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Shakespeare's Restless World: Portrait of an Era Paperback – November 4, 2014

ISBN-13: 978-0143125945 ISBN-10: 014312594X

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 336 pages
  • Publisher: Penguin Books (November 4, 2014)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 014312594X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0143125945
  • Product Dimensions: 6.1 x 0.9 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.4 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (24 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #179,782 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Booklist

*Starred Review* Shakespeare may never have owned a Cristallo-glass goblet made by the craftsmen of Venice. Yet by contemplating such a seventeenth-century object, MacGregor enters the world the Bard creates in Othello and The Merchant of Venice. Just as he did in A History of the World in 100 Objects (2010), MacGregor repeatedly converts fascinating objects into talismans transporting readers across time and geography. In this volume, 20 well-chosen artifacts open perspectives on both Shakespeare’s literary art and his historical circumstances. Readers examine, for instance, a seventeenth-century dagger and suddenly find themselves beside the doomed Mercutio in Romeo and Juliet—and among the reckless roughnecks roaming the streets of Elizabethan London. Readers likewise scrutinize a brass-handled iron fork recovered from the Rose theater, an implement amplifying Falstaff’s cry in The Merry Wives of Windsor for skies that rain potatoes and prompting reflections on the oysters that groundlings ate at Elizabethan plays. Readers even peer at a reliquary containing the eye of Catholic martyr Edward Oldcorne, a grim reminder of the cruel blinding Gloucester suffers in Lear and of the brutal real-world executions carried out scant yards from the Globe Theater. Visually splendid, intellectually stimulating, a must-buy for any library with patrons who still care about the Swan of Avon. --Bryce Christensen --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

Review

Praise for Shakespeare’s Restless World

“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.”
The Independent
 
 
“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)
 
 

Customer Reviews

4.8 out of 5 stars
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To be able to see a specific image that MacGregor is referring to made this book even better.
Marcie
This book has given me a more informed perspective on Shakespeare's plays, his audience and the relevancy of his work to the political attitudes of those years.
Annie
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.
Stephanie Ward

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

19 of 19 people found the following review helpful By Montana Skyline on October 26, 2013
Format: Hardcover
In the footsteps of MacGregor's highly-regarded "A History of the World in 100 Objects," this short volume (produced for the British Museum and BBC radio) illustrates the era as it appeared to Shakespeare's contemporaries --- and particularly those Londoners, of high and low state, who might have been in his Globe audience. Twenty objects --from cups and daggers to clocks and a martyr's eyeball-- are employed by MacGregor via short chapters to supply telling glimpses of Shakespeare's world. Each vignette is tied to Shakespeare's plays or poems, but also serves to illustrate a larger cultural incidence of the time. Lots of amusing incidental facts, as well.

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.
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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful By Stephanie Ward TOP 1000 REVIEWER on November 16, 2013
Format: Hardcover
4.5 Stars

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.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By Stephanie Cowell VINE VOICE on November 24, 2013
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I found myself looking at the Elizabethan world through a fork dug up beneath a theater, a broken pottery "box office," a rapier, a common wool cap. I could see as an audience member, as a Londoner of 1600 and feel everyone's unrest as the queen grew very old (for her time) and no one dared speak of what would happen when she died. A very original and real concept.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Marcie on December 4, 2013
Format: Kindle Edition
f you've ever read Shakespeare, this book is for you! Shakespeare's Restless World: A Portrait of an Era in Twenty Objects is written by Neil MacGregor. MacGregor worked with many knowledgeable people to put together this book of twenty objects that were really relevant in Shakespeare's day. Reading this book gives you a greater understanding of what things meant in Shakespeare's time. Why somethings were taboo, while others drew a hearty laugh from the audience.

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.
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Format: Hardcover
William Shakespeare’s world was in flux, and he embraced those rapid changes in his works. We can use contemporary histories or art to explore Elizabethan England, but Neil MacGregor offers readers a fresh approach. Shakespeare’s Restless World presents us with twenty objects which capture the essence of Shakespeare’s day, and explains not only why they were created and what they were used for, but also their significance to Shakespeare and his audience.

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.
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