Pete Brown: Shakespeare’s Local

December 6, 2013

9781447236801A curious hotch-potch, this book. I was half-way through it before we got anywhere near Shakespeare, and that was very briefly; basically it’s a popular history book that explores quite deeply and thoroughly the complex, symbiotic relationship between London north of the Thames and Southwark and Bankside, south of it, the place where anything went, as it were, thus including theatres, which were often disapproved of, and thereby providing the tenuous link to the book’s title. From Roman times, Southwark, Bankside and the Borough were the gateway to London from the south and the continent, for travellers and trade, and thus of great importance throughout history. All this is linked with the great importance of inns, alehouses and other hostelries to trade and the economy of the city and therefore the country, and so the central focus and title of the book focuses on a single, still-extant inn, the George in Southwark, whose history goes back centuries, and is merely one of what used to be dozens in the area, close to the site of the Globe Theatre and therefore, conceivably, a place where our greatest dramatist may have supped.

The writer loves his subject, has researched thoroughly and writes entertainingly, bringing the subject to life: I learnt lots which fitted into the much vaguer notions I had of the places and times. It got a tad dull as it moved towards the present day and got embroiled in the world of Dickens, which I do not have a lot of time for, I’m afraid.

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