Nonfiction Boot Camp discussion

Will in the World > Finished the book....after only a year!

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message 1: by Laurie (new)

Laurie (lauriea) | 73 comments Mod
I loved this book—I can’t imagine why I didn’t finish it last year when I started it. I took Shakespeare in college, but more interestingly I took a history class on Tudor & Stuart England which focused as much on culture and “world view” (we read E.M.W. Tillyard’s The Elizabethan World Picture) as on traditional history. Will in the World is very much in that vein.

Greenblatt draws from city and county records and bits of correspondence for the facts of Shakespeare’s life—but as the historical record is so sketchy, he fills in with analyses from his plays and other writings to flesh out a full picture of Elizabethan life with Shakespeare at the center. Greenblatt speculates on the many inspirations that Shakespeare probably drew upon, and tries to document his steps from the ambitious undereducated glovemaker's son to a renowned and wealthy playwright living in comfortable retirement in Stratford-upon-Avon. He says throughout the book that it is speculative in the extreme, and I don’t think it’s a weakness—it’s actually what a Shakespeare bio should be, as bringing anymore “fact” to such a myth would make his works much less fun. If you like that kind of thing. Which I do.:)

message 2: by Sineadm (new)

Sineadm | 15 comments I've just started reading this. I was a little intimidated by the size of the book when I picked it up from the library. Probably because I have a stack of reading about knee high for school. So far it has been engaging and kept me up well past bedtime reading, I'm sure I'll make it to the end.

message 3: by Laurie (new)

Laurie (lauriea) | 73 comments Mod
You're still 11 months ahead of me :)

message 4: by Sineadm (new)

Sineadm | 15 comments I've just realised that it is nearly October.....I'd better get a move on with Shakespeare, I'm still only at the beginning.

message 5: by Ellesee (last edited Sep 28, 2008 09:29PM) (new)

Ellesee | 33 comments Mod
I don't remember the details since I read this book about 2 years ago -- it was a librarian's pick at my local library.

But I do remember liking it and the details it offered about that time period in English history. Part of my like was because I had read previously about Elizabeth I and, like many people, had read Shakespear's plays (Merchant of Venice is my favorite) and sonnets.

I also found Greenblatt's style of writing to be easy to get through. There are some authors whose writing I find just doesn't flow for me. A recitation of facts rather than a stringing together of how the facts put together make a whole.

message 6: by Laurie (last edited Oct 03, 2008 06:38PM) (new)

message 7: by Ellesee (new)

Ellesee | 33 comments Mod

What a timely comment from Colbert and co.!

I watch Colbert/Daily/ SNL occasionally and was just commenting to a friend the other day that these shows were acting like the archetypal court jesters of yore: able to critique the Emperor's clothes without losing their heads.

(History from Tim Johnson.)

"For those not familiar with the role of a Court Jester, they were more than simply a clown employed to entertain the King. They served a much more critical role than providing music and laughter. They were generally the only ones in the court who could ridicule virtually everything. (Sure, there may have been a fear of beheading if they went too far, but that threat applied universally in Medieval times.)

The Court Jester was the one who could challenge traditional, conventional wisdom by doing one thing: making fun of it. He might highlight the seemingly trivial elements of an idea, or he might downplay what everyone else was ooo-ing and ah-ing over. He might parody the players connected with an idea so the king could see the idea in a new light. He might reverse everything - logistically, chronologically, philosophically - allowing those in his audience to see it from different angles. Regardless of how he accomplished it, the Court Jester was the one person whose perspective could rise above the knowledge of the King's advisors (translated: yes men)."

message 8: by Laurie (last edited Oct 07, 2008 08:33PM) (new)

Laurie (lauriea) | 73 comments Mod
I totally agree. Does anyone remember that quote from Thomas Jefferson Richard Dawkins mentioned in The God Delusion? Something about when times or ideas are so completely irrational it's impossible to debate the question seriously--satire is the only possibility (I've loaned my book out to my nephew--which means I likely won't see it again.) I kind of think that's why Stewart and Colbert have become such a phenomenon is the United States. The only rational reaction to the past decade in this country seems to be parody :) (sorry, my election season soapbox...)

message 9: by Sineadm (new)

Sineadm | 15 comments I'm a little behind schedule. Yesterday I finally finished Will in the World. It was the threat of a fine from the library on my twice extended loan that pushed me through the last few chapters. If only reading was as easy as watching TV.

I thought the book was very interesting and it presented a lot of history in a digestible format. I probably daydreamed my way through it the first time I learnt about Elizabeth I and that period. I have added a few Shakespeare plays to my reading list now as well. But I'll save those for a long beach holiday when I have plenty of time to contemplate. As for the book, well Greenblat did a wonderful job of creating almost 400 pages of a biography from total guess work and imagination. His honesty about the lack of reliable sources about Shakespeare's life made me want to believe his novel of conjecture.

In truth it was a little heavy going in places, not helped by my attempts at skim reading. This really is a book you need to have the time to read.

message 10: by Laurie (new)

Laurie (lauriea) | 73 comments Mod
You're a trooper--I've already moved on to When We Were Soldiers and probably won't have a chance to finish Songlines until the holidays. I like "novel of conjecture" though--that's a perfect description.

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