There are numerous books written by renowned scholars depicting Shakespeare’s life. Among these countless biographies, Stephen Greenblatt’s piece called “Will in the world: How Shakespeare became Shakespeare” is a captivating account.
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It is paramount to acknowledge that Stephen Greenblatt is a celebrated scholar born in 1943 at Cambridge, Massachusetts. He has taught for extended periods in universities making his work recognizable in the literary stratum. This is partly attributable to his capacity to reach out to persons above his academia and less knowledgeable audience.
This piece is a volume written in 2004 detailing the life of the literary icon. In the book, Greenblatt explores the life of Shakespeare and attempts to explain how a man with such dismal education gained recognition as a dramatist. As such, this write up is a chapter examination of the book. Furthermore, it attempts to elucidate the thoughts and ideas expressed by Stephen Greenblatt.
This book merges two sources of information thus the biographical documentation and the writings of the scholar making propositions explaining his life and work. Using his writings, Greenblatt deduces why Shakespeare wrote certain texts as they appear in his work. The writer takes a chronological approach based on existing evidence to piece the ensuing story.
The first chapter of this thrilling encounter named the “Primal scenes” focuses on Shakespeare’s early life (Greenblatt 23). Similar to the proceeding propositions, the core of this chapter derives its basis on the thematic expressions present in icons own writings. It describes the events of his early life in the remote settlement of Stratford as Avon started his education. Apparently, Shakespeare attended a moderately prestigious school at that time.
Greenblatt (24) explains that children who attended a similar school were from a handful of upper, middle category families. Reportedly, it is in this school that he probably got exposed to the literature and acts of Latin comedies. Greenblatt flaunts the idea that Shakespeare probably took a central role in a play called the “two menaechmuses”, which inspired Shakespeare’s play entitled the comedy of errors (Greenblatt 24).
Greenblatt speculates that Shakespeare attended acts by dramatists visiting his home town in a company of his father who reportedly served in a senior position either as a bailiff or the town’s mayor. The book denotes that this troupes of actors staged plays advocating for virtuous deeds and denouncing acts of violence amidst the youth. These propositions by Greenblatt are evident in Shakespeare’s later work when he emulates these actors in his plays.
At the close of the chapter, Greenblatt denotes that the hugely documented visit by the Queen to the region played a noteworthy function in Shakespeare’s early advance.
While the Queen stayed at the castle of “Earl of Leicester”, the host staged several acts for her entertainment. Greenblatt argues that such primal scenes contributed to the iconic development of Shakespeare as a playwright. It is worth noticing that the primal scenes described by Greenblatt are synonymous to the theories established by the psychiatrist Sigmund Freud.
The second chapter of this volume is denoted as the dream of restoration. The first section in this chapter focuses on John Shakespeare who is William Shakespeare’s father. Reportedly, John married the daughter of a noble affluent landowner.
In his earlier carrier, he worked as a glove maker in his father in-law‘s plantations. Greenblatt based this theory on the evidence portrayed in numerous Shakespeare plays like the Hamlet, the twelfth night and the Midsummer. Apparently, in these plays, there are several references to gloves and associated leathers.
According to Greenblatt (56), John took a second career as an illegal wool dealer who later evolves into an influential individual within his society. Greenblatt (60) denotes that over time, for unreported reasons, his significance within the society acutely reduced. He ultimately became a poor man with an ill repute among his peers and community. One vital assertion in this chapter is the aspiration John had for prosperity and ultimate endorsement in societal standings as a man.
This ambition is inherent in John despite the tightly regulated society of his time. Greenblatt proposed that, based on the figurative intonations present in Shakespeare’s plays, he must have played apart in his father’s work as a young man. He attributes the faltering social and economic status of his father on the apparent drinking problem common among countless adults during that era.
According to Greenblatt (86), the ensuing economic hardships played a role in the development of Shakespeare’s artistic ability. This development by Shakespeare is what presumably restored the family to its former economic glory. Greenblatt denotes the presence of such stories in several Shakespeare plays like the exiled Prospero who fails to raise a dream of restoration.
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Greenblatt named chapter three of his volume the utter fear. The onset of this division denotes the dangers associated with plying the roads of England during the Shakespeare epoch. Reportedly, all travelers had to have travelling licenses drafted by rich patrons, failure to which subject one to arrests and detention.
According to Greenblatt (87), this restricted Shakespeare’s travels from his home and to London. In order to explain Shakespeare’s whereabouts between his school days and his marriage, Greenblatt proposes the comments by one of earlier Shakespeare’s biographers who apparently described him as a schoolmaster of the countryside.
This era marked the age when numerous religious disagreements ensued amid the “catholic and the Protestants” (Greenblatt 87). When Queen Elizabeth came to power in the 1953, she made Protestant the nationwide religion while she declared the practicing of the catholic religion a crime. These actions created more divisions amid the two devout factions and were seriously detrimental to the youth of the Shakespeare era.
The denunciation of the catholic religion created multiple problems to the people. Many publicly professed to Protestantism but continued their catholic practices at confides of their homes. Greenblatt propose that Shakespeare’s mother was probably a devout catholic while his father probably played the reported pretentious Protestantism.
Citing evidence of such conflicts in his plays, Greenblatt believes that Shakespeare might have resorted to training the children of the wealthy protestant groups in Northern England to avoid the eminent religious rift present within the community at the time According to Greenblatt, while teaching in the Northern England, Shakespeare might have started practicing with the local troupes.
Similarly, this could have marked the occasion he met the disreputable catholic advocacy, later persecuted, and called Edmund Campion. Greenblatt (117) reports that, Shakespeare was little concerned with the ensuing religious radicalism, but the events were undoubtedly recorded in his thought. This controversial religious extremism is what Greenblatt refer to as the great fear.
Chapter four of the book named “Wooing the wedding and Repenting” captures the events of 1582. According to Greenblatt, this marked the year Shakespeare got married. Reportedly, he spent most of his life away from his family in London until his demise later on in 1926. Reportedly, he did not leave her anything in his will.
This is an indication of an unhappy union between the two. Greenblatt interpretation of Shakespeare’s poetry finds its basis in this fact. There mixed feelings about the institution of matrimony present in his work tend to explain his troubled marriage life. Greenblatt believes that this was the likely case of Shakespeare. According to Greenblatt, the marriage experiences could have formed the motivated his denunciation of premarital sex.
Chapter five of the book named “crossing the bridge”. In this chapter, Greenblatt explains reasons that might have compelled Shakespeare to leave his hometown and family for London.
According to Greenblatt (150), Shakespeare affianced in poaching, which was an assessment of manhood, proficiency and intelligence for many young adults of his time. According to Greenblatt, the landowners on whose land they reportedly hunted the deer might have caught and threatened him with severe punishments. He probably escaped to London before he faced the punishment.
Consequently, the rich landowner who detested Shakespeare, called Lucy, was a one of the most famous protestant aristocrats who plotted to sweep out the catholic influence out of England. Shakespeare, who had a reported catholic influence in his family, opted to flee to London fearing for his life. Crossing the bridge is in reference to the physical bridges he crossed on his way to London. It also represents the metaphorical bridges he crossed in fleeing to London and the commencement of a new chapter in his life.
Chapter six of the volume assumes the title “life in the suburbs”. According to Greenblatt (177), when Shakespeare arrived in London, the town had two dissimilar lifestyles. The first lifestyle is evident within the Roman walls, which surrounded the city.
This was an urban lifestyle marked by noise, pungent smells, terrible health and crowding within the city. According to Greenblatt, Shakespeare found this lifestyle quite awful and loathed its every aspect.
However, with time he reportedly adopted to it as evident in the many plays he hosted within the walls of rot. Greenblatt denotes a second life which was exterior to the walls of London. Shakespeare found this lifestyle so likeable that he compares it to the fresh, healthy air of his hometown in Strafford. These suburbs had access to brothels, baiting pits and execution areas. It was the exposure Shakespeare had while living amidst these people that molded his views about a bout the public’s lust for violence.
This evident in his treatment of Lavinia in the play Titus Andronicus where he writes about Lavinia’s violent punishment in having her tongue and hands dismembered. This part of town equally hosted a varied number of theaters that acted to develop Shakespeare’s artistic prowess.
The writer gave chapter seven of this volume the name “Shake scenes”. From the onset, the writer attempts to explain why the rhythmical sensibilities, length and concentration of scenes in such plays like Tamburlaine and Henry only appeared tolerable and appealing to the audience of the Elizabeth eras. According to Greenblatt, these playwrights were all university educated who appeared to isolate their professional work from their families.
These professionals included “Christopher Marlowe and Robert Green”. Marlowe wrote the play Tamburlaine while Green reportedly was the organizer of these professionals, but he produced no work. Greenblatt denotes that with his deficient education, Shakespeare initially had difficulties joining with these university graduates, but his outstanding skill as playwright ultimately earned him respect and recognition among this group.
Chapter eight has the name “Master-Mistress”. Greenblatt devotes this chapter exclusively to Shakespeare’s poetry. Greenblatt present several Shakespeare poetics in this chapter including his classic poem, Venus and Adonis. Other Shakespeare classics mentioned includes the “Rape of Lucrece”.
Greenblatt account of Shakespeare’s poetic life commences with Robert Green’s publication of tracts disparaging Shakespeare. However, a famous poet named Thomas Nashe published documentation disapproving Green’s actions albeit under the influence of an aristocrat called Earl. Earl, who later became Shakespeare’s patron, was a rich self-indulgent man who was one of Queen Elisabeth’s principle advisors.
Chapter nine of the encounter called Laughter at the Scaffold. This chapter goes back in time to explain the onset of Shakespeare’s livelihood at a time before the demise of Christopher Marlowe. According to Greenblatt (256), these two professional had a strong friendship and respect for an individual’s work.
However, they equally had such a strong professional rivalry. Greenblatt attributes this proposition on the existence of a relatively small audience they both served, noting they must have known each other well. The alluded rivalry is attributable to the small market in which they plied their trade. Greenblatt (272) mentions the acute similarity in their use of the language, their love for it and their similar age as an indication of a potential friendship.
The title of this chapter has the titled “speaking with the dead”. The onset of the chapter narrates the demise of Shakespeare’s son Hamnet. It discusses the reasons that might have motivated Shakespeare to leave London to go to Stratford to attend his son’s funeral.
According to Greenblatt, while Shakespeare was away at his son’s funeral, a legal and financial battle ensued between Shakespeare’s theater and the businesspersons who ran the theater. With the on going battle, Shakespeare retuned in earnest and reportedly in the middle of the night, dismantled the theater and relocated it elsewhere. The ensuing legal battle to afford the owner some form of financial compensation met a snag (Greenblatt 258).
The second, last chapter has the title “bewitching the King”. The onset of the chapter is a continuation of the analysis of the play called Hamlet. According to Greenblatt (324), the playwright’s most vital innovation in the play is the removal of motivation. He fails to explain why characters act the way they did and the judgment is left in the hands of the audience.
Greenblatt denotes that he similarly used similar techniques in such plays like King Leah and Othello. Reportedly, this took separated Shakespeare’s work from any of his pees by taking his artistic work to a new level of psychological and spiritual study. Greenblatt denotes that, Shakespeare created characters in his plays that were closer representations of the personage psych.
The last Chapter of this encounter, which was given the name the “triumph of the day”, focuses on the final days of Shakespeare’s life. Greenblatt examines King Lear where he notes the existing resemblance between two situations in the play and the London town.
The situation at the beginning of the play talks about old men almost demented the king’s demands to certain whom among his three daughters profoundly adored him. Greenblatt relate this to the situation at the time in which there was exceeding respect for elders. This was indicative of his old age thoughts.
Despite his deficient education, Shakespeare brought to the world playwrights new styles and approaches that are up to date appreciated. The teachings present in his plays are an absolute inspiration to the old and the young, artists and normal individuals, as well. The write up has an unusual directness and lacks the ancient English language so typical of such volumes. Greenblatt story gives an exceedingly elaborate view of Shakespeare.
It is saddening to read about his troubled upbringing and the subsequent family economic difficulties brought by a father with misplaced priorities. Greenblatt shows how societal ills such as alcoholism can destroy a well-established family unit. Nonetheless, it is estimable how John Shakespeare struggles for his relations to escape from the dungeons of poverty. He wants his name to command respect by attaining a promotion to a higher echelon of the society.
There are numerous lessons learned from the Shakespeare’s story. Undoubtedly, one of the most significant lessons learnt is the significance of the events of one’s upbringing in his future professional path. Despite his deficient education, Shakespeare brought to the world of playwrights new styles and approaches that are up to date cherished. The teachings present in his plays are an absolute inspiration to the old and the young, artists and normal individuals.
Greenblatt, Stephen. Will in the World: How Shakespeare Became Shakespeare. New York, NY: W.W. Norton & Company, 2005. Print.