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Shakespeare's Lives

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When S. Schoenbaum's Shakespeare's Lives first appeared over twenty years ago, critics enthusiastically hailed it as a triumph of wit and scholarship ... Show synopsis

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Reviews of Shakespeare's Lives

Overall customer rating: 5.000
dekesolomon

Stranger than Fiction -- but You Won't Mind

by dekesolomon on Sep 18, 2009

***** Samuel Shoenbaum's 'Shakespeare's Lives' is probably the most amazing biography I've ever read. Fiction never gets as wild or as crazy as the real people, real events, and real ideas of which Shoenbaum tells in this book. Mr. Shoenbaum starts by giving a lively account of the life of William Shakespeare. I learned what scholars actually know about the man, about his life, about his career as a poet and playwright, about his wife, his parents, his family, his friends, his rivals, his death, his burial, the myths and the legends told and retold about him -- the works. All of that made a good read even if it is pretty mild stuff. But then -- when I was a hundred pages into this thing -- a heading announced 'The Rise of Bardolatry'. That's where the wild stuff started. From that point forward I grew steadily more amazed by the thoughts, the words, the deeds perpetrated by a growing legion of scholars, writers, eccentrics, weirdos, run-of-the-mill nutbags and howling, screeching loons. When I met Delia Bacon, I was jolted by the realization that I'd been lured into a Bedlam full of hollow-eyed ghouls straight out of Edgar Allan Poe or Bram Stoker. It was hard to get my mind around the number and the types of characters obsessed with Shakespeare and his corpse and his corpus. It was a shock to learn the names (Ralph Waldo Emerson, Thomas Carlyle, et al.) of people who've encouraged the crazies. By the time I met Delia Bacon (Brrrr!) I saw there were about 200 pages left, but I really didn't mind the trip. It was sort of a walk in the park. You know -- the park out behind the asylum. The gist of it is that you don't need to be sedated or to be a fan of Shakespeare to read and appreciate this book. In fact, an intimate knowledge of the plays and sonnets doesn't really help much here. I came away from 'Shakespeare's Lives' convinced that truth really IS stranger than fiction. You will, too, and you will savor the thought.

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