Shakespeare's Wife
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Shakespeare's Wife

3.28 of 5 stars 3.28  ·  rating details  ·  475 ratings  ·  129 reviews
A polemical, ground-breaking study of Elizabethan England that reclaims Ann Hathaway's rightful place in history.
Little is known about the wife of the world's most famous playwright; a great deal, none of it complimentary, has been assumed. The omission of her name from Shakespeare's will has been interpreted as evidence that she was nothing more than an unfortunate mista...more
Hardcover, 356 pages
Published by Bloomsbury Publishing PLC (first published January 1st 2007)
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Naomi
Oct 16, 2007 Naomi rated it 4 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: shakespeare enthusiasts and historical women's study buffs
I am always surprised by Greer's actual writing. Her public persona is so contentious and brash. Previous to this book I had only read Greer's feminist writing (i.e. 'female eunich' and 'the whole woman'). Particularly in this book, she has a very measured and well supported style that weaves a cross stitch of fact and speculation into an enjoyable tale. She makes sure that the reader knows when she is fictionalising. Her main argument is that in the absence of documentary evidence why are Shake...more
Steven
When I was in college, I was fortunate to spend a semester abroad in London. On one of our trips around the U.K., we spent a weekend at Stratford. I remember being impressed by Shakespeare's birthplace and seeing Jonathan Pryce in Hamlet, but my favorite part of the trip was a visit to Ann Hathaway's cottage (which, Greer points out, was never hers). It was a sunny afternoon in fall, and after our tour, we got to roam around the grounds. I remember a lot of windfall apples lying about. I also re...more
Cece
Sep 09, 2012 Cece marked it as gave-up-life-is-too-short
I admit that I only lasted about 50 pages, but when it appears an author has taken every theory going,loaded them in a shaker, given them a good tumble then poured them out and published as they fell, I lose patience quickly. Too many "she might have beens" and "she probablys" all mixed together, along with finger-shaking at previous Shakepeare scholars for treating Anne (or Ann, or Agnes) so unfairly. I am aware that little real evidence exists. I know that Greer is known for impeccable researc...more
GraceAnne
What a great read this was. I absolutely love Greer's vivid, sly, and fierce intelligence and her ways of making argument.
Greer takes the same sources that have engendered a vision of Ann Hathaway, Shakespeare's wife, as plain, old, mean, harsh etc. and reinterprets them to their opposite number. There is not much documentation about her, so when that fails Greer tells us, in copious detail, about people like her. For example, she details the ages people in Stratford got married, and to whom, ho...more
Amy
Germaine Greer pulls no punches in this book. Unfortunately, what could have been an insightful, balanced, thoughtful work, instead floats the reader through a tide of polemic. Greer makes it very clear that she thinks Stephen Greenblatt and those of his ilk are not only misogynists but bad academics who didn't do their homework and made broad assumptions. OK. But then so does she. I guess I shouldn't be surprised that her tone is at times combative given that Greer is famous for writing the Fem...more
Heather
When I picked up this book, I thought that I had never really thought about Ann Hathaway before. As I got deeper into it, I realized that in actuality I had internalized all those ideas of Shakespeare scholars that she was an ugly shrew, that she tricked William Shakespeare into marrying her, that she drove him out of her home and into the arms of prostitutes, etc. etc. etc.

Those types of suppositions have little if any factual basis, and Greer does a good job of examining how and why they came...more
Pamela
The title is misleading because, of course, nothing is known of Ann Hathaway Shakespeare's life; the book has to deal with what IS known of Stratford in that day. So, the title should have been Life in Stratford during Shakespeare's Life. The book is basically what her life could possibly have been like, but she plays a small role even in the book. There is so much research crammed into this book that reading gets very difficult. Every paragraph seems a tangent as the author weaves in other fami...more
Dana
Though at parts, I enjoyed Greer's style of disparaging previous historians who have assumed that Shakespeare hated Ann, I also find that Greer did much the same thing, just while being on the side of Ann. She's still assuming, but just in Ann's favour, and that began to rub me the wrong way. It was also very full of figures; I didn't particularly need to know how each widow divvied up her belongings, or how the commons were being encroached on. A brief mention, summary, of what was happening wo...more
Lisa
Germaine Greer has always made me think about things in a different way. I like her iconoclastic style, and I like her dry, witty humour.

I like Shakespeare too. I love the Sonnets. My favourite plays are all the well-known ones, the ones I’ve seen performed: Hamlet, King Lear, Macbeth, The Tempest, Midsummer Night’s Dream, The Merchant of Venice, Julius Caesar, Henry IV Part 2, and The Taming of the Shrew (I’ve only seen that one on screen). But I’ve never been much interested in all the specula...more
Megan
Having just finished Will in the World, I was glad that Greer directly calls out Stephen Greenblatt and others on their assumptions about women, families, childbearing, and litigation from ~1580 to 1625. Great scholarship, detailed without being dry or heavy (for the most part). It's not as narrative as some, though I'll take restraint and accuracy over through line in a literary biography like this, but Greer's writing is clear and evocative, and her occasional fancies are clearly labeled as su...more
Eleanor
I loved the premise of advocating for the wife of the greatest marriage advocate.
The historical detail was fascinating, although there were a few statements which were not supported by citing sources.
Of particular note is the way Greer refers to her subject as Ann Shakespeare, rightly drawing the contrast between this (then) automatic change, to the way Ann's detractors insist on naming her Hathaway, as if nullifying their marriage.
Shakespeare himself comes off rather poorly in this work: selfi...more
Kelly
What a complicated but ultimately satisfying read! So little is known about Anne Hathaway, but that didn't stop Greer from poring through thousands of documents to create what Anne's life was probably like -- and help dispel some of the negative history she has been given.
Elizabeth
Biggest disappointment ever! Pedantic to the nth degree. How is it possible to undertake such a subject and ruin it for the rest of us? A missed opportunity if there ever was one. Tear.
Kim
A biography, but mostly an extensive telling of how gentlewomen spent their time in later 16th century/early century England. Feminist perspectives throughout, but that's to be expected from this particular author. I finished the book wishing there were more actual facts available about Anne Hathaway and also agreeing with Greer that the latter should not be villified just because The Bard spent much of their marriage living away from her. That fact does not prove that Hathaway was a 'bad' wife,...more
Lucy Andrews
I was given this book for Xmas -- I can't say it isn't the sort of thing I usually read, because I'll read anything, but nonetheless, I doubt I would have bought it on my own. That said, while this is not a book to read super-attentively, Greer's purpose is to free up moribund and narrow-minded thinking about Shakespeare's personal life. Using source documents from the time and place (Stratford, circa 1600) to paint LIKELY scenarios, from Ann Hathaway's childhood to her death the book is strange...more
Wendilyn Emrys
A innovative study of an interesting subject not properly addressed until now. “Shakespeare’s Wife" is a pragmatic and objective analysis of the extant contemporary material available. This study is not 'sexy' or assumptive, but intelligent and insightful. Not a 'Banbury Tale' to excite Hollywood, but how I would love to see this near to truth story told. For me this 'Hakim's Razor' examination of facts and real evidence is far more interesting than recent fantastical and farcical resurrections...more
Yooperprof
"Shakespeare's Wife" by Australian feminist Germaine Greer is a valuable addition to the groaning corpus of Shakespearian. It's assertive, well-researched, and bracing. Greer argues that Ann Hathaway Shakespeare badly needs to be rescued from the neglect and condescension of the Shakespearians, who have refused to give her her due. They've subscribed too easily to the myth that Mrs. Shakespeare was a kind of harpy whom Will was only too glad to escape by making a career for himself on and throug...more
n* Dalal
Shakespeare's Wife isn't amazing because it's true or easy to read or riveting. Fabulously well-researched and armed with the power to doubt, Germaine Greer sets out with one arched eyebrow to question everything that has previously been surmised about Shakespeare's marriage.

The fact is, we have no idea what Shakespeare's private life was like, what he thought of his wife, how much of his work was imaginative fiction and how much of it was obsequious drivel, written only to maintain patronages....more
Ed
Jul 01, 2008 Ed rated it 3 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: Shakespeareans, Hathawayans
Shelves: shakespeariana
The defenders of Ann Hathaway are usually derided as sentimental when they are trying simply to be fair.
Greer shakes a stick at the establishment regarding the oft-denigrated Mistress Hathaway. Greer hath a way of bringing a new twist on the evidence, a rebuttal to the tired and received opinions trotted out on every occasion of Shakespearean biography. Among the highlights for me were the subtle reversal of Willie's mom, Mary Arden, often portrayed as the sweet competent mother, to be somewhat...more
Rebecca
Jul 14, 2008 Rebecca rated it 4 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: Shakespeare lovers
4 stars is probably too many...3 stars is probably too few. Like a lot of theatre buffs and Shakespeare fans, I had heard all of the stories about how Shakespeare must not have loved his wife. Germaine Greer does a great job of showing the sometimes subtle and sometimes blatant misogyny that lies underneath a lot of the critics of Ann Hathaway. Of course Greer can't prove that William Shakespeare really loved Ann, or that Ann loved Will -- but she shows how ridiciulous scholars are for trying to...more
Särah Nour
Despite little being known of the Bard’s mysterious wife, over the years she has been much maligned by Shakespearean scholars, who are convinced beyond doubt that she was little more than an untamed shrew and a thorn in the side of their exalted dramatist. Yet noted feminist Germaine Greer, armed with extensive historical records and a keen understanding of the cultural zeitgeist of Elizabethan England, provides a revisionist assessment with Shakespeare’s Wife, a meticulously researched and vivi...more
Jemma
This book is probably well written if you are a fan of the genre. It was too much work for me. I know nothing about the life of Shakespeare or his wife so the frequent references to X scholar getting it wrong or Y biographer reading too much into the existing evidence was a bit lost on me. The listing of records of births, deaths, marriages and inventories (of people living in the area but otherwise, as far as I could tell, unrelated to Ann and William's lives) was way too much for me. I underst...more
Amy
Ok, folks. Anne (or Annis, or Agnes) and Will have been dead for nearly 400 years. They left very little tangible evidence of what they got up to in life for us to peruse in the 21st century. I don't know why I keep reading these biographies and conspiracy theories about "The Bard"....except once in a while one of them proves to be something of a gem, like this one. The writing is lucid and engaging and the research seems to be impeccable. But the whole point is that NO BODY REALLY KNOWS ANYTHIN...more
Alisa
First off, I have to confess I didn't actually read all of this book...I couldn't force myself past the first few chapters, and a flip through the rest. Starting with the introduction, I found the author extremely annoying. Her entire purpose for writing this book seems to be her anger at certain previous biographers who characterized Ann as the homely, unloved wife who trapped Will into marriage, despite those biographers having little or no evidence to support that view. However, any biographe...more
Molly
Jun 03, 2008 Molly rated it 2 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: People who don't get bored easily and like documentary's
Recommended to Molly by: Ummm No one, my mum just wouldn't let me read 'Russle Brand'!
Well the thing is i started reading it when i was very bored but didn't wanna go to sleep, but it was soooooo boring that i fell asleep anyway! [It belongs to my mum lol]. It just drones on and on and on and on and on and on and on and on and on and on and on and on and on and on and on and on and on and on [just skip to the next bit when you get my jist] and on and on and on and on and on and on and on and on and on and on and on and on and on and on and on and on [are you getting my jist yet?!...more
Charles Matthews
The little we know for certain about the private life of William Shakespeare could fit in a slender file folder: records of birth and marriage and death, a few other documents mostly pertaining to real estate transactions and some legal matters, some evidence of his work with various theatrical companies, a handful of mentions by his contemporaries, and the like. But we have the plays and poems, too, and from that has been spun the vast web of maybes and perhapses that constitutes Shakespeare bi...more
Krista
I think this book is best described by my husband, who picked it up when he was looking for something to read, opened it to the middle, read for 5 seconds, and threw it down, saying, "This is someone's dissertation gone wild."

Despite the fact that I'm always interested in the theories put forth about the man who may have been Shakespeare, the main problems I had with this book are as follows;

Greer is angry and biased. She lambastes other scholars for their conclusions then states her conclusions...more
Anne
I thought this book was very readable, for such a scholarly work. It was definitely well-researched.

However, I think the author came across as quite arrogant at times, and that turned me off a bit. Also, she assumed those reading it knew quite a bit more about Shakespeare and the work already published about his life than I did. I had to look a lot up. (Not that that's necessarily a bad thing, but a bit more work than I was anticipating getting into when I picked this up to read.)

What I found mo...more
Kirsten
This was somewhat uneven. Greer's main goal is to challenge all the scholarly assumptions that have been made about Ann Hathaway over the years: that she seduced Shakespeare, that she trapped him into a loveless marriage, that he ran off to London to get away from her, that she was illiterate and probably had no idea about his work...... She uses a lot of Stratfordian records to show that most of those scenarios were highly unlikely. (For example, if he had absconded to London, it would have bee...more
Emily
Oct 20, 2008 Emily rated it 4 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: Shakespeare geeks, Renaissance scholars
This book is a revelation. I mean, if you're a big Shakespeare geek like I am, then it's a revelation. If you're not a big Shakespeare geek, you might find the details about the intricate details of the court cases that Shakespeare was involved in a bit tedious. Actually, I found those details a bit tedious, too - BUT - the big picture here is really inspiring. All those tedious details are clearly there to support some pretty serious historical thinking.
This is a brand new way to look at the h...more
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Germaine Greer is an Australian born writer, journalist and scholar of early modern English literature, widely regarded as one of the most significant feminist voices of the later 20th century.

Greer's ideas have created controversy ever since her ground-breaking The Female Eunuch became an international best-seller in 1970, turning her overnight into a household name and bringing her both adulatio...more
More about Germaine Greer...
The Female Eunuch The Whole Woman The Beautiful Boy The Madwoman's Underclothes: Essays and Occasional Writings Sex And Destiny: The Politics Of Human Fertility

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