Goodreads helps you keep track of books you want to read.
Start by marking “The Secret Life of William Shakespeare” as Want to Read:
The Secret Life of William Shakespeare
Enlarge cover
Rate this book
Clear rating
Open Preview

The Secret Life of William Shakespeare

3.39  ·  Rating Details  ·  301 Ratings  ·  63 Reviews
Named One of Kirkus Reviews Best Fiction Books of 2014

There are so few established facts about how the son of a glove maker from Warwickshire became one of the greatest writers of all time that some people doubt he could really have written so many astonishing plays. We know that he married Anne Hathaway, who was pregnant and six years older than he, at the age of eighteen
Hardcover, 438 pages
Published April 1st 2014 by St. Martin's Press (first published March 1st 2012)
More Details... edit details

Friend Reviews

To see what your friends thought of this book, please sign up.

Reader Q&A

To ask other readers questions about The Secret Life of William Shakespeare, please sign up.

Be the first to ask a question about The Secret Life of William Shakespeare

The Secret Life of William Shakespeare by Jude MorganSauvez Hamlet by Jasper FfordeStill Star-Crossed by Melinda TaubI, Iago by Nicole GallandJuliet by Anne Fortier
Around Shakespeare
1st out of 47 books — 4 voters
Z by Therese Anne FowlerThe Paris Wife by Paula McLainCall Me Zelda by Erika RobuckMrs. Poe by Lynn CullenVanessa and Her Sister by Priya Parmar
Authors in Fiction
61st out of 81 books — 19 voters

More lists with this book...

Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 2,136)
filter  |  sort: default (?)  |  Rating Details
Maya Panika
Jul 20, 2012 Maya Panika rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I finished this book some days ago but couldn't write a review right away, I needed time to think through the conflicted feelings I was left with when I turned the last page. The writing definitely deserves five stars, it is rich and lush and lavish, dense with metaphor; it took me a long time to read, I could only digest it in small bites. The story on the other hand, is odd. It's not really about Shakespeare at all; Jude Morgan doesn't seem to ever get to grips with him as a character. Will's ...more
Jul 13, 2012 Elizabeth rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: dnf
This is a beautifully written book. The prose is to die for and the characters are well rounded and interesting. The historical detail feels spot on too. The reason it's on my DNF shelf is that the effect is so strong that it's like eating strong cheese or dark chocolate - a little goes a very long way and it's my fault I didn't have the stamina to keep on going and to unravel some of the playful undercurrents. It's a book that got away from me in the end.
I have kept it and may well return to
 Carol ♔ Type, Oh Queen! ♔
The cover of this edition reflects the content perfectly for me - can't tell anything about the person at all.

I borrowed this from my library because I know some of my GR friends think very highly of another of Morgan's books (Indiscretion) & my local library doesn't carry that particular title. So I thought I would try this one first

But although Morgan's prose is beautiful, a lot of it about other people in Shakepeare's life. Maybe there is too little known to make an interesting tale. Or m
Ann Roberts
Oct 31, 2012 Ann Roberts rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
The Secret Life of William Shakespeare - by Jude Morgan.
Loved the cover of the paperback - and the title, of course. Wasn't quite sure whether I would get on with it at first - the language was challenging, and since I read at night for relaxation, I nearly gave up. Glad I didn't!
Ben Jonson's language was much easier, so I read on - but by then Wm Shakespeare was also becoming real to me, and I was hooked.
Gradually, this extraordinary man, of whom we know so little apart from his work, became,
Dec 02, 2014 Sx rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: read-in-2013
Words. They are strange creatures,aren't they? The power to affect, to influence and to touch. At what point do words cease to become others' and embed themselves so deeply into your being that you forget these words originally weren't yours?

The only issue I have with this book is that it touches on everything fleetingly. Will is in Stratford, then he is not. In London, then not. Unknown, then famous. Player, then writer, then once in a while back in the role of himself - father, son and husband
Dec 22, 2014 Megan rated it it was ok
I only read this because it hadn't been checked out of the library yet. This "historical fiction" requires a leap of faith I'm not willing to take when it includes lines like, "Really? Will thought Really?" Perhaps I'm just a curmudgeon, but I have a hard time buying that William Shakespeare thought in present day vernacular. It's been a long time since I've studied the bard, but I just don't think there's enough historical knowledge of the man himself for me to be able handle finding the imagin ...more
Dec 15, 2013 Jay rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Hmmm, well. Usually I really enjoy historical fiction, but I do expect an author to write an afterword showing which parts of the book are pure fiction and which parts are based on historical record.

Knowing that there wasn't this at the end (I always check before starting) affected my reading of the novel, lessening the enjoyment I might otherwise have had.

I persevered with the book because it was interesting enough (just), but I think it would have been improved by being shorter. There seemed
Carla Hostetter
Apr 15, 2016 Carla Hostetter rated it liked it
Intriguing title and cover, but so densely written even to the dialog being Elizabethan, this was a long slough to finish--which I did. However, I came away knowing nothing new about Shakespeare, only the imaginary thoughts of his wife and family, his friends and fellow players. In fact, I found the ending a bit bizarre. It's well known that Will had a "dark lady" in his life to whom he dedicated many poems. Her identity is still a mystery, but the woman presented in the book is verbally sadisti ...more
Jul 16, 2014 Susan rated it it was ok
very slow reading
don't take this one to the beach!
Mar 04, 2015 Phoebe rated it it was ok
A dense, dense fictional exploration of Will Shakespeare and his relationships, this novel is both lovely and cryptic. Morgan uses the few facts we know about the enigmatic man to build a richly detailed story of his relationship with Anne and the "missing" years; as well as his rise to fame in London and his relationships with other players and writers like Jonson and Marlowe. She chooses her perspectives somewhat oddly, for example giving us a detailed accounting of Ben Jonson and his upbringi ...more
May 23, 2012 Trish rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
The Bard is everywhere at the moment thanks to the World Shakespeare Festival which began on the date of his supposed birthday and definite demise, 23 April. Perfect timing for a new book from an excellent storyteller, Jude Morgan, who has written several historical novels including the critically acclaimed A Taste of Sorrow about the Bronte sisters.

In this intelligent and very readable novel, Morgan takes advantage of the fact that little is really known about the man behind the prolific playwr

I’m a big ol’ fan of Shakespeare’s many beautiful works, so when this novel exploring his early life and his start in the world of theatres and writing, I was over the moon!

Living up to the most famous writer in the world was always going to be a tall order, but Jude Morgan takes up the challenge with great aplomb and does a sterling job of showcasing The Bard’s works while presenting him as a real and very believable character in his own story – a fallible man striking o
Jan 12, 2014 Helen rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Jude Morgan skillfully weaves together the story of the Shakespeare marriage with a possible account of his "missing years". In so doing the author cleverly includes a number of Shakespeare's literary comtemporaries and describes the theatrical and thespian life as well as evoking the smells, sounds and sights of Tudor life in London and Stratford.
This is a literary historical novel with a very rich language, written in a style which in many places reflects Shakespeare's own writing. Some sente
Jul 29, 2014 Maryanne rated it really liked it
I am taking this book in very slowly, like a cup of tea savored with a friend. The language is beautiful and needs to be enjoyed and absorbed.

I like the fact that Anne Hathaway is neither a shrew abandoned nor a woman scorned (at least not so far) and Will and Anne are a couple deeply in love and trying to make this thing work. I also like the fact that this author has chosen to follow a straight-forward path from Stratford to London without any detours into speculative "Shakeshafte" the Cathol
May 18, 2016 Kathe added it
Jude Morgan fills in - quite plausibly - some of the "missing" years in what we know of Shakespeare's life. The writing is exquisite and the dialogue hits just the right note - not modern, not Ye Olde. Morgan is such a skillful writer that he even breaks one of my cardinal rules: going back and forth between past and present tense in the same paragraph, sometimes the same sentence.

The book begins and ends with Will and Anne, his wife. According to Morgan, though Anne was pregnant (not an unusual
John Alvord
Jan 20, 2015 John Alvord rated it really liked it
A very believable novel that gave me a good deal of understanding of his and times, along with many additional Elizabethan terms to add to my lexicon.
Kayla Tornello
Jun 25, 2014 Kayla Tornello rated it liked it
Shelves: adult
William Shakespeare certainly lived an extraordinary life and I appreciated this imagining of his life with all of the historical details. However, for some reason, reading this book was just tedious. I didn't care for how the narrative jumps around constantly between people, places, and time. The characters just didn't connect with me, either. I found myself really wanting to like this book, but failing in the end.
May 21, 2014 Janet added it
Shelves: failed-attempts
After reading the title I was expecting either some big Grand Reveal of a little-known facet of Shakespeare's life or an alternate reality like Lori Handeland's Shakespeare Undead. This is neither, simply a fictionalized telling of Shakespeare's life. I lost interest after realizing this.
Jan 06, 2016 Andrea rated it it was amazing
I really enjoyed this historical novel that lets us in on not only on the point of view of William Shakespeare riding off to London to make his career, but also the stories of Anne Shakespeare keeping house in Stratford, Ben Jonson longing to reject his brickmaking to become a playwright and a scholar, and other contemporaries in London and Stratford. What really makes this one stand out is that Shakespeare is treated as a whole person who plays a role in the lives of other people as he ascends ...more
Aug 12, 2014 Beetqueen rated it really liked it
I'm a bit of a Shakespeare fanatic. I kind of love the bard. Even though my students often groan when I tell them we are reading "King Lear" or "Hamlet," I get all a twitter about it. And, in the end, most of them even end up liking it, in prt because I get so enthusiastic.

I've read several biographies and non-fiction books about his life and times, studied at The Globe, visited Stratford and even photographed his grave, however, what never ceases to perplex me is how a man who left such a legac
Feb 03, 2014 Leah rated it really liked it
I received this book in exchange for my review as part of the Goodreads First Reads program.

I am a huge Shakespeare fan and Jude Morgan gives us another way to look at this prolific writer. He has taken what little we know about the man and fleshed out his history so that Shakespeare becomes less of a legend and more of a real person. We see Shakespeare as he really might have been and how his career might have come to be. Jude Morgan gives us one possible story.

I appreciate the amount of time t
Jan 25, 2016 Devil rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Jude Morgan is one of my favourite writers, making me eager to read historical fiction when it isn't a genre I usually pick. In this book, he tackles the elusive Master Shakespeare and his mostly unknown family. I don't know much about the real historical data but I believe there isn't much to go by, but the book takes us seamlessly to Elizabethan England to the heyday of theatre and introduces the characters of Marlowe, Ben Jonson and Shakespeare in such a natural way that it almost feels as if ...more
Feb 16, 2015 Kathy rated it liked it
A little slow in places, the writing was hard to parse thru but learned a lot.
Apr 28, 2012 Misha marked it as to-read  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: history, wishlist
April 12th, 2012
Gail Richmond
Jun 20, 2016 Gail Richmond rated it liked it
Although a fictional account, Morgan's novel creates a plausible world for Will Shakespeare, his friends, his enemies, his competitors, and especially his relationship with Anne, his wife. Characterizations are well done, and thus is a complete imagining that covers the so-called "lost years."

Not a fast read, this is still worthy for the stories, philosophy as reflected in Shakespeare's plays, and the characters of Ben Jonson, Kit Marlowe, and the players of the Globe and other theaters of the d
Mar 24, 2014 Ron rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
As a total Shakespeare nutter [he IS the greatest Briton ever!] I was really looking forward to this book and seeing how someone with imagination saw how the man lived and worked. The story covers a specific period of his life between teenage frustrations and middle age success. As well as how Will lived and loved, it covers much of his wife's feelings left behind in Stratford, plus those of Ben Jonson as some sort of comparison.

I feel Morgan puts across very well many, many aspects of the life
When I took this novel up, my expectations were extremely high. Not only was it on a very interesting topic but it was written by one of my favorite authors. However, what I expected from this book was to know more about William Shakespeare's enigmatic life. It failed to do so.
The main focus of this novel was the love-story between Shakespeare and his wife, Anne. That certainly made for an interesting read however most of it was conjecture. There were of course instances from his life as a playe
Apr 24, 2013 Leah rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
‘…And all the men and women merely players’

If you're going to write a book about one of the greatest writers of all time, then you need your own writing skill to be able to stand the inevitable comparisons. Jude Morgan's does. This is a beautifully written novel, each word carefully crafted to draw the reader in to a world full of poetry and drama.

Morgan fills the gaps in our knowledge about Shakespeare's life by creating a character who is completely convincing and compelling - a man who quest
Jul 31, 2012 Teresa rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
I loved A Taste of Sorrow, Jude Morgan's wonderful novel about the Brontes and hoped to be similarly thrilled by this window onto the world of William Shakespeare. Unfortunately the view is rather blurred, to the point of opacity and I was left feeling slightly bewildered and convinced I must have missed something which was so obvious to other I waited a month before reviewing, thinking that I'd soon experience some sort of epiphany, a dawn of understanding but didn't arr ...more
Feb 01, 2014 Alison added it
what happens to a married couple when the husband has a mysterious calling to be so caught up in writing the innermost thoughts of his characters that he is not at home - physically or mentally. Shakespeare lives in London first to make his way and then cos he needs to be where the theatres are; the family tries life in London but can't cope with it, so they meet only occasionally. very well written of the life and times and thoughts and feelings and motivation of WS and his contemporaries as we ...more
« previous 1 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 71 72 next »
There are no discussion topics on this book yet. Be the first to start one »
  • Shakespeare's Lady
  • Appetite
  • The Lodger Shakespeare: His Life on Silver Street
  • Haussmann, or the Distinction
  • Living with Shakespeare: Actors, Directors, and Writers on Shakespeare in Our Time
  • The Genius of Shakespeare
  • Burden of Desire
  • The Pleasures of Men
  • Mistress of Mourning
  • The Young Elizabeth
  • The Blood of Lorraine: A Novel
  • Enter Second Murderer (Inspector Faro, #1)
  • Her Highness, the Traitor
  • Things Can Only Get Feta: Two Journalists and Their Crazy Dog Living Through the Greek Crisis
  • By The King's Design
  • Painter of Silence
  • Will
  • The Ruby in Her Navel
Jude Morgan was born and brought up in Peterborough on the edge of the Fens and was a student on the University of East Anglia MA Course in Creative Writing under Malcolm Bradbury and Angela Carter.

A pseudonym used by Tim Wilson.

Also writes under the name Hannah March.
More about Jude Morgan...

Share This Book

“Aye, so: there is love, and there is indulgence, and they may touch sometimes but they're not the same.” 1 likes
More quotes…