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50 of 52 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Face in the Crowds of Jacobean London
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...
Published on 4 Jan 2008 by Withnail67

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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Interesting but padded
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...
Published on 21 Aug 2011 by N. DAVIES


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5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars, 5 July 2014
By 
H. Newman (london UK) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: The Lodger: Shakespeare on Silver Street (Paperback)
Great item
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4.0 out of 5 stars Fascinating insights into Elizabethan London, 17 Oct 2013
By 
J. Garbutt - See all my reviews
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This review is from: The Lodger: Shakespeare on Silver Street (Paperback)
I bought this book as I am currently researching a fairly obscure Elizabethan philanthropist who also live on Silver Street shortly after Shakespeare. So I thought I would be obliged to trawl through a rather academic work in order to find some useful information.
But this book as a delight -well written, meticulously researched [as far as I can tell] and the short chapters are all helpfully focussed on one or two points, making it an easy reference book.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Fascinating stuff, 6 Aug 2013
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This review is from: The Lodger: Shakespeare on Silver Street (Paperback)
Much less dark than his wonderful book on Marlowe, this is wonderful in a very different way. There are fascinating details of Shakespeare's life and milieu, with perceptive suggestions of possible connections between that life and the writings that came out of it. This book is beautifully written too.
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3.0 out of 5 stars Well researched, 4 Sep 2012
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It is difficult to lift the lid on any part of Shakespeare's life, but here a small corner is turned up to give us something of the man's life in London. One for the scholar's library.
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3.0 out of 5 stars Putting Shakespeare in a domestic context, 10 July 2012
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An interesting analysis of the locality in which Shakespeare probably passed some of the most productive years of his play-writing career, reconstructed from painstaking analysis of a variety of records.
Nicholl, perhaps best known for his previous work, "The Reckoning", an account of the events leading to the death of Christopher Marlowe, has an engaging writing style which quickly grabs and holds the reader's attention. I do think that he might be slightly guilty of leaping to conclusions for which there is not really enough supporting evidence, but his story never lacks for interest.
More than anything else, I think that this book serves to demonstrate the very delicate strands of luck on which hang our knowledge of Shakespeare's work and existence. We only have six examples of his signature (two of which are on depositions that he made in the case of Belott v Mountjoy, the civil case which is at the centre of Nicholl's book, and it is only because of the act of homage by some of his fellow playwrights that the Folio edition of his plays was published at all. As that edition contains the only surviving text of several of his plays we would otherwise have had no knowledge of the man, and scant evidence of his work.
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5.0 out of 5 stars As good as books of this kind get, 23 Nov 2011
By 
J. I. De Beresford "safemouse" (Farnham) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: The Lodger: Shakespeare on Silver Street (Paperback)
We should be turning the screws on every last scrap of contemporary information we have about Shakespeare, yet a lot of what is forensically examined here here has been dismissed or not even recognised as evidence by numerous biographers. Nicholl doesn't underestimate the value of small clues, and writes exactly the kind of book I wanted to read,given what we know. It isn't the disappointing series of overly speculative what ifs you get from the lesser Shakespeare biographies, but a winsome series of minor victories in the scholarly struggle to make the writer of the plays we know further connect with a man named William Shakespeare who was born in Stratford in 1564. (The premise of the book isn't to settle authorship, but it certainly dents Oxfordian assumptions a number of times). We are introduced to people Shakespeare knew and know what sort of dealings he had with them and they are not the usual suspects I've read about so many times. We read how living with the Mountjoys and associating with the writer and pandar George Wilkins in those times may have impacted his art. For example,in 1604 Shakespeare presided over a hand fasting. The only hand fasting central to any of his plays is one in a play called Measure for Measure, which received its first known performance in 1604. The hand fasting was an invented plot element not taken from the source he based his story on. As for Mr Wilkins, well, you'll have to read the book. Of course, these bare facts in themselves do not a five star biography make. It's Nicholl's relentless turn of the screw that does. It's not a perfect book, but the ratings system is approximate.
Charles does make one or two obvious errors. He acknowledges John Fletcher wrote Henry VIII with Shakespeare but then immediately talks about one of Fletcher's scenes as if Shakespeare had written it. The line about 'quarrels, talk and tailors' is probably not by William, in my view. The second point is perhaps not to observe that Shakespeare was most likely a Catholic living in a land where Catholics were persecuted living with Calvinists (albeit probably not particularly devout) who had come from a land where protestants were persecuted. A paradox that would probably have appealed to Shakespeare, reflects his ability to see things from two sides and perhaps gave him some cover from the secret police. Of course this book probably contains wrong turnings which will be weeded out as the scholarship marches on, sifting whatever we can find weighing it against what we think we know. But I found it to be a thoroughly worthwhile read and look forward to what more can be dug up. I'd like to know more of the litigation and disputes we have from people in that area at that time to see if it can shed any further light.
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4.0 out of 5 stars An extremely good read, but not serving all the food for thought, 18 July 2011
By 
Lars Kaaber (Copenhagen) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: The Lodger: Shakespeare on Silver Street (Paperback)
I was tremedously thrilled with Nicholl's well-written book about Shakespeare in Silver Street, and it scrutinizes an impressive amount of sources from the lesser-known parts of Shakespeare's life, but I must agree with TLS reviewer Katherine Duncan-Jones that Nicholls ends in some not-quite digested conclusions.

The book reads almost like a Dan Brown mystery (but is far better researched and infintely more trustworthy, of course), but it struck me that with the biographical material presented - and it is extensive - the author might as well have come up with alternative answers. Nicholls guesses at Shakespeare's fascination with the beautiful French immigrant Marie Mountjoy and her pretty daughter Mary, married to the upright young Stephen Belott, and he casts Christopher Mountjoy as the villain who refuses to pay the dowry of the match in which Shakespeare acted as go-between.

Nicholls takes a statement from one of Belott's friends - that Shakespeare had indeed witnessed Old Mountjoy promising the dowry - for gospel truth, and ends by deploring Shakespeare's eventual support of the old miser and house tyrant. There is no further foray from Nicholls into the possible motives of Mountjoy (although it strikes me that his statement that he would rot in prison rather than pay up testifies to his feeling of a righteous cause). I was expecting some conjectures from Nicholls (who guesses a lot, as he is entitled to) that old Mountjoy had discovered that Mary was not his biological daughter, but no such guesses are presented.

I therefore agree with Katherine Duncan-Jones that the book might benefit from some additions in its second run, but all the same, such as it is, it is a riveting read.
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5.0 out of 5 stars The Lodger:Shakespeare on Silver Street, 7 Dec 2010
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Mrs. Shirley Mungapen (UK) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: The Lodger: Shakespeare on Silver Street (Paperback)
The book by Charles Nicholl offers an exciting insight into William Shakespeare's life when he was lodging in London near Bishopsgate area. It follows the discovery early in the last century of a document listing Shakespeare as witness in a court case. The author has investigated all records he could find and gives a full and interesting picture of Shakespeare's life amongst the French immigrant community of Hugenots. He gives us some beautiful insights into the poet's writing in some of his major plays, how life around him influenced him visually. he quotes the lines from MacBeth: "Sleep. that knits the unravelled sleave of care..." explains its true meaning and spelling of sleave. There are several other beautiful and touching instances, one would like Nicholls to go through Shakespeare's works and explain much more.A good background to Shakespeare's life and times-even the predjudice against immigrants brings us up to date today. Shirley Mungapen.
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2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Readable history (and some speculation), 6 Mar 2009
By 
Andrew Walker "Andrew Walker" (Glasgow, Scotland) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: The Lodger: Shakespeare on Silver Street (Paperback)
This book focuses on events in Silver Street, close to the site of the modern Museum of London, early in the seventeenth century. A civil court case adjudicating competing claims about an alleged breach of a promise included as a witness a lodger in the household involved, one William Shakespeare. From this seemingly unpromising the author spins a book containing extra-marital sex, money, crime, royalty, immigration and high fashion. Charles Nicholl has investigated every strand, starting from the details of the court case, the business of the family involved, the background and part of the character of those involved, the streets in which the events occurred, the society in which this took place. The level of detail is extraordinary but the story is skilfully told: the only sections that dragged at all for me were the details of the particular part of the fashion industry (tiremaking) in which the family worked. However, since the chapters are usually providing more detail on one aspect there is no problem skipping to the next chapter without losing the plot.
The way the author avoids this becoming a dry factual text is by filling in the gaps: the phrases "it is plausible that" and "it can't be ruled out that" feature a lot. Generally it seemed clear to me when Nicholl was speculating, allowing me to judge how likely each speculation was. I particularly enjoyed the speculation about how the events in real life influenced Shakespeare's plays.
The least interesting part was probably the interminable lists of people connected with other people who knew other people who knew ... someone in the court case. I realise the author is making links (indeed, some of the only links that CAN be made at 400 years distance). What was missing to pull this together (or put it in context) was a chapter about social networking at the time, the way society and business worked. As it was, I found it hard to keep track of all the characters - I felt sure the author has a sheet of A3 with incredibly detailed and complex notes on it, but this didn't translate to easy reading.
Overall, however, I really enjoyed the insights and speculations of this book, written in a very enjoyable way. I am not a Shakespearean scholar in any sense so I can't vouch for the accuracy or originality of the material presented. My only other memorable insight into the life of Shakespeare was from the evocative but fictional film "Shakespeare in Love". I felt this book recaptured the atmosphere of that film, and got me as close to Shakespeare and his world as it was possible to do some 400 years later.
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16 of 27 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Shakespeare the Lodger, Nicholl the Dodger, 30 Dec 2008
By 
John Fitzpatrick (São Paulo, Brazil) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: The Lodger: Shakespeare on Silver Street (Paperback)
Some years ago I read two books by Charles Nicholl called "The Fruit Palace" and "Borderlines" about trips he made to Colombia and Thailand, respectively, and did not believe a word of either. They were over-the-top accounts of drugs, travels, precious stones, cliché mystery characters such as a red-haired Scotsman called McGregor living an unfathomable existence in the South American jungle. I later read his book about the murder of Christopher Marlow "The Reckoning" and was equally unimpressed. Once again, there was a decisive absence of hard facts and a lot of smoke and shadows.
I should have learned my lesson but I was foolish enough to buy The Lodger recently which, according to the Guardian, "ranks among the finest books about Shakespeare's life". This is hype of the highest degree. This book centres on a civil court case which took place in London in 1612 at which Shakespeare gave evidence. Based on a few of his statements, scribbled, at times illegibly, by the court clerk, Nicholl has tried to construct a whole narrative which is based on such a feeble foundation, i.e. the absence of facts, that it unravels within the first few pages. Instead, we have plenty of familiar quotes from the plays, lots of references to Marlow, banal observations, supposition on supposition and politically correct attempts to put 17th century London into a 21st century context e.g. describing Huguenot refugees as the "boat people" of their time. Pages and pages go by without even any reference to Shakespeare. It is also padded out with around 70 pages of court documents left in the Elizabethan spelling.
How I longed for Anthony Burgess's lively novel about Shakespeare "Nothing Like the Sun" after trudging through this.
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The Lodger: Shakespeare on Silver Street
The Lodger: Shakespeare on Silver Street by Charles Nicholl (Paperback - 3 July 2008)
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