Drawing on an exceptional combination of skills as literary biographer, novelist, and chronicler of London history, Peter Ackroyd surely re-creates the world that shaped Shakespeare—and brings the playwright himself into unusually vivid focus. With characteristic narrative panache, Ackroyd immerses us in sixteenth-century Stratford and the rural landscape–the industry, the animals, even the flowers–that would appear in Shakespeare’s plays. He takes us through Shakespeare’s London neighborhood and the fertile, competitive theater world where he worked as actor and writer. He shows us Shakespeare as a businessman, and as a constant reviser of his writing. In joining these intimate details with profound intuitions about the playwright and his work, Ackroyd has produced an altogether engaging masterpiece.
For centuries scholars have debated the true identity of the author of the magnificent body of poems and plays attributed to William Shakespeare, the actor and co-owner of a successful theater company who hailed from Stratford-upon-Avon. And yet many credible voices — Mark Twain, Sigmund Freud, and Walt Whitman, to name a few — have challenged conventional wisdom, proposing alternative candidates from rival playwrights Ben Jonson and Christopher Marlowe to Queen Elizabeth herself, in what has become a centuries-old parlor game.
In this provocative and convincing new book, historian and attorney Bertram Fields presents a stunning, and highly plausible, new theory of the case. Mastering four centuries of evidence and argument, Fields revisits all the critical facts and unanswered questions. Could there have been a single man in the English theater with such breadth and range of knowledge, a man who knew Latin and Greek, the etiquette and practices of nobility, the workings of the law, and the tactics of the military and navy? Or — as Fields asks in his tantalizing conclusion — was this not one man at all, but a magnificent collaboration between two very different men, a partnership born in the roiling culture of Elizabethan England, and protected for centuries by the greatest conspiracy in literary history?
Blending biography and historical investigation with vibrant scholarship and storytelling, Players revolutionizes our understanding of the greatest writer — or writers — in our history.
1599 was an epochal year for Shakespeare and England
Shakespeare wrote four of his most famous plays: Henry the Fifth, Julius Caesar, As You Like It, and, most remarkably, Hamlet; Elizabethans sent off an army to crush an Irish rebellion, weathered an Armada threat from Spain, gambled on a fledgling East India Company, and waited to see who would succeed their aging and childless queen.
James Shapiro illuminates both Shakespeare’s staggering achievement and what Elizabethans experienced in the course of 1599, bringing together the news and the intrigue of the times with a wonderful evocation of how Shakespeare worked as an actor, businessman, and playwright. The result is an exceptionally immediate and gripping account of an inspiring moment in history.
Covering 400 years of Shakespeare scholarship, Schoenbaum's now classic William Shakespeare: A Documentary Life received high acclaim from critics and scholars. The New York Review of Books called it "a masterpiece," and the Guardian labeled it "our best life of Shakespeare."
Making the resources of the world's greatest Shakespeare collections more accessible to all readers, this updated "Compact Life" contains a refined and amplified version of the original text and fifty of the original documents reproduced in smaller format. Schoenbaum has incorporated new material into his narrative, including an eyewitness account, in harrowing detail, of a murder believed to have occurred in New Place, the house that Shakespeare bought in Stratford in 1597. He also provides a new postscript which includes newly-compiled information from recent research on Shakespeare.
It contains the full text--redefined and amplified--of the original volume, and fifty documents reproduced in smaller format.
"So engrossing, clearheaded, and lucid that its arrival is not just welcome but cause for celebration."—Dan Cryer, Newsday
Stephen Greenblatt, the charismatic Harvard professor who "knows more about Shakespeare than Ben Jonson or the Dark Lady did" (John Leonard, Harper's), has written a biography that enables us to see, hear, and feel how an acutely sensitive and talented boy, surrounded by the rich tapestry of Elizabethan life; full of drama and pageantry, and also cruelty and danger; could have become the world's greatest playwright. A young man from the provinces—a man without wealth, connections, or university education—moves to London. In a remarkably short time he becomes the greatest playwright not just of his age but of all time. His works appeal to urban sophisticates and first-time theatergoers; he turns politics into poetry; he recklessly mingles vulgar clowning and philosophical subtlety. How is such an achievement to be explained?
Will in the World interweaves a searching account of Elizabethan England with a vivid narrative of the playwright's life. We see Shakespeare learning his craft, starting a family, and forging a career for himself in the wildly competitive London theater world, while at the same time grappling with dangerous religious and political forces that took less-agile figures to the scaffold. Above all, we never lose sight of the great works—A Midsummer Night's Dream, Romeo and Juliet, Hamlet, Macbeth, and more—that continue after four hundred years to delight and haunt audiences everywhere. The basic biographical facts of Shakespeare's life have been known for over a century, but now Stephen Greenblatt shows how this particular life history gave rise to the world's greatest writer. Bringing together little-known historical facts and little-noticed elements of Shakespeare's plays, Greenblatt makes inspired connections between the life and the works and deliver "a dazzling and subtle biography" (Richard Lacayo, Time). Readers will experience Shakespeare's vital plays again as if for the first time, but with greater understanding and appreciation of their extraordinary depth and humanity.
A Best Book of the Year: The New York Times 10 Best Books of 2004; Time magazine's #1 Best Nonfiction Book; A Washington Post Book World Rave ; An Economist Best Book ; A San Francisco Chronicle Best Book; A Christian Science Monitor Best Book; A Chicago Tribune Best Book; A Pittsburgh Post-Gazette Best Book ; NPR's Maureen Corrigan's Best.
Finalist for the National Book Award in Nonfiction
IN THIS ILLUMINATING, innovative biography, Jonathan Bate, one of today's most accomplished Shakespearean scholars, has found a fascinating new way to tell the story of the great dramatist. Using the Bard's own list of a man's seven ages in As You Like It-infant, schoolboy, lover, soldier, justice, pantaloon, and oblivion-Bate deduces the crucial events of Shakespeare's life and connects them to his world and work as never before. Equal parts masterly detective story, brilliant literary analysis, and insightful world history, Soul of the Age is more than a new recounting of Shakespeare's experiences; it is a bold and entertaining work of scholarship and speculation, one that shifts from past to present, reality to the imagination, to reveal how this unsurpassed artist came to be.
John Wilders - literary advisor to the BBC TV Shakespeare series - brings thorough scholarship and a practical understanding of performance needs to this new edition. Clarity, accessibility and rigour are the hallmarks of an edition which will provide invaluable guidance for all its readers. "This edition has a very helpful introduction and good clear text, as well as the exceptionally excellent and detailed notes." Dr Michael Herbert, St Andrews University 'Â…a useful treatment of a complex play' Barry Gaines, University of New Mexico, Shakespeare Quarterly