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Who Was William Shakespeare?: An Introduction to the Life and Works




Who Was William Shakespeare?: An Introduction to the Life and Works

Dympna Callaghan

ISBN: 978-1-118-31227-8 October 2012 Wiley-Blackwell 320 Pages



A new study of Shakespeare’s life and times, which illuminates our understanding and appreciation of his works.

  • Combines an accessible fully historicised treatment of both the life and the plays, suited to both undergraduate and popular audiences
  • Looks at 24 of the most significant plays and the sonnets through the lens of various aspects of Shakespeare’s life and historical environment
  • Addresses four of the most significant issues that shaped Shakespeare’s career:  education, religion, social status, and theatre
  • Examines theatre as an institution and the literary environment of early modern London
  • Explains and dispatches conspiracy theories about authorship
Note on the Text ix

Acknowledgments xi

Part I The Life 1

1 Who was William Shakespeare? 3

2 Writing 23

3 Religion 47

4 Status 61

5 Theatre 79

Part II The Plays 97

6 Comedies: Shakespeare’s Social Life 99

The Comedy of Errors 99

The Taming of the Shrew 108

Love’s Labour’s Lost 119

A Midsummer Night’s Dream 125

The Merchant of Venice 132

Much Ado About Nothing 138

As You Like It 146

Twelfth Night, Or What You Will 153

Measure for Measure 159

7 English and Roman Histories: Shakespeare’s Politics 177

Richard II 177

1 Henry IV 182

Henry V 192

Richard III 198

Julius Caesar 204

Coriolanus 210

8 Tragedies: Shakespeare in Love and Loss 223

Romeo and Juliet 223

Hamlet 232

Othello 241

King Lear 252

Macbeth 260

Antony and Cleopatra 266

9 Romances: Shakespeare and Theatrical Magic 277

The Winter’s Tale 277

The Tempest 284

Index 295

“[A] highly readable introduction to the Life and Works, in the best tradition of that ancient and worthy genre. It is furthermore a piece of New Historical criticism at its sober best … With such impressive scholarly credentials, [Callaghan] is more than well equipped to provide original and perceptive introductions to Shakespeare’s life and works. But this is no mere mechanical life-and-works primer, like the dozens already available on the market and on college bookshop shelves … This [is a] substantial work of criticism, presented as an introduction to Shakespeare the man and his work, but amounting to considerably more than mere introduction. Dympna Callaghan meets admirably the challenge she set herself in the bold question of the title: who was William Shakespeare? For she shows us very well indeed who he was – and is – and why.”(Cercles, 1 June 2014)

Featured in Times Literary Supplement - 25 October 2013

"Dympna Callaghan's lucid and well-structured textbook allows students to see the plays in their context." (Times Literary Supplement, 25 October 2013)

"The book should interest readers who are curious about Shakespeare's life and the social and political history of England. Summing Up: Recommended. Lower-division undergraduates through faculty; general readers." (Choice,  1 August 2013)