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Will in the World: How Shakespeare Became Shakespeare Hardcover – September 17, 2004
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Interview with Stephen Greenblatt
Stephen Greenblatt shares his thoughts about what make Shakespeare Shakespeare and why the Bard continues to fascinate us endlessly.
From Publishers Weekly
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Top Customer Reviews
As the world's preeminent Shakespeare scholar, Greenblatt has managed to assemble all these sources and, with a healthy dose of conjecture, arrive at something resembling a biography of the world's greatest dramatist. More than that, though, this work is a biography of the age in which Shakespeare lived and wrote---Elizabethan and Jacobian London---and how the major events of this time affected Shakespeare's plays. For example, the writing of King Lear may have been encouraged by a trial in 1603 in which two sisters tried to have their father declared insane so they could take control of his wealth and estate, while the youngest daughter (named Cordell) tried to stop them---a story uncannily similar to what is considered to be the Bard's greatest tragedy.
What impressed me the most about this biography is how ORDINARY Shakespeare seemingly was. He didn't seem pretentious or snobbish, as some people envision him. He was born to a humble family and lived frugally, despite dying a rather wealthy man.
Although Greenblatt's writing is clear and accessible, he makes the assumption that you have already read Shakespeare's plays, or at least are VERY familiar with them. I have read about two thirds of them and felt a little behind when he discussed plays I hadn't read, so if you haven't read more than, say, ten of his plays, the major ones, you need to crack open the Norton Shakespeare (of which Greenblatt is the editor-in-chief) before you approach Will in the World.
Although Greenblatt bases a lot of his observations and conclusions on deduction and supposition, he makes a lot of intelligent and accurate observations about the world that shaped William Shakespeare. He also, in turn, speculates (sometimes hitting his target and sometimes not)how Shakespeare used the world that formed him to, in turn, form his great works. Are all the conclusions perfect and ironclad?Read more ›
What makes this book a cut above any "biographies" is the fact that Greenblatt is more intent on raising questions than passing any of his well informed suppositions off as fact. And interesting questions they are. For instance, why is Shakespeare's wife virtually left out of his last will & testament? Bequeathing her only a "2nd best bed" after 30+ years of marriage & nothing else? What Greenblatt does here is take what little historical records we have, coupled with the politics of the age & tie them into Shakespeare's work. What emerges is an ever so faint pencil sketch of a shrewd, practically minded opportunist who despite his phenomenal success, sought to call as little attention to his personal affairs as possible. In other words, a deliberate cipher. Someone who took in the the sundry world around him & put it all on display in the conveniently ironic guise of Fiction. But someone who seems to have consciously left little or no record of himself beyond his work. So what little we know may actually reveal more than we think. Greenblatt reminds us what a dangerous time Shakespeare was living in. One had to be extremely cautious lest the celebrity of one's words wind up on the end of a pike on London Bridge. Thoughout it all, Greenblatt wisely never leaves the realm of speculation but does a masterful job of aligning current events alongside Shakespeare's words.Read more ›
Most Recent Customer Reviews
Little concrete information is available about Shakespeare's life. Goldblatt weaves an understanding of thef the places, the time, and the influences that could have affected the... Read morePublished 29 days ago by Helen L. Meeker
Plunges you into Shakespeare's world. The crafty, elusive Shakespeare that emerges is not lovable, but is always fascinating. Read morePublished 3 months ago by Surfingpossum
I only wish I had this book 50 years ago when I took a Shakespeare course in college. This book is amazing. It brings the time to life. It is so rich. Read morePublished 4 months ago by Amazon Customer
This is the best biography of William Shakespeare I have encountered. It reads well and is full of deep research and knowledgeable, reasonable speculation. Great read.Published 5 months ago by E. P. Hall