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In Search of Shakespeare

"the English teacher's most important ally yet"

"accessible story-telling makes for a very popular history series"

In Search of Shakespeare by Michael Wood

With his typical mixture of intensive research, detective work, boyish enthusiasm and popular appeal, television historian Michael Wood comes closer than anyone to bringing the Bard to life. There are some astonishing discoveries along the way, which help to give a documentary cohesion to Shakespeare's story. But Wood is never arrogant enough to claim to have pinned the playwright's character down. The ifs, buts and maybes are all part of the fascination. The man himself remains tantalisingly just out of reach, which is probably as it should be.

Wood takes us on a journey through Elizabethan and Jacobean England, building a picture through painstaking reference to the age: a police state in which Shakespeare's family was devastated by the persecution of Catholics. Social, familial and political influences are all unravelled and pieced together, counter-pointed with scenes from the plays - RSC actors conveniently to hand - and the life and times of the travelling actor and playwright are evoked in front of our eyes, becoming tangible and relevant.

Wood gives us the chance to consider the plays in context, products of a great mind living in interesting times, rather than in academic isolation. It's a compelling tale, full of bloody danger, sex, celebrity and social history, and densely packed with layers of detail. Wood's great gift is to tell it in such an accessible way and without the sense of superiority that some of his peers bring to popular history.

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