Will in the World: How Shakespeare Became Shakespeare

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W. W. Norton & Company, 2004 - Biography & Autobiography - 430 pages
242 Reviews
Stephen Greenblatt, the charismatic Harvard professor who "knows more about Shakespeare than Ben Jonson or the Dark Lady did" (John Leonard, Harper's), has written a biography that enables us to see, hear, and feel how an acutely sensitive and talented boy, surrounded by the rich tapestry of Elizabethan life; full of drama and pageantry, and also cruelty and danger; could have become the world's greatest playwright. A young man from the provinces--a man without wealth, connections, or university education--moves to London. In a remarkably short time he becomes the greatest playwright not just of his age but of all time. His works appeal to urban sophisticates and first-time theatergoers; he turns politics into poetry; he recklessly mingles vulgar clowning and philosophical subtlety. How is such an achievement to be explained?Will in the World interweaves a searching account of Elizabethan England with a vivid narrative of the playwright's life. We see Shakespeare learning his craft, starting a family, and forging a career for himself in the wildly competitive London theater world, while at the same time grappling with dangerous religious and political forces that took less-agile figures to the scaffold. Above all, we never lose sight of the great works--A Midsummer Night's Dream, Romeo and Juliet, Hamlet, Macbeth, and more--that continue after four hundred years to delight and haunt audiences everywhere. The basic biographical facts of Shakespeare's life have been known for over a century, but now Stephen Greenblatt shows how this particular life history gave rise to the world's greatest writer. Bringing together little-known historical facts and little-noticed elements of Shakespeare's plays, Greenblatt makes inspired connections between the life and the works and deliver "a dazzling and subtle biography" (Richard Lacayo, Time). Readers will experience Shakespeare's vital plays again as if for the first time, but with greater understanding and appreciation of their extraordinary depth and humanity.A Best Book of the Year: The New York Times 10 Best Books of 2004; Time magazine's #1 Best Nonfiction Book; A Washington Post Book World Rave ; An Economist Best Book ; A San Francisco Chronicle Best Book; A Christian Science Monitor Best Book; A Chicago Tribune Best Book; A Pittsburgh Post-Gazette Best Book ; NPR's Maureen Corrigan's Best.
  

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Very entertaining writing style and very informative. - Goodreads
Very well researched and vividly recounted. - Goodreads
This book just had a really interesting premise. - Goodreads
Captivating writing style and technique. - Goodreads
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Review: Will in the World: How Shakespeare Became Shakespeare

User Review  - SN - Goodreads

Brilliant analysis and synthesis of the social, political, and professional milieu of Shakespeare. Captivating writing style and technique. One of the best books I have read. Enjoyed every page. Warmly recommend. Read full review

Review: Will in the World: How Shakespeare Became Shakespeare

User Review  - Kathryn Steffen - Goodreads

Never really had much interest in Shakespeare until I had to read this for my night class. It was BRILLIANT. I highly suggest reading ANYTHING by Greenblatt. He is a wonderfully gifted story teller. Read full review

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Contents

Primal Scenes
23
The Dream of Restoration
54
The Great Fear
87
Wooing Wedding and Repenting
118
Crossing the Bridge
149
Life in the Suburbs
175
Shakescene
199
MasterMistress
226
Laughter at the Scaffold
256
Speaking with the Dead
288
Bewitching the King
323
The Triumph of the Everyday
356
Bibliographical Notes
391
Index
409
Copyright

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About the author (2004)

Stephen Greenblatt is University Professor of the Humanities at Harvard University.

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