The Lodger Shakespeare: His Life on Silver Street

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Acclaimed author Charles Nicholl presents a brilliantly drawn detective story with entirely new insights into Shakespeare's life.In 1612, William Shakespeare gave evidence in a court case at Westminster; it is the only occasion on which his actual spoken words were recorded. The case seems routine—a dispute over an unpaid marriage dowry—but it opens an unexpected window into the dramatist's famously obscure life. Using the court testimony as a springboard, acclaimed nonfiction writer Charles Nicholl examines ...
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The Lodger Shakespeare: His Life on Silver Street

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Overview


Acclaimed author Charles Nicholl presents a brilliantly drawn detective story with entirely new insights into Shakespeare's life.In 1612, William Shakespeare gave evidence in a court case at Westminster; it is the only occasion on which his actual spoken words were recorded. The case seems routine—a dispute over an unpaid marriage dowry—but it opens an unexpected window into the dramatist's famously obscure life. Using the court testimony as a springboard, acclaimed nonfiction writer Charles Nicholl examines this fascinating period in Shakespeare's life. With evidence from a wide variety of sources, Nicholl creates a compelling, detailed account of the circumstances in which Shakespeare lived and worked during the time in which he wrote such plays as Othello, Measure for Measure, and King Lear. The case also throws new light on the puzzling story of Shakespeare's collaboration with the hack author and violent brothel owner George Wilkins. In The Lodger Shakespeare we see the playwright in the daily context of a street in Jacobean London: "one Mr. Shakespeare," lodging in the room upstairs. Nicholl is one of the great historical detectives of our time and in this atmospheric and exciting book he has created a considerable rarity—something new and original about Shakespeare.
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Editorial Reviews

Michael Dirda
…readers, especially those with a taste for historical detection, will simply enjoy the way Nicholl recreates "the physical and cultural circumstances" of one brief and strange period in Shakespeare's life.
—The Washington Post
William Grimes
The Lodger Shakespeare, resting on a solid foundation of teased-out biographical details, opens a window onto Jacobean London and the swirl of sights and sensations that surrounded Shakespeare and inevitably found their way into his plays. From a mere handful of dry facts embedded in an obscure lawsuit, Mr. Nicholl brings forth a gaudy, tumultuous, richly imagined world.
—The New York Times
Publishers Weekly

Nicholl, winner of a Hawthornden Prize forArthur Rimbaud in Africa, re-creates the physical and cultural circumstances of the two-year period of 1603-1605 when Shakespeare, around 40 and at the peak of his profession, was a lodger in the home of a sexually lax Huguenot family who provided raw material for All's Well That Ends Welland other works. At the center of events is a 1612 lawsuit about a dowry unpaid by Shakespeare's former London landlord to his son-in-law. The landlord, Christopher Mountjoy, despite his success as a maker of women's decorative headwear, was a stingy man who withheld his daughter's dowry; after his wife's death, he was censured by church elders for fathering two bastards by his maid. Shakespeare may have played a larger role in the drama, persuading the reluctant bridegroom, who was Mountjoy's apprentice, to marry the daughter in the first place. While details of early Jacobean London are atmospheric, placing Shakespearean works into historical context, Nicholl's determination to sort out the biographical truths in Shakespeare's plays waxes tedious, and only the Bard's cultish devotees will care about the minutiae of headgear and wigs or the Mountjoy lawsuit. For the rest, it's much ado about nothing. 36 illus.(Feb. 4)

Copyright 2007 Reed Business Information
From the Publisher
"The prose moves steadily along, eschews gush, jargon and digression, and generally inspires confidence. This is the voice of a man who knows his stuff. A pro." —-The Washington Post
Library Journal
01/01/2014
In 1612, Shakespeare testified in a court case involving other residents of the boarding house in which he lived. Beginning with this rare documentary evidence of Shakespeare's personal life, Nicholl dives into the details of the case, describing the other lodgers and the surrounding world of early 17th-century London, from its homeowners and tradesmen to its thieves and prostitutes. While often more a portrait of London than a biography of Shakespeare, this compelling book offers a great array of details about life in the city.
The Barnes & Noble Review
At first glance, this book's premise hardly seems book-worthy. In 1612, Stephen Belott, feeling cheated out of his dowry, brought a suit against his father-in-law, Christopher Mountjoy. One of the witnesses called to testify was Mountjoy's former lodger, William Shakespeare. Whatever his sense of the potential theatricality of foiled marriages and in-law relations, the Bard isn't very revelatory and fails to wax poetic on the witness stand. He claims not to remember much about what happened. The event -- our only record of Shakespeare's spoken words ever being recorded -- was unearthed by an intrepid researcher in 1909. It's remained largely unremarked for a century. Nevertheless, it offers a window, however narrow, into Shakespeare's daily life and dealings. Charles Nichol, to his credit, illuminates that window. He's studiously exhumed what faint traces of early Jacobean times remain in the parish where Shakespeare briefly resided, fleshed out the context of the case, and elaborated the place in London society of Shakespeare's French landlords. What arrives through this meticulous upending is not so much a portrait, but a series of faint glimpses of the playwright at one moment of his otherwise mysterious life, as well as of the odd backdrop against which he chose for a time to prop it. At times, the very ordinariness of the life revealed is the book's exhilaration, while at others the pleasure is glimpsing a world whose mores and artifacts are almost wholly lost to us. Nichols manages to make both types of revelation suspenseful. --Tess Taylor
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780670018505
  • Publisher: Penguin Group (USA)
  • Publication date: 1/31/2008
  • Pages: 400
  • Product dimensions: 6.22 (w) x 9.18 (h) x 1.30 (d)

Meet the Author


Charles Nicholl is an internationally acclaimed author who has written biographies, including Leonardo da Vinci: Flights of the Mind, as well as books on history and travel. His book The Reckoning: The Murder of Christopher Marlowe won the James Tait Black Prize for Biography and the Crime Writers' Association Gold Dagger Award for nonfiction. His Somebody Else: Arthur Rimbaud in Africa was awarded the Hawthornden Prize. Simon Vance, a former BBC Radio presenter and newsreader, is a full-time actor who has appeared on both stage and television. He has recorded over four hundred audiobooks and has earned over twenty Earphones Awards from AudioFile magazine, including one for his narration of Scaramouche by Rafael Sabatini. A twelve-time Audie finalist, Simon has won Audie Awards for The King's Speech by Mark Logue and Peter Conradi, The Life and Adventures of Nicholas Nickleby by Charles Dickens, Great Expectations by Charles Dickens, Market Forces by Richard K. Morgan, and The Tao of Pooh by Benjamin Hoff. Winner of the 2008 Booklist Voice of Choice Award, Simon has also been named an AudioFile Golden Voice as well as an AudioFile Best Voice of 2009.
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Table of Contents

List of Illustrations     xiii
Preface     xvii
'One Mr Shakespeare'
The deposition     3
Turning forty     17
Sugar and gall     27
Shakespeare in London     36
Silver Street
The house on the corner     47
The neighbourhood     57
'Houshould stuffe'     71
The chamber     75
The Mountjoys
Early years     89
St Martin le Grand     94
Success and danger     103
Dr Forman's casebook     112
The menage     128
Tiremaking
Tires and wigs     139
The 'tire-valiant'     150
In the workshop     160
The underpropper     168
Among Strangers
Blackfriars and Navarre     175
Shakespeare's aliens     181
Dark ladies     189
Sex & the City
Enter George Wilkins     197
The Miseries     207
Prostitutes and Players     212
Customer satisfaction     227
To Brainforde     233
'At his game'     239
Making Sure
A handfasting     251
'They have married me!'     259
Losing a daughter     268
Epilogue     274
Appendix: The Belott-Mountjoy papers     279
Notes     308
Sources     351
Index     363
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