In the year that we celebrate 400 years of Shakespeare, Catharine Arnold’s book brings to life the London that Shakespeare would have known in vivid detail. 

As the author rightly points out in her introduction, very little is known about William Shakespeare and his life so in order to write about him, you need a different perspective.

What better perspective than to discover the city where he spent much of his time as an actor and playwright, but seeing it through his eyes as opposed to through a lot of over-analysis as though the narrator is at a distance.

Arnold joyfully takes readers through the sights and smells that would have greeted William Shakespeare as he entered London for the very first time, but equally giving a detailed backstory of theatre in general and the problems it faced in terms of finance and the constant shutting down of theatres because of the constant outbreaks of the plague.

The tone of voice that Arnold uses is friendly and informative, which is perfect if you don’t tend to read history books but want to learn more about the past. The way in which she is also able to blend narratives together – the individual stories of Shakespeare and other writers such as Christopher Marlowe –  is also admirable and fascinating to read about.

This particular angle that Arnold has taken allows us to see Shakespeare’s London as he saw it and mentions in his work. The author has carefully selected the quotes from his plays and shaped her thoughts around them – which is a refreshing outlook on a man who has had a number of books written about him in the last 400 years. Not only does it allow the reader to get a glimpse of what Shakespeare was thinking as he wrote, without analysing every line (as you tend to get forced to do in school) but rather taking the quotation as a whole, but it gives a great insight into the society in which he lived in.

For anyone wanting to learn more about Shakespeare and his world, then look no further!

Globe: Life in Shakespeare’s London by Catharine Arnold is available to buy now.

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