Burgess' attempt to weave the frustratingly few facts known about Shakespeare’s life into a novel that encapsulates the Elizabethan era is awe-inspiring. As a reader I felt sucked into the social hierarchy of the period: the aristocratic patron, the Bristol slave trade, rural Stratford and London street life. The book oozes with the smells and cacophony of Shakespeare’s world. For instance Burgess’ description of the public execution is harrowing, I feel the strain of the rope round the condemned man’s neck, the sharpness of the hangman’s knife as it rips through flesh and the wide eyed spectator jostling for a better view. In contrast the love Burgess’ Shakespeare reveals is passionate and soul searching. He evokes a naivety of spirit that explains why Anne Hathaway, why Southampton, why the Dark Lady. All delight the senses but at a price. And, of course, there is Shakespeare’s literature, alluded to with sublime subtlety and depth of knowledge. It is as if Burgess was there, at a performance, amongst the groundlings, making notes for some contemporary review. Because of Burgess I can stare into the eyes of a genius dead for almost four centuries.