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Shakespeare's Restless World: Portrait of an Era Paperback – November 4, 2014
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“What did Elizabethan theatergoers eat while watching Hamlet? British Museum Director MacGregor answers that question and many others as he examines 20 objects, now in museums and libraries, that illuminate daily life in Shakespearean England. . . . Beautifully illustrated, MacGregor’s history offers a vibrant portrait of Shakespeare’s dramatic, perilous, and exhilarating world.”
—Kirkus Reviews (starred review)
“Visually splendid, intellectually stimulating . . . Just as he did in A History of the World in 100 Objects, MacGregor repeatedly converts fascinating objects into talismans transporting readers across time and geography.”
—Booklist (starred review)
“Neil MacGregor offers sparkling insights into Shakespeare’s times and how the Elizabethans really lived. . . . Filled with anecdotes and insights, eerie, funny, poignant and grotesque, Shakespeare’s Restless World is another brilliant vindication of MacGregor’s understanding of how physical objects enter deep into our fore-father’s mental and spiritual world.”
—Sunday Times (London)
“MacGregor wants us to see both how the past shapes and shades our present but—equally—how strange and alien it should feel. . . . He shows time and again how the epoch-making changes that the Stratford playwright both lived through and expressed still echo through our arguments and anxieties over community and identity.”
“A revelation . . . MacGregor’s choice of clocks, mirrors, and swords opens a door on to the lost world of London’s theatregoers in and around 1600. . . . The interrogation of these objects yields a sequence of fascinating footnotes to Shakespeare’s timeless poetry.”
—The Observer (London)
Top Customer Reviews
The "Twenty Objects" device works very well in MacGregor's hands, and not only should entertain Shakespeare or Elizabethan enthusiasts, but also provides a fascinating glimpse for general readers of a world hinting at but not yet our own. The hard-cover version is nicely printed and splendidly illustrated, not only with the named twenty objects, but with accompanying reproductions of paintings and sundry related objects that tell the tale. The text itself is well written, scholarly but not at all pedantic, and with a good sprinkling of humor and general wit. You may be undecided as to whether to put it on the shelf with your Shakespeare or with your general history, but either way, it is an enjoyable read and will be a worthwhile addition.
As a graduate student in English, I've had a lot of exposure to Shakespeare throughout my college and graduate career. I have always been a huge fan of the Bard and his works and the time period when he lived always intrigued me as well. This book was a perfect blend of history and biography as the author takes us into the life and times of Shakespeare. The book tells of various objects that helped to define the period of time that Shakespeare and his contemporaries lived in. Although this is a nonfiction book, it's told in a very conversational tone which makes all the information accessible and fascinating - not bored and dry. Aiding the narrative and historical facts are fantastic illustrations, maps, and copies to show the views, beliefs, ideals, and general lifestyle of Shakespeare's time. The various media included in the book really added to the text and made it more exciting and easier to picture for the reader. The writing was well done - informative and full of great facts and history, but - like I mentioned above - it wasn't dry or boring to read. I enjoyed learning all about the different facets of life during that time period and this book does a wonderful job of explaining, highlighting, and illustrating some really fascinating aspects not everyone knows about. Highly recommended for fans of history nonfiction and Shakespeare buffs alike.
Disclosure: I received a copy of the book in exchange for an honest review.
I enjoyed every page of this book. Each chapter introduces an object, the history behind it, and it's importance during this time period and why Shakespeare would include it in his plays. Things that seem trivial in our time held greater importance in the past. MacGregor also includes many images with his objects. This made the book come alive even more. To be able to see a specific image that MacGregor is referring to made this book even better.
I also enjoyed MacGregor's writing style. I know some people might think this book could be boring or that it may read like an instruction manual, but I can assure you it's not. He has an easy story-telling style that will leave you wanting to know more. My only complaint, if you can call it a complaint, is that I wish this book were longer. I was fascinated from the get-go and was a little sad when I reached the end of the book. This is the perfect book for history lovers.
MacGregor has also written several historical nonfiction books including: A History of the World in 100 objects, Treasures of the National Gallery, The Museum: Behind the Scenes of a British Museum. I'm going to add these books to my wishlist. They sound perfect for this nerd.
MacGregor ranges these twenty artifacts alongside Shakespeare’s plays to show readers how Elizabethans viewed vital topics. English anxiety over who would succeed their Virgin Queen was explored by proxy in Richard III and Henry V, and also in allegorical paintings. A sword and rapier found by the Thames River, the sort used in Romeo and Juliet, introduce us to an Italian fad becoming popular in England. Intelligent and entertaining, I recommend Shakespeare’s Restless World to anyone wishing to learn more about the Bard, his plays, and the English society he sought to entertain.
Most Recent Customer Reviews
Excellent , but I was disappointed with the print job, having seen the original British version.Published 10 days ago by ann o. buttrick
I finally got around to reading this book--I had been a bit wary of all the recent books promising history in so many objects. Read morePublished 11 months ago by lyndonbrecht
Very enjoyable to read and full of insights into Shakespeare and his times.Published 16 months ago by Osa D. Coffey
I was intrigued by this book. I felt I really learned a lot about the times in which Shakespeare wrote....MacGregor is a magician and a story teller.Published 16 months ago by Diane Cunningham
Although one wouldn't imagine that a book surveying Shakespeare's era could be classified as light reading, "Restless World" can. Read morePublished 18 months ago by JCY 500
A truly novel way to approach history; ie, using objects from the late sixteenth and early seventeenth centuries to explore the
people, their knowledge, and their behaviors in... Read more