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The Life of William Shakespeare: A Critical Biography



The Life of William Shakespeare: A Critical Biography

Lois Potter

ISBN: 978-1-118-23177-7 March 2012 Wiley-Blackwell 504 Pages


The Life of William Shakespeare is a fascinating and wide-ranging exploration of Shakespeare's life and works focusing on oftern neglected literary and historical contexts: what Shakespeare read, who he worked with as an author and an actor, and how these various collaborations may have affected his writing.
  • Written by an eminent Shakespearean scholar and experienced theatre reviewer
  • Pays particular attention to Shakespeare's theatrical contemporaries and the ways in which they influenced his writing
  • Offers an intriguing account of the life and work of the great poet-dramatist structured around the idea of memory
  • Explores often neglected literary and historical contexts that illuminate Shakespeare's life and works
List of Illustrations vi

Preface and Acknowledgments vii

List of Abbreviations x

The Shakespeare Family Tree xii

1 “Born into the World”: 1564–1571 1

2 “Nemo SibiNascitur”: 1571–1578 21

3 “Hic et Ubique”: 1578–1588 40

4 “This Man’s Art and That Man’s Scope”: 1588–1592 64

5 “Tigers’ Hearts”: 1592–1593 86

6 “The Dangerous Year”: 1593–1594 106

7 “Our Usual Manager of Mirth”: 1594–1595 134

8 “The Strong’st and Surest Way to Get”: Histories, 1595–1596 162

9 “When Love Speaks”: Tragedy and Comedy, 1595–1596 181

10 “You Had a Father; Let Your Son Say So”: 1596–1598 201

11 “Unworthy Scaffold”: 1598–1599 231

12 “These Words Are Not Mine”: 1599–1601 258

13 “Looking Before and After”: 1600–1603 277

14 “This Most Balmy Time”: 1603–1605 300

15 “Past the Size of Dreaming”: 1606–1609 330

16 “Like an Old Tale”: 1609–1611 360

17 “The Second Burden”: 1612–1616 384

18 “In the Mouths of Men”: 1616 and After 414

Bibliography 443

Index 475

“Two of the Mighty dead have been brought back to life in exemplary fashion: Shakespeare in Lois Potter’s The Life of William Shakespeare: A Critical Biography, which very cleverly uses expert theatre-knowledge as a way of making her enigmatic subject seem plausibly substantial; and Keats in Nicholas Roe’s John Keats: A New Life, which puts the poet properly in his place.”  (The Guardian, 24 November 2012)

“This study will have wide appeal to readers who wish to expand their appreciation of the works of William Shakespeare.  Summing Up: Highly recommended.  Upper-division undergraduates through faculty; general readers.”  (Choice, 1 November 2012)

“These form the narrative spine of this richly suggestive, undogmatic book in which Lois Potter ranges across the entire canon and the period that helped produce it.”  (Around the Globe, 1 October 2012)

“Lois Potter’s Life of William Shakespeare, ranks with the most distinguished examples of its kind … Her achievement lies in her catholicity, her simultaneous commitment to matters personal, historical, theatrical, literary, cultural.  She exhibits an absolute command of the available facts, a lifetime’s acquaintance with the works gained in teaching and playgoing, an unparalleled familiarity with theatrical history from 1567 to the present, and a talent for connecting the fictional and the actual.”  (Times Literary Supplement, 10 August 2012)