Thursday, April 24, 2008

Shakespeare's Muse

There are many debates about the man who was Shakespeare. Did Shakespeare have the education to write his plays? Was Shakespeare gay? Did he really write all his plays? Was he Christopher Marlowe? Did Queen Elizabeth actually write the play?

One biographical fact that is generally not disputed is that he did not love his wife, Anne Hathaway (no not the actress). She was eight years older than him and already pregnant when they were married. Shakespeare's move to London to pursue a career in the theatre, is generally seen as an escape from Stratford and his wife. Finally, the only think he left to Anne in his will was his "second best bed." Sonnet 145 is generally thought to be written about and and does not paint a flattering picture:

Those lips that Love's own hand did make
Breathed forth the sound that said 'I hate'
To me that languish'd for her sake;
But when she saw my woeful state
Straight in her heart did mercy come,
Chiding that tongue that ever sweet
Was used in giving gentle doom,
And taught it thus anew to greet:
'I hate' she alter'd with an end,
That follow'd it as gentle day
Doth follow night, who like a fiend
From heaven to hell is flown away;
'I hate' from hate away she threw,
And saved my life, saying 'not you.'

Germaine Greer, however, refutes most of these arguments in her new book "Shakespeare's Wife." I will admit that I have not read this new publication, but the review goes into some of the questions the book probes. It is an interesting take on a relationship we know very little about and have really only heard one version of. It gives us a couple of new things to think about both in terms of people's relationships and creates some new insights into the plots, relationships and messages of Shakespeare's plays; especially plays written later in his career. The prominence of old men's daughters (King Lear, The Tempest, and Much Ado About Nothing) and missing wives with stories of redemption (Pericles and Winter's Tale)

1 comment:

  1. There's actually a good Connie Willis short story that plays on the relationship between Shakespeare and his wife. Essentially it combines of Martin Guerre, with another playwright (Marlowe?) who takes the identity of Shakespeare when the former is killed in his place.