Steven's Reviews > Shakespeare's Wife

Shakespeare's Wife by Germaine Greer
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Mar 20, 09

bookshelves: history, biography
Read in March, 2009

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 remember wondering what it would have been like to grow up in that house.

Greer spends much time ripping apart moldy old assumptions about the relationship between Ann Hathaway and her husband. Many scholars, apparently, assume that Shakespeare spent so much time away from his wife because he couldn't stand her, or because he loved someone else, and Greer asks, "Why would you think that?" She delves into the lives of Ann's neighbors and builds many other possibilities for her -- businesswoman, brewer, lender, landlady, and, just possibly, publisher. Greer is a great champion for this mysterious woman who must have had an influence on some of the greatest writing in our language.

The book is filled with wonderful turns of phrase, some of which I wrote in my progress notes on this book. An example from late in the book: "The idea that she might be entitled to some of the credit for the preservation of her husband's work is apparently too ridiculous to contemplate, which is why we shall now contemplate it." Awesome.

And at the end, she sums things up nicely writing, "All this, in common with most of this book, is heresy, and probably neither truer nor less true than the accepted prejudice. Ann Shakespeare cannot sensibly be written out of her husband's life if only because he himself was so aware of marriage as a challenging way of life, a 'world-without-end bargain'."

I can recommend this book to anyone interested in this shadowy figure or in small-town domestic life during the Elizabethan era.
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Reading Progress

03/04/2009 page 32
7.69% ""Studies of genius tell us that for gifted boys mothers are far more influential than fathers." - p. 26"
03/05/2009 page 94
22.6% ""There is nothing, it seems, that ignorance and prejudice will not suggest when it comes to the marriage of Ann Hathaway." - p. 75"
03/06/2009 page 129
31.01% ""There is almost no literature in any language known to me in which we are shown around a functional marriage." - p. 115"
03/09/2009 page 185
44.47% ""Nobody has ever been quite sure what a haberdasher does." - p. 176"
03/13/2009 page 260
62.5% ""Gratified desire does not feel the need to versify." - p. 258"
03/20/2009 page 416
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