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11 December 1997
Issues of Death: Mortality and Identity in English Renaissance Tragedy 
by Michael Neill.
Oxford, 404 pp., £45, May 1997, 0 19 818386 0
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... to ‘discover’ extinction in the sense of gaining actual experience of the phenomenon. But, as Michael Neill points out, human beings do imagine dying and in the process they inevitably invent a notion of death capable of matching their presuppositions. To that extent, death could be said to be something that each society discovers for itself. As a ...


C.K. Stead: Truth and autobiographies

27 April 2000
... Well, I have some, Paul. As I was reading his book I remembered that my former colleague, Michael Neill, now a professor of English at the University of Auckland, had looked after Naipaul on his visit to New Zealand in 1972, and that he used to lecture on Rochester. But otherwise the person portrayed was unrecognisable. A few days later I ran ...

Out of the Ossuary

Michael Neill: Shakespeare and Emotion

13 July 2016
The Reformation of Emotions in the Age of Shakespeare 
by Steven Mullaney.
Chicago, 231 pp., £24.50, July 2015, 978 0 226 11709 6
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... Memory,’​ my mother remarked, distress masked by her usual self-mocking humour, ‘is a thing of the past.’ She was 85 and sliding into the dementia that would ultimately erase all remembrance. Increasingly haunted by the fear that she had, literally, nothing to say, nervous of gaps in conversation, she would make things up, their frequently bizarre character a reminder that social inhibition is itself a function of deep-laid memories: ‘Oh, the royal family? Of course they suffer from all sorts of unmentionable diseases, you know ...

Money Man

Michael Neill: Shakespeare in Company

6 February 2014
Shakespeare in Company 
by Bart van Es.
Oxford, 357 pp., £25, February 2013, 978 0 19 956931 1
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... In 1598 the Lord Chamberlain’s Men were forced to dismantle James Burbage’s Theatre in Shoreditch, which they had occupied since their foundation in 1594, so they transported it across the Thames and built their own playhouse on the Bankside. This was the building whose 20th-century replica was christened ‘Shakespeare’s Globe’. The possessive might have surprised Richard and Cuthbert Burbage, who between them owned half the Globe, whereas Shakespeare’s portion amounted to a tenth; but that stake was enough to make him a member of the ‘housekeepers’ whose investments set them apart from the mere ‘sharers’ in the company ...

Short Cuts

Rosemary Hill: Shakespeare’s Faces

7 January 2016
... book did not make the national news. Country Life, however, managed that feat when, as Michael Neill discussed in the last issue of the LRB, it devoted its May issue to the horticulturalist Mark Griffiths’s contention that the title page of John Gerard’s Herball of 1598 contained a portrait of Shakespeare. This led to headline variations ...

Wilderness of Tigers

Michael Neill: Shakespeare’s Latin

19 March 2015
Shakespeare and Classical Antiquity 
by Colin Burrow.
Oxford, 281 pp., £16.99, September 2013, 978 0 19 968479 3
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... I must needs acknowledge, that the Greeke and Latine tongues, are great ornaments in a Gentleman, but they are purchased at over-high rate. Montaigne, Essays I grew up​ in postwar Northern Ireland and at the age of eight, when it was time for proper education to begin, I was loaded onto a train at Belfast Central and shunted across the border to Aravon, a dismal institution in Co ...

Glimpsed in the Glare

Michael Neill: Shakespeare in 1606

17 December 2015
1606: William Shakespeare and the Year of Lear 
by James Shapiro.
Faber, 423 pp., £20, October 2015, 978 0 571 23578 0
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... Perhaps​ the first ever ‘lifestyle magazine’, Country Life was founded in 1897 to cater for the leisured interests of the upper class, and was devoted to articles on golf and racing, leavened with discreet advertisements for manorial estates. Now a subsidiary of Time Inc., it has become a lavishly ornamented real estate window for the 1 per cent, and for those who dream of joining that porcine elite, its readers thrilling at what a mere £18 million might buy them in Surrey, Tuscany, Florida or the Côte d’Azur ...

In the Shady Wood

Michael Neill: Staging the Forest

22 March 2018
TheShakespearean Forest 
by Anne Barton.
Cambridge, 185 pp., £75, August 2017, 978 0 521 57344 3
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... Anne Barton​ delivered the lectures on ‘The Shakespearean Forest’ that form the basis for this, her much anticipated last book, in Cambridge in 2003. The Clark Lectures were themselves the product of an extended reflection on the significance of Shakespeare’s imaginary woodlands, developing and expanding material from earlier lectures and essays ...

Physicke from Another Body

Michael Neill: Cannibal Tinctures

1 December 2011
Medicinal Cannibalism in Early Modern English Literature and Culture 
by Louise Noble.
Palgrave Macmillan, 241 pp., £52, March 2011, 978 0 230 11027 4
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Mummies, Cannibals and Vampires: The History of Corpse Medicine from the Renaissance to the Victorians 
by Richard Sugg.
Routledge, 374 pp., £24.99, June 2011, 978 0 415 67417 1
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... The 17th-century church of St Michan’s in Dublin is a dull enough building, known for the curious human remains preserved in the exceptional dryness of its ancient crypt. When I was taken to see the celebrated ‘St Michan’s mummies’, 60 years ago, I already knew of the church from M.R. James, whose tales of supernatural terror entirely possessed my nine-year-old imagination ...

Old Dad dead?

Michael Neill: Thomas Middleton

4 December 2008
Thomas Middleton: The Collected Works 
edited by Gary Taylor and John Lavagnino.
Oxford, 2016 pp., £85, November 2007, 978 0 19 818569 7
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Thomas Middleton and Early Modern Textual Culture: A Companion to the Collected Works 
edited by Gary Taylor and John Lavagnino.
Oxford, 1183 pp., £100, November 2007, 978 0 19 818570 3
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... kill myself. I could vary it not so little as thrice over again. ’T’as some eight returns like Michaelmas term.’ The dark surreal farce of this moment is unlike anything Shakespeare could have imagined; to compare it with its nearest equivalent, Falstaff’s mock-death and the abuse of Hotspur’s body at Shrewsbury, is to measure the gap between the ...

Ich dien

Michael Neill: Shakespeare and the Servants

22 October 2009
Shakespeare, Love and Service 
by David Schalkwyk.
Cambridge, 317 pp., £50, June 2008, 978 0 521 88639 0
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... For some extraordinary reason, the men won’t drink this – but you might like it.’ Holding out a jug of cloudy bitter, still sludgy with hops, our employer stood framed indignantly in the doorway that separated her kitchen from the servants’ quarters. The ‘men’ were the other ranks among the annual tranche of recruits preparing to serve her husband in the British Antarctic Survey: they were expected to drink beer in the hall, while the officer class took cocktails in the drawing-room ...


Marina Warner: Medea

3 December 2015
... Euripides’ play so compelling. In Shakespeare and Classical Antiquity (reviewed in the LRB by Michael Neill, 19 March), Colin Burrow described the way Seneca’s blood-soaked play about Medea haunts not only Macbeth, King Lear and The Tempest, but even A Midsummer Night’s Dream. Seneca tilts the audience’s response towards not pity or empathy but ...

At the Movies

Michael Wood: ‘District 9’

8 October 2009
District 9 
directed by Neill Blomkamp.
September 2009
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... you’re recognising everyone’s rights when you’re not. The film is District 9, directed by Neill Blomkamp and written by the director and Terri Tatchell, and of course the South African resonances are everywhere, sparked by the setting if nothing else. But the question of the aliens, insofar as it has any allegorical reach at all, as distinct from a ...

Upside Down, Inside Out

Colin Kidd: The 1975 Referendum

25 October 2018
Yes to Europe! The 1975 Referendum and Seventies Britain 
by Robert Saunders.
Cambridge, 509 pp., £24.99, March 2018, 978 1 108 42535 3
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... Thompson, it was ‘a group of fat, rich nations feeding each other goodies’. Barbara Castle, Michael Foot and Tony Benn led a powerful Labour campaign against the Common Market, in itself a pejorative term on the left. But Roy Jenkins and others on Labour’s centre-right emphasised reconciliation with former enemies, highlighting in particular the ...

Where will the judges sit?

Stephen Sedley: What will happen to the Law Lords?

16 September 1999
The House of Lords: Its Parliamentary and Judicial Roles 
edited by Brice Dickson and Paul Carmichael.
Hart, 258 pp., £30, December 1998, 1 84113 020 6
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Constitutional Futures: A History of the Next Ten Years 
edited by Robert Hazell.
Oxford, 263 pp., £17.99, January 1999, 0 19 829801 3
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The Law and Parliament 
edited by Dawn Olivier and Gavin Drewry.
Butterworth, 219 pp., £15.95, September 1998, 0 406 98092 6
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Crown Powers: Subject and Citizens 
by Christopher Vincenzi.
Pinter, 343 pp., £47.50, April 1998, 1 85567 454 8
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... real judges would sit in future. That it was, in Robert Stevens’s words in the Dickson and Carmichael volume, ‘the work of a group of right-wing Tory MPs who cared nothing for law, the courts or litigants, but were anxious to prop up the hereditary principle by creating a group of judges who might balance the bishops’ is of less importance now than ...

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