Review – Will in the World: How Shakespeare became Shakespeare, by Stephen Greenblatt

137717Stephen Greeblatt is touted as the preeminent authority on the study of Shakespeare, and for the longest time, I have been meaning to read some of his work. It’s taken me a while, but I finally got there! As someone who predominantly reads fiction, getting through this nonfiction book took a little bit longer than usual. However, it was well worth it.
Have you ever been interested in what influenced Shakespeare and his plays/sonnets? Of course, there are many theories out there that claim to have some insight into the motives behind the works, but so many of them are based upon urban legend and propaganda, that it is difficult to separate the truth (or as close to the truth you’ll get without actually interviewing The Bard himself) from hyperbole and outright lies. In his book, Greenblatt examines what little remain of historical records relating to Shakespeare, his family, and other figures of the time, and bases his theories upon historical and sociological context. Greenblatt quite clearly states that some of his theories are based both upon the scarce historical records available and some educated conjecture.
Whilst, Greenblatt admits that his theories cannot be taken as the ultimate indisputable truth, with over 45 years of professional experience devoted to Shakespeare studies, this is probably the closest to accuracy as we’ll get for a while.
As I said above, reading this piece of nonfiction took a while to get into. Once I got into it however, his style of writing began to read like fiction. Greenblatt does not assume that we’ve all taken graduate courses in Jacobean drama or 17th century history, but nor does he belittle his reader; Greenblatt’s narrative takes us chronologically through the known history and events of Shakespeare’s time, and presents us with an entertaining, but educated, glance into the influence behind many of the plays that we’ve all known and loved (or hated!) over the years.
~ Pegasus.
Buy it here: Will in the World: How Shakespeare Became Shakespeare