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on 26 August 2013
This book looks at the life and times of William Shakespeare, his closet Catholicism and his use of his plays to criticise the regimes of both Elizabeth 1st and James 1st. It also discovers the skull of the bard, not in Stratford but in a small village a few miles away. The skull bears the marks of the weapon that killed him.

After his death various events led to his wrongful portrayal as a Protestant. His real life was largely suppressed thus preventing us from understanding the messages he was trying to convey by his writings.

I thoroughly recommend this book as a really good read. It gives new and refreshingly perceptive insights into the works he produced and the events in his lifetime that prompted him to write them.
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on 14 April 2014
In the absence of detailed or conclusive documentation passing down to scholars regarding the precise causes and circumstances of Shakespeare's death, and whether we ask 'what' or 'who' killed him; from fever to drunken bout or, indeed, murder, I simply enjoyed Simon Stirling's interpretation for the refreshing 'selection' of detail surrounding the domestic circumstances of the playwright; in so far as we have knowledge enough to reconstruct, with the best approximation to reality, his life both in Stratford-Upon-Avon and in London.
This, together with extant anecdotal observation from WS's contemporaries and immediate successors, tended to remove for me the temptation to join those who would deify the playwright; something of which I was guilty for many years after my first rather artificial introduction to Twelfth Night when I was first 'crammed' as a schoolboy for my 'baptism' in the end-of-year examinations.
It was interesting to consider that many have considered the playwright "... brilliant 'because' he was invisible..." in terms of the lack of documentation (other than that reflected by the consistency of his own writing style and depth of observation through his dramatis personae) but for me his plays and poetry, themselves, are their own testimony.
Whether Shakespeare was, in his own words, "... no more..." after all his "...strutting and fretting his hour upon the stage..." because of a fever, a disease, a bout of heavy drinking or the victim of murder, still, for me, the contribution which "Who Killed William Shakespeare? The Murderer, the Motive, the Means " seems to make is also in the 'controversy' which a reading of the book generates. In this light, I could focus the more clearly on the man, whose writing could capture so many of the follies and failures, weaknesses and strengths, depravity and dignity, fears and hopes of men and women centuries before and - no doubt - for centuries to come.
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on 23 October 2013
This is more than just a book, the meticulous research turns it into a mystery, an adventure and a tutorial. I see this as a real teaching aid where the discussion points are fascinating enough to involve a whole class. There is a definite mental block regarding Shakespeare because the language and the politics of the time are not properly represented, this book corrects that omission. Highly recommended for both the scholar and those who love a mystery.Shakespeare's Cuthbert
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on 8 March 2014
An unputdownable ripping yarn of 'why-and-how-dunnit' because we know 'who' from quite early inthe tale. Simon Andrew Stirling wears his thoroughly researched scholarship with ease making this book eminently readable. He gives us a rich and lively context for Shakespeare's life and death; the dodgy dealings, corrupt politicians, double-crossing spies, the jealousies and intricate love lives of the main protagonists. Stirling draws our attention to the covert codes embedded in Shakespeare's writings revealing the political and religious controversies of the late 16th early 17th centuries, and brings to live a modern man juggling his work -writing and performing- with property deals, finances, family, friends and enemies, a man we can recognize and whose untimely violent death we must all regret.
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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!!
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on 12 January 2015
Brilliant book and a great read also came very quick thank you ******
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on 25 December 2014
Nice quality book. Hard to read.
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on 24 September 2013
A very good insight into the political and religious machinations of the Tudor period but I'm not convinced of it's primary argument.
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on 3 January 2017
all ok
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