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The Independent Critic

 Book Review: Shakespeare: The Man Who Pays the Rent, Judi Dench 
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As I headed into the final days of my holiday season, I was all prepared to wind down my 2023 reading season with some lighter, more festive reading.

However, when you receive an invitation to enter the literary world of both Dame Judi Dench and William Shakespeare?

You take it. The end result is what will unquestionably be one of 2024's most unique and satisfying reading experiences for this planned April 2024 release.

"Shakespeare: The Man Who Pays the Rent" finds the now 89-year-old actress remarkably open and insightful as she sits down in a series of intimate conversations with actor and director Brendan O'Hea to invite us into a journey about every Shakespearean role she has played throughout her acclaimed and award-winning seven-decade career - from Lady Macbeth and Titania to Ophelia and Cleopatra and countless others. "Shakespeare: The Man Who Pays the Rent" is a remarkable experience as Dench discusses with stunning clarity and insight her early days, her triumphs, her disasters, her collaborators, her backstage shenanigans, the secrets of her rehearsal process, and a wealth of thoughts and experiences on working time and again with "the man who pays the rent" whether that be on stage, on television, in film, or even on the radio.

Amidst it all, we also gain insight into the remarkable Dench from personal storytelling to vignettes on audiences, critics, rehearsal room etiquette, her interpretations of some of Shakespeare's most famous scenes, and so much more.

I was enchanted from beginning to end.

While "Shakespeare: The Man Who Pays the Rent" didn't offer me my planned light reading, it offered me so much more from Dench's bright and lively personality, radical candor, and incredible sense of humor and obvious comfort with O'Hea and this incredibly satisfying dialogue.

For fans of Shakespeare, there's no question this is an absolute must.

For Dench fans, there's no question this is an absolute must-read experience.

It's ultimately a love letter to Shakespeare from an actress widely considered one of Britain's true greats. It seems appropriate that Dench received an Academy Award for, yes, a Shakespearean role (Queen Elizabeth I in "Shakespeare in Love"). Dench has also received five Best Actress Oscar nominations, three Best Supporting Actress nominations, six British Academy Film awards, four British Academy Television awards, two Golden Globe awards, two Screen Actors Guild awards, a Tony award, and seven Laurence Olivier awards.

Mark your calendars. "Shakespeare: The Man Who Pays the Rent" is definitely one for the must-read list in 2024.

Written by Richard Propes
The Independent Critic