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Interesting as a description of the environment and society of the time, but Shakespeare isn't to be found here, despite some of his very formal words of legal attestation. No, he's hardly a shadow on the wall or a murmur in the room next door. Some of his contemporaries are made more manifest. This is not a story, more of a text book or general account of our great bard's sojourn in London. The house, the street, everything, now swept away, tarmacked over. I dipped into the book - and still intend to browse it some more, but not the sort of book to grip you until finished.
I’d probably rate this about 3.5 overall, though it’s a bit of a mixed bag. On the one hand, I bought this book primarily to learn some more about Shakespeare, and he hardly features beyond cameos throughout. On the other, this is an incredibly well researched look at early seventeenth century London people and places, and is at times really fascinating. So, on balance, a very good book, but just not the book I was expecting. I did at times feel a little overwhelmed at the huge amount of information thrown at us, but I genuinely learnt a lot I was unaware of before. As I said, the research on this book was incredible, and the author deserves a lot of credit for that alone. Recommended.
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.
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.
While this book has interesting notes, it’s more like research material on the court case and less of a story. There’s a lot of background information but but it’s related to peripheral people and not Shakespeare himself. Kind of a let down!