplating the Bard. I'm no expert, but I'm keen and interested and comfortable with Shakespeare.

With this all in mind, I approached this book with some reservations. There have been many attempts to create books that tell you everything you need to know about Shakespeare (and I've read a lot of them). Most over-simplify or patronise, while others come as an information overload for the more casual reader.

Therefore, this book is a very welcome addition to the huge body of work on Shakespeare. It is organised very clearly, with each section (for example 'Heroes and Villains' or 'Legacy') comprising a series of one page mini-essays. Each is fascinating in its own right, but also features a short summary ('3 second prompt') and a longer snippet of supporting information ('3 minute call'), as well as a quick reference list of the key people discussed. The pages of text are interspersed with beautiful, brightly coloured pictures relevant to the topics discussed. A print copy of this should be really lovely (I read an electronic version).

The book would be suitable as an introduction to Shakespeare as it is all so clearly explained and glosses all the key terms needed to understand the text. However, there's also loads in it for Shakespeare aficionados; I found out lots I didn't know, such as Elizabethan audiences' understanding of the symbolism of different musical instruments or the botanical knowledge underpinning the witches' spell in Macbeth. There were also some interesting insights by some of the contributors to the book on issues I hadn't really considered before, such as the slightly ambiguous model of kingship that Malcolm presents in Macbeth.

There is so much that is impressive about this book that it feels a little churlish to point out shortcomings, but it isn't perfect. The glossaries, absolutely essential to understanding in places, are spread through the book and so often repeat information. They also seem unsure about what level to pitch explanations, so words like 'fairies' feature alongside technical terminology such as 'anapest' and 'trochee'. Whatever the content, a single glossary at the back of the book would have helped. Another niggle is that there are some brilliant mini-essays on the plays, but these only cover a few of the best-known plays. I'd much rather have read something on the problem plays or the lesser-performed ones, rather than another insight into Hamlet or King Lear. Finally, there were some interesting statements made that were not explained, for example that Antony is the 'most - and least - admirable of Shakespeare's tragic heroes'. Brilliant, but why? I'd love to know, but it's never explained.

Despite the slight imperfections, this is an excellent book. It is clear and concise, suitable for the casual reader to dip into, yet also erudite and broad-ranging enough for Shakespeare fans to find something new and interesting. I'd whole-heartedly recommend this for anyone studying Shakespeare (the contextual information alone is worth a read and fits with GCSE and A Level requirements for students to understand the plays in their wider contexts). However, this would also serve those who are totally new to Shakespeare (and who want to know what the fuss is about), as well as those who feel like they already know a lot about the Bard. There are interesting perspectives and insights for everyone here and that should be commended.

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Great breakdowns of key themes and plays. Would work brilliantly for schools!

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I received a copy of this book off Netgalley and Wellfleet Press in returns for an honest review. I love a bit of Shakespeare, no, I don’t think you understand. I LOVE a bit of Shakespeare. I loved him before but being at University gave me just a brand new appreciation for his work. I love to read some non-fiction now and then just to keep my brain ticking over, especially if it’s about Shakespeare! So let’s get into the review…

The first thing you notice when you open a copy of this book is the graphics and illustrations. The book is FULL of them and it is really great to see. As this non-fiction/literary criticism, it really helps to break up the words and give you something to think about.

I would say that this book is geared more toward beginners to his work. It does a great job of doing a big sweep across a lot of different elements of his work, rather than going into great detail, which is sometimes exactly what you’re looking for. Depending on your knowledge of Shakespeare, you may decide to skip elements like the glossary but if you are a newbie, they would be super helpful. Each section has a “see also” and loads of different contributors meaning that if you needed sources for an essay, you could find plenty just from one of the small segments of the book. You’re also given prompts and small other nuggets of information to think about, meaning that the book actually allows you to think about Shakespeare critically yourself, rather than having a load of information thrown at you.


I particularly liked how it made you feel like you could create your own thoughts around Shakespeare, create your own theories (which I have done as a result) and said “we are all co-authors”. The reality is that there is so much speculation surrounding Shakespeare and his work, that we are able to make our own connections even in the modern day. This made the book quite unique in the sense that I felt like I was being encouraged to think for myself, rather than be told what to think about.

The book wraps everything up neatly but talking about Shakespeare’s ongoing legacy, which is a great way to brig it all together. If you are more unfamiliar with his works, the books also gives you short summaries of his most well known plays and a massive amount of other reading sources for you to sink your teeth into.

It’s a little bit more on the basic side but I think it’s thought provoking, concise and it gives you a fun reading experience!:


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Need a quick refresher on Shakespeare and the context of his works? Then you will find this very useful. Covers all your bases so you can sound somewhat intelligent when talking to your lit snob friends about the Bard.

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The Know It All books offer a fast-paced look into various topics with lots of fun images thrown in. They cover a lot of topics with a good overview amount of data. Each topic is easily digestible on one page so it's great to flip to a random page and read (or read in order like I did). The books introduce new vocabulary that you would need in order to understand the next few topics. .

Know it All Shakespeare - This was a fun book for me to read because it explained a lot of background into the Shakespearean time, as well as common themes throughout his work. I think this would be a great book for any new fan to read, as it gives descriptions of a lot of his plays throughout which could inspire your list of books to read. I would not gift this to my sister who has a degree in English because I think it would be a review and a bit of a bore. To the rest of us without lit degrees, it was a fun, enjoyable read which would be a great edition to a coffee table book collection where someone could flip to a random page and learn something new.

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All of the Know-It-All series of books are excellent! Each of them gives a synopsis of the most important things to know on the topic in a brief but well-laid-out manner, and Shakespeare is no exception! These books are a good introduction or a good review, as well as a starting place for discovering which topics you'd like to learn more about afterwards -- and then you can get a more in-depth book on just that topic.

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