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The Lodger: Shakespeare on Silver Street Hardcover – 1 Nov 2007

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Product details

  • Hardcover: 400 pages
  • Publisher: Allen Lane; First Edition edition (1 Nov 2007)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0713998903
  • ISBN-13: 978-0713998900
  • Product Dimensions: 16.4 x 3.6 x 24.4 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (23 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 560,003 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Product Description


'A fresh and convincing perspective on this most perplexing of cold cases...Such a completely engrossing mixture of intelligent analysis and intuited possibility makes The Lodger not only the best kind of detective story, but one of the most rewarding books of the year.' -- Tim Martin, Daily Telegraph

'Nicholl has brought to life an aspect of Shakespeare's career that has been less exhaustively studied than most, and for that reason alone his book is worthy of praise. The detail is delicious. It is almost prodigal. The Lodger is a triumph of reconstruction. -- Peter Ackroyd, The Times

'Nicholl's latest work is a triumph and ranks among the finest books ever written about Shakespeare's life.' -- James Shapiro, Guardian

'The Lodger easily outboxed and outfoxed all other contenders in an exceptionally busy year for books about Shakespeare.' -- Jonathan Bate, Sunday Telegraph, Book of the Year

'The Lodger is rich with unexpected historical delights. This fascinating book takes tiny details of the lived lives and makes the whole scene swirl before us.' -- Daniel Swift, Financial Times

About the Author

Charles Nicholl is a historian, biographer and travel writer. His books include The Reckoning (winner of the James Tait Black prize for biography and the Crime Writers’ Association ‘Gold Dagger’ award for non-fiction), A Cup of News: the life of Thomas Nashe, Shakespeare and his contemporaries (Natural Portrait Gallery insights series) and Somebody Else: Arthur Rimbaud in Africa (winner of the Hawthornden Prize). His most recent book was the acclaimed biography, Leonardo da Vinci: The Flights of the Mind, which has been published in 17 languages. He is a Fellow of the Royal Society of Literature and has lectured in Britain, Italy and the United States.

Inside This Book (Learn More)
First Sentence
On Monday ? May 1612, William Shakespeare gave evi-dence in a lawsuit at the Court of Requests in Westminster. Read the first page
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Front Cover | Copyright | Table of Contents | Excerpt | Index | Back Cover
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Customer Reviews

4.2 out of 5 stars

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

11 of 11 people found the following review helpful By Steve Keen TOP 1000 REVIEWER on 16 Sep 2008
Format: Hardcover
Charles Nicholl's books about Marlowe and da Vinci have previously graced my reading list: the first is a meticulous reconstruction of Marlowe's final meal in an attempt to explain the playwright's death, which is sometimes a little repetitive; the second a more conventional biography of the renaissance polymath.

The Lodger is closer to the first, in being a depiction of how Shakespeare possibly lived whilst in London, centring on a single event, the signing of a legal deposition by the playwright which concerned his landlord, but fortunately without the repetitiousness.

So little is actually known about the bard that to say it is amazing nobody did this before is an understatement, but it is a tribute to Nicholl that he has picked up the baton and run with it.

As with the Marlowe book, The Reckoning, in The Lodger Nicholl takes small clues from documents relating to Shakespeare's deposition and expands them, using contemporary evidence, to construct a likely picture of how Shakespeare and his acquaintances would have lived and worked.

Somewhat tenuous, but well done nevertheless, is the speculation around how Shakespeare may have drawn on his everyday life in order to write the plays. Previous attempts have been made, albeit on a grander scale, to prove that he was, for example, a seaman whose travels had given him access to the various locations featured in the plays. It takes less of a stretch to imagine Shakespeare incorporating at least some of his day-to-day experience into his works, for example his association with George Wilkins, nominally a victualler, in reality most likely a pimp and keeper of a bawdy house, which Nicholl contends could quite easily have formed the basis of the frolics in Measure For Measure.
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50 of 52 people found the following review helpful By Withnail67 TOP 1000 REVIEWER on 4 Jan 2008
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Wow. This book is an absolute peach, and kills stone dead the myth that `we know nothing of the real Shakespeare'. Nicholl has impeccable credentials as a student and textual detective of the 16th century literary underworld. If you have read and relished his book on the death of Christopher Marlowe `The Reckoning', you have some idea of the pacy narrative combined with careful scholarship that he deploys in the search for a glimmer of the real Shakespeare, located momentarily in time and place. `The Reckoning `won awards from aficionados of crime writing, and `The Lodger' is no different, providing literary history with a powerful narrative drive.

Nicholl starts with `Exhibit A': the testimony given by William Shakespeare, gentleman of Stratford upon Avon, in a tetchy law case involving his former landlords the Mountjoy family of Silver Street. The dispute about a promised dowry closely shadows plot elements of `Measure for Measure', and most tellingly of all, the deposition given by Shakespeare is our only record of his actual spoken words. From dusty archives comes the voice of a real man, rooted in the bustling London of the 1600s, and woven into the networks of literary and commercial relationships that surrounded him.

If you watched and enjoyed Michael Wood's series and book `In Search of Shakespeare' you have some idea of how the transcendent genius of Shakespeare becomes so much more human when placed in context. While the people surrounding the greatest writer in the English language are far from edifying individuals on the whole, they are powerfully human, flawed and fallible. Nicholl has shown how the actualities of 17th century life were turned into the most enduring dramatic and poetic art. He's done the Lodger of Silver Street a powerful service.
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful By N. DAVIES on 21 Aug 2011
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
The book benefits from an analysis of a civil court case that involved Shakespeare as a witness and the associated characters to trace the author's lodgings and the people he knew. It's an intriguing insight into Elizabethan times, where Shakespeare lived, who he associated with. You feel as if you are walking through the very London streets of Shakespeare's times.

Its shortcomings are its tedious descriptions of "tire making", the occupation of his landlord and landlady, and its needless obsession with the prostitution of the time. The "tire making", in particular, is tiresome and of no real relevance to Shakespeare. It's like writing a book on Churchill and finding he lodged with a gardener for a while so using that to justify analysing the internal workings of a lawnmower. Some justification for this is sought by finding any reference to "tire making" in the plays but it smacks of padding out a book that has little substantial material to work with at the start.

A worthwhile buy and read but not the landmark publication some critics have hyped it up to be.
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56 of 61 people found the following review helpful By D. Lentell on 28 Nov 2007
Format: Hardcover
It is a rare thing to find a book on the Bard which manages to locate the poet for all time in his own time. Last year James Shapiro's '1599' gave readers an insight into the political landscape during the final years of Tudor rule, now Charles Nicholl zooms in a little closer to Shakespeare's own habitat. 'Shakespeare on Silver Street' raises the bar again for scholars, identifying Shakespeare amidst London's tradesmen and artisans, the back bone of his literature and the society about which he wrote. Here is Shakespeare the economic migrant, spending his working life away from home as an actor, small businessman, and wordsmith. Here are the domestic surroundings in which he toiled far from home.

At the peak of his celebrity, Shakespeare lodged at the residence of Christopher Mountjoy, his wife, daughter and apprentice. The Mountjoys leased the house and ran their business in it, producing elaborate headpieces, "tires" to a fashionable clientele including Queen Anne. Nicholl describes the house on Silver Street as having been much like the Shakespeare birthplace in Stratford from where John Shakespeare ran his tanning and glove making shop. Both premises comprised a workshop as well as space for interaction with customers and family living space above.

Like Shapiro, Nicholl uses Shakespeare's writings to help illuminate this world and does not seek to impose a retrospective academic or ideological approach. It is as though animation has been given to Andrew Gurr's 'The Extraordinary Life of the Most Successful Writer of All Time'. The twist being that prior to his triumphant retirement to one of Stratford's largest residences, so much of Shakespeare's life was spent in very ordinary surroundings.
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