I was never a fan of Shakespeare’s works. I have never been. Either at school or later. Most of the time it was only the movies through which I discovered Shakespeare or through a play here and there, which I really wanted to read. Besides that I did not care much about the guy. However, after reading, “Shakespeare’s Restless World” by Neil MacGregor, maybe I will read all his works after all. I might even reread some works just to understand more about the times he lived in and to put everything in context with the book I just finished reading.
“Shakespeare’s Restless World” as the title suggests is all about the world and the times in which The Bard lived. The twist in the tale is that MacGregor talks of Shakespeare’s times and worlds through twenty objects. At this stage, I must also mention that MacGregor is the director of The British Museum, so getting hold of these objects must have been pretty easy for him. Having said that, what worked most for me was the premise of the book. It is unique in its approach. It also at the same time cannot be categorized as a “history read” because though it is that in some parts, at others it is very different. It speaks to us about the times gone by, the objects and their meaning in those times and how Shakespeare finally has emerged to be a world-wide phenomenon.
The reason I loved this book is it is but obviously written differently and at the same time, it is not a boring read at all. It makes you want to know more. After all what could be the relation between a fork (not invented in England) and Shakespeare? What could be the connection between swords and battles and the plays as written by the man? To what extent was he influenced by his world and the objects around him? I also cannot stop gushing about the book. In fact, at a point, I also went back and reread my favourite parts.
The book is written in a superb manner. There are parts that are funny and parts that are not so. The objects picked are so unique and that is the major point of the book. The vivid description of the objects (along with a lot of pictures – so please do not read this on an E-reader) adds to the writing and how the influences came about. “Shakespeare’s Restless World” is a unique read of how the socio-economic structure, the religious turmoil, the rampant diseases, sex even, lead to Shakespeare’s plays and their writing and how influenced he was by the world around him. A must read for history and Shakespeare fans.