bruce montague

BOOK REVIEW: The Book of Shakespearian Useless Information by Bruce Montague

by David Hall

The Book of Shakespearian Useless Information by Bruce Montague Metro Books, Hardback, 10.99 BUY THIS BOOK

Any book with a title like this has got to provide a temptation to read. But it is worth the effort.

Never in the history of publishing have so many fascinating nuggets of knowledge brought so much pleasure.

Did you know that when William Shakespeare was born, 400 years ago, London’s population of 170,000 made it the biggest city in Europe? Or that the average wage for a working man was one penny an hour – rising to 12 pence per day by the time he died?

The facts come tumbling out in chapters loosely dealing with the way things were, a green and unpleasant land, kith and kin, even the prices of admission (one penny to stand, two pence for a seat on a bench and three pence for a place in the stalls with a cushion) and many other subjects.

It was interesting to know that Queen Elizabeth I never attended a public performance – the theatre went to her court – but she did pay the company ten pounds for each performance.

And did you know that the comic actor Richard Tarleton was given the highest honour the fencing schools could give for his skill with the sword, albeit on stage. in an era when sword fights on the street were common.

There is loads more – including a fascinating section on expressions which are now common but came from Shakespeare’s plays.

Useless information? You decide, but I loved it!