Michael Neill

Michael Neill’s books include Issues of Death: Mortality and Identity in English Renaissance Tragedy.

In the Shady Wood: Staging the Forest

Michael Neill, 22 March 2018

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. As Peter Holland’s...

‘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...

Glimpsed in the Glare: Shakespeare in 1606

Michael Neill, 17 December 2015

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...

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....

Money Man: Shakespeare in Company

Michael Neill, 6 February 2014

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...

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...

Ich dien: Shakespeare and the Servants

Michael Neill, 22 October 2009

‘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...

Old Dad dead? Thomas Middleton

Michael Neill, 4 December 2008

It is an excellent principle, in literature as in life, to judge a book by its cover; and there is much to be learned from the appearance of the new Oxford Middleton. Even as the blurb declares that Gary Taylor and John Lavagnino’s monumental collection is ‘based on the award-winning design of the Oxford Shakespeare’, the binding and dust jacket defiantly proclaim its...

Letter
Katherine Rundell discusses the ancient reputation of hares as witches or fairy-folk (LRB, 2 July). The notion of hares as witches has a particularly tenacious history in Ireland. Medieval commentators such as Caxton recorded the belief that Irish ‘beldams’ could ‘transform themselves into the likenesses of hares, in order to milk their neighbours’ cattle and steal their...
Letter
Marina Warner’s beautiful review of Thomas Laqueur’s Work of the Dead had me thinking about the insistent presence of the dead in my own childhood – and, I suppose, the childhoods of all those whom Doris Lessing called the Children of Violence (LRB, 17 August). It wasn’t just the absent presence of my mother’s father and brother, killed in the first and second wars (as...

Hamlet calls death the ‘undiscovered country’, but perhaps the deftness of that description masks a fatal insouciance. True, it isn’t really possible for us to...

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