Catharine Arnold, Globe: Life in Shakepeare’s London (Simon & Schuster: London, 2015)
Despite having read a LOT of historical fiction lately, I’m not a fan of stories featuring Shakespeare. Imagine the sinking feeling in my gut, therefore, when I ran into a little vignette in which young Will arrives in London for the first time, on some sort of covert mission to deliver explosively secret papers …
This was one of two slightly anachronistic episodes in what is otherwise a solid non-fiction account not just of The Globe but of theatre’s evolution from Medieval Mystery Play to Jacobean Masque.
That aside, the book is written in an easy, conversational style. There’s plenty of information about competing venues, companies and writers, and the book comes right up to date with a chapter on the new Globe: it’s genesis and place in modern Shakespearean life.
Initially, with my teacher’s hat on, I struggled to think of an audience for the book. Shakespeare students might be better advised to try Jim Bradbury, Shakespeare and his Theatre (1975, Longman), and Renaissance students could turn to Lisa Hopkins and Matthew Steggle, Renaissance Literature and Culture (2006, Continuum). That said, enthusiasts – particularly those interested in the theatre/drama – will find this enjoyable and illuminating.