Member Review


Pub Date:

Review by

Kate B, Educator

Last updated on 23 Oct 2017

I Recommend This Book


I'm a big fan of Catherine Arnold's approach to historical writing as she takes more of a novelistic approach to bring the past to life. I'm aware this isn't for everyone as it involves a degree of speculation about people's thoughts and motivations, plus possible events and meetings, but it works for me.  

I'm also a huge fan of Shakespeare; I'm an English teacher so he is pretty central to my own work! I thought I knew quite a lot about his time in London, but this has opened up my understanding of the era considerably. The book doesn't just focus on Shakespeare and the Globe, as I was expecting, but instead tackles a huge range of issues and concerns contemporary to Shakespeare's life. This book places him within the context of his peers, as well as the political sea changes that shaped theatre and the cultural landscape. It also highlights the financial wranglings and various allegiances that made theatre productions possible in an age beset by plague, treason and uncertainty; you get a real feel for the precarious nature of the times through Arnold's narrative.

The story wouldn't be complete without bringing the story up to date, which Arnold does by including the rise of Sam Wanamaker's Globe in the 1990s. This is where I felt the narrative lost some of its vibrancy, falling back on interviews with some of the people who made the new project possible.  It needed including, but it felt a slight ending to a fabulously engaging book (although I'm obviously extremely glad that we have the new Globe!)

Overall, this is an excellent evocation of Shakespeare's London that goes far beyond the walls of his most famous theatre.

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