Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Shakespeare’s Restless World: A Portrait of an Era in Twenty Objects


Today’s nonfiction book review is on Shakespeare’s Restless World: A Portrait of an Era in Twenty Objects by Neil MacGregor. It is 320 pages long including a bibliography, references, picture credits, and an index. It is published by Viking Press. The cover is white with of the objects on it and the title in red.  The intended reader is someone who is interested in history. There is no language, no sex but violence is discussed because of the time period. There Be Spoilers Ahead.

From the dust jacket- We feel we know Shakespeare’s characters. Think of Hamlet trapped in indecision or Macbeth with his burning ambition or Cleopatra and her obsessive infatuation. They are so vital, so alive and real, that we see aspects of ourselves in them. But their world was nothing like our own.
In this brilliant work of historical reconstruction, Neil MacGregor brings us twenty objects that capture the essence of Shakespeare’s world. Together they transport us to that pivotal moment when politics, science, religion, even the basic facts of geography, all had to be rethought. This was when modern man and woman- questioning, self-conscious, committed to their beliefs but curious to discover the world- came into being.
A medal forged to commemorate Sir Francis Drake’s circumnavigation of the world invites us to imagine what it felt like to witness the age of exploration. A Communion cup captures the most sacred and divisive act in Christendom at a time when Catholics and Protestants were at one another’s throats. A bestselling manual for murder testifies to the perils of kingship, and a dagger and rapier remind us that questions of honor were often determined by the sword.
“Napoleon famously said that, to understand a man, you need to understand the world when he was twenty years old,” MacGregor writes in his introduction. For the men and women who grew up in Shakespeare’s time, daily life was exhilaratingly uncertain. This magnificent book, illustrated with color photographs throughout, invites you to touch, smell and feel what life was like when humankind leap into the modern world.

Review- I loved this book. It was so easy to read and fun. I read MacGregor’s first book and so when I saw that he had a new book out I grabbed it. MacGregor has an easy way with words and he helps the reader to truly understand why he chooses the objects that he did. The objects chosen range from a pedlar’s trunk that helped a Catholic priest tend to his flock to a beautiful and big indoor clock. There was so much more going on in Shakespeare’s time than I was aware of. Shakespeare’s work is of course timeless but to know more about the world that he was living in helps to understand the way that Shakespeare thought. MacGregor does that and so much more in this book. He explains the politics, the inventions, and way that religion was changing a this time between the dark ages and the age of enlightenment. I highly recommend this book.

I give this book a Five out of Five stars. I get nothing for my review and I borrowed this book from my local library.