History / Nonfiction

Shakespeare’s Restless World : a Portrait of an Era in Twenty Objects by Neil MacGregor

download (5)I’ve been hesitant to pick up one of these “history in objects” books because of my concern that it would be too disjointed, but since we are celebrating Shakespeare’s 450th birthday this month, I figured I would give it a go.  Shakespeare’s Restless World is not, in fact, a linear history.  However, it is so fascinating that I really didn’t care.  It’s like wandering through the Tudor/Jacobean wing of the British Museum and marveling at all the memorabilia on display.  That memorabilia includes a Rapier and Dagger from the Foreshore of the Thames, the Funeral Achievements of Henry V, and a Model of a Bewitched Ship.  MacGregor, the Director of the British Museum, puts each object into its historical context and explores its connection to one or more of Shakespeare’s plays.  As a reader with a fair knowledge of the plays and the period, I was able to contexualize the information. However, readers without that background might have some difficulty with the text.  All in all this is a great tribute to Shakespeare and a study of how British history and contemporary Elizabethan life impacted his plays.


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