Shakespeare: The Man Who Pays the Rent

St. Martin’s. Apr. 2024. 400p. ISBN 9781250325778. $32. THEATER
According to Oscar-winning actress Dench (Behind the Scenes), Shakespeare is for everyone; readers can bring their own life experiences to his works and interpret them accordingly. Plus, his plays speak to the universal human condition. Both Dench and her late husband, Michael Williams, revered the playwright. For them, Shakespeare was “the man who paid the rent.” This book contains a series of interviews between Dench and renowned Shakespearean actor and director O’Hea, whom she has known and worked with for many years. Each interview is a concise gem that brings together Dench’s insights, personal experiences, and knowledge about Shakespeare’s plays, including Macbeth and Hamlet. Her memory of each role she has played is astounding. Dispersed throughout the interviews are musings on audiences, language, critics, and the future of Shakespeare. Serious and thoughtful without being stuffy, this work shows Dench’s terrific sense of fun as she relates hilarious anecdotes that will make readers laugh out loud.
VERDICT A compendium of great wit and wisdom with universal appeal. Both Shakespeare fans and novices, especially students who might find his language difficult to understand, will be delighted.
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