The subtitle of Greenblatt’s book is How Shakespeare Became Shakespeare. It is a great lead-in to this most lively and innovative look at the Bard’s life and the historic and social times in which he lived. We know the mark that Shakespeare has left on the world and now, thanks to Stephen Greenblatt, we can better understand the world that left its mark on Shakespeare.
It’s all here: his youth in Stratford Upon Avon; his long-distance marriage; Marlowe and the other Oxford lads; the bloody cache of Catholicism; the murderous piety of the protestants; the commissioned sonnets; the brawls; and always the glass darkly through which we must view Shakespeare. Some may find fault with Greenblatt’s scholarship, but his interpretation and rendering of events makes Shakespeare more alive for today’s readers than any biographer before him.
Read Will in the World, then re-read the sonnets and plays. Shakespeare may never be the same.