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Shakespeare: The Biography by Peter Ackroyd

Shakespeare: The Biography (original 2005; edition 2005)

by Peter Ackroyd

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1,0221812,299 (3.95)20
Title:Shakespeare: The Biography
Authors:Peter Ackroyd
Info:Chatto and Windus (2005), Hardcover
Collections:Your library
Tags:Biography, History, Literature, Theatre

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Shakespeare: The Biography by Peter Ackroyd (2005)



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Showing 1-5 of 17 (next | show all)
On little evidence and gleanings from the plays the author is able to build an interesting portrait of the bard. ( )
  jerry-book | Jan 26, 2016 |
This is a fascinating account of William Shakespeare, with much more theatrical detail than I've ever read or heard before. There is more information than can be remembered, but I really appreciated that conjecture was all well backed up with data, mostly financial and theatrical records. It was a different view from past books I've read. I also really liked that he discussed in detail the many suppositions that have been made about Shakespeare and why they may or may not be accurate, if they were probable, possible but unknown, improbable, or nearly impossible. Ackroyd is quite careful not to state anything is absolutely true without lots of evidence and explanation. Granted, that means there's a lot of data and a lot of threads to follow, but it's intriguing and well written.

Ackroyd's writing style is perfect for this; at times he puts phrases together like a modern Shakespeare.

This is not the book for a very casual Shakespeare enthusiast; the more you are familiar with him and his plays and theater in general, the more interesting this is. If you are just beginning your study of Shakespeare, I would read a more generalized book first. Also, if you are mostly interested in an analysis of Shakespeare's plays in order to reveal Shakespeare's life and persona, this is not that biography. The plays are analyzed, but with more emphasis on what was happening in England and the theatrical world at the time. How they related to Shakespeare's life at the time was discussed, but because how he felt about things is more conjecture, Ackroyd does not focus on that.

  Connie-D | Jan 17, 2016 |
Lots of detail from not much data. Paints a plausible picture of the man & his plays & poetry.
Read Mar 2007 ( )
  mbmackay | Dec 6, 2015 |
As a survey of life in the Elizabethan and Jacobean theatre, this is a pretty good and interesting read. As a life of Shakespeare it suffers from the same fault as all the others - the man has gone beyond recall, and the biography is stuffed full of the usual ifs and buts and it-is-not-unreasonable-to-suppose-thats that bedevil all attempts to find him. Ackroyd is fully aware of the folly of trying to find the man through his work, but even so he succumbs to the temptation now and then. ( )
  sloopjonb | Oct 23, 2014 |
At the halfway mark, I'm still completely ambivalent. I cringe every time he claims to know what Shakespeare was thinking or intending, I squint sidelong every time he categorically refuses to acknowledge the possibility of a homoerotic/queer subtext in the biography -- even while discussing Marlowe and Edward II!!, and I boggle every time the chronology established at the opening is turned on its head, so that previously discussed factors are dismissed in order to discuss these new ones, as if multiple influences are unable to coexist.

And yet, Ackroyd gives great insight into the setting and *context* of the plays and poems, as well as to the historical bits and bobs that remain.

I would be a kinder audience if there were a bit less stating querulous assertions as if they're commonly accepted facts. As it is, I feel like scrawling YMMV across every single one of them.

I will say that if nothing else, this book has made me long for a freaking TIMELINE of when which players were where. /confusion


Okay, I've finished it, and my fundamental problem remains the structure of the book. Ackroyd groups his chapters according to WS's present professional affiliation -- whether by company or by theatre or by place (eg. early and late life in Stratford) -- instead of by chronology, so what you get is a confusing, redundant, contradictory mess of different takes on the same time period as seen in different venues. Worse, each chapter propagates new theories and hypothetical relationships on top of the ones already given. It is a mess.

GLBT_interest tag: Ackroyd finally got to the queer content (and Kit Marlowe) about 3/4 of the way through, but his entire tone of address is as if he's unwilling holding a pair of tongs bearing a smoking bag of dog turds as far away from himself as humanly possible. He then counters any possible affiliation WS could have had with such "pederasts" by proclaiming WS's sexual success with the ladies. Worse, if you ask me, is he presents a bitter, lifelong rivalry on WS's part against Kit Marlowe, without giving ANY evidence of Marlowe and Shakespeare being anything more than competing writers in the same business, at times working in the same company. If there's historical enmity between them, he damn well didn't quote evidence of it. Instead, he's clearly projecting his own homophobia onto WS in order to sneer at Marlowe. Hello, shoddy scholarship. (Of course, this is a mass market popular bio, not a peer-reviewed scholarly article. But I am annoyed.)

In sum: the basic facts presented are fabulous...if you can weed them out of all the unfounded conjecture. The bibliography looks worth reading. ( )
  sageness | Feb 7, 2014 |
Showing 1-5 of 17 (next | show all)
Most biographies, John Updike has observed, “are really just novels with indexes.” That seems especially true with lives of Shakespeare. Peter Ackroyd’s rather arrogantly subtitled Shakespeare: The Biography, although its flights of fancy are far less extreme than Asquith’s, also trespasses upon the terrain of fiction. So, “we may imagine [Shakespeare] to have been a singularly competitive small boy” and “no doubt easily bored.” As a man, he was apparently “given to lustfulness but fastidious in other particulars,” something which, we are told, “by a curious chance consorts well with the imagery of the plays where there are plentiful references to bawdiness, but where there is also evidence of a general sensitivity to unpleasant sights or smells.” And so on, ad infinitum.
added by amarie | editNew York Times, Anne Barton (May 11, 2006)
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William Shakespeare is popularly supposed to have been born on 23 April 1564, or St George's Day.
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(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 140007598X, Paperback)

Drawing on an exceptional combination of skills as literary biographer, novelist, and chronicler of London history, Peter Ackroyd surely re-creates the world that shaped Shakespeare--and brings the playwright himself into unusually vivid focus. With characteristic narrative panache, Ackroyd immerses us in sixteenth-century Stratford and the rural landscape–the industry, the animals, even the flowers–that would appear in Shakespeare’s plays. He takes us through Shakespeare’s London neighborhood and the fertile, competitive theater world where he worked as actor and writer. He shows us Shakespeare as a businessman, and as a constant reviser of his writing. In joining these intimate details with profound intuitions about the playwright and his work, Ackroyd has produced an altogether engaging masterpiece.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:12:50 -0400)

(see all 4 descriptions)

Sheds new light on the life of the great Elizabethan playwright and poet, reassessing Shakespeare's work within the context of sixteenth-century London and Stratford-upon-Avon, as well as his lasting legacy for world literature.

(summary from another edition)

» see all 4 descriptions

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