Read Shakespeare's Restless World: Portrait of an Era by Neil MacGregor Online


The New York Times bestselling author of A History of the World in 100 Objects brings the world of Shakespeare and the Tudor era of Elizabeth I into focus We feel we know Shakespeare’s characters. Think of Hamlet, trapped in indecision, or Macbeth’s merciless and ultimately self-destructive ambition, or the Machiavellian rise and short reign of Richard III. They are so vitThe New York Times bestselling author of A History of the World in 100 Objects brings the world of Shakespeare and the Tudor era of Elizabeth I into focus We feel we know Shakespeare’s characters. Think of Hamlet, trapped in indecision, or Macbeth’s merciless and ultimately self-destructive ambition, or the Machiavellian rise and short reign of Richard III. They are so vital, so alive and real that we can see aspects of ourselves in them. But their world was at once familiar and nothing like our own. 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. A perfect complement to A History of the World in 100 Objects, MacGregor’s landmark New York Times bestseller, Shakespeare’s Restless World highlights a turning point in human history. This magnificent book, illustrated throughout with more than one hundred vibrant color photographs, invites you to travel back in history and to touch, smell, and feel what life was like at that pivotal moment, when humankind leaped into the modern age. This was an exhilarating time when discoveries in science and technology altered the parameters of the known world. Sir Francis Drake’s circumnavigation map allows us to imagine the age of exploration from the point of view of one of its most ambitious navigators. A bishop’s cup captures the most sacred and divisive act in Christendom. With A History of the World in 100 Objects, MacGregor pioneered a new way of telling history through artifacts. Now he trains his eye closer to home, on a subject that has mesmerized him since childhood, and lets us see Shakespeare and his world in a whole new light....

Title : Shakespeare's Restless World: Portrait of an Era
Author :
Rating :
ISBN : 9780143125945
Format Type : Paperback
Number of Pages : 336 Pages
Status : Available For Download
Last checked : 21 Minutes ago!

Shakespeare's Restless World: Portrait of an Era Reviews

  • Lisa
    2018-12-06 08:51

    “All the world’s a stage!”And all senses are involved in this reading experience of the colourful, noisy world of Shakespearean times, - if you take the time both to read the book and listen to the BBC radio show. I would highly recommend it, actually, even though the content is almost identical. Listening to the radio, with added background sounds, and different narrator voices, is very rewarding, and makes the Shakespeare quotes come alive with the speakers. I would probably not have bought the book after listening to the whole show if I hadn’t come across a beautiful, unread copy secondhand which was signed by the author. That temptation was too big, of course, and I did not regret my choice! After the auditive pleasure of the first experience, I now enjoyed the illustrations of the print version just as much as the easily flowing, captivating prose.I found myself reading the whole book, word for word, as well, because it just blew me away. It will not contain anything new about Shakespeare’s plays for literature scholars. But for lovers of art, literature and history, it is an amazing treasure chest full of artefacts symbolising the world that Shakespeare drew from for his plays. Neil MacGregor excels at describing small objects in a wider context and at making time stand still for a quarter of an hour while he explores the world as seen through the lense of the things human beings make, use and keep. The reader is invited to wander the streets of London around 1600, and to step into the shoes of the people who filled the theatres of the Southbank, one of which was Shakespeare’s Globe. Almost as if by accident, the history of the time is explained and shown not only through the chosen objects, but through the unforgettable lines of Shakespeare’s plays as well. It seems effortless but illustrates MacGregor’s vast and deep knowledge of the period. The book concludes with an emotional connection to our world of today, showing the effect of Shakespeare’s plays on people around the world, in various different situations. A touching anecdote of Marcel Reich-Ranicki’s Shakespearean quote during a time of utter stress in the Warsaw Ghetto demonstrates the development of Shakespearean words, moving from local Elizabethan stages in England in 1600 to become universal collections of stories for all the world to admire, over 400 years later:“For those living the dark moments of history, as for those exploring the wilder or the sweeter shores of love, Shakespeare’s words console, inspire, illuminate and question. More simply, they capture for us the essence of what it is for us to be restlessly human in a constantly restless world.”Recommended to anyone with a passion for Shakespeare, history and art!

  • Bettie☯
    2018-11-17 10:55

    [image error] imported:16. A Change of Time: A rare domestic clock, with an equally rare minute hand and quarter-hour chimes, reveals the changing relationship Shakespeare's audiences had to time.17. Plague and the Playhouse: May 1603 saw not only a new king but the worst plague outbreak since the Black Death. Its impact and reach is told through a series of early 17th-century proclamations.18. London Becomes Rome: A set of coronation designs reveals the depth of classical knowledge in Shakespeare's time19. The Theatres of Cruelty: A human eyeball in a silver setting provides a striking insight into the theatre of cruelty in Elizabethan and Jacobean Britain.20. Shakespeare Goes Global: How Shakespeare has inspired and influenced people across the globe and through the ages.Looks juiceh!Telegraph review: Description: From Neil MacGregor, the acclaimed creator of A History of the World in 100 Objects and the Director of the British Museum, comes a unique, enthralling exploration of the age of William Shakespeare to accompany a new BBC Radio 4 series.Shakespeare lived through a pivotal period in human history. With the discovery of the New World, the horizons of Old Europe were expanding dramatically - and long-cherished certainties were crumbling. Life was exhilaratingly uncertain. What were Londoners thinking when they went to see Shakespeare's plays? What was it like living in their world? Here Neil MacGregor looks at twenty objects from Shakespeare's life and times, and uncovers the fascinating stories behind them. The objects themselves range from the grand (such as the hoard of gold coins that make up the Salcombe treasure) to the very humble, like the battered trunk and worn garments of an unknown pedlar. But in each case, they allow MacGregor to explore issues as diverse as piracy and Islam, Catholicism and disguise. MacGregor weaves the histories of objects into the words of Shakespeare's plays themselves to suggest to us where his ideas about religion, national identity, the history of England and the world, human nature itself, may have come from. The result is a fresh and thrilling evocation of Shakespeare's world.About the Author Neil MacGregor has been Director of the British Museum since August 2002. He was previously Director of the National Gallery in London from 1987 to 2002.4 - A portrait painted in 1571 to justify and celebrate Elizabeth I's position in the Tudor succession, by the 1590s, with no direct Tudor heir, had very different implications.5 - A rapier and a dagger, essential accoutrements of any self-respecting gentleman, illustrate the extent of violence in Elizabethan London - both onstage and off.4* Marvellous stuff:O)

  • Roman Clodia
    2018-11-21 06:51

    "The strange potency of things"In this book, Neil MacGregor, director of the British Museum, uses a variety of material objects to get under the intellectual skin of the world during Shakespeare's life-time, and explores the ways in which the plays were deeply grounded in the politics, religion, culture and material world from which they sprang.This approach, in line with current academic thinking, implicitly moves us away from the popular idea of Shakespeare as being some kind of extraordinary, timeless spirit whose plays float, somehow, outside of history. Instead, this focuses on the historicised cultural markers that made the plays as contemporary and current as Private Eye or Have I Got News are for us today.MacGregor isn't seeking to understand Shakespeare the man but to uncover some of the shared communal assumptions that Shakespeare's audiences carried with them into the Globe and other theatres. This is a wonderfully generous and inclusive book, both erudite and yet accessible.

  • Julie
    2018-11-17 11:10

    I would imagine it's agonizingly difficult to choose twenty objects only from a time and place and highlight that era: breathe life into the past, as it were. That being said, and acknowledging the limitations MacGregor set for himself, this turned out to be quite an interesting little tryst with Shakespeare. To be fair, this is more representative of MacGregor's knowledge of the Shakespeare canon than it is of 17th century England quotidian activity. While he provides an interesting analysis of many of the objects, there are far too many conjectures to suit the hungry historian in me. I would have liked a more clear cut distinction between his opinion and the evidence. I found there were far too many "would-haves/could-haves" scenarios. In the end, they proved annoying and distracting.On my own wish list, I "would have" like it more if the photography/plates were better produced. The sometimes-blurred and indefinite reproductions detracted from the prose -- in the end, I felt myself rushing through it, just to get past the images, which were becoming bothersome.Having stated all my detractions, I think the BBC production would be a lot of fun to listen to: without being distracted by all the little nits built into the book. I will admit to being a Shakespeare aficionada, and have probably spent far too much time (more than is good for me perhaps) poring over his literature, that this picture book had high standards set for it before it ever came into my hands; and so for that I apologize to MacGregor for stepping in with pre-conceived notions. Still, a very worthwhile read! (I mean it!) It provides an interesting view of the 17th century that many would never have imagined.

  • Sheenagh Pugh
    2018-11-30 06:12

    This book is both the most information, and the most fun, I have had all year. I missed the BBC radio series on which it was based, so it was all new to me. Basically, it takes 20 objects that were current in Shakespeare's time and place, from a fork dropped in the theatre, through plague proclamations, Henry V's armour and a model ship, to the hapless designs for a union flag commissioned by King James, and uses these objects to illuminate the plays. All the way through, I was muttering "why did I never think of that before?" Reading or seeing the plays in isolation from their context, one can easily forget that, for instance, Shakespeare was 16 when Francis Drake circumnavigated the world and that this had generated a fashion for maps and globes that makes the name of his most famous theatre seem a lot more topical and relevant than we might have thought.The book is full of fascinating and useful information (eg the price of admission to the theatre, one penny, which was the same as the price of admission to see Henry V's armour in Westminster Abbey). And the fact that theatre performances and afternoon church services both began at 2pm, which explains a lot of church hostility to the theatre. It is also, having been co-produced by BBC Radio and the British Museum as well as the publisher, Allen Lane, full of fascinating and beautifully produced illustrations of the objects in question. Strangely enough, I didn't find the human eye in a reliquary anywhere near as moving as Henry's battered, shabby shield or the fancy fork engraved with its careless owner's initials, A.N.Paradoxically, the firmness with which the book locates Shakespeare in his own time and place merely emphasises his universal, timeless relevance, with which the last chapter is rather movingly concerned. This book is beautifully produced, lavishly illustrated (the 20 objects are only the start of it) but above all, the text is intelligent, thoughtful and penetrating, giving a genuinely novel and informative angle on the plays. Let's never forget that it came about as a result of a radio series by one of the very few broadcasters that would have undertaken such a project. The BBC is as much of a cultural asset to our time as Shakespeare was to his; we'd surely miss this kind of enterprise if we didn't have Auntie.

  • Ana Rînceanu
    2018-12-05 08:55

    This book was so engaging I read it in one train ride and was pleasantly surprised to learn how 16th century England was perceived on a nationally as well as internationally. This perception is analysed through important objects retained from that period.

  • Liawèn
    2018-12-15 05:54

    There is nothing much to say. The book is awesome. It's written in a great way and I was completely immersed in the world. Well, I'm a Shakespeare real, so no winder I liked the book. But it's very interesting and I learned things I didn't know about Elizabethan England through the everyday objects.

  • sabisteb
    2018-11-20 13:49

    Neil MacGregor ist direktor des British Museum und wohl am bekanntesten für seine Weltgeschichte in 100 Objekten. Hier ist eine Version für Shakespeare und seine Zeit in 20 Objekten.Das Konzept funktioniert dabei erstaunlich gut. Ein Gegenstand wird mit Geschichte erfüllt, indem er erklärt wird. Woher kam er, wozu wurde er genutzt, wo wurde er gefunden. Diese Hintergrund wird dann mit passenden Stücken von William Shakespeare verknüpft und in Zusammenhang gebracht. Der Gegenstand hilft dabei immens, die Fakten im Hirn zu veranken.Wenn man also Elisabethanische Pop Culture lernen muss und Hintergrund für Shakespeare Klausuren braucht, ist diese Reihe der perfekte Einstieg.Den Podcast kann man komplett und ohne Ländersperre auf der BBC Webseite herunterladen: werden in jeweils 15 Minuten die Bereiche:1. ENGLAND GOES GLOBAL - How Sir Francis Drake's circumnavigation of the globe changed the way Shakespeare's audiences viewed the world and their country's place on it. For the first time, England was engaging with the whole world.2. COMMUNION AND CONSCIENCE - The communion cup that Shakespeare may well have used sheds light on the dramatic religious changes that came in the aftermath of the Reformation3. SNACKING THROUGH SHAKESPEARE - A luxury fork discovered on the site of the Rose theatre helps explain what people were nibbling on when they first heard: "Is this a dagger I see before me?"4. LIFE WITHOUT ELIZABETH - Painted in 1571 to justify and celebrate Elizabeth I's position in the Tudor succession, by the 1590s, with no direct Tudor heir, this image had very different implications.5. SWORDPLAY AND SWAGGER - The essential accoutrements of any self-respecting gentleman illustrate the extent of violence in Elizabethan London - both onstage and off.6. EUROPE: TRIUMPHS OF THE PAST - As a tourist attraction in Westminster Abbey, Henry V's instruments of battle reflect the view of English history as depicted on the Elizabeth stage.7. IRELAND: FAILURES IN THE PRESENT - A rare woodcut offers a equally rare visual impression of the troubles and tragedies of Elizabethan Ireland.8. CITY LIFE, URBAN STRIFE - The life of London's apprentices and Shakespeare's groundlings told through a rare woollen cap.9. NEW SCIENCE, OLD MAGIC - Dr Dee's Mirror was actually a highly polished disk of black obsidian from Mexico but it reflects the Elizabethan fascination with the new sciences of cosmology and astrology.10. TOIL AND TROUBLE - The differences between Scottish and English witches are revealed by a model ship, made to be hung in a church.11. TREASON & PLOTS - A tabloid history of Shakespeare's England, told through a collection of contemporary accounts of plots to murder Elizabeth I and James I.12. SEX & THE CITY - A delicate glass goblet reveals the twin seductions of Venice: its sought after luxuries and its equally sought after lecherous women.13. FROM LONDON TO MARRAKECH - Sunken gold from West Africa sheds light on the complex relationship Elizabethan England had with the Moors of the Mediterranean.14. DISGUISE & DECEPTION - Deception and religion, cross-dressing and travelling salesmen are all unpacked via a pedlar's trunk.15. THE FLAG THAT FAILED - The problems in uniting Scotland and England and in creating a Great Britain are encapsulated in a set of designs for a common flag.16. A TIME OF CHANGE, A CHANGE OF TIME - A rare domestic clock with an equally rare minute hand and quarter-hour chimes reveals the changing relationship Shakespeare's audiences had to time.17. PLAGUE & THE PLAYHOUSE - May 1603 saw not only a new king but the worst plague outbreak since the Black Death. Its impact and reach is told through a series of early seventeenth century proclamations.18. LONDON BECOMES ROME - A set of designs for the Coronation Procession of James I reveals the extent of classical knowledge amongst Shakespeare's audience.19. THE THEATRES OF CRUELTY - A human eyeball in a silver setting provides a striking insight to the theatre of cruelty in Elizabethan and Jacobean Britain.20. SHAKESPEARE GOES GLOBAL - The publication of the First Folio of Shakespeare's collected plays in 1623 began the process of turning an early modern playwright into a global phenomenon. An annotated copy of the Collected Works of Shakespeare reveals the extent to which Shakespeare has inspired and influenced audiences across the globe and through the ages.

  • Maya Panika
    2018-12-05 08:56

    Firmly based on the Radio Four series – I’m sure some of the text is taken, word for word, from Neil MacGregor’s radio scripts. Anyone who loved Neil MacGregor's BBC radio series on Shakespeare, will surely love this companion volume. Twenty objects from the British Museum’s collection, chosen by the author, tell the story of Shakespeare’s world, placed in their historical and literary context. There’s more detail here, of course, about each object and its connections with Shakespeare’s world than the radio gave us, and illustrations - we can actually see the object and the pictures, maps etc that give it its place in history. The links between objects, ideas and literary constructs – at times so obvious, but which had never occurred to me before, together with the strange links between art and science – reminded me a little, at times, of James Burke’s ‘Connections’. For example, Francis Drake’s circumnavigation of the Earth sparked a craze for maps and Globes that was almost certainly the inspiration for the name of Shakespeare’s theatre, and the numerous references to globes and far-flung places in the plays - fashionable references, that would have resonated with the audiences at The Globe and The Rose, to a very different degree than they do for us.The rare and valuable fork (who was A.N? And imagine the scene at home when it was realised it was lost! The equivalent of dropping a Rolex Oyster through the boards, into the mud), the African coin and Doctor Dee’s Magical Mirror are most memorable for me, but all twenty have their own fascination, and each a story to tell. Detailed, informative, absorbing and SO well written; Neil MacGregor’s undoubted knowledge and storytelling skills, draw the reader right into Shakespeare’s – sometimes mysterious and often utterly alien - universe.

  • Janine Southard
    2018-12-02 12:56

    3.5 stars.This book starts so strong, gets a bit hit-and-miss, and then got tl;dr.The idea is that by delving into the context of 20 objects, the author will tell us details about Shakespeare's world. We learn that globes were super-new, so Puck's line about "circumnavigating the globe" was a total science shout-out. (Here, let me tell you more about exploration in the 15-1600s, dear reader.) Or that wearing rapiers in town was a fashion thing that led to hotheads, y'know, using their accessories all the time, leading to slang like "he was a young blade."Unfortunately, at the halfway mark, the author stops caring about the "objects" part. One of the chapters is entitled "Ireland: Failures in the Present." This chapter goes on about Irish/British relations, but misses the whole (intriguing!) point of tying it into a physical item. (Or, if it did, it was in the later parts of the chapter after I started skimming.) Having forgotten about the premise, the book devolves into just another pop-history tome, with not enough pop to keep this reader's attention.

  • Maryfrances
    2018-12-14 09:14

    I loved this book. I wish I had read it twenty years ago. It informs so much about a culture, a period, and Shakespeare. Through twenty objects and lots of references to Shakespeare's plays, Neil MacGregor makes years of Shakespeare come alive. This book will give depth to anyone who has read or continues to read Shakespeare or other works of the time. It will be interesting to those who love history. I wished so many times that I had had this book when I was teaching Shakespeare. It does so much toward making a modern reader understand what he would never have known otherwise about a different way of living and seeing life.

  • Jennifer
    2018-11-27 11:50

    In this book, Neil MacGregor takes twenty objects from Shakespeare's time--everything from a fancy fork found in the stalls of the Rose Theater, to James I's plague declarations, to a mummified eyeball from an executed Catholic priest--and relates them to the Bard's plays and the world of Elizabethan England at large. While it's by no means an exhaustive study of the period, it's rich in little details that sparked my imagination.

  • Paul Brannan
    2018-11-23 05:53

    With the 450th anniversary of Shakespeare’s birth fast approaching, the ‘Bardolatory’ industry is in full swing.There are screeds of scholarly opinion and conspiracy theories out there, all of which are drawn from the barest scraps of information.The truth is, we know very little about the greatest playwright of the age, even his true date of birth; the official record doesn’t tell us the day, it gives only his baptism date.The information vacuum around Stratford’s most famous son gives academics license to indulge in ‘Bard Wars’ – intellectual jousting that’s all very interesting, but ultimately inconclusive. The authorship debate is at once both fascinating and sterile. Without new information we’ll never know. Was the true author my fellow Stratfordian, William, or was it Edward de Vere, Francis Bacon, Christopher Marlowe, Ben Jonson or any of the other dozens of candidates advanced over the past two centuries?Neil MacGregor’s book is refreshingly different in that it takes as its starting point knowledge that we do have about life in the Elizabethan and Jacobean periods and the people for whom Shakespeare was writing. From objects as disparate as a model ship, a peddler’s trunk, a fork and a woollen cap he brings context to the life of the Bard of Avon by illustrating the prevailing fears and tensions of audiences of the time.The reverberations of The Gunpowder Plot equate to the modern world’s post 9-11 period. Plots and conspiracies are seen everywhere, Jesuit priests are hunted down and tortured; martyrdom represents the ultimate test of faith and sacrifice.Magic, ghosts and the power to call up spirits are readily accepted by Shakespeare’s contemporaries. It’s a concept hard for us to comprehend now and one MacGregor likens to acceptance of today’s celebrity scientists; we admire their work but only dimly comprehend.Plague, pestilence, state-directed hangings and dismemberment, mean death is never far away. An Italianate rapier and dagger recovered from the foreshore of the Thames attest to routine levels of violence on London’s mean streets but also illuminate the status and style of ambitions of the owner.The book’s glimpses into the backdrop of the lives of the people are woven with an historical narrative that catalyses the fears and anxieties that dogged them. Issues such as the succession, no more than tabloid fodder now had, back then, the potential to unleash persecution and terror at every level of society. Bridging the past and the present to aid understanding is MacGregor’s great gift. Much of what you’ll read is familiar, but there are many “aha!” moments to enjoy and to reinforce appreciation of the Bard and his works – whoever he (or she) may be.

  • Vivek Tejuja
    2018-11-18 10:13

    I was never a fan of Shakespeare’s works. I have never been. Either at school or later. Most of the time it was only the movies through which I discovered Shakespeare or through a play here and there, which I really wanted to read. Besides that I did not care much about the guy. However, after reading, “Shakespeare’s Restless World” by Neil MacGregor, maybe I will read all his works after all. I might even reread some works just to understand more about the times he lived in and to put everything in context with the book I just finished reading.“Shakespeare’s Restless World” as the title suggests is all about the world and the times in which The Bard lived. The twist in the tale is that MacGregor talks of Shakespeare’s times and worlds through twenty objects. At this stage, I must also mention that MacGregor is the director of The British Museum, so getting hold of these objects must have been pretty easy for him. Having said that, what worked most for me was the premise of the book. It is unique in its approach. It also at the same time cannot be categorized as a “history read” because though it is that in some parts, at others it is very different. It speaks to us about the times gone by, the objects and their meaning in those times and how Shakespeare finally has emerged to be a world-wide phenomenon.The reason I loved this book is it is but obviously written differently and at the same time, it is not a boring read at all. It makes you want to know more. After all what could be the relation between a fork (not invented in England) and Shakespeare? What could be the connection between swords and battles and the plays as written by the man? To what extent was he influenced by his world and the objects around him? I also cannot stop gushing about the book. In fact, at a point, I also went back and reread my favourite parts.The book is written in a superb manner. There are parts that are funny and parts that are not so. The objects picked are so unique and that is the major point of the book. The vivid description of the objects (along with a lot of pictures – so please do not read this on an E-reader) adds to the writing and how the influences came about. “Shakespeare’s Restless World” is a unique read of how the socio-economic structure, the religious turmoil, the rampant diseases, sex even, lead to Shakespeare’s plays and their writing and how influenced he was by the world around him. A must read for history and Shakespeare fans

  • Sam Woodfield
    2018-12-13 11:54

    As a far of Shakespeare and a resident of Warwickshire where he was born and lived, I didn't think there was much I didn't know about his life and the town. However, this book has opened my eyes to so many new things about this time and the influences over this man and his writing.This book is based on the Radio 4 series which looks at the world in which Shakespeare wrote his plays and took his influence, based upon a series of objects from around that period. The objects range from the first collection of Shakespeare's plays to the navigation medal of Francis Drake.Each object in this book is explored in great detail with beautiful pictures and descriptions of the object in question, along with great exploration of the context in which this item existed and the inspiration this had on Shakespeare's plays. The writer goes to great lengths to draw the leader into the world under the reign of Elizabeth I and James I, looking at the religious uncertainty at that time, the questions surrounding Elizabeth's succession and the exploration of the world and expanding trade which was occurring at the time.The book looks at the influence of Venice, a key trading port at the time and a key location in many of Shakespeare's plays. Many of the items are linked with the undercover Catholicism which many were forced to practise in Elizabethan England, and the author provides the reader with great background as to why these items were so important at the time.I could go on and on about the items in this book and the wonderful way in which the author not only describes the England of the time, but also the link with the Bard himself. There is much deliberation and conspiracy about whether Shakespeare wrote many of his plays, as how could a simple man from Stratford-Upon-Avon know so much about the wider world. This book answers that question, and many more, and really gives both a visual and detailed insight into Shakespeare's world.

  • Alarie
    2018-12-03 06:51

    Our school systems take learning apart, separating science from art, history from culture, teaching us each subject in its own cubbyhole. This book tries to put Shakespeare’s times back together, showing us how many still new things changed his world view. It’s also beautifully illustrated with photos and reproductions of museum art and artifacts that make the stories come alive.Here are some of the topics that most appealed to me:• Even though the ancient Greeks and Romans wrote impressive dramas, theater was still a new art form in Shakespeare’s day.• Witches were considered a real threat. James I, when he was still James VI of Scotland, had three women put to death for supposedly causing a storm at sea that nearly downed the ship he was on. (“Double, double, toil and trouble”!)• How the plague ravished the land and closed the theatres for long periods. Fortunately, Shakespeare had already acquired some wealth and renown and found a patron to fund his sonnet writing.• Britain still saw itself as a child of the Romans, so even underclass people would have understood a bit of Latin. They even believed Julius Caesar had built the Tower of London.• How rough the streets of London were: the Capulets and Montagues were nothing new to them.• Although they performed at The Globe Theatre, globes were still a fairly new invention owned only by the rich.• A reminder of how timeless Shakespeare’s plays are across cultures. “[Shakespeare’s words] capture for us the essence of what it is to be restlessly human in a constantly restless world.”(This would get 5 stars if I enjoyed reading nonfiction more.)

  • Kirsten
    2018-11-25 11:57

    Terrific and accessible insight into Elizabethan life and the socio-political environment surrounding Shakespeare's works. The political framework - the "hard" history - was bolstered by enough information about quotidian social and physical norms - "soft" information - that can captivate. An example: what did people eat while watching plays at the Globe? More familiarity with Shakespeare's work (more than I have) is helpful but not essential, and some familiarity with the succession of royal dynasties is helpful too but also not necessary. Maybe binge watch The Tudors then retire to a hammock with this book. You will feel totally entertained and like you just passed AP British History, win-win. Or you can go straight to Wolf Hall...

  • Katriona
    2018-12-12 12:57

    Bardolatry at it's best. Even the shrivelled eye was cool.

  • Al Bità
    2018-11-21 11:56

    There is much to enjoy in this follow-up to MacGregor’s earlier highly popular and internationally successful A History of the World in 100 Objects. Here the author limits himself to Elizabethan England, particularly the latter half of that period. Twenty objects are selected, all archaeologically and/or historically dated to this period, and centred, of course, on London. MacGregor then sifts through Shakespeare’s plays and locates relevant quotations from the Bard’s works: thirty-one plays are referenced throughout this work.This clever combination provides a kind of matrix whereby a number of wide-ranging issues can be examined, and some insight can be gleaned into historical matters, particularly in relation to the objects selected (paintings, drawings, swords, knives, goblets made of Venetian glass, eye reliquaries, etc.). Shakespeare’s settings for his plays are also wide-ranging, from pre-history, Roman times, past English history, foreign and exotic locations (e.g. Venice, Verona, Sicily, France, Morocco, etc.), and covering superstitions and dubious spiritual forces as necessary for dramatic impact (albeit often enough made questionable by Shakespeare himself) . In this complex blend, historical narratives can be extended and embellished way beyond the Elizabethan experience itself. Shakespeare’s influence on people throughout the world are also referenced through recent times, right until the most recent events in human history.All of this more or less guarantees a most informative and enjoyable read (even through the more gruesome passages in some cases) and MacGregor delivers satisfactorily. He writes very well indeed. It would be remiss of me, however, if I did not provide some caveats regarding this work. I really don’t want to be churlish about this, nor deny readers the many pleasures of the book, but — there are problems…My concerns relate more to the concept behind this book, and the consequences of that concept.First of all, the main text of this work just covers some 200 pages in total. With 20 objects to describe, provide history for, and illustrate with appropriate Shakespearean references, this means each item on average is covered in 10 pages. This would suggest that the information provided cannot but be slightly superficial overall. Interesting, yes, but still…Secondly, MacGregor does seem to rely on regularly instructing the reader that Shakespeare’s audience would have been “aware” of the historical import of specific references. Maybe, but I am not convinced. I think it would be rather difficult to say with any certainty what, if anything, the audiences knew or were aware of (and I would suspect that such a scepticism would apply to the awareness of any theatre audiences, even today, and even with current plays…).Thirdly, can 20 objects, apparently randomly selected, be trusted to being a statistically significant number for accurately representing Shakespeare’s historical world, whether “restless” or not? Selective selection can provide questions that might undermine the overall validity of the history it purports to tell. And is providing quotes from artistic creations such as plays good enough to pass as history?At the end of his book, MacGregor seems to suggest that, despite the many dangers and anxieties he has related as applicable to a restless Elizbethan world, Shakespeare’s words shine through as a beacon of hope even to our present “anxious and dangerous” times, and quotes Prospero’s wonderful final speech from The Tempest as a calming balm. A lovely and satisfying end…By the same token, however, it seems possible to me that a book such as this could just as easily have been written which, instead of concentrating on some blacker aspects of the time, could have concentrated in presenting the wonderful, humorous and joyous world typified by the long, peaceful, and progressive reign of Elizabeth I; and it could have been titled “Shakespeare’s Idyllic World”. Now that would have been lovely and satisfying as well.

  • Julia
    2018-12-06 08:00

    I was about to write that this is a "good, though somewhat insubstantial, history book." But thinking about it a little more closely, I think its insubstantial feeling may boil down to two main points - one of which is solely to do with me as a reader.Point 1: it not infrequently felt that MacGregor was stretching his powers of narrative connection to tie a highlighted object to a Shakespearean quotation - like he was "reaching". This does not detract from the book's bonafides as a history book, however.Point 2: I'm already pretty well-versed in Shakespearean-era history. I think this book was not designed for people like me. I think, rather, that this book would serve as a good introduction for someone who's just wading into the waters of Elizabethan/Jacobean history. It's well-written and engaging, and walks a good line between being a dense history text (there are citations/references, and quotes from scholars) and being readable (but there aren't too many citations/references and quotes from scholars). So, my three-star rating is for me as a reader. For others, I would guess this would probably rate four stars. :-)

  • Emmett
    2018-11-23 13:03

    So curious, resonant and inspiring. This is effectively a Shakespeare's edition of A History of the World in 100 Objects (also by the same author), and a potent reminder that even the smallest of things cast aside by time contain in themselves an aura of mystery, the luminous, unexpected wonder that ripples outwards to meet the modern day viewer. Through anecdote, the lines of the Bard's plays and comparison to how we live and think and our experience of theatre, this book resurrects Shakespeare's times, bringing up a variety of familiar themes from street violence to xenophobia, national identity and even daily habits. The singular objects contemplated, coupled with historical detail and pulled together by eloquent writing, stirs the imagination. For instance, the ornamented iron fork dropped in the Rose Theatre (chapter three) compels the yearning to know who this 'A.N.' was, what they had possibly snacked on while they were being entertained. The mind returns again and again to circle that fateful moment when this fashionable and possibly cherished piece of cutlery slipped from their fingers.

  • Buford
    2018-12-08 13:03

    As rival playwright and friend Ben Jonson describes him, Shakespeare really was "not of an age but for all time." And yet the age in which Shakespeare lived and worked is very different than our modern one. Neil MacGregor helps unlock some of that age's mysteries by examining twenty objects that helped shape the politics, daily lives, and theatrical practices of all classes of society living and attending the theatre in London. And with each object, it makes some of the famous and not so famous lines of the Bard's plays make more sense. There are swords, maps, coins, clocks, cups, model ships, and even an old eyeball that help explain some of the complexities of the Elizabethan and Jacobean ages. In A Midsummer Night's Dream, Puck says, "I'll put a girdle around the earth in forty minutes." And now through technology, Shakespeare can go around the world in mere seconds. This book helpfully explained a world in which time and life moved much more slowly.

  • d
    2018-12-16 06:01

    It's a pity I don't have my review for this written down anywhere, because I really enjoyed this look at Shakespeare's world's through MacGregor's chosen historical leftovers. What I remember is that half-way through reading this, I returned my copy to the library and bought my own copy because I didn't want to return the book when I'd finish. This is probably one of my favourite Shakespeare related books, not to mention just a really engaging way of looking at literature and the world that produced that literature.

  • Christian Spließ
    2018-11-29 08:04

    Es sind die kleinen Dinge, die Geschichte erzählen. Und manchmal auch Geschichten. Neil MacGregor hat 20 Objekte aus der Shakespeare-Zeit versammelt und erzählt, wozu diese jeweils gebraucht wurde, gibt einen Einblick in die Epoche von Shakespeare. Ein sehr angenehmer Stil kommt dazu, so dass man fasziniert eintaucht. Lebendiger Geschichtsunterricht, der einfach Spaß macht. Und zudem das Ein oder Andere an Wissenswertem beinhaltet. (So, dass das Theater zu Shakespeares Zeit tatsächlich so revolutionär war wie die Erfindung des Fernsehens...)

  • Andy Todd
    2018-11-18 10:52

    MacGregor has developed the art of telling history through artefacts. Though this is not as compelling as his 'History of the World Through 100 Objects', it does provide a whole range of fascinating insights into the Elizabethan mind.

  • Lauren
    2018-12-09 11:07

    SO MANY PICTURES!! Each applied to the chapter & were thoughtfully done. Considering how dense this topic could have been (& most likely is!), the book is such an easy read... And interesting, which is most likely why it’s an easy read.

  • Alexis Kaelin
    2018-11-29 07:07

    Pretty enjoyable.

  • Kris Minne
    2018-11-25 07:06

    Het wordt me stilaan tijd om het echte werk van W.Shakespeare te bestuderen.Mooi uitgegeven boek over de tijd en de tijdsgeest van de Shakespeare-jaren.

  • Lisa Mcbroom
    2018-11-24 05:56

    Fascinating study of how 20 objects defined Shakespeare's play writing and life in the Elizabethan era!

  • Cory Blystone
    2018-11-17 06:14

    MacGregor brings history alive in this invaluable companion piece to William Shakespeare's work.