By Grace Tiffany
Berkeley Publishing 2004
For those of you reading this blog, you should know by now, that I do not accept the premise that William, the man from Stratford, actually wrote the plays.
But this novel is written in a very believeable way that explains how William got to know all about those European places that are mentioned in the plays, without having lived there himself.
This novel covers William from the time he got Anne Hathaway pregnant and was forced to marry her, to the time he left London and retired back to Stratford. Roughly between 30 and 40 years.
It explains how William was educated. Mostly by the local school masters in Latin, but William learnt his greek from reading greek books at his great-uncle's library. Remember, William's mother Mary Arden was of a minor noble family. Mary's uncle Edward Arden was beheaded for suspicion of being a Papist (or a Catholic - which he was) before William was 20. Arden's head was stuck on a pole in London for a few years.
After William and Anne Hathaway were married, because she was in the family way, William took off for London.
One of the first people William met in London was Kit Marlowe. There was competition between them. Originally William began writing conversations in a new manner - quick repartee between characters rather than long monologues. Kit stole the concept from William and used it for one of his plays. William was most upset. They didn't speak for a number of years, until Kit was killed in a Deptford tavern.
Then William was taken to the Earl of Southampton's house, where Henry Wriothesley (the Earl) took a fancy to him. The word is never mentioned but the book implies that Henry was either homosexual or trans-sexual. He liked to dress up in women's clothing. He was eventually married off to a woman he didnt particularly like, but he did want to seem to look normal. Henry commanded William to write him some poems, so William wrote his sonnets praising Henry. Henry promised to keep them safe and to not publish them.
While he was at Henry's house, William met Emilia, a young and unhappy Italian noblewoman who was married to an English nobleman. William pumped this women for information about life in the Italian nobility, and they slept together as well. This is supposedly how William learnt so much about Italy.
William had originally had been working for Kit's group of players, but after they fell out, William moved to a new group where he got a job as a bit part actor and started seriously writing plays. Henry Wriothesley had plenty of money which he loaned to William to enable to William to write his plays. Eventually the players began producing and performing Will's plays.
Some years later Emilia published the sonnets. She told William she had found them amongst Henry's books and had copied them.
The novel mentions Henslow, Babbage, Cuminge, and Ben Jonson and all those other names associated with William Shakespeare. William also gets to meet Queen Elizabeth, the Scottish King James, the poet John Donne and even Pocahantas. (Did Pocahantas really go to England?)
If you did not know about the controversy over whether or not William actually wrote the plays, you would actually beleive this story entirely, and be convinced that William Shakespeare from Stratford did write those plays.
I enjoyed this story much more than I thought I would. I had tried to read Tiffany's earlier book, My Father had a Daughter some time ago, but for some reason, I just couldnt get into that one.
This is my first book for the Shakespeare challenge.