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Extended Audio Sample Shakespeare Audiobook, by Peter Ackroyd Click for printable size audiobook cover
3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 3.00 (614 ratings) (rate this audio book) Author: Peter Ackroyd Narrator: Simon Vance Publisher: Penguin Random House Format: Unabridged Audiobook Delivery: Instant Download Audio Length: Release Date: November 2005 ISBN: 9780739323779
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Drawing on an exceptional combination of skills as literary biographer, novelist, and chronicler of London history, Peter Ackroyd surely re-creates the world that shaped Shakespeare--and brings the playwright himself into unusually vivid focus. With characteristic narrative panache, Ackroyd immerses us in sixteenth-century Stratford and the rural landscape–the industry, the animals, even the flowers–that would appear in Shakespeare’s plays. He takes us through Shakespeare’s London neighborhood and the fertile, competitive theater world where he worked as actor and writer. He shows us Shakespeare as a businessman, and as a constant reviser of his writing. In joining these intimate details with profound intuitions about the playwright and his work, Ackroyd has produced an altogether engaging masterpiece.

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Quotes & Awards

  • It really is a stupendous achievement . . . Peter Ackroyd is back at the height of his powers. Phil Baker, Sunday Times

Listener Opinions

  • 2 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 5 peaseblossom | 2/10/2014

    " I submit that if you broke up all the words of this book and weighed them, by far the heaviest category would be the qualifiers 'maybe', 'possibly', 'perhaps', and the like. It's more a list of suppositions than a biography, but for all that, Ackroyd knows his London and certainly imagines his Shakespeare well enough. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Joye | 1/28/2014

    " I loved learning about all the known details of William Shakespeare's life. I was surprised as to how much we do know, I always thought the renowned author was cloaked in mystery. Now, on to his plays..... "

  • 2 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 5 Sarah | 1/22/2014

    " Leaving aside the inherent pretentiousness of calling any work on Shakespeare "the" biography, this book does show painstaking research into not just Shakespeare's life, but his time, environs, social circles, etc. It does weave together to form a coherent narrative, and Ackroyd does sometimes offer up various interpretations of particular information, but equally often he simply asserts his theory as "likely." Despite being a Shakespeare fan, I wasn't very engaged by this. "

  • 2 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 5 Dawn | 1/19/2014

    " Dry, oh so very dry. And really not that interesting. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Hannah | 1/19/2014

    " I always dread the time of year when your English teacher wants you to read a biography. I have English Lit. this year so I could only read a biography about someone from England. I honestly just picked this up at the library and expected to drudge through it. I was pleasently surprised when I found it to be more enjoyable than it appears. The author takes the time to describe his home town and his family before talking about Shakespear himself. This helped me understand some of Shakespeares actions and parts in his plays that I never really understood before. I would defenitly recommened this for a Shakespeare buff or someone who just wants to get through another school requirement! "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Clare | 1/16/2014

    " One of the things I enjoyed the most about this very satisfying book was its structure. Short, thematic chapters allow one to dip in and out quite quickly, and in fact reconcile neatly with the state of Shakespeare's biographical scholarship (which is patchy at best). "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 David Gray | 1/8/2014

    " Thoroughly engrossed in Shakespeare's world and the mystery that surrounds what is known about Shakespeare and what is surmised... "

  • 2 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 5 Tony Daniel | 12/29/2013

    " Vivid Portrait of an Elusive Man. A very nicely put together portrait of Shakespeare and his time, the late 1500s, early 1600s in London. Ackroyd plays out the consequences of most of the mainstream conjectures on Shakespeare's life (no one really knows much about him, of course; he left barely a personal trace at all in the records even after centuries of digging). I would've liked a bit more general historical background, especially on the everyday cultural life of London, but Ackroyd had only so many pages to work with, and it's pretty long and full of detail as is! There's perhaps a bit too much conjecture and conclusion drawn on thin evidence on Shakespeare's alleged crypto-Catholicism. This seems to be a particular hobbyhorse of Ackroyd's, and the evidence is slim that it mattered that much to Shakespeare or that any Catholic underground culture shaped his life and work. Ackroyd always seems to be reaching when he makes these conclusions in the book. But I was generally enthralled throughout this account; Ackroyd's novelist's skills made the writing clear and vivid and those qualities in the prose made listening extremely easy and enjoyable. "

  • 1 out of 51 out of 51 out of 51 out of 51 out of 5 Lane Willson | 12/28/2013

    " To quote The Bard "ZZZZZZZZZZZZZ". In fairness to Mr. Ackroyd,it was probably an unfair expectation to think that any biography of a 16th century writer, even the most read author in history, would have rock star magnitude. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Gauloises | 12/17/2013

    " Ackroyd is a gorgeous biographer and, although I didn't learn much I didn't already know, it's a beautiful read. I particularly enjoyed his speculations on Shakespeare's relationship with his daughters. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Chiara Coletti | 12/14/2013

    " If you dip in and out of this one, it is great fun. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Steven Belanger | 12/6/2013

    " My God--Exhaustively researched and written, as if Ackroyd had been there himself. By far the most comprehensive book of Shakespeare of the great many I have read. Not a quick read as Burgess's is, but very rewarding for the knowledge you will acquire. For the serious Shakespeare enthusiast. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Jennifer | 7/19/2013

    " There were a lot of interesting details about Shakespeare and this period of history. Lots of insights into his plays. Definitely a book for Shakespeare lovers. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Maureen | 1/14/2013

    " I read every Shakespeare biography I can get my hands on--even though I am well aware that very little concrete information is available about my favorite writer. But Peter Ackroyd is a good writer himself, and I really enjoyed his take on the Bard of Avon. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Blake Croissant | 7/31/2012

    " If you want to learn everything about Shakespeare, really read this. It was wonderful. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Wes Christensen | 4/1/2012

    " I've read a number of this author's books, notably Albion and his biography of William Blake, but this one I return to time and time again, re reading portions of it, always learning something. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Paul | 12/15/2011

    " Brilliant! Anybody who doubts that Mr WS wrote the stuff that he wrote clearly have not done the research Mr Ackroyd has! "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Danny | 6/23/2011

    " Almost finished...a portrait of Shakespeare's time and peers, which surround the gap that is the historical Shakespeare. An interesting approach, filled with period info. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Joan | 3/12/2011

    " Maybe the best of the Shakespeare bios. So thorough, so confident. It's astounding that anyone could read this and not be sure of the authorship of the plays. I listened to the audiobook, which is excellent, and used the hardcover to take notes. Highly recommend. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Coren | 12/11/2010

    " What I liked most about this is that Ackroyd gives context for the life of a man about whom we really know very little. He places him within the politics and culture of the time and as such, we learn far more about both the man and his times. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Steven | 7/11/2010

    " My God--Exhaustively researched and written, as if Ackroyd had been there himself. By far the most comprehensive book of Shakespeare of the great many I have read. Not a quick read as Burgess's is, but very rewarding for the knowledge you will acquire. For the serious Shakespeare enthusiast. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Susan | 6/10/2010

    " I'm a big fan of Peter Ackroyd and loved his Dickens biography. With this one I was more conscious of how he'd amassed an incredible amount of information, but I missed his voice. However, it was a fascinating read. It's odd how invisible Shakespeare was. "

  • 2 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 5 Irene | 6/2/2010

    " A recent novel created an interest in Shakespeare, which is a good thing
    so far -- writing is flowery "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Mark | 2/7/2010

    " Incredibly detailed, but never boring. Ackroyd has performed a masterful job of placing the man and his work in the social conditions and politics of his day. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Pam | 4/24/2009

    " I listened to this 16 CD set in the car. It's full of detail as well as "could be," "this suggests," "it is possible that." Nevertheless, the writing was good and the scholarship amazing. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Ed | 1/1/2009

    " How Shakespeare and Queen Elizabeth were not on the same page. "

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About the Author
Author Peter Ackroyd

Peter Ackroyd has written acclaimed biographies of T. S. Eliot, Dickens, Blake, and Sir Thomas More, as well as several successful novels. He has won the Whitbread Book Award for Biography, the Royal Society of Literature’s W. H. Heinemann Award, the James Tait Black Memorial Prize, the Guardian Fiction Prize, the Somerset Maugham Award, and the South Bank Show Award for Literature.

About the Narrator

Simon Vance (a.k.a. Robert Whitfield) is an award-winning actor and an AudioFile Golden Voice with fifty-eight Earphones Awards. He has won thirteen prestigious Audie Awards and was Booklist’s very first Voice of Choice in 2008. He has narrated more than eight hundred audiobooks over almost thirty years, beginning when he was a radio newsreader for the BBC in London.