Paperbacks: The Lodger, by Charles Nicholl

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In 1612, "one Mr Shakespeare" gave some boring evidence in a small-claims case about an unpaid dowry in his former landlord's family. From this, the playwright's sole recorded speech as himself, our finest biographical sleuth slips through the keyhole to create a rich and riveting picture of the Bard at home, and at work, in the London of 1604.

Piecing the records together with care and flair, Nicholl takes us inside the Mountjoy home, of French migrants in the fashion trade. He shows how their tenant would have lived as he wrote Othello, Measure for Measure and even King Lear. And he reveals Shakespeare's links – amid the "simmering randiness" of low-life London – with the pimp, thug (and writer) George Wilkins.