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History Play Hardcover – 11 Aug 2005

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Product details

  • Hardcover: 400 pages
  • Publisher: Bloomsbury Publishing PLC (11 Aug 2005)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1596910208
  • ISBN-13: 978-1596910201
  • Product Dimensions: 16.4 x 3.5 x 23.5 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 3.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 2,585,839 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Interesting but a bit fanciful - a novel idea that perhaps does not quite 'come off'. Marlowe might have hidden himself away for the rest of his life and written Shakespeare in the meantime, but such an idea needs a modicum of genuine history to sustain itself.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)

Amazon.com: 8 reviews
7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
Clever, witty, ENTERTAINING! 29 Aug 2006
By Movie Fan - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover
If you're a fan of Shakespeare, and want a way to experience the flavor of life in his times (Elizabethan England), there is no better book from the standpoint of entertainment and thought-provoking suppositions. Fiction? OF COURSE! And the author admits it. But what FUN! (This book has for me a lot of the exciting "you are there" of the film Shakespeare In Love: wildly informative and entertaining quasi-fantasy.)
9 of 11 people found the following review helpful
A well-imagined alternative history 25 Oct 2005
By Pierre de Vries - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover
If you've ever been bemused by the fuss about who wrote the Shakespeare plays, this book will set you straight. The foreword reprints Sam Clemens' (aka Mark Twain's) inventory of all the positively known facts about Shakespeare, and it's a scanty list. Most striking is the fact that Will's children were illiterate, that he left no literary bequest but carefully distributed physical goods down to old furniture in his will, and that we know more about his life as a trader and bean counter than we do about his acting.

Bolt takes as his premise that Shakespeare couldn't have written the plays attributed to him, and that he acted as a front for Christopher Marlowe who was writing from exile after narrowly escaping assassination; a stand-in died in his place in the infamous "tavern brawl". Bolt readily admits that this is a fiction, but argues that even supposedly reputable Shakespearean history is mostly invention, too. As he says in his Afterword: "Other writers have looked at the evidence and deduced a story; I have imagined a story, then supported it with the same sparse evidence."

The book weaves a persuasive and instructive tapestry of Elizabethan life. (Bolt does a good job of signaling what's his invention, and what's based on accepted sources.) It gave me with a good sense of the intrigue and insecurity at the heart of the regime, of the making and staging of plays in that time and of the constant flux as people and ideas flowed freely across war-torn Europe. There are frequent references to, and reinterpretations of, Shakespearian poetry and plays, and many witty asides. I sense that I missed many of the puns, anagrams, and in-jokes, but they were done with such a light touch that this didn't bother me.

My only quibble with the book is that Marlowe is a cardboard figure around whom the history turns. The peripheral characters are better drawn, from Shakespeare as a ambitious and venal minor talent, to Marlowe's friends and mentors in the spy world, to the puppetmasters like Sir Francis Walsingham and the slimy Sir Robert Cecil. This book is a history, as the title promises; it's not really a biography, even an imagined one.
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
Very clever 6 Jan 2009
By SebastianHG - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover
The footnotes alone are worth the price of the book - very, very funny!

Really gets you thinking about how scholars write Shakespeare biographies from very skimpy evidence.

Marlowe's genius and absolutely fascinating life wonderfully captured by Bolt. Fun, educational, irreverent.
2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
Depends on what you're looking for 6 Feb 2010
By Alan Venable - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover
If you think there's any value in the authorship question, this book isn't likely to help you. Apparently, not only characters but the sources of the most interesting information are transparently fabricated, as I learned when I tried to track down the Zelle source and learned it was only Mata Hari's real surname. So I suppose the book amounts to a parody of other authorship writing. Post-modern cool? So that's why the Brooklyn Public Library (from which or from one of whose borrowers the copy I bought online from Better Book Worlds was apparently stolen--no "DISCARD" stamp) had indeed shelved it under FICT.
Very satisfied. 3 Dec 2014
By Baxter - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Quick response. Very satisfied.
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