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Gardening the drama

Shakespeare's Britain - Jonathan Bate, Dora Thornton, Becky Allen

Shakespeare is said to have been a keen gardener

When I visited the exhibition Shakespeare: Staging the World with my family, we all felt the same thing; a sad gap in our knowledge had been filled with rich and fruitful learning! I have always enjoyed Shakespeare thanks to great teaching when I studied, great productions when I went to the theatre, the great Baz Luhrman version of Romeo & Juliet, and contagious parental enthusiasm, but I definitely enjoy him more having seen the evocative collection of objects and information brought together by that exhibition, the catalogue of which is reviewed here by Kalliope. This is a small selection from that experience...

Appreciating the cultural environment that Shakespeare's works came out feels to me like more than an added dimension - it's as if I've been given a new faculty of sense, as if I smell or taste something I'd only imagined before. The ambience of the time, the imagined forest of Arden, the thrilling mythology of witchcraft and fascination with colonial travellers' tales from the 'New World' are called up by all sorts of works of art and artefacts, carefully and accessibly interpreted. The political significance in their time of Shakespeare's historical dramas such as Julius Caesar is explored. There is some interesting material on James I and unification with Scotland, which relates to the optimistic late play Cymbeline.

Deliciously produced, this little book is just the pre-theatre dish to whet the appetite and season a serving of the bard