by Robert McCrum
Rated: 5 stars *****
Take a look at William Shakespeare as you’ve perhaps never seen him before. Robert McCrum has done a wonderful job in showing that Shakespeare is as relevant today in 2020 as he ever has been when he first picked up a quill and paper. If you’ve thought Shakespeare is too high-brow or just irrelevant, this is sure to make you think again as what we feel and see going on today, Shakespeare would understand, as shown through all the themes that are still universally acknowledged. This is a book that isn’t academic, it’s beautifully presented to be readable for everyone in a relaxed manner.
Thanks to Camilla Elworthy who invited me to review after seeing a tweet on my view of Shakespeare and how I too see him being relevant still for 2020 and beyond.
Follow through for the blurb and my full review.
Why do the collected works of an Elizabethan writer continue to speak to us as if they were written yesterday?
When Robert McCrum began his recovery from a life-changing stroke, described in My Year Off, he discovered that the only words that made sense to him were snatches of Shakespeare. Unable to travel or move as he used to, McCrum found the First Folio became his ‘book of life’, an endless source of inspiration through which he could embark on ‘journeys of the mind’, and see a reflection of our own disrupted times.
An acclaimed writer and journalist, McCrum has spent the last twenty-five years immersed in Shakespeare’s work, on stage and on the page. During this prolonged exploration, Shakespeare’s poetry and plays, so vivid and contemporary, have become his guide and consolation. In Shakespearean he asks: why is it that we always return to Shakespeare, particularly in times of acute crisis and dislocation? What is the key to his hold on our imagination? And why do the collected works of an Elizabethan writer continue to speak to us as if they were written yesterday?
Shakespearean is a rich, brilliant and superbly drawn portrait of an extraordinary artist, one of the greatest writers who ever lived. Through an enthralling narrative, ranging widely in time and space, McCrum seeks to understand Shakespeare within his historical context while also exploring the secrets of literary inspiration, and examining the nature of creativity itself. Witty and insightful, he makes a passionate and deeply personal case that Shakespeare’s words and ideas are not just enduring in their relevance – they are nothing less than the eternal key to our shared humanity.
Anyone with any interest or would like to start developing or has an interest in Shakespeare, this book is the perfect book for you. Even if you’ve thought that Shakespeare is a playwright that isn’t for today and wondering why we should bother with him, this book is perfect for you. This book could have the ability of removing any barriers a person has perceived to have about Shakespeare and to think of him in a whole new light as it captures him and ourselves as we live today in 2020. The book proves that if Shakespeare was an immortal human-being and not just, as he is now – immortal on the page, that he would have a great deal of understanding of what people are living through in 2020 and all the “chapters” and “themes” that run through our lives.
This book shows how relevant to the 21st century, Shakespeare was as he ever has been, ever since he put quill to paper. The themes are universal and the themes of life, love, politics, introspection, death have never changed throughout the centuries and the same goes for emotions. All still exists and appeals to today’s audiences. Robert McCrum expertly explores, through the modern world as well as his plays and sonnets, which are quoted throughout the book, why Shakespeare has become such an icon in Britain and across the world.
Shakespearean is erudite. It’s written in a gentle way, which is accessible to everyone in-terms of the language used. The author has shown exactly how the words from Shakespeare are as relevant today as they ever were by showing them within current situtations and how even the most famous of actors turn to Shakespeare when describing a very current occurance. That’s what makes this book exciting!
The book illustrates well, the timelessness of Shakespeare and tells of the great actors who have clamoured over getting the roles within films and theatres, especially The Globe Theatre. Then there’s also the highly successful TV comedy – Upstart Crow.
So many actors have been touched by Shakespeare’s work, right down to Fleabag’s creator – Pheobe Waller-bridge.
The way everything to do with Shakespeare is related to the modern world is done in a way that is most original. I’ve never seen anything written like this before. Robert McCrum’s passion shines through and this in turn, creates for a book that has a certain something special. It’s not done in a usual historian way. This is more like an informative conversation. It’s so relaxed in the way each chapter is presented. There’s nothing high-brow about the elegance of it all.
The mentioning of Shakespeare and Marlowe and what came after Marlowe’s death in Shakespeare’s work is fascinating!
The book is thought-provoking and the author also creates this in the middle of the book when he delves further into some of the plays, but again in this masterful accessible way, that will undoubtedly inspire some people to see a performance, when previously they thought it may not be for them as he explains Shakespeare’s language of the plays in a non-complex way.
It goes onto being insightful about how Americans view Shakespeare and about how their famous authors have studied his works, and shows the comparison in themes and the way they express them in their writing. It also shows how Shakespeare has influenced their musicals.
All in all, this is a book about Shakespeare I very highly recommend and do believe it could have you seeing his work in a whole different light.
5 thoughts on “#Bookreview by Lou – Shakespearean by Robert McCrum – Showing how Shakespeare is relevant for 2020 and beyond @CamillaElworthy @picadorbooks @panmacmillan”
Sounds great! I think a lot of people are put off Shakespeare when they study him at school. When you see a play on stage, what a difference. I’ve seen quite a few of the live streamings in cinema and they’re wonderful!
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Thanks Joanne. I think so too, which is why I think this book is so incredible. I’ve never seen the fact that Shakespeare is relevant today in the way it is put in this book.
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I have taught Shakespeare for nearly twenty years and my argument for his relevancy is that our emotions and responses to them have not changed much in 400 years. Students can’t argue with that.
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I’m sure your students will find it a very interesting and relevant book to them.
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