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Format: Audio CD|Vine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
I`m sure I`m not the only reviewer here who consistently manages to miss many of the fine documentary programmes the BBC broadcast; having heard good things about Neil MacGregor`s previous series, I leapt at this 4 CD set - another typically well produced and fascinating release, this time applying the "object" concept to the understanding of the world of Shakespeare's audience, both in terms of the objects themselves and the theatre of the day.
Not surprisingly, the 20 episodes cover a lot of subject matter, from religion, trade and social history to affairs of state and the Union of Crowns. I concur with those other reviewers who have lamented the lack of complete illustrations of the objects discussed; they can be viewed online, but it seems somewhat irrational to present visual material in this medium. MacGregor does a good job in his descriptions and we are quickly moved on to the greater meanings of the object under scrutiny, but even so... it's so much easier to have some tangible image to relate to.
The 15 minute format is very helpful in that it reduces what is, after all, a very rich area of study into easily digestible chunks of history; inevitably some topics will fascinate more than others, but this is a series worth revisiting at leisure.
Despite the visual shortcomings, the series still presents an enjoyable and engrossing insight into Shakespearian England and its place on the world stage as perceived by its people, initiated by 20 items which could be easily overlooked in a museum setting.
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on 22 January 2013
Format: Hardcover|Vine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
I thoroughly enjoyed the epic History of the World in 100 Objects series on the radio, and this followed the same formula, looking at aspects of the past by examining artefacts - some precious, some ordinary - from various museum collections.

The book's radio origins are obvious - it does read at times in a very conversational style, and the chapter endings are very much "and in the next episode..." in tone, but it does make for easy and engaging reading. The illustrations are lavish and clear, with simple close up photography of the artefacts.

The artefacts themselves are an interesting selection, from beautiful silver and glassware to the more mundane, such as a woollen cap. Each item is used to introduce a topic and to explore the history of the Shakespearean period and - to some extent - the nuances of the play texts.

Although I have studied Shakespeare in his cultural context before, and I was aware of some of the issues, there was much new to me to discover in the text. I did sometimes want more depth, but as a novel approach and introduction to Shakespearean times, this is a good read.
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VINE VOICEon 25 July 2012
Format: Audio CD|Vine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
I also was a fan of Neil MacGregor's History of the World in 100 Objects and while this Radio 4 series is only about 20 objects, he concentrates here on the time of William Shakespeare, his plays and the audience who watched them.
As with the previous series, this is delivered in MacGregor's quiet and gentle method, though the stories can be anything but that! The plays dealt with historical stories, but also echoed the religious and political wrangling of the time whether directly or in subtext. The descriptions are enhanced with exracts from Shakespeare's plays as well as more information from historical experts. I found each fifteen minute episode idea for day to day commuting in my car.
I also agree that a explanation of the track listing as well as a full photographic list of the objects would have been helpful, but MacGregor details each object so finely you can almost picture it in your mind. Also, as mentioned before, the items as well as the `listen again' episodes themselves are available on the BBC website so you can sample before you buy.

I look forward to what the Director of the British Museum rings us next!
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VINE VOICEon 26 July 2012
Format: Audio CD|Vine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
I missed this when it was first broadcast early in 2012, so jumped at the chance to own all episodes in one place. This is a real gem. A close relation to A History of the World in 100 Objects (BBC Audio) - its little brother, maybe? Neil Macgregor seems to have the knack of perfectly describing objects and events so as to render visuals unnecessary. Listening to these programmes makes me want to read more and hear more about the times in which Shakespeare lived and certainly taught me a great deal about that period of history. There are choice quotes and intelligent, intelligible explanations of situations and the circumstances under which certain plays were written along with perfectly eloquent descriptions of contemporary objects.
Really great stuff. More please!
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VINE VOICEon 19 September 2012
Format: Audio CD|Vine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
This set of 5 audio CDs is a complete recording of the recent BBC Radio 4 series which explores the time of Shakespeare through a number of unusual objects. For those familiar with similar shows, this is in the same vein as. "A history of the world in 100 objects". Each episode is around 20 min long and covers various themes such as clothing, voyages of discovery, witchcraft and religion and politics. Absolutely fascinating for anyone wishing to have a deeper understanding of the milieu which produced Shakespeare and the things that his audience would have recognised in his plays which the modern reader might not pick up on. Highly recommended!
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Format: Audio CD|Vine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
This 4CD "pack" is the complete series of 20 programmes of the radio 4 series. I have enjoyed re listening to these radio progammes in the car on the way. These CD's take the listening back to the time of Shakespear. I have found them very interesting, what comes across so much to me is that the people who lived in this time were real people they had lives - interests and the like. This is the first time I have really thought of this.

Good transfer - the sound is clear. A great buy for any interested in history.
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VINE VOICEon 11 February 2014
Format: Hardcover|Vine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
I love Shakespeare and have studied him at University and that is the reason I brought this book. Neil MacGregor is a really well-known and competent author and historian but for some reason I just couldn't get into this book.
It wasn't bad, don't get me wrong! The writing is fantastic and informative, the pictures clear and the chosen objects interesting in the context of Shakespeare's life. I know from other reviews that this is a hugely successful and well loved book and i'm not trying to offend anyone with this review, just personally I found it really hard to engage with and it took me ages to complete the book. I tended to just read a bit at time I would just occasionally dip into a chapter when I had time or a particular interest. Thankfully due to how the book was set out this was totally possible.
I do think though anyone who loves history and has a particular interest in the late fifteenth/ early sixteenth would love this book.
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The author is attempting to do a number of things in this book. He is trying to use 20 objects to tell us something about early Jacobean England and link those objects to Shakespeare and his life and works. The objects he chooses are designed to give us an overview of what life was like in the early seventeenth century so they have to be chosen carefully given how few artefacts of the time remain. He is not always completely successful in this - at times the links between Shakespeare, the object and Jacobean life are not all as strong as each other. I wouldn't let this stop you reading this book, however, as there is so much to enjoy in what he does present here.

I have a working knowledge of Shakespeare's plays and of the history of this time but I found that I learned plenty from this book whilst being very entertained whilst reading it. I think that the book was particularly successful in showing us how ordinary people were affected by the death of Elizabeth and the advent of King James and what they had to fear from the powerplay.

The objects that the author chooses (there are photographs of them all in the paperback book I own) include a model ship, sketches for a possible union flag, a bowl, a coin and a sword. There are more pictures and texts than actual objects but all of them are very different. There are twenty objects and fewer than 200 pages of text in my edition so there isn't a lot of time spent on each one but in every chapter the author looks to get a reference to Shakespeare's life, something that affected ordinary people and quotations from the plays.

I really enjoyed this book. It gave me a picture of life at the time and linked it to the plays which I love. It is obviously not an all encompassing history of Shakespeare, his works or the seventeenth century (there is a good bibliography if you want to read further) but it isn't superficial - there is lots for the general reader to learn here and the book is written in a clear and informative manner.
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VINE VOICEon 22 November 2012
Format: Hardcover|Vine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
Dr Neil MacGregor, the Director of the British Museum, who produced the broadcasting and publishing success story History of the World in 100 Objects, has turned his attention to the artefacts of the world of William Shakespeare.

In so doing he explores not only the background and purpose of each object but also the rich tapestry of life, society and dramatic events surrounding Shakespeare at that time. These in itself range from the extraordinary, to the fascinating but they are never dull. Dr MacGregor has not only intelligently placed the words of Shakespeare into each tale, but also the relevance and context to the Elizabethan world to his work.

There are twenty objects spanning twenty five years of the life of Shakespeare and consist of for example Drake's circumnavigation medal, 'snacking through Shakespeare,' tells the story of a brass handled iron fork from the Rose theatre, Dr Dee's magical mirror, and 'sex and the city' is the title of a story about a goblet from Venice.

The book is a treasure trove of history, ideas, culture and is a 'must have' for anyone interested in Shakespeare and his world.

Dr MacGregor, has created a first rate, highly readable book, which brings history alive and should receive a wide audience. Highly recommended.
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VINE VOICEon 21 March 2013
Format: Hardcover|Vine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
Neil MacGregor's book follows a similar format to his `A History of the World in 100 objects' and is of course based on his radio series. It is an attractive and interesting book, absorbing in setting Shakespeare, the man and playwright, as well as his plays, in their national and international context. The objects which appear in the book originate in the British Museum exhibition focussing on Shakespeare's `Staging the World' and they are fascinating.

MacGregor argues that `objects do what textual criticism cannot' and there is some truth in the statement, in that they add another dimension to our knowledge and perception of the times the plays were written and sometimes their context too. I do think, however, that MacGregor at times is too free with the text as there are some mistakes which could easily have been checked, both in the plays and in the historical context. To that extent this book which is aimed at the general reader rather than the scholar sometimes does its audience a disservice. One example which could be given is the assertion that in `Richard III' the king personally kills the princes. In fact he delegates this task to others.

This is not to be too critical of the book which is always very interesting if not always strictly accurate. As much as anything else I enjoyed dipping into it and reading chapters out of order. I particularly enjoyed the chapter on Ireland and the question of why only one Irishman ever appears in Shakespeare's plays.
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