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Soul of the Age: The Life, Mind and World of William Shakespeare Paperback – 4 Jun 2009

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Product details

  • Paperback: 512 pages
  • Publisher: Penguin (4 Jun. 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0141015861
  • ISBN-13: 978-0141015866
  • Product Dimensions: 12.9 x 3 x 19.8 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (13 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 211,742 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Jonathan Bate is Professor of Shakespeare and Renaissance Literature at the University of Warwick, chief editor of The RSC Shakespeare: Complete Works and the author of many books, including most recently John Clare: A Biography, which won the Hawthornden Prize for Literature and the James Tait Black Prize for Biography. A Fellow of the British Academy, he was awarded a CBE in 2006.

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Review

'An excellent writer ! he achieves a resonant and complex portrait, constantly alert to new lines of enquiry and unexpected conclusions ... A triumph of precision, learning and intelligent innovation' - Charles Nicholl, Sunday Telegraph, Book of the Week 'Bate probably knows as much as any single person can know about Shakespeare ... Surprising, fresh, exhilarating, brilliant' - Richard Eyre, Guardian 'Wholehearted applause for Bate's portrayal of Shakespeare's world ... it is pure pleasure ... I defy any reader, no matter how saturated in Shakespeare, not to find something new here' Independent on Sunday

About the Author

Jonathan Bate is Professor of Shakespeare and Renaissance Literature at the University of Warwick, chief editor of The RSC Shakespeare: Complete Works and the author of many books, including most recently John Clare: A Biography, which won the Hawthornden Prize for Literature and the James Tait Black Prize for Biography. A Fellow of the British Academy, he was awarded a CBE in 2006.

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Customer Reviews

3.9 out of 5 stars
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

32 of 33 people found the following review helpful By Mark Meynell VINE VOICE on 17 May 2010
Format: Paperback
I would imagine Jonathan Bate's lectures are a joy - his books certainly make for excellent company. Having enjoyed his The Genius of Shakespeare many years ago, this book is an excellent follow-up. This book seeks to put Shakespeare in context - and, as the subtitle explains, lay out something of the bard's 'life, mind and world'. Of course, extensive biographical details are elusive - which in part explains why curiosity if not controversy about his identity is rife. Bate nevertheless manages to assemble as thorough a picture as possible. He draws on a wide range of historical scholarship (for example, in his depiction of the legal system at the time, as well as the sort of Tudor grammar school education that Shakespeare will certainly have received - then providing good evidence from its manifestations in the plays). He is particularly good at using this to debunk the "Shakespeare's not Shakespeare brigade" - e.g. illustrating it with details from the plays that only a Warwickshire lad could possibly have known.

The structure of the book is so brilliantly simple and yet (to my knowledge), no one has thought of it before: structure the book around the 7 ages of man, from Jaques renowned speech from As You Like It. This makes the book easy to follow - but also allows scope for in-depth explorations of Shakespeare's progress through life and the world, even where the biographical details are minimal. There were moments where I got a bit bogged down (not being a Tudor historian) - e.g. in the business of Essex's fall and its impact on Shakespeare and the theatres. But most of the time, I was gripped and looking forward to the next pearl or insight.
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10 of 10 people found the following review helpful By Mrs. G. M. Phillips on 10 April 2010
Format: Paperback
A compelling portrait of Shakespeare and his times. I found I could not put it down and it enhanced my opinion o0f the reasons behind Shakespeare's plays and enhanced the view of the world at the time in which he wrote. Invaluable accompaniament to enjoyment of Shakespeare both to read and to watch in the theatre.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By A. M. Coldron on 27 April 2014
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
As to be expected from a book by Joanna Bate, he manages to find a new but illuminating angle on his much studied subject and make it fascinating.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Mrs F Moore on 4 Nov. 2014
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
For the serious Shakespeare student a great and very readable book
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By Streetbard on 21 Feb. 2014
Format: Hardcover
Shakespeare's creative achievement has inspired, overwhelmed and stupified me since I first encountered him at school. This is the most ambitious attempt I've come across to define and understand his philosophy. His physical and rational worlds are explored in great depth as the author searches for clues as to what lay behind that great mind - as a collection of individual essays it is a stunning piece of detective work; taken in it's entirety, it is one of the best books I've ever read
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13 of 17 people found the following review helpful By Keith Lawson VINE VOICE on 8 July 2009
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
While reading this book, it becomes so very apparent that we are unlikely to create another Shakespeare ever. All the conditions that made the man, the style and content of education, the political intrigues in an unsettled England, and the religious tension are unlikely to ever exist again. To read this is to appreciate a past that is not taught in our schools, more the pity. For any lover of Shakespeare, his contempories (Johnson, Marlow, Webster) and Tudor England this book is to be recommended.
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6 of 8 people found the following review helpful By Amanda Craig HALL OF FAME on 14 Jan. 2009
Format: Hardcover
This book isn't for the kind of reader who merely wants to find out the bare bones of what we know - which, as Bate points out is a good deal more than we know of many Elizabethans if nothing like what we long for. A forensic biography, it jumps about using details from the plays to speculate about Shakespeare's life, what he can only have known about from experience (the nature of two rivers, for instance). The result is a kind of collage of a portrait, made up from tiny snippets of information, which comes to some interesting conclusions about how he wrote and why. If you are a Bard nut, it's a lovely book, but more of a cornucopia than a carefully reasoned biography like Bate's last. I recommend reading it with The Lodger (Charles Nicholls).
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