- Paperback: 256 pages
- Publisher: Penguin (27 May 2014)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0718195701
- ISBN-13: 978-0718195700
- Product Dimensions: 12.8 x 1.9 x 19.7 cm
- Average Customer Review: Be the first to review this item
- Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #83,259 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Shakespeare's Restless World Paperback – 27 May 2014
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About the Author
Neil MacGregor was Director of the National Gallery, London from 1987 to 2002 and of the British Museum from 2002 to 2015. His previous books include A History of the World in 100 Objects, Shakespeare's Restless World and Germany: Memories of a Nation, all available in Penguin and now between them translated into more than a dozen languages. In 2010, he was made a member of the Order of Merit, the UK's highest civil honour. He is now Chair of the Steering Committee of the Humboldt Forum in Berlin.
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Most helpful customer reviews on Amazon.com
You cannot do this in a museum, because you cannot read an essay while standing in front of a glass case. But the author of this book, Neil MacGregor, lets you know what it would be like if museums had armchairs. In a previous volume, "A History of the World in 100 Objects", he takes an object, say, a Korean roof tile 1,300 years old, and explains how a person of that period would have regarded it, what it meant in the context of its time.
He has done the same thing in "Shakespeare's World" with 20 objects from Shakespeare's time. An example is a silver medallion about 2½ inches in diameter, made in commemoration of Drake's circumnavigation of the earth in 1577-80, when Shakespeare was a teenager. In order to truly under this object, you have to know that Shakespeare lived when Europeans first began to understand the world in an entirely new way, a great round globe (one of his theaters was named "The Globe"), full of brave new worlds with strange and wondrous people in them. His plays are full of references to maps (Comedy of Errors), strange lands (The Tempest) and exotic foreigners (Othello, Shylock). To have lived in Shakespeare's time was to have begun to see the world in an entirely new way, just like for us the world changed when we saw images of the earth taken from space.
Another object is a communion cup. In order to understand this object you have to know that everyone was forced to drink from such cups in church and everyone had, by law, to go the church. It helps to know this when Claudius orders Hamlet to drink from a goblet, and when Gertrude refuses to obey him when he tells her not to.
Another object is a fork, an elegant and rare object lost by some rich person in the audience while watching a play. This signifies luxury, which is associated with Italy. This chapter contains information on Elizabethan foods, and explains what Falstaff's meal would have meant to the audience: "potatoes", rare and exotic, "kissing comfits", breath mints in a land of primitive dentistry, and "sea holly", an aphrodisiac.
The book helped me to better understand Shakespeare's world and his plays. I kept wondering, however, how the author had time to both run the British Museum, and also write such fascinating books.
I loved this book - an easy and delightful read.
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