The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 15.1824 Tuesday, 5 October 2004
From: Peter Bridgman <
Date: Monday, 4 Oct 2004 20:32:08 +0100
Subject: 15.1815 Pop Shakespeare
Comment: Re: SHK 15.1815 Pop Shakespeare
Richard Burt quotes Colm Toibin ...
>The life, on the other hand, was hardly documented: there are no letters
>or diaries or contemporary descriptions. Shakespeare's life was charted
>in the same way as most of his contemporaries': we have evidence of his
>parentage, his birth and death, his marriage, the birth and death of his
>children, his property deals. The rest, except for his name on poems and
>plays and some stray references to his work, is a silence we are barely
>able to tolerate. As Henry James wrote in his introduction to "The
>Tempest": "It is never to be forgotten that we are in the presence of
>the human character the most magnificently endowed, in all time . . .
>so that of him, inevitably, it goes hardest with us to be told that we
>have nothing, or next to nothing."
It is a myth that we know nothing, or next to nothing, about WS's life.
As Anthony Holden says in his biog, "In truth ... we know more about
the life of Shakespeare than of any of his literary contemporaries bar
Ben Jonson." Ian Wilson backs up this view ...
"By way of contrast ... for Christopher Marlowe, not a single signature
was thought to have survived until comparatively recently, when one was
found on a will that he had witnessed in 1583. Another near
contemporary of Shakespeare's was the dramatist John Webster ... yet no
one has discovered even the precise years of Webster's birth and death.
Even the case of Ben Jonson - more popular than Shakespeare in Court
circles, and in general better known at the time - no one has yet
discovered when or where he was born, the names of his parents, or the
number of his children. Neither, until comparatively recently, had
anyone found the name of his wife, nor when or where the couple had
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