Shakespeare Unbound: Decoding A Hidden Life


“May” and “might” are words without which this book would not be possible. Nevertheless, the author, a professor of English at University College London, has written an eminently readable argument for his thesis. For almost as long as there has been Shakespeare scholarship, it has been received wisdom that The Bard was “Protean,” a shape-shifter. His genius was to transform the heady brew of his experience into great poems and even greater plays while remaining personally obscure.

Professor Weis thinks otherwise. A beneficiary of new archival research, and with an in-depth knowledge of the canon, Weis begins his story in Shakespeare’s boyhood Stratford, then follows his subject’s trajectory to the London stage and back again. Themes—and characters—in the plays and sonnets are clearly linked to events and people in their author’s life. Some are obvious, such as Shakespeare’s obsession with twins. Other connections were apparently shaped as riddles for reasons of policy, like a personal feud with the wealthy Lucys, or a dangerous sympathy for the then-extensive Catholic underground. Shakespeare’s affairs of the heart—his Dark Lady, and, perhaps, a homosexual passion—are likewise shown to be real people, part of the Elizabethan world.

Scholarly and speculative, I found Shakespeare Unbound to be both livelier and more engaging than Will in the World, an earlier academic journey down a similar road.

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12 of the best stories selected from the 2012 Historical Novel Society Short Story Award







Alt title
Shakespeare Revealed: A Biography

(US) $32.50
(UK) £25.00

(US) 9780805075014
(UK) 9780719564185


416 (US), 464 (UK)


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