Lois Leveen, author of the novel Juliet’s Nurse, talks about the power of the plague in Shakespeare’s Romeo & Juliet

“As Mercutio is dying he says not once, not twice, but three times, ‘A plague on both your houses!’ And that made me think about plague, which first came to Italy in 1348 and killed about 40 percent of the population.

LoisLeveenHeadshot by John Melville Bishop

“When I started the novel I never thought that we would be struggling with something like what’s happening with Ebola now. But certainly there is so much fear about contagion and disease. We understand contagion and infection much better, but in an era where understanding about why some people got sick and others didn’t, why some people died and others got better…

©Globe/Opus Arte

©Globe/Opus Arte

 

“Trying to imagine, not what it was like live through that – because the book is set ten years after that wave – but people are really dealing with what it means to be dealing with that aftermath. Cultural or social post-traumatic stress disorder that everybody in society is dealing with.

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“And trying to think about what it would be like to have to go on in the wake of that when you don’t really have a scientific understanding of what happened, and trying to make sense of the world.”

Read the full interview with Lois Leveen in Shakespeare Magazine 05.

Author Lois Leveen talks about the suffering that underpins the main character of her Shakespeare-inspired novel Juliet’s Nurse

“In some ways, I had to stop looking at what the core theme might be for Shakespeare, because I had to discover what it was for Juliet’s Nurse. There are plot points, and certainly characters, and even lines or riffs on lines, that I pull over from Shakespeare. But it really is ultimately Angelica’s, the Nurse’s, story. In that sense, the theme was really clear from the beginning – that line about having her own daughter who died.

©Globe/Opus Arte

©Globe/Opus Arte

“I remember talking to someone I know, a mother of young children, about the experience of having a child die and the mother said, ‘If that happened to me, I don’t know – I would lay down and die too’.

“And that was not an option for Angelica, or other women and men living who loved their children dearly in those centuries and centuries in which the death of a child was quite common. We shy away from suffering, and think of it as something to be avoided, but suffering is inevitable and survival is not something that happens in opposition to suffering. Survival is something that happens because we learn to assimilate suffering into our lives.

LoisLeveenHeadshot by John Melville Bishop
“So again, on a social level what’s present for the Nurse and for the other characters in the novel, because it’s present in the play, is the question of how do you make sense of suffering and how do you find hope in what seems like devastating loss?

“I wouldn’t say that was Shakespeare’s theme in Romeo and Juliet, but it definitely became my theme in Juliet’s Nurse.”

JulietsNurseCover
Want to find out more about Lois Leveen and Juliet’s Nurse?
Read the full interview with her in the latest issue of Shakespeare Magazine.

Issue 5 of Shakespeare Magazine arrives just in time for 2015 – and, yes, it’s still completely free!

Cover 05
Yes, we made you wait for it (sorry about that) but the latest completely FREE issue of Shakespeare Magazine is finally here.

Our scintillating cover story celebrates the amazing Shakespeare documentary film Muse of Fire.

We also investigate Shakespeare and the Tower of London, and take a trip to Staunton, Virginia – home of the American Shakespeare Center.

Meanwhile, actors from Shakespeare’s Globe have teamed up with a crew of legal eagles to perform at the famous Inns of Court.

Lois Leveen rethinks Romeo and Juliet with her evocative novel Juliet’s Nurse, while the experimental Filter Theatre Company remixes Macbeth at the Tobacco Factory in Bristol.

Plus! You could win a copy of Station Eleven, the thrilling post-apocalyptic Shakespeare novel by Emily St. John Mandel.

Go here to read Issue 5 of Shakespeare Magazine right now.

And a very Happy New Year to our readers all over the world!

Prepare to lighten your wallet and boost your brain… It’s the Shakespeare Magazine Beautiful Bard Books Roundup

Seeking Christmas gift inspiration? Why not treat a fellow Shakespeare fan (or yourself!) to one of these beautiful Bard-related books. All prices are RRP for UK editions, but if you shop around you may well nab some of these for less (especially in eBook formats).

Shakespeare for Grown-ups
Subtitled “Everything You Need To Know About The Bard”, SHAKESPEARE FOR GROWN-UPS by E. Foley and B. Coates is already a firm favourite in the Shakespeare Magazine office. It’s a fun, handy reference guide that will fit nicely on your shelf between Bill Bryson’s ‘Shakespeare’ and Ben Crystal’s ‘Shakespeare on Toast’. An eminently readable intro for anyone who wants to find out what Shakespeare’s all about, it’s also a great memory refresher for those returning to the Bard in later life (like the Editor of Shakespeare Magazine, for example).

Out now, priced £12.99 Buy ‘Shakespeare for Grown-Ups’ here.

JulietsNurseCover
Opening with the vivid and ultimately heartbreaking reimagining of a medieval childbirth, JULIET’S NURSE by Lois Leveen sees US novelist Leveen give a poetic new voice to one of the most memorable supporting characters in all of Shakespeare, namely the Nurse from ‘Romeo & Juliet’. Watch out for an interview with Lois in the very next issue of Shakespeare Magazine. Meanwhile, you can read the opening chapter of ‘Juliet’s Nurse’ here.

Out now, priced £16.99 Buy ‘Juliet’s Nurse’ here.

Station Eleven
Post-apocalyptic science fiction conveyed via dreamlike prose with a Shakespearean soul, STATION ELEVEN by Emily St. John Mandel won instant acclaim and a National Book Awards nomination. Opening with a stage performance of ‘King Lear’ that eerily foreshadows the global tragedy to follow, this is definitely one of the year’s must-read novels.

Out now, priced £14.99 Buy ‘Station Eleven’ here.

Forensic Shakespeare
Firmly placed at the more academic end of the market, FORENSIC SHAKESPEARE by Quentin Skinner (no, the title doesn’t refer to Crime Scene Investigations) eloquently explores the idea that the Bard skilfully employed judicial rhetoric in the poem Lucrece and in some half-dozen of his most famous plays. A good one for Lawyers (obviously), Law students and anyone keen to sprinkle their dinner party conversation with some judiciously selected pearls of Shakespearean legalese.

Out now, priced £20 Buy ‘Forensic Shakespeare’ here.

R&J pulp cover Othello pulp cover
Underneath their cheekily mashed-up cover art, PULP! THE CLASSICS – OTHELLO and ROMEO & JULIET by William Shakespeare are readable, no-frills editions of two of the Bard’s Greatest Hits – and the perfect student stocking filler.

Out now, priced £6.99 Buy the Pulp! The Classics editions of ‘Romeo & Juliet’ and ‘Othello’ here.

PLUS! COMING IN 2015…

Cover Image - The Tutor
THE TUTOR by Andrea Chapin comes recommended by no less a Shakespeare authority than James Shapiro, who deems it “a terrific achievement [that] allows us a glimpse into the workings of Shakespeare’s mind and heart.” A wonderfully entertaining adventure set during the young Will Shakespeare’s infamous ‘Lost Years’, it should please fans of ‘Shardlake’ and ‘Shakespeare in Love’ alike.

Released 26 March 2015, priced £7.99 TBC Pre-order ‘The Tutor’ here.