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Shakespeare's Wife

3.44  ·  Rating details ·  846 ratings  ·  187 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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Cynda Maybe you posted this question in the wrong place? -Shakespeare's Wife- is not a novel. It is a biography. I do agree that it is an easier read that…moreMaybe you posted this question in the wrong place? -Shakespeare's Wife- is not a novel. It is a biography. I do agree that it is an easier read that other biographies.(less)

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3.44  · 
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 ·  846 ratings  ·  187 reviews

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Oct 15, 2007 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
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
Nov 29, 2008 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: history, biography
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
Jan 06, 2009 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
Jul 30, 2015 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
Jun 25, 2008 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
4☆ for the new interpretations of Anne Hathaway Shakespeare's and thus William Shakespeare's life. Greer starts by pointing out that traditionally women were not considered important in the least. If anyone asked what would become of a young family when the father died, the speaker of the question was considered "womanish." I'm thinking that is an adult version of being called a "girl" or a "sissy." Among the classes lower than the gentry, married women and children had no rights to their husban ...more
Sep 09, 2014 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
Jan 03, 2010 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
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 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
Aug 19, 2018 rated it liked it
This is tough book to read. Very dense with many many footnotes and constant references to Shakespeare's and others' plays from the time. It is not for the average reader looking for an entertaining read. I was forced to skim a lot of it. Still very interesting to a history major and there's much to learn in it.
Mar 04, 2018 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Though best known for her feminism, Germaine Greer speaks astutely and with insight on her specialism and passion: the works of Shakespeare. Her writing on the topic, too, has been fresh and incisive (see her book on Shakespeare). Therefore as a fan it disappointed me to find her book Shakespeare's Wife somewhat dull and inconsequential.

Asserting Ann Shakespeare's role in the Bard's life and agency in his work, Greer's enterprise is a worthy one, dense and rigorously researched (two stars for t
Louise Culmer
Apr 11, 2019 rated it liked it
Quite an interesting book in which Germaine Greer attempts to piece together the life of Anne Hathaway. She is rightly critical of the many scholars who have assumed, based on no evidence at all, that Shakespeare disliked his wife. The trouble is that there is h ardly any information available about Anne Hathaway, and almost anything said about her must be only conjecture. Greer for example takes it for granted that Shakespeare did not support his family during his years in London, pointing out ...more
Lucie Jane Miller
Good read but slightly disappointed. Usually love Greer’s punchy commentaries but this one is a little frustrating.
Perhaps it is because she sheds no new light on Shakespeare’s history apart from discounting the biographies of her predecessors, the “bardalators” , who wrote about the life of Shakespeare and his family with unsupported hypotheses.
Loved the chapter on disease and 16th century medicine as she surmises on what actually killed Shakespeare. But which disease he really had is just spec
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
Carolyn Harris
Sep 13, 2018 rated it really liked it
A fascinating biography of Anne Hathaway that places her and her daughters within the context of the social history of Stratford-upon-Avon. Greer's conclusions are necessarily speculative because so little is known about Shakespeare's personal life and his relationship with his family. Nevertheless, her analysis is a welcome counterpoint to longstanding assumptions that Shakespeare was pressured into his marriage and left town as soon as possible. In addition to examining how Anne Hathaway's exp ...more
n* Dalal
Aug 06, 2009 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.
Joy Rancatore
Jun 21, 2016 rated it liked it
Germaine Greer urges readers to view William Shakespeare and his wife, Ann, through different lenses. This little-known, highly-criticized woman gets a bad rap from most people who study and idolize the man many litterateurs declare to be the greatest thing to ever happen to the written word since paper and the printing press.

Enter, Ms. Greer.

Not content to simply accept the popular assumptions about Mrs. Ann Hathaway Shakespeare, Greer chewed through all the research she could find on Ann, Will
Wendilyn Emrys
Aug 03, 2012 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
Dec 05, 2009 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 08, 2008 rated it liked it
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
Feb 24, 2014 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
Jun 13, 2010 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2010, non-fiction
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
Aug 21, 2008 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 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.
Mar 17, 2018 rated it it was amazing
A marvelous book on the wife of the greatest love poet in English which examines why Anne Hathaway has such a dreadful reputation in academia and amongst Shakespeare scholars. Anne supposedly was illiterate, tricked Willy into marriage, and was adulterous. Many know Greer as a contentious feminist whose early writings like " The Female Eunuch" rocked popular culture. She is primarily,however, a Shakespearean scholar, and has turned her eye toward the myths and misrepresentations surrounding the ...more
Eileen O'Finlan
Dec 08, 2018 rated it liked it
Shelves: biographies
This is the first biography I've read of Ann Hathaway (the wife of William Shakespeare). I have never read a biography of Shakespeare, for that matter, though I did take and enjoy a college course on his writing.

I found this book to be very informative, not only regarding the Shakespeare and Hathaway families, but also of the place and time. The author, having written her Ph.D. dissertation on Shakespeare's comedies, clearly has a strong background in the time, place, and culture of her subject
Oct 20, 2018 rated it liked it
A 3.5 star book for me. Greer has done an incredible amount of research for this book. There are so few records about the Shakespeares but by close analysis of the lives of their contemporaries, Greer manages to imagine a life for Ann Hathaway and her children quite apart from what most Shakespeare scholars have sentenced them too. Greer's findings are often surprising and show up the prejudice of many "Bardolators". We may never be able to know the truth - unless somehow a treasure trove of doc ...more
Richard Subber
Jun 24, 2017 rated it liked it
This is scholarly nonfiction that is not to my taste.

I respect Greer’s effort to vivify Ann Hathaway, the wife of William Shakespeare.

I think she went overboard a bit.

Shakespeare’s Wife is longish, considering that lots of the details of Ann’s life aren’t well documented or remain obscure.

For my taste, too much of this work is carefully contingent or unselfconsciously speculative. The specification of what we don’t really know is perhaps more interesting to a scholar embracing esoterica than it
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Around the World ...: Discussion for Shakespeare's Wife 2 11 Jul 14, 2016 07:10AM  
The F-word: November NON-FICTION selection SHAKESPEARE'S WIFE 7 24 Dec 16, 2014 06:44PM  
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  • Ladies in Waiting: From the Tudors to the Present Day
  • A Year in the Life of William Shakespeare: 1599
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  • Shakespeare After All
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  • Her Majesty's Spymaster: Elizabeth I, Sir Francis Walsingham, and the Birth of Modern Espionage
  • Becoming Shakespeare: The Unlikely Afterlife That Turned a Provincial Playwright into the Bard
  • The Shakespeare Wars: Clashing Scholars, Public Fiascoes, Palace Coups
  • Death And The Virgin: Elizabeth, Dudley and the Mysterious Fate of Amy Robsart
  • 1616: The World in Motion
  • The Lady Penelope: The Lost Tale of Love and Politics in the Court of Elizabeth I
  • The Shakespeare Miscellany
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
“Until our own time, history focussed on man the achiever; the higher the achiever the more likely it was that the woman who slept in his bed would be judged unworthy of his company. Her husband's fans recoiled from the notion that she might have made a significant contribution towards his achievement of greatness. The possibility that a wife might have been closer to their idol than they could ever be, understood him better than they ever could, could not be entertained.” 3 likes
“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
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