How did Shakespeare become Shakespeare? Stephen Greenblatt thinks he knows, even though the ordinary biographical evidence is vague, to say the least. Although there are great dangers to doing what Greenblatt attempts, it is still irresistable reading. A sample: "After patiently sifting through most of the available biographical traces, readers rarely feel closer to understanding how the playwright’s achievements came about. If anything, Shakespeare often seems a drabber, duller person, and the inward springs of his art seem more obscure than ever. The work is so astonishing, so luminous, that it seems to have come from a god and not a mortal, let alone a mortal of provincial origins and modest education.
And yet one of the prime characteristics of Shakespeare’s art is the touch of the real. Even before a gifted actor makes Shakespeare’s words come alive, those words contain the vivid presence of actual, lived experience."
Greenblatt has a new book out, Will in the World, which Adam Gopnik considers favorably for The New Yorker. Also a good read. We are seeing Measure for Measure tonight with the Jane Austen Society, by the way. More on this later.