Out on 03 September 2020


Robert McCrum

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03 September 2020
510 minutes

Why do we return to Shakespeare time and again?

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.

Shakespearean is a remarkable book, an illuminating and personal journey that takes us to the heart of Shakespeare’s art and influence. From his account of the plays’ quintessential Englishness to his exploration of what he shrewdly terms their 'negligent ambiguity,' McCrum’s insights are hard-earned and deeply rewarding

James Shapiro

Shakespearean is a brilliant, wise, elegant and profoundly moving book - seamlessly combining literary criticism, history, biography and memoir. With great erudition and expertise, McCrum tours us through the many ages of the Shakespearean: the plagues and revolts of 17th-century England; the myths and controversies, devotees and detractors; the Shakespearean obsessions of a wonderful dramatis personae of authors including Jonson, Coleridge, Keats, Auden, Sondheim, Hughes and Waller-Bridge; and the continued impact of Shakespeare on our uneasy times. Beautifully written, inspired and inspiring: a captivating portrait of Shakespeare and ourselves

Joanna Kavenna, author of The Ice Museum