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Well.... who was it then???
on 30 January 2014
I have either totally missed the point of this book or (not for want of trying) failed to see who exactly did murder William Shakespeare. This book is totally let down by it's constant repetition, suppositions and 'in depth insights' as to what the Bard really alluded to in his works.
This book would benefit greatly from a few family trees at the front as, everyone is related to everyone else and it becomes just a huge mass of people who were related to Shakespeare one way or another, or who could have " possibly" been out to get him, or been a component part in his death.
The one redeeming feature of this book is the explanation of the time that Shakespeare was living in, the executions of others for their beliefs, the court intrigue and the constant struggle for power within certain factions.
The Bibliography is impressive, but there are no allusions (footnotes) within the text to show that Stirling has indeed done his research and the Index is thin and painfully lacking.
The frustrating words of "possibly", " probably", "perhaps" and even the odd "maybe" are certainly overused and gives the reader less and less confidence in what they are reading as they go along.
The narrative is all over the place and when Stirling feels we may have perhaps lost our way he decides to repeat what he has said in former chapters, which is really annoying.
No real new insight into Shakespeare's life is really given here at all and the best bit in the book had nothing to do with William (or Will as Stirling often fondly calls him) but with King Christian of Denmark falling down in a drunken stupor!!
Obviously Ben Jonson kills him... because it is alluded to in a painting full of pointers that say so and also due to a skull that is found where it shouldn't be (also the fact that the skull is undersized - perhaps even childlike- kind of puts paid to this speculation) and because of the death mask(s) and consequent busts of Shakespeare. Seriously.... who would paint a man with swollen head injuries?? Didn't the painters of the day make their subjects look better than they really did?? Surely Ben Jonson would have been seriously implicated with Shakespeare's death before now if he really had left such clues behind.
There are too many holes in the argument to be considered for me and this book is padded out with so much repetition it makes me wonder if Stirling had an objective number of pages to meet.
As a wander through the times of Shakespeare's life this is an interesting book and as a debating tool this would be highly recommended. As a book on its own merit, it's difficult to read without getting lost, there are far too many "possibly" paragraphs and there are really odd placements of pictures in the books which allude to something the author chats about in following pages.
I found myself getting more and more frustrated as I read along. I would not recommend this book to anyone, unless I took the Bibliography as a study tool.
Stirling is cited as being an actor on the dust cover with an impressive 'study' of Shakespeare over 25 years. Good for him, lets hope his next offering (if indeed there ever is one) has a better editor and perhaps a publishing company that reads his book before printing it!!