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Soul of the Age: A Biography of the Mind of…
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Soul of the Age: A Biography of the Mind of William Shakespeare (2009)

by Jonathan Bate

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Infant, Schoolboy, Lover, Soldier, Justice, Pantaloon, and Oblivion: “Soul of the Age” by Jonathan Bate Published 2009.
 
There are devotees of Wagner, Madre Teresa, and Cristiano Ronaldo; my fate has been Shakespeare.
 
“I like to think that Shakespeare would have adopted a similar procedure if he had been commissioned to write his own biography,” says Bate. Uhm…Really? Narcissism on Bate’s part? Maybe only someone with Bate’s background would be able to tackle a project of this magnitude. The “seven ages” approach allows Bate to make absorbing inferences about Shakespeare’s life, motives, and work, while being cognizant of the speculative nature of his endeavour.
 
This was one of the books that slipped through my fingers when it came out in 2009.
 
What did I love the most about Bate’s book? His ability to go on tangents, but not going too far off topic. His inclination to ramble needs to be balanced with editing, basically. His tendency is to go way too far … He loves the Proustian, circling sentence. But that’s this ability that makes it a joy to read him when it comes to writing about Shakespeare. One gets so immersed in this way of writing that sometimes it’s difficult to come out of it to breathe…His writing is not about soundbites, like much of writing about Shakespeare. Bate’s was able to throw light into the extraordinary effect that Shakespeare’s works have had on us and on other creative artists down the ages.
 
The rest of this review can be found elsewhere. ( )
  antao | Dec 10, 2016 |
There were times when I wanted to throw the book at Bates in frustration at his leaps of conjecture and conclusions without foundation. Yet, in between those moments, I enjoyed the book. At times Bates' admiration of Shakespeare bordered on bardoltry, though not to the same infuriating extent as Bloom's in his The Invention of the Human.

The Seven Ages of Man device was a bit artificial and, given the paucity of information we have about Shakespeare's life, there were times when Bates struggled to fill the parallel without straying too far from it.

Whether you are a Stratfordian, Oxfordian, Baconian or any other -ian, this book should be essential reading. It offers valuable primary evidence for William of Stratford's authorship of the Shakespeare canon, and supplements it with credible deductive (but not necessarily empiric) proofs.

All in all, it is one of the more comprehensive attempts at revealing how the life of the man is reflected in his plays - though there is a faint bitter aftertaste that if an author's life plays such a great role in shaping his or her work, what role is there for imagination? ( )
1 vote AlanSkinner | Jul 26, 2013 |
This jumped around too much for me. The information was all interesting and it was well researched, I prefer biographies that go in chronological order. This one started with his birth and then skipped around his adult years and back to his childhood and all through his years in London. ( )
  Irishcontessa | Mar 30, 2013 |
This review has been flagged by multiple users as abuse of the terms of service and is no longer displayed (show).
  MightyLeaf | May 25, 2010 |
DFYAA
  JohnMeeks | Apr 9, 2010 |
Showing 1-5 of 7 (next | show all)
But while “Soul of the Age” reconnoiters a lot of familiar ground, it is distinguished by the intimate, seemingly line-by-line knowledge that Mr. Bate [...] brings to his subject’s writings and his ability to use that knowledge to trace the influences on those works with acuity and verve.
 
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0141015861, Paperback)

Jonathan Bate's "Soul of the Age" brings us closer than ever to understanding what being Shakespeare was actually like. How did plague turn Shakespeare from a jobbing hack into a courtly poet? How did Bottom's dream rewrite the Bible? How did Shakespeare's plays lead to the deaths of an earl and a king? And why was he the one dramatist of his generation never to be imprisoned? Weaving a dazzling tapestry of Elizabethan beliefs and obsessions, private passions and political intrigues, "Soul of the Age" leads us on an exhilarating tour of the extraordinary, colourful and often violent world that shaped and informed Shakespeare's thinking. It is written by one of the world's leading experts, it combines almost everything there is to know about the man and his work in one sensational narrative. "Bate probably knows as much as any single person can know about Shakespeare...Surprising, fresh, exhilarating, brilliant". ("Guardian"). "Intensely enjoyable ...you find yourself gasping with pleasure". (John Carey, "Sunday Times"). Jonathan Bate is Professor of Shakespeare and Renaissance Literature at the University of Warwick, chief editor of "The RSC Shakespeare: Complete Works" and the author of many books, including most recently "John Clare: A Biography", which won the Hawthornden Prize for Literature and the James Tait Black Prize for Biography. A Fellow of the British Academy, he was awarded a CBE in 2006.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:21:47 -0400)

(see all 2 descriptions)

Bate's Soul of the Age tells the story of the great dramatist while deducing the crucial events of Shakespeare's life, connecting those events to his world and work as never before, and revealing how this unsurpassed artist came to be.

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Penguin Australia

An edition of this book was published by Penguin Australia.

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