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The Lodger Shakespeare: His Life on Silver Street

3.75  ·  Rating details ·  635 ratings  ·  100 reviews
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 and 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 dramatists famously obscure life. U
Hardcover, 416 pages
Published January 31st 2008 by Viking Adult (first published 2007)
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Jan 17, 2018 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
“For reasons we do not know but which I will later guess at…”

In 1612 Shakespeare gave testimony in a court case involving a dowry that had not been paid. From Shakespeare’s deposition in the case, the only instance we have of the Bard speaking as himself, author Charles Nicholl creates for the reader a tantalizing (at times) intellectual exercise about what Shakespeare’s life might have been like from 1604-1606 in his book “The Lodger Shakespeare”.
This text is only for those wh
Feb 25, 2008 rated it liked it
Recommended to Lynne by: Sandra D
This book reads well as a history of everyday life in Jacobean England. It does not read well as a biography of Shakespeare. As is the problem with all biographies of Shakespeare, there is simply not enough known to fill out a book-length biography and the author is forced to speculate.
I did enjoy this book more than Greenblatt's "Will in the World." Bryson's "Shakespeare: The world as a stage" is an entertaining read that mocks the worst of the speculators.
Jul 28, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I pounced on this because I enjoyed/admired/appreciated Charles Nicholl's The Reckoning, about the murder of Christopher Marlowe, and because I was mad about Simon Vance's reading of Dust and Shadow. Those two, plus Shakespeare, indicated an instant win.

Well… mostly.

First of all, I'm going to try to remember not to approach histories through Audible. If an author feels maps and illustrations and charts and the like are useful, then audio is not the way to go. The Civil War series I've already bought should be
Paul Frandano
Simply put, this is a remarkable book among the thousands of Shakespeare biographies that crowd onto a crowded shelf. Although we often hear the lament that "so little is known" of WS, the fact is that more is known of him than of any other other author of the era (unless that author be James I, King of England and Ireland, also James VI, King of Scotland). Most of this lot of known things - and it is indeed quite a bit - and every documentary trace of it has been assembled by Samuel Schoenbaum ...more
Colin Russell
Dec 27, 2016 rated it really liked it
Really interesting deep dive into Shakespeare's tenure as a lodger on Silver Street. Readable and fascinating for anyone who enjoys biographical works related to theatre/Shakespeare/Elizabethan history.
Christopher Phillips
A fascinating snapshot of a period in Shakespeare's life when he was staying as a lodger in the house of some flemish lace-makers who made some of the elaborate head-dressses worn in Elizabethan times. He was apparently called as a character witness in a marriage dispute over the daughter' dowry. We know so little of the details of Shakespeare's later life as a successful actor and dramatist that even the facts detailed in this work start to fill in some of the gaps in the chronolgy of his life. ...more
Elizabeth Ashworth
Nov 23, 2010 rated it it was amazing
I feel as if I've been on a walk through the 16th century streets of London. I've seen the rooms where Shakespeare lodged whilst he was working in the city - writing and acting in plays, corroborating with other writers and becoming involved in the personal lives of the Mountjoys 'tire' makers.

I've seen the hard working business people and their wives whose pretty faces were an additional attraction to customers, I've seen the churches, the gardens, the theatres and the seamier under
Dec 15, 2016 rated it it was ok
Earlier this year I had read another bio of Shakespeare, Will in the World: How Shakespeare Became Shakespeare. I felt as thought I would do any moment run into Shakes in the streets of London.
This bio is based on more suppositions than any other bio I have read of Shakespeare. Charles Nicholl takes the reader to the very place of saying "oooooh and ohhhh" and then changes tracks. The last section of the book is the best, tying up all the loose ends nicely. Again I discover, as I did after reading Gre
Mar 12, 2015 rated it really liked it
The Lodger Shakespeare, by Charles Nicholl, is a perfect complement to the phrase " known, but unknown." It is difficult, if not impossible, to think of any other literary figure who is so familiar to readers, theatre goers, students and even movie goers than William Shakespeare, and yet we know virtually nothing about the man's public or private life, his true features or even his biography. Conjecture of the man is rampant; the facts are much rarer to find.

Charles Nicholl's book tr
Jan 19, 2014 rated it really liked it
As with any investigation of Shakespeare's life, there is a lot of conjecture, guesswork, and might-have-happeneds. But this book also contains several contemporary and near-contemporary records of Shakespeare and comments about him that I haven't seen elsewhere. It gives interesting info about Shakespeare's collaborators that I hadn't seen before, and about the types of people Shakespeare associated with and would have been surrounded by, and how they and their occupations can be found in the p ...more
John Yeoman
This is a brilliantly inventive glimpse into early 17thc London. It imaginatively recreates a fictional year in Shakespeare's life - not to tell us about Shakespeare, of whom nothing reliable can be said - but to show us how people lived in that age. Nicholl does it by researching the people who lived adjacent to Shakespeare at that time, whereof we do have records. He admits: this is not historiography. I'd comment: it should be. To paraphrase Wolfgang Iser (Metahistory): all historiography is creative writing. N(): ...more
Margot Abbott
Jan 11, 2009 rated it it was ok
A history of the couple of years Shakespeare lived on Silver Street in London during which he wrote "Measure for Measure," "King Lear," and "Othello." Mr. Nicholl combed the archieves and hasn't really come up with anything thrilling but since I wanted to get more of an idea of what WS's life was like, it made me happy!
Apr 15, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: shakespeare
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
May 04, 2016 rated it really liked it
It is the 400th anniversary of Shakespeare’s death this month, so a good moment to write something about Charles Nicholl’s Shakespeare book, The Lodger. It’s about Shakespeare’s time lodging on Silver Street with the Huguenot family the Mountjoys, and I bought it on the strength of Nicholl’s fine book on the death of Marlowe, The Reckoning.

Silver Street, or Sylver Street, doesn’t exist any longer, bombed in 1940, but it ran east to west near the London Wall, close to the present Museum of London and south of the
Georgia Butler
Sep 11, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: biographical
This book isn't a biography of Shakespeare, even one spanning a few years of his life. It is a close and intriguing look at his neighborhood, neighbors, and the society (theatrical and otherwise) of the times. In fact, we learn a lot about the people with whom Shakespeare lodged but not much about him, factually, other than what testimony he provided (in writing) specific to a court case involving his landlord and that man's son-in-law. Mostly the author speculates on domestic situations and cir ...more
Feb 02, 2019 rated it really liked it
This book is a bit of a patchwork, pieced together of tantalizing inferences and hunches from official documents and plays and poetry by Shakespeare and his contemporaries, but that’s what makes it interesting. Nicholls takes as his jumping-off point the only known record of Shakespeare’s words (not written but spoken by him): testimony in a court case in which he was a witness. From this little incident—the daughter of his London landlady sues her father for failing to provide a promised dowry— ...more
John Simmons
Dec 04, 2018 rated it really liked it
I was surprised to discover how much there was to glean from the bits of documentation about Shakespeare at this time of his life. It was much like a detective story while introducing us to characters most history books gloss over. It was very much a slice of life view with lots of detail and information. The writer knows his Shakespeare (both biographical and the plays/sonnets) and uses it to good effect, using it to enlighten us rather than to show off his knowledge. I found myself looking for ...more
Jun 06, 2019 rated it liked it
I’d probably rate this about 3.5 overall, though it’s a bit of a mixed bag. On the one hand, I bought this book primarily to learn some more about Shakespeare, and he hardly features beyond cameos throughout. On the other, this is an incredibly well researched look at early seventeenth century London people and places, and is at times really fascinating.
So, on balance, a very good book, but just not the book I was expecting. I did at times feel a little overwhelmed at the huge amount of in
Ali Miremadi
Nov 14, 2017 rated it really liked it
Extraordinary forensic textual examination of court records, often obscure plays, poems and pamphlets, maps, drawings and the plays themselves to build some fascinating speculations about Shakespeare in early 17th century London. The inferences about his character and actions are clearly well-researched fiction but the insight into daily life of the period is terrific. Particularly interesting to find that George Wilkins, co-author of ‘Pericles’, was such a well-documented rascal.
Stephen Huntley
Nov 15, 2017 rated it liked it
The genuinely intriguing bits on Shakespeare himself make up a handful of pages only. If you want to know scanty details of other people who he rubbed shoulders with (but how often, how closely, and sometimes if at all is uncertain) you'll be entertained. Lots of effort went into this but it really seems like an obsessive's mania for any minutia that could loosely be associated with their subject. Mildly interesting for the picture it gives of the times.
Aug 06, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shelves: regal
It was part of the reading list for my class.

Turned out to be a bit like my class. Tempting with promise but somehow I never had the feeling I got all the information and facts I wanted or there could have been in it.

Elizabeth's London by Liza Picard is much more rewarding on the time and for Shakespeare himself Bill Bryson is more entertaining but still gives the whole story.
Tom Baikin-O'hayon
Feb 06, 2018 rated it it was amazing
A masterpiece of academic research. it is well written, informative and simply fun to read. Nicholl manages to uncover scenes of daily life in late Elizabethan London, collected from a vast array of fragmentary data. when he diverges into speculation, he recognizes the facts and frames possible interpretations. all this gives us the best glimpse one can have at William Shakespeare's life.
Mary Beth
Jan 22, 2018 rated it it was ok
Whew! Finally finished this book. It was tough going. When a book has 100 pages dedicated to footnotes you know it's going to be a slow go. So much detail that one has to read this book by section and read other materials/books in between.
Mar 08, 2018 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction
The tale of a French couple in London with a famous lodger. Very nice. For someone with a greater interest in Shakespeare probably even better. Amazing what can be reconstructed about a certain period considering that not so much is known about him in general. Nicely told, a bit slow, though.
Karina Dulin
Nov 03, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: 2017
Interesting--at times hard to keep up with, and certainly goes into depth in recounting the details of Jacobean life in London. The many names at times threw me for a loop, but it did make for an interesting and informative read.
Mar 26, 2019 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Interesting social background but better suited to someone who is more of a Shakespeare obsessive.
Matthew Gilmore
Jan 05, 2018 rated it really liked it
Fascinating scholarly detective story.
Graham X.
Makes a lot out of a little, but masterfully.
Apr 03, 2018 rated it liked it
3.5. The book played out a bit like a mystery novel re-constructing this phase of Will's life. The tangent on tyremaking got a bit long. Otherwise I enjoyed visualizing life in Jacobean London.
Lively and informative, this history/biography works better as the former (providing convincing street and house-level details of craftmanship, prostitution, transportation, family and community ties, crime and legal disputes, and many other aspects of life in London at the beginning of the 17th century) than as the latter. As a biographical investigation of a limited portion of Shakespeare's life (and a hint at possible inspirations for his work), it just about manages to stay on the right side of ...more
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Charles Nicholl is an English author specializing in works of history, biography, literary detection, and travel. His subjects have included Christopher Marlowe, Arthur Rimbaud, Leonardo da Vinci, Thomas Nashe and William Shakespeare. Besides his literary output, Nicholl has also presented documentary programs on television. In 1974 he was the winner of the Sunday Times Young Writer Award for his ...more
“This is the way history happens: it is measured out in days rather than epochs.” 4 likes
“It is true that biographical readings of the plays are dangerous, unregulated, prone to sentimentalization. It is absurd to cherry-pick passages of poetry written over more than two decades and infer from them a consistent personal attitude. Lines belong in a dramatic context and in the psychological context of the character who utters them and cannot be taken to reflect Shakespeare's views.” 2 likes
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