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Shakespeare and the Countess
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Shortlisted for the Tony Lothian Prize One of the Telegraph's 'Best Books of 2014' One of the Observer's 'Books of the Year 2014' In November 1596 a woman signed a document which would nearly destroy the career of William Shakespeare . . . Who was the woman who played such an instrumental, yet little known, role in Shakespeare's life? Never far from controversy when she was alive - she sparked numerous riots and indulged in acts of bribery, breaking-and-entering, and kidnapping - Elizabeth Russell has been edited out of public memory, yet the chain of events she set in motion would be the making of Shakespeare as we all know him today. Providing new pieces to the puzzle, Chris Laoutaris's thrilling biography reveals for the first time the life of this extraordinary woman, and why she decided to wage her battle against Shakespeare.
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A splendid and original book * Sunday Telegraph, Book of the Week * Fabulous!...I could not recommend it highly enough. -- Alison Weir Greatly enjoying Shakespeare and the Countess ... Fascinating how much archives can still yield. -- Stanley Wells I am in love with the brilliant research on display in Shakespeare and the Countess and how it brings to the fore Lady Elizabeth Russell, a trailblazing early feminist. -- Amma Asante * Observer Books of the Year 2014 * A work of historical and literary detection which takes us straight to the heart of religious politics in Elizabethan England . . . there is a great deal to admire in this hugely ambitious book. -- Frances Wilson * New Statesman * This is a detailed biography of a vigorous (if not likeable) woman who stood close to power throughout the reign of Elizabeth I. [Elizabeth] Russell was a remarkable person - clever, domineering and ruthless . . . Laoutaris has done a thorough research job * Sunday Times * It is a fascinating story and Laoutaris tells it with a winning combination of scholarly rigour and elegant prose. Contributing something fresh in the crowded arena of Shakespeare studies is not easy, but Laoutaris has done precisely that . . . A splendid book * Herald Scotland * Laoutaris delves into all this with immense gusto, introducing his readers to a dizzying cast of characters and approaching his subject from myriad different angles. Thanks to [his] impressive research, this largely forgotten figure emerges as a woman of great erudition, determination and courage, scarcely less remarkable than her namesake and contemporary Elizabeth I -- Anne Somerset * Literary Review * Elizabeth Russell was a force to be reckoned with [and] is the indefatigable heroine of [the] book . . . [She was] the woman who forced the company [the Chamberlain's Men] across the Thames to create their crucible of theatrical poetry, the Globe * The Times * [An] energetic and enterprising book. He has done much original research, adding new details to the history of the [Blackfriars] playhouse, and to our knowledge of Elizabethan and Jacobean Blackfriars . . . Elizabeth Russell was a powerful figure . . . a fearsome Elizabethan version of Lady Bracknell or Bertie Wooster's Aunt Agatha . . . Laoutaris has done some very valuable archival work . . . It is certainly a story worth telling, and Laoutaris tells it well. -- Charles Nicholl * London Review of Books * Chris Laoutaris sheds light on the life of the woman who waged battle against the Bard * Big Issue North * Genuinely groundbreaking . . . It's a thrilling tale and Laoutaris tells it superbly, with fluency and passion and a masterful eye for the dramatic. Emphatic, meticulously researched and strikingly original. * Marylebone Journal (Book of the Week) * A distinguished biography . . . [and] an impressive feat of archival research by Chris Laoutaris. * Around the Globe (the magazine of Shakespeare's Globe) * [T]he ambitious, crafty, and eagerly litigious Elizabeth Russell . . . takes centre stage in this power struggle-filled Elizabethan drama. The self-proclaimed countess threatened Shakespeare's livelihood . . . but her opposition inadvertently resulted in the creation of the famous Globe Theatre, which secured the Bard's legacy . . . Russell's voice is heard strongly . . . As Laoutaris shows, Russell - a "staunch Puritan," funerary monument designer, and the only female sheriff in Elizabethan England - was worthy of starring in a Shakespearean drama. * Publishers Weekly, USA * [A] tale of 16th century NIMBYism. The Puritan termagant Elizabeth Russell mounted a successful campaign against the . . . theatre company, which boasted one W. Shakespeare as a partner . . . [Laoutaris] has unearthed a fascinating story. * Independent * Life comes close to imitating art in Shakespeare and the Countess. Here Laoutaris resuscitates as the great playwright's foil the long-forgotten Elizabeth Russell, a self-proclaimed dowager countess and unblushing harridan, who could have stepped out of a turbulent history play . . . Through her, Laoutaris throws fascinating light on the Puritans' determined fight against both Roman Catholicism and the newly established Church of England . . . [and] on her success in preventing the Burbages, the playwright's partners, from opening an indoor theatre in Blackfriars beside her home. * New York Times * An engaging portrait of this powerful noblewoman . . . The author shows, by deftly weaving the events during Russell's lifetime and her personal impacts played therein, that he exhaustively researched his subject . . .an immensely riveting read. * Library Journal, USA * It could be a tale for the stage itself, involving an ambitious parvenu, a self-styled countess, more than a hint of treachery and one of the more spectacular examples of historical Nimbysim . . . [This is] the story of how William Shakespeare's early plans for a theatre . . . were thwarted by the outrageous Lady Russell. * Daily Telegraph * The story of Shakespeare and the Countess has all the hallmarks of one of his famous plays - treachery, deception, death and triumph . . . [A] fantastic tale . . . [Laoutaris] discovered a web of deceit and a true villain worthy of any of Shakespeare's plays - as well as information previously thought lost'. * Daily Mail *

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