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Shakespeare's Restless World by Dr Neil…

Shakespeare's Restless World (edition 2012)

by Dr Neil MacGregor

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164972,634 (4.3)8
Title:Shakespeare's Restless World
Authors:Dr Neil MacGregor
Info:Allen Lane (2012), Hardcover, 336 pages
Collections:Your library

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



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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. ( )
  quantum_flapdoodle | 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 |
I really enjoyed this book! I was worried that MacGregor's style would be stuffy and too academic for my taste (his is British after all, and runs a British museum), but I was pleasantly surprised at how easy-to-follow and engaging his text was. The full and half-page photographs also helped to bring each of the 20 objects (and other supplemental things) to life.

I picked up this book because I love Shakespeare's plays, but know relatively nothing about the time period in which they were written and performed. MacGregor uses seemingly innocuous items, like a fork, an apprentice's cap, a clock, and a model of a ship, to describe the many events, aspects, and people of Elizabethan life.

Originally, this was a 20-part radio show on BBC, which must have been fun. MacGregor also did a "History of the World in 100 Objects" radio show, which he also turned into a book. I would love to pick that up next, especially since my only complaint about this book was that it felt too short! ( )
  kaylaraeintheway | Mar 27, 2014 |
Very readable, attention grabbing, presenting a new view into Shakespearian England and offering new insights into Shakespeare's work. Thoroughly enjoyable, just sit back and enjoy the ride. With the device of a selected object, then taking it and exploring the events and social conditions that prevailed. All the time offering a new understandings into the thoughts and preoccupations of the audience of that time. And what turbulent times, what times of change, challenge and unease. Unlikely as it seems I put the book down reluctantly, but better informed about my England's history and equally about the works of Shakespeare I know but haven't bothered to reacquaint after all these years.

But there is the rub. It is just a device, take twenty objects. Here my niggles begin to surface. Of all the possible objects to choose from why these few, are they more or less representative, offer more insightful windows than other objects? Having narrowed the selection down the chosen objects they then becomes the limiting factor, you have limit yourself to writing around it, that is the task that you set yourself. Occasionally the objects truly do open windows and are useful vehicles for exploring a narrow issue. I particularly enjoyed the section on time and clocks. Of course I knew about changing attitudes to time, but not in this way, not in such a relevant way to working persons of the time. I could feel the newly introduced tyranny of clock time with its newly offered minutes against the previous lazily chimed quarters ringing around town, quarters stretched to suit the daylight hours. Changes that echo right back to our own recent history of change. Sometimes it works and sometimes the object is a restraint, checking the breadth of review it suggest but cannot deliver. And some are just lame objects labels used to keep faith with the chosen device but scantly able to offer without reference off to other objects.

So no in the end, for me, the device of using the objects irritated but I did so thoroughly enjoy the wide ranging delving into the social and political turmoil of the times and simultaneously being offered new ways to interpret or understand Shakespeare's words. Social History and Literary critique all wrapped up in one cosy read. Brilliant. ( )
  tonysomerset | Jan 16, 2014 |
Showing 1-5 of 9 (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)

(summary from another edition)

» see all 3 descriptions

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