Sunday, August 23, 2015

Shakespeare's Restless World

Shakespeare's Restless World: A Portrait of an Era in Twenty ObjectsShakespeare's Restless World: A Portrait of an Era in Twenty Objects by Neil MacGregor
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

The author captures an era by presenting his reader with twenty objects from Shakespeare's world, ranging from the gaudy to the gory. You learn about the savage persecution of England's Roman Catholics, that it was treason to wonder out loud who would replace Queen Elizabeth after her death and that the smoke from tobacco, an import from the New World, was thought to ward off the plague.  Each chapter stands by itself, so the reader can pick out the object that interests him most and read about that. Chapter Twenty is as good a place to start as any. "Shakespeare Goes Global" describes how close the world came to not having any copies of Shakespeare's plays, and also how a copy of The Complete Works of Shakespeare sustained the prisoners--including Nelson Mandela-- in South Africa's notorious Robben Island prison.

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