Will in the World: How Shakespeare Became Shakespeare


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The theatre for which Shakespeare wrote and acted was a cut-throat commercial entertainment industry. Yet his plays were also intensely alert to the social and political realities of their times. Shakespeare had to make concessions to the commercial world, for the theatre company in which he was a shareholder had to draw some 1,500 to 2,000 paying customers a day into the round wooden walls of the playhouse to stay afloat and competition from rival companies was fierce. The key was not so much topicality - with government ...

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Michael D

Mar 28, 2013

Will in the World a Must Read

If you read the accolades of the research and writing of Stephen Greenblatt's 'Will in the World: How Shakespeare Became Shakespeare', they pretty much tell it all. If you love to read Shakespeare, go to the plays, and enjoy the seemingly timelessness of the themes, then you must read this deeply researched and insightful masterpiece.


Jul 4, 2009

Interesting and thorough new-age criticism

Greenblatt does well explaining how Shakespeare's known and possible past could have shaped success in an easy to read style. Essentially, the title tells you exactly what the book is about.

One critique of this book is my dislike of Greenblatt's long-winded side tracks. Yes, they were interesting and informative, but did not tell me much about Shakespeare. Another pet peeve has to do more with the type of criticism than anything else: sometimes fiction is just fiction. Just because a character in a Shakespearean play somewhat resembles someone alive during Shakespeare's time, does not necessarily mean that they knew each other or that the character is a "dig" on the real life person. Greenblatt gave this comparison between 1 & 2 Henry IV's Falstaff, and drunken playwright Greene.

I am glad I read this book. Knowing how life in London was in Shakespeare's time will help me better understand elements of the plays. Other than being long-winded, I find that Greenblatt did well with this book.


Aug 20, 2007

Will o' the Wisp

Anyone loving English must stand in atremble before Shakespeare, a man not Oxford educated or born wealthy and privileged. Instead, Great Will had the unheralded luck of being born to times of linguistic, religious and social ferment. Stephen Greenblatt does a great turn by loosening his ivy-league imagination on the subject of the circumstances that likely formed Ye Bard.
Isn't it rich? Although we have Shakespeare's astounding plays and sonnets, we know lamentably little of his actual doings, comings and goings. How indeed did a glover's son make a living as would-be gentleman and produce a body of work that stands immortal, both in English and across the world? Why is it that we reference a man so little known to us biographically instead of Thomas Kyd, Ben Jonson or the flamboyant Christopher Marlowe?
Mr. Greenblatt recreates the boisterous Elizabethan stew that produced such a delectation as "Will in the World." Perhaps Will o' the Wisp is the applicable metaphor. The author stitches a highly informed patchwork of educated surmises that detract not a whit from the wonderment of a singular Shakespeare. Will in the World reminds us that in the right hands, an imagination unloosed is boon to us all.
The mystery surrounding Will in his world adds to the concomitant wonderment of the Complete Works. The book is gloriously insightful, well ordered and does not pander. Chances are, even if the reader isn't a Shakespearean, he will find much of Hamlet and Lear, Ophelia and Desdemona preexistent in his subconscious waiting to be entreated. Shakespeare is simply that vital to our language and culture: we know him without knowing him.
The spell induced by Will in the World gaves this reader proximity to Shakespeare and his times, leaving the Bard's plain and magnificent humanity wholly accessible. The only response upon closing the book is to marvel willy-nilly, at the manifestation of genius.
(After reading Will in the World, do a friend, a student, a poet or player a favor: pass it on.)

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