What! will the line stretch out to the crack of doom? . . . Likely so, since every actor who calls himself serious, from Burbage and Kempe to Gielgud and Olivier, has played Hamlet or Richard III, Macbeth or Othello. Professor Grebanier's history of Shakespearean players is as rich and gossipy as it is erudite and encyclopedic. Each subject is presented in the round -- parentage and personal fortunes, physical mien, critical successes (according to Pepys, Hazlitt, Lamb, Walpole, Shaw, Atkinson, Simon. . .), and love affairs (you begin to think this the greatest influence in the development of the actor's depth and style). On shades of interpretation, Grebanier is dogmatic and pernickety, yet his standard of ""what Shakespeare had in mind. . ."" also serves to clarify performances wonderfully. His completeness has its limitations -- though there's as much as an entire chapter for greats like Garrick, Kemble, Mrs. Siddons, Kean, Booth, Henry Irving and Ellen Terry, we could have wanted still more. Grebanier seems to have attended nearly every performance of the 20th century; and then there's so much more -- on variants, gimmicks, butchered versions and forgeries; on silent films and companies like Covent Garden, Drury Lane, Sadler's Wells and the Old Vic; on pranks, bloopers, quick recoveries and duels of wit with the audience. . . . Shakespeare is always a rich vein; but as a storyteller, Grebanier has something of that ""mysterious incandescence"" he spots in good actors. This is one of those books that seems a little special on the surface of things, but once having insinuated itself, becomes indispensable.