Contrary to popular belief, a great many traces survive from the life of William Shakespeare: entries in parish records, legal papers, at least one authenticated portrait, a few anecdotes (some apocryphal), and some interesting allusions in the writings of contemporaries – quite apart from the Sonnets, two narrative poems, and those 37-odd plays (most of which, despite all the nonsense published in their praise every year, really are extremely good). For certain readers, however, all this still leaves much to be desired. There is no evidence, for example, to suggest that Shakespeare was ever photographed with Kenneth Branagh; no interviews survive from the Observer Colour Supplement to reveal the bard’s frank opinions on Sir Ian McKellen, ecology or the Arts Council; and no document uncovered to date to suggest that he was ever romantically involved with either Peggy Ashcroft or Laurence Olivier or any of their respective ex-spouses. In short, the biggest theatrical celebrity of all time has so far been, as theatrical celebrities go, a bit of a non-starter.It is to tackle this problem that Garry O’Connor has published William Shakespeare: A Life, the first ever biography of the Bard to back up its fantasies about the playwright’s private life not by offering any new historical evidence, or even by reinterpreting the old, but simply by dropping names.
Follow Literary Review on Twitter
The March issue of Literary Review is out now: https://literaryreview.co.uk
Michael Prodger on Gauguin in Polynesia
@nclarke14 on Barbara Comyns
@JulianBaggini on the price of life
@MarkGaleotti on Zelensky's star turn
@william_whyte on building the Square Mile
and much, much more
Publishers no longer sit at antique desks in Georgian townhouses, but, asks @NicholasClee, does that mean the industry has gone downhill?
Nicholas Clee - The End of the Long Lunch
Nicholas Clee: The End of the Long Lunch
What should I wear to meet the king?
Will I be able to pay the driver?
What new Labour prime ministers really worry about:
H Kumarasingham - We’ll Keep the Red Flag on the Down Low
H Kumarasingham: We’ll Keep the Red Flag on the Down Low - The Wild Men: The Remarkable Story of Britain’s ...