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Shakespeare's Restless World: An Unexpected History in Twenty Objects Paperback – 25 Apr 2013


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Product details

  • Paperback: 336 pages
  • Publisher: Allen Lane (25 April 2013)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1846148308
  • ISBN-13: 978-1846148309
  • Product Dimensions: 15 x 2.4 x 22.7 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (142 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 350,638 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Review

MacGregor is not a man for making airy generalisations about the past. He examines concrete evidence and like a Sherlock Holmes teases out of it more information than you would think possible to deduce (Peter Lewis Daily Mail)

Shakespeare's Restless World, filled with anecdotes and insights, eerie, funny, poignant and grotesque, is another brilliant vindication of MacGregor's understanding of physical objects to enter deep into our fore-fathers' mental and spiritual world (Christopher Hart Sunday Times)

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. His celebrated book A History of the World in 100 Objects was published in 2010, and has been translated into more than a dozen languages.

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

28 of 28 people found the following review helpful By markr TOP 500 REVIEWER on 14 Oct. 2012
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This is a superb book. Neil McGregor, the Director of the British Museum, looks in turn at 19 objects with relevance to Shakespeare's time, before finishing off with the relevance of Shakespeare to Nelson Mandela and his fellow captives on Robben Island. Elizabethan England with its discoveries, superstitions, plagues, fears and aspirations is described in fascinating prose, complemented with relevant quotations from Shakespeare and with beautiful illustrations, throughout the book. The original ideas for the Union flag are fascinating, and the illustration of these is used to describe the hopes and fears of both Scotland and England at the time of accession of James the VI and I to the British throne

Through the example of a fork used at the theatre, an apprentice's cap, a beautiful Venetian goblet and many more objects, the author has brought the late 16th and early 17th century almost to life in these pages. This is a genuinely wonderful book; simultaneously informative, erudite, and easily read, this will form part of my permanent book collection to be revisited again and again.

Highly recommended for those interested in history, the stage, or simply in what it has been to be human throughout the ages.
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15 of 15 people found the following review helpful By SAP VINE VOICE on 24 Oct. 2012
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
I think my title says it all. But I will say more because to stop here would be unorthodox. I loved A History of the World in 100 Objects and this is even better! Someone give this man a knighthood! He is a literary Olympian. Everything about this book is excellent. The content - what you're paying for - is written in a very accessible but academic way. Elizabethans' everyday lives are dissected and their innards laid bare. I loved the chapter about hats - so random and arbitrary but surprisingly revealing - what other history books deem too trivial to bother with. Then there're the pictures on just about every page. Lovely to look at while you reflect on what you've just read. Lovely, sumptuous cover with the title picked out in silver on a cardinal red background. This isn't a book, it's an experience - a guided tour.
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19 of 20 people found the following review helpful By Sensible Cat on 25 Oct. 2012
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
This is the best book about Shakespeare I've read since James Shapiro's "1599" - and I've read many. It takes as its theme not Shakespeare himself but the restless, thrilling and dangerous times he lived in, all of their conflicts and opportunities reflected in his plays.

Repeating the winning format of "A History of the World in 100 objects", Neil MacGregor has selected twenty iconic objects from the early modern period, encompassing the entire range of society from dynastic depictions of the Tudor succession to the woolen cap worn by a London apprentice, and made each the basis of an illustrated essay explaining its historical context and applying it to scenes in Shakespeare's work. If this sounds dull, rest assured that it isn't - quite the reverse. A medallion comemmorating Drake's global navigation reminds us that this human achievement altered people's perception of their place in the universe as radically as the 1968 Earthrise photograph taken from Apollo 8. A pedlar's trunk turns out to be a disguised portable kit for the underground celebration of the Catholic Mass, as well as a window opened into the itinerant chancers who inhabit the fringe of society. A more gruesome emblem of religious intolerence is the eye of a Catholic martyr encased in siver, reminding us of the unsettling appetite for violence as theatre that fed the audiences who first witnessed the blinding of Gloucester on stage. And once you've read MacGregor's desciption of a soft-porn illustration on a Venetian drinking glass, you'll have a fresh insight into the prejudices against Venetian women that sealed poor Desdemona's fate.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By Martin Turner HALL OF FAMETOP 100 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on 26 April 2013
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
For those who have already read EMW Tillyard's The Elizabethan World Picture, or who fancy something a bit more accessible, Shakespeare's Restless World is a wonderfully lucid artefact-based discussion of late Elizabethan/early Jacobean London life by the same author of, and on the same lines as, A History of the World in 100 Objects.

Most people who love Shakespeare know him either through reading the plays, or watching them, or performing them, or all three. Some will have traipsed round the various Shakespeare sites at Stratford upon Avon, but it was in London, not Stratford, that Shakespeare did most of his work. Working from casually discarded or lost objects, such a rapier found by the Thames, and from others that stayed in use for long afterwards, Neil MacGregor peels back the layers of meaning behind such things. What may be seen in a museum as a curio turns out to have immense practical and symbolic meaning, as well as shedding light on how Elizabethan power was projected to the Western hemisphere by means of the new sciences of cartography and navigation.

Any chapter of this book will reward an A-level student trying to dig deeper into Shakespeare, and many undergraduates will discover insights that even Tillyard could not give. For those of us long past our literature degrees, this book is a voyage of delight.
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