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Being familiar with the plays but not an academic, I have ummed and ahhed for ages about reading a book on Shakespeare, as there is an overwhelming amount. I took the plunge on this one and have no hesitation in recommending it on to others. The book is as much about the life of London and the people around Shakespeare, as of the man himself. Through intelligent guesswork rather than unfounded speculation Charles Nicholl manages to show how this city and society could have influenced Shakespeare's writing. Springing from a single record of Shakepeare's own words in a court case, it continually blossoms out logically, without being annoyingly contrived, into vivid impressions of London and its inhabitants. It examines aspects such as of the law, homes, trades, fashion and immigrants, taking in the intrigues and detail of high and low life, as well as the world of the theatre. The view reveals itself to be a many sided gem, rather than a snap-shot. Just as Shakespeare's plays are woven with ambiguity, it doesn't matter that The Lodger doesn't give the black and white `truth'. We can never know that. What the book does give is a credible and intriguing idea of what might have been. It is also beautifully read by Gareth Armstrong.
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