The Writer’s Tale

“No literary life excites as much speculation or poses as many puzzles as that of William Shakespeare. The keen interest in Shakespeare’s biography that began in the 18th century is a natural byproduct of his preeminence in our culture.

For all his fame, however, there are few outright certainties. The paper trail that does exist teases and tantalizes. Scholars have records of Shakespeare’s birth in 1564, and mentions of his work in the theater. There is evidence of his unpaid taxes and legal quarrels, a few property transactions, and a will.

Indeed, it is more than scholars know about many of Shakespeare’s artistic contemporaries. But the overall narrative thread of Shakespeare’s life is frayed in many places, and broken completely in others.

Tying that thread back together is the goal of Stephen Greenblatt’s new biography, Will in the World: How Shakespeare Became Shakespeare (W.W. Norton). In the book, Mr. Greenblatt seeks to combine the scholarship that has made him a central figure in the world of literary theory with the demands of a popular audience.”

More here in The Chronicle of Higher Education (via Arts and Letters Daily).