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Shakespeare's Restless World: A…

Shakespeare's Restless World: A Portrait of an Era in Twenty Objects

by Neil MacGregor

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A very light piece of social history centred on Shakespeare. The objects themselves are interesting, but the reader with any serious interest in the background of the plays would do better to look at James Shapiro's books on 1599 and 1608, and at Charles Nicholl's book on The Lodger Shakespeare; for background on the shift from Catholic to Protestant England, any of several books by Eamon Duffy; and similarly for the scientific and intellectual world of the Elizabethans. (To be fair, these are cited in the bibliography.) It reads very much like what it is -- a transcript of a series of radio shows done into prose by the author. It is nevertheless accessible and has the virtue of being in a position to interest the casual reader in following up on matters of interest. ( )
  jsburbidge | Apr 21, 2017 |
I really enjoyed this book--I learned a lot about the period and I picked up some new vocabulary words as well. There were great stories in this book, and the last chapter in particular was extremely poignant. I would recommend the book to anyone interested in history, Shakespeare, or theatre. ( )
  emilyesears | Aug 29, 2016 |
Shakespeare's restless world. An unexpected history in twenty objects does not offer much new knowledge of Shakespeare's time, but does present many known facts in a very fresh, new way. Not only does the archaeological evidence present a very compelling picture, the images created about Shakespeare's time, particularly his audience are very vivid and completely convincing. Naturally, we can all imagine the audience at the Globe Theatre as a lively company, eating and drinking while watching a play, but the find of a luxury fork to eat sweet meats forces the mental image much stronger. Likewise, we know from Shakespeare's own words that "All the world's a stage", but that his audience took this literally and would carry renaissance Italian-style swords and daggers, emerges from archaelogical finds of such items. Using 20 objects, Neil MacGregor illuminates the world of Shakespeare, giving body to mere ideas, and supporting evidence to theories about life and the theatre during Shakespeare's lifetime. Highly recommended! ( )
  edwinbcn | Feb 10, 2015 |
A look at Elizabethan and Jacobean England through the objects used by the theatre-goers. Some of these were actually found in the remains of old theatres; others were slightly more distant, but still likely to have been used by the theatre crowd. The stories of these objects help to put Shakespeare back into his own world, without removing his relevance to our own, since the themes he explored are timeless. It is interesting to note that in his time the histories were the favorite plays, while in our times the histories are largely ignored with a couple of exceptions. They have worn less well. A book that is well written and engaging, and with many illustrations so you could actually see the object being discussed. Highly recommended to anyone who loves history, Shakespeare, or both. ( )
  Devil_llama | Jan 12, 2015 |
Interesting approach and new ways of investigating Shakespeare. Too advanced for high school in my opinion. I think most kids would find it boring. Contains some great illustrations, maps, etc. from the period. ( )
  sriches | Jun 23, 2014 |
Showing 1-5 of 11 (next | show all)
MacGregor is at his least convincing, though, when in his last chapter he tries to account for the long-term, worldwide popularity of Shakespeare's plays, a phenomenon that has had little if anything to do with what happened to be in the shops and on the quaysides while they were being written. In the end, for all its virtues as illustrated social history, Shakespeare's Restless World is an unsuccessful attempt to encumber Shakespeare's plays with a beguiling clutter of the historical bric-a-brac that they long ago left far behind. These things look very much at home in MacGregor's British Museum. But they would be much more to the point as sources of insight about Shakespeare if instead of expressing his restless creativity as a poetic dramatist he had gone into the more tangible and easily explained world of the antiques business.
added by marq | editThe Guardian, Michael Dobson (Nov 23, 2012)
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Book description
Haiku summary
To understand the
Bard, one has to understand
Shakespeare's time and world.
An iron fork, a
Woollen cap illustrate the
Bard's fast-changing world.

Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 144584690X, Audio CD)

Neil MacGregor, the Director of the British Museum, looks at the world through the eyes of Shakespeare's audience by exploring objects from that turbulent period. Examining these objects, Neil discusses how Shakespeare's audiences understood and made sense of the unstable and rapidly changing world in which they lived. With old certainties shifting around them, in a time of political and religious unrest and economic expansion, Neil asks what the plays would have meant to the public when they were first performed. Neil uses objects to explore the great issues of the day that preoccupied the public and helped shape the works and considers what they can reveal about the concerns and beliefs of Shakespearean England.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:14:10 -0400)

(see all 3 descriptions)

In this brilliant work of historical reconstruction Neil MacGregor and his team at the British Museum, working together in a landmark collaboration with the Royal Shakespeare Company and the BBC, bring us twenty objects that capture the essence of Shakespeare's universe and the Tudor era of Elizabeth I.… (more)

» see all 3 descriptions

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