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In Search Of Shakespeare Paperback – 1 Sep 2005

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Product details

  • Paperback: 416 pages
  • Publisher: BBC Books; New Ed edition (1 Sep 2005)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0563521414
  • ISBN-13: 978-0563521419
  • Product Dimensions: 12.7 x 2.8 x 19.8 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (14 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 268,714 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Product Description

Amazon Review

There can be few more appropriate writers and TV presenters to go In Search of Shakespeare than Michael Wood. Having already gone In Search of England and pursued the history of the Conquistadors in his recent acclaimed series, Wood has now taken on The Bard in the book to accompany his latest TV series. This is well-trodden ground, but Wood tells the story with relish and an historian's eye for detail, dismissing Bardolatry in favour of a "tale of one man's life, lived through a time of revolution--a time when not only England, but the larger world beyond, would go through momentous changes."

From Shakespeare's early days in Warwickshire to the sophisticated world of theatrical life and political skulduggery in London, Wood makes few claims to new discoveries, but offers a refreshingly global understanding of what drove Shakespeare and his creativity, from his Catholic origins to the Black Londoners that he met every day. Wood too often has to "enter the realm of diverting speculation rather than that of verifiable historical fact". Did Shakespeare have an affair with Emilia Lanier? Did he die an alcoholic? Wood colourfully poses such questions, though too many remain unanswered; he cheerfully admits that he's no Shakespeare scholar, but a popular historian who has enthusiastically placed Shakespeare back into the extraordinarily fertile world that produced him. --Jerry Brotton --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.


"Wood's is an honest, well-organised account that will serve the reader well." (Independent on Sunday)

"Thanks to the author's gifts of story-teller, populariser and interpreter, Shakespeare's world is brought to life more vividly than in any other biography of him I have read. All the latest professional scholarship on the question on Shakespeare and Catholicism is effectively incorporated in the book, but where Wood has made genuine finds of his own is in the area of the dramatist's day-to-day life." (Sunday Telegraph)

"In this enthralling book Michael Wood evokes the physical and intellectual environment in which Shakespeare lived and worked with vivid and original immediacy." (Professor Stanley Wells, Editor of The Oxford Shakespeare)

"Wood is a perceptive, entertaining and enthusiastic companion." (Sunday Times)

"Shakespeare emerges from the book as the master general he must have been." (Clive James Times Literary Supplement)

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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful By Nicholas Casley TOP 500 REVIEWER on 12 Aug 2009
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This is a review of the hardback version.

This is an excellent read, including so much more than the equally excellent TV series showed. In the prologue, Wood talks of Shakespeare's father John, leading the team covering over the religious paintings on the walls of Stratford's guild chapel: "So here's a parable at the start of our tale ... what lies behind actions and words in an age when covering up, concealment and dissimulation became the order of the day?" Hence the difficulties inherent in the `Search for Shakespeare'. Born on the cusp between two worlds, "Shakespeare may be ... the first modern man, ... but he was also the last great product of the Gothic Christian West." He crossed the gap between a fading medieval mindset and the new Renaissance thinking: "New worlds are discovered" in Shakespeare's works; "old worlds are lost. ... This period of cultural revolution [the ascendancy of Elizabethan Protestantism] spanned most of Shakespeare's lifetime and is crucial to an understanding of his mind and thought."

This forms the basis for Wood's account of Shakespeare's shadowy life and works. He digs up very little, if any new evidence, although he has some intriguing things to say about portraits and relationships: no, the beauty of his book is that it provides a radical new view of the man and his times for a popular audience. For example, "for most nineteenth-century scholars it was simply unthinkable that the bard's family should have been tainted by Catholicism". This link with Catholicism is probably Wood's major contention to Shakespeare studies. He writes how, "the battle for the [Catholic] soul of old England was almost lost. It would be left to John [Shakespeare]'s son to carry it down in a different guise to later generations.
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18 of 19 people found the following review helpful By Thomas Reedy on 25 Jun 2003
Format: Hardcover
P>The book is dense with context, and Wood demonstrates how much biography can be teased out by a good historian. One nice touch is the reproduction of photographs taken in the late 19th century of Elizabethan-era buildings that are no longer standing. I am also surprised at how many buildings related to Shakespeare's family still exist.
I'm fairly familiar with Shakespeare's life, but Wood combines old information with fairly recent discoveries to come up with some new interpretations. He doesn't constrict himself by typical academic reticence to speculate on Shakespeare's inner life using the plays and the sonnets, but his speculations never seem far-fetched.
A fun and educational read; probably the second-best biography of Shakespeare, right behind Samuel Schoenbaum's *A Documentary Life*. Footnotes or endnotes would have been nice, though.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By Torpid on 8 Feb 2009
Format: Hardcover
There is much music and excellent voice in Michael Wood's speculative quest for the Bard of Avon. However, Wood's attempt to capture Shakespeare for late medieval Catholicism (which forms the focus of this book) sometimes feels fanciful and clumsy. Falling-out with the Pope and dissolving the monasteries does not make Henry VIII a `Protestant' in any meaningful sense, but then the author does not provide a definition of what that Protestantism actually means. Neither is it particularly helpful to ignore Shakespeare's reliance - as a Bible-reading Christian - upon Tyndale and the Geneva Bible. Indeed, the emphasis placed upon Shakespeare's supposed recusancy actually undermines his claim to universal appeal, and turns him instead into the exclusive preserve of a persecuted minority. This is a shame, as the book offers an otherwise fascinating and moving account of Shakespeare's life, and is a joy to read.
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10 of 12 people found the following review helpful By David Lazzari on 13 Jan 2004
Format: Hardcover
I have to own up to being a Michael Wood fan. I now have about five of Wood's histories with a sixth still unread. Each one has been a well written entertaining, informative and well put together book. My favourite is still In search of the Trojan War and now closely followed by In search of Shakespeare. Wood gives the reader a clear view of Elizabethan England with its associated politicking and religious and racial intolerances and how the theatre companies waltzed their merry way around it all. From Shakespeare's family tree to his father's fall from grace as well as tracing the stories Will used for his plays it's a thorough work and a delight to read. While the book goes into greater detail the TV doco is also worth buying.
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Format: Paperback
Having taken the measure of the other presenters, there is no question in my mind that Michael Wood is in a class of his own; playing in a far higher league altogether, indeed.

Of course I am no expert. Yet there is such an intelligent sense of balance in the writing, which can only approximate the truth given the lack of complete information, that I doubt I could read a better account. Just look at p185 of the hardback: the section 'He was but one hour mine' within Chapter 9 and you immediately realise that nobody else on view is able to do as well as this. It is literary explanation and it makes very good sense. Of course, 'experts' will disagree with this. Arrogance practically guarantees it. Then consider the series on the Leicester village whose history is so well documented at Merton College, Oxford and the other on an even earlier period and one can only marvel at the style, lucidity and scholarship.
If Michael does any more, and I pray that this be so, I will drop everything and even learn to record the programmes.
What makes the achievement so fine? The investigation of the places in London where WS lived and the places close by in many cases where lived important contacts. You can, in brief, follow the history on the ground itself. The maps are terrific even if you know almost nothing about London, as I do. The relationships between the real characters are made very clear. I was completely convinced by his case that the dark lady of the sonnets is Emilia Lanier nee Bassano. The evidence is very strong. From her he learned such italian as he knew and his info on Venice, Verona etc. There was no need for him to travel there.
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