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Will in the World: How Shakespeare Became Shakespeare (2004)

af Stephen Greenblatt

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3,405583,737 (3.88)121
"A young man from a small provincial town moves to London in the late 1580s and, in a remarkably short time, becomes the greatest playwright not of his age alone but of all time. How is an achievement of this magnitude to be explained? Stephen Greenblatt brings us down to earth to see, hear, and feel how an acutely sensitive and talented boy, surrounded by the rich tapestry of Elizabethan life, could have become the world's greatest playwright."--… (mere)
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I don't necessarily agree with all of Greenblatt's arguments, but he creates here a worthy portrait and discussion to add to the vast database of information and theories on Shakespeare's life and times. ( )
  therebelprince | Oct 24, 2023 |
Interesting speculations about the life of Shakespeare and how he became a gentleman despite his humble beginnings. Relationships with other poets / dramatists, etc. are intriguing too. ( )
  kslade | Dec 8, 2022 |
Gosh, this is good. Greenblatt, as I think has been pointed out elsewhere, wears his erudtion lightly -- you could be excused for not recognizing this as the work of a highly-respected scholar: it's written clearly, engagingly, and is -- at least for this reader -- very much "compulsively readable" if that is synonymous with "hard to put down."

Is it speculative? sure, it has to be. It's not, as the "Oxfordians" and other conspiracy theorist-types might argue, that there is NO (or suspiciously little) evidence for the Shakespeare who wrote all those plays -- it's just that the bulk of the evidence is so mundane. It's there -- it just doesn't necessarily speak the way we might want it to. That said, I find Greenblatt's army of "may have been"s quite well-grounded, and at their best they do illuminate the works that we have. My favorite chapter might be "Laughter at the Scaffold" which goes into Shakespeare's eternally-discomfiting exploration of Jewishness in "The Merchant of Venice," playing it off his probable-rival Marlowe's roughly contemporary effort "The Jew of Malta" and demonstrating how much further Shakespeare went -- and why he might have done so.

As I'd hoped it would, this book is filling me with a strong desire to return to the plays, which at one time were the center of my world and certainly deserve to be there once again. ( )
  tungsten_peerts | Mar 26, 2022 |
Fascinating. Wish I had read it whilst I was teaching English lit. ( )
  PattyLee | Dec 14, 2021 |
Will in the World didn't entirely convince me that William Shakespeare of Stratford on Avon is the author of the plays attributed to him. But it did convince me that he could have been, given Elizabethan education for males and the conventions for the theatre of the time. After all, genius can be found in people from all sorts of backgrounds.

Greenblatt found links between Shakespeare's life and the sonnets and plays that strike me as plausible. I'm not a Shakespeare scholar and I'm not familiar with all his writings. But I will note that actual facts about his life are scarce.

What I liked best about this book are the details provided about life in Elizabethan England. Greenblatt shares information on the religious upheavals, the views of women, and common, thoughtless violence of the culture. But in a lot of ways, their society was surprisingly modern. I'd recommend it for anyone interested in Shakespeare's plays or the historical period. ( )
  Library_Lin | Dec 13, 2021 |
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A young man from a small provincial town--a man without independent wealth, without powerful family connections, and without a university education--moves to London in the late 1580s and, in a remarkably short time, becomes the greatest playwright not of his age alone but of all time.
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A pack of paper that, neatly folded and cut, yielded about 50 small sheets, would have cost at least fourpence, or the equivalent of eight pints of ale, more than a pound of raisins, a pound of mutton and a pound of beef, two dozen eggs or two loaves of bread.
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"A young man from a small provincial town moves to London in the late 1580s and, in a remarkably short time, becomes the greatest playwright not of his age alone but of all time. How is an achievement of this magnitude to be explained? Stephen Greenblatt brings us down to earth to see, hear, and feel how an acutely sensitive and talented boy, surrounded by the rich tapestry of Elizabethan life, could have become the world's greatest playwright."--

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