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Shakespeare's Wife

3.38  ·  Rating Details  ·  691 Ratings  ·  151 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
Hardcover, 356 pages
Published 2007 by Bloomsbury Publishing PLC
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Such a disappointment.

There's admittedly little actually known about William Shakespeare, and even less is known about his wife, Ann Hathaway. (No. Not that Ann Hathaway.) Greer's intention was to shine light on the life of the woman, their marriage, and to rage against all the misogyny in other historical accounts of Shakespeare's life. But... but... because there's little known about these people, anything that gets put into historical accounts are pure supposition. Greer's evident disgust at
Oct 16, 2007 Naomi rated it really liked it
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
Mar 20, 2009 Steven rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: biography, history
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
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
Ana Maria Rînceanu
If you've read Stephen Greenblatt's Will in the World: How Shakespeare Became Shakespeare, I'd recommend reading this book next. I need to stress that in both books there is too much speculation for either one to be held as historical fact, but I really like the Germaine Greer's courage in going against the grain by using her skill for impeccable research. A lot of writers have written negative judgements about Ann's character, given her age when marrying 'The Bard', taking advantage that she ne ...more
Dec 27, 2012 Dana rated it it was ok
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
Sep 20, 2014 Richard rated it liked it
I love the idea of this book. To give Ann Hathaway some credit instead of her being seen as the nagging wife back in Stratford whilst Shakespeare was being a genius in the theatre world and fleshpots of London.

Ann Hathaway was eight years older than William Shakespeare when they married. This has led her to be stereotyped as having trapped him into marriage and then to becoming old and unattractive and a burden to him. Germaine Greer writes very well of how the age difference was not so unusual
Jul 31, 2015 Melaszka rated it really liked it
Inevitably, like all Shakespearean biographies, this is one part general social history, one part misguided attempt to read the plays and poems as a roman a clef, and one part wild, baseless speculation, but I wouldn't have expected anything else, given how little hard evidence there is.

At least it's a counterbalance to much of the misogynist speculation that has become the received wisdom about Hathaway and there are some sensible suggestions in amongst the extended flights of fancy - in partic
Jan 13, 2010 Heather rated it really liked it
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
Jun 25, 2008 GraceAnne rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
Dec 11, 2009 Pamela rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Jul 13, 2010 Megan rated it really liked it
Shelves: non-fiction, 2010
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
Victoria Jackson
Much detective work and sifting through numerous documents to gain a picture of life for Ann. It gets quite complicated with families and names repeated. She refers to Michael Wood's work, which I have read. Unlikely Shakespeare was a recusant. Author believes Ann was well able to work to take care of herself and her family, none died of deprivation or illness until son Hamnet later who was possibly the weaker of the twins. Daughter Judith had most of the inheritance to capture the best husband ...more
Aug 27, 2015 Ruth rated it really liked it
Ann Hathaway. No, not the gamine Hollywood actress with an unfeasibly wide mouth and huge eyes. Mrs Shakespeare. Who would have guessed that there is a whole stack of misogynistic academic studies of Shakespeare's life, marginalising his wife? I'm glad Greer has set the record straight, the record being: we don't have enough information to judge one way or the other.

Although, that's not quite true - this is the sort of history I love: really detailed analysis of the historical record of seeming
Mar 09, 2014 Eleanor rated it liked it
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
Shelley Diemart
May 11, 2015 Shelley Diemart rated it liked it
While this book does dismiss bard historians like Greenblatt who claim Anne was a loathsome burden to Shakespeare by pointing out that there isn't much historical proof to support this position and offering her own theories about Anne Hathaway, Greer doesn't do much beyond the realm of the conjecture herself, openly stating that these are mere suppositions of what Anne's life "may" have been like because we lack definitive historical proof. She does use a tremendous amount of research to support ...more
Aug 21, 2008 Kelly rated it really liked it
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.
Apr 02, 2009 Elizabeth rated it did not like it
Shelves: literary-folk
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.
Nov 19, 2015 Diane rated it liked it
This is a very scholarly book by Germaine Greer. I've seen Greer in person and she can seem a little humorless and this book follows that path. The premise is twofold. Greer defends Ann/Agness Hathaway as a positive influence on Shakespeare's work and debunks the theory that he left for Stratford in order to escape her. She also goes into great detail about Hathaway's family history and the role of women in the 1500's. What the book does NOT do is give any new information. This is merely Greer d ...more
Feb 05, 2015 Booksarefav rated it it was amazing
l enjoyed this study on who Shakespeare's wife was. Looking at the different scenarios and how easy it was for people to speculate on so many things in Shakespeare's life where really there isn't much to support a lot of it.
l like how this explained and gave so much detail on a woman that really most people seem to hope she didn't have a good marriage in order to enjoy the idea of Shakespeare lusting after a woman he couldn't have because of his wife. It has been a long time since l've read this
Feb 17, 2014 Kim rated it really liked it
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
Aug 17, 2014 Lisa rated it really liked it
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
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
Lucy Andrews
Feb 04, 2009 Lucy Andrews rated it really liked it
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
Sep 07, 2012 Wendilyn Emrys rated it it was amazing
Shelves: history, shakespeare
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
Jan 20, 2009 Yooperprof rated it really liked it
Shelves: biography, britain
"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
Sep 22, 2009 n* Dalal rated it it was amazing
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.
Jul 01, 2008 Ed rated it liked it
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
Jul 14, 2008 Rebecca rated it really liked it
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
Apr 13, 2012 Särah Nour rated it really liked it
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
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The F-word: November NON-FICTION selection SHAKESPEARE'S WIFE 7 22 Dec 16, 2014 06:44PM  
  • The Lodger Shakespeare: His Life on Silver Street
  • The Genius of Shakespeare
  • Shakespeare: The Biography
  • Shakespeare and Co.: Christopher Marlowe, Thomas Dekker, Ben Jonson, Thomas Middleton, John Fletcher and the Other Players in His Story
  • Shakespeare the Thinker
  • Shakespeare's Kings: The Great Plays and the History of England in the Middle Ages: 1337-1485
  • A Year in the Life of William Shakespeare: 1599
  • The Shakespeare Wars: Clashing Scholars, Public Fiascoes, Palace Coups
  • Shakespeare After All
  • Blood & Roses: the Paston Family and the Wars of the Roses
  • Shakespeare
  • Shakespeare: A Life
  • Death And The Virgin: Elizabeth, Dudley and the Mysterious Fate of Amy Robsart
  • The Lady Penelope: The Lost Tale of Love and Politics in the Court of Elizabeth I
  • The Uncrowned Kings of England: The Black History of the Dudleys and the Tudor Throne
  • Her Majesty's Spymaster: Elizabeth I, Sir Francis Walsingham, and the Birth of Modern Espionage
  • Margaret of York: The Diabolical Duchess
  • Becoming Shakespeare: The Unlikely Afterlife That Turned a Provincial Playwright into the Bard
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 about Germaine Greer...

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“Society seems to find it irresistible to characterise the “unworldliness” of the male intellectual and academic in terms of his failure to control the women in his life.” 0 likes
“Everybody who meddles with Shakespeare biography readily accepts that the Bard was unfaithful to his wife and excuses him for it, but infidelity on the part of his wife is sufficient to justify estrangement.” 0 likes
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