Much of the life of William Shakespeare is a mystery. He carefully did not keep a diary nor send love letters to his wife. Shakespeare, the prolific writer who, in just over 50 years wrote an almost unbelievable number of remarkable poems and plays, did not leave many personal details of his life beyond public records (which are spotty 400 years later). There was not a market for biographies of famous playwrights in the 1600s, and many details of his life were not written down until he was long gone.
Yet, in Will in the World, Stephen Greenblatt attempts to explain Shakespeare’s life by reading what he did write: his plays. In a truly remarkable way, Greenblatt ties the Bard’s life into the context of Victorian England by visiting the context of his plays.Despite being an English major, I am not very familiar with most of Shakespeare’s work, let alone his life. I found Greenblatt’s look at Shakespeare’s life through his plays be utterly fascinating. Even if none of the suppositions Greenblatt provides were true, understanding the cultural context of the plays will help me in my future studies of the plays. I loved this “literary” biography, and I’d highly recommend it to those interested in the cultural context of the Bard.
A more detailed review of Will in the World is on Rebecca Reads. This is my first read for the 2009 BiblioShakespeare challenge.