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Twelve Years in the Life of Shakespeare

by Hank Whittemore

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Amazon.com Amazon.com Review (ISBN 0983502714, Paperback)


Hank Whittemore’s Twelve Years in the Life of Shakespeare (Forever Press, 2012) focuses on another underappreciated area of Shakespeare studies, the politics of the Shakespeare plays. As an Oxfordian regarding Shakespeare as the pseudonym for a court insider, Whittemore offers chapters on individual years from 1564 to 1604, chapters that are less speculative and make for far more rewarding reading than entire books by Stratfordians devoted to individual years in the incumbent Bard’s life.

For the year 1586, for example, on the international front Whittemore pulls together the death of Philip Sidney in the Netherlands in a war with Spain, the assumption of supreme command there by the Earl of Leicester, and anti-Elizabethan communications by Spanish diplomats in London and Paris and between the Vatican and Spain. On the home front for the same year he associates the enactment of censorship laws by the English government, the trial and execution of Mary Queen of Scots, and Queen Elizabeth’s appropriation of huge annual stipends for her spymaster, Francis Walsingham, and for Oxford for unspecified services, which Whittemore identifies with what Thomas Nashe described in 1592 as “the policy of Plays.”

“Nashe referred specifically to ‘brave Talbot’ in 1 Henry VI by way of pointing to stage works recreating the nation’s royal history,” Whittemore writes, and lists the rest of the Shakespeare histories as well as several apocryphal ones, noting that they “in large and small ways evoked the invincibility of English arms, encouraged patriotism, depicted the fate of disloyalty, promoted unity, advocated support for the reigning house, showed the consequence of rebellion and held up the Pope and Spain to mockery and contempt.”

Drawing clear historical outlines with his narrative anchored in facts, Whittemore relies far less on imagination than some of the best-selling Stratfordian biographers have.
William S. Niederkorn in The Brooklyn Rail (Feb. 5th, 2013)

(retrieved from Amazon Tue, 23 Sep 2014 17:02:51 -0400)

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