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Sunday, April 10, 2011

Shakespeare's Wife by Germaine Greer~★★★★

Author: Germaine Greer
Title: Shakespeare's Wife
Release Date: March 17th, 2009
Publisher: Harper Perennial
Genre: Non-Fiction

Book Cover: "Little is known about Ann Hathaway, the wife of England's greatest playwright; a great deal has been assumed, none of it complimentary. In Shakespeare's Wife, Germaine Greer boldly breaks new ground, reclaiming this much maligned figure from generations of scholarly neglect and misogyny. With deep insight and intelligence, she offers daring and thoughtful new theories about the farmer's daughter who married Britain's immortal Bard, painting a vivid portrait of a truly remarkable woman." 

Taryn's Review: Who was Ann Hathaway Shakespeare besides the wife of William Shakespeare and the mother of his children? Germaine Greer tried to answer that question while also trying to destroy the idea that Shakespeare was miserable with his wife, a belief that many make in regard to the wives of famous men.


The book cover said that Greer painted a "vivid portrait of a truly remarkable woman." That might be a bit misleading. The book painted a vivid portrait of the woman Ann Hathaway might have been. There are very limited documents that survive today regarding Ann, her family, and life. Greer used sources from other women of the time period to suggest some character ideas for Ann Hathaway and Ann's role in the world.

The book was not a biography of Hathaway, in my opinion. We discussed this in great length during class, but for me, the book was a microhistory of late-sixteenth to early-seventeenth century married women who were a little higher on the class scale. Shakespeare's family was in debt and not well off, while it appeared that the Hathaways were a prominent family with no money issues, so there was a lot of speculation as to how and why Shakespeare and Hathaway ended up together (especially with her being eight years older than him, too). I don't know the answer, but Greer had fun postulating a hypothesis for us to consider.

It is an interesting book to read and very readable. Greer's book also was in response to the book Will in the World: How Shakespeare Became Shakespeare by Stephen Greenblatt. Greenblatt loved the book and he is a very prominent (maybe the most knowledgeable?) Shakespeare biographer/writer of our time, so that might have colored the reception of the book.  It would be nice to read the two books as complements to one another. I haven't read Greenblatt's book, but I would like to and see how it meshes with Greer. Give the book a try if you have an interest in Hathaway, her husband, or the period.

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