I bought a book for my wife yesterday at Foyles in London, which I couldn't manage to stop reading once I had started. It's a new Bill Bryson book called Shakespeare: The World as Stage and parses the research around Shakespeare the person and his writing, without ever becoming tedious. It's an excellent read.
What struck me most, however, was just how much Shakespeare borrowed from other writers, and how accepted this was in his day.
[Shakespeare's] success was not...without its shortcuts. Shakespeare didn't scruple to steal plots, dialogue, names and titles - whatever suited his purpose. To paraphrase George Bernard Shaw, Shakespeare was a wonderful teller of stories so long as someone else had told them first....… Read more