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Shakespeare's Lives (Oxford paperbacks) Hardcover – December 12, 1991
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About the Author
About the Author:
S. Schoenbaum is Distinguished Professor of Renaissance Literature and Director, Center for Renaissance and Baroque Studies at the University of Maryland.
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Schoenbaum's book, which was originally issued around 1970 and updated in a second edition in 1991, surveys the colorful story of the many efforts to illuminate the poet's life. As Schoenbaum relates, the very bareness of the record has given license to many authors to project their own lives and professions on Shakespeare. Thus, we are variously told, Shakespeare was a sailor, a soldier, worked in a lawyer's office, consorted with nobles, taught school, etc. As Schoenbaum demonstrates, the changing conceptions of Shakespeare tell us much about the development of history as a modern discipline, and about the changes in English society (the book's emphasis is on English studies) through the years.
Schoenbaum is thorough and fair in evaluating this enormous body of work, although from time to time his peevishness with books he regards as foolishness peep through. His sharpest scorn is reserved for the out-and-out frauds, the numbers of which are suprising, and the anti-Stratfordians, whom he regards as largely deranged. Schoenbaum's strength is his depth and his regard for genuine scholarship; his weakness is his own fascination with minor characters who may have at one time been important, but who are justly forgotten today. This is a valuable book on many levels: it contains all the important facts known about Shakespeare's life as of the time that it was written, and it's also a fascinating historiography, if as noted, it takes a few unnecessary detours into the trivial.