Shakespeare and Biography

David Bevington

in The Edinburgh Companion to Shakespeare and the Arts

Published by Edinburgh University Press

Published in print October 2011 | ISBN: 9780748635238
Published online March 2012 | e-ISBN: 9780748652297 | DOI:
Shakespeare and Biography

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This chapter addresses the question on whether a Shakespearean ‘real life’ can be legitimately extracted from his books. Biographical interpretation of Shakespeare's works earned a bad reputation in the early twentieth century, and for good reasons. The plays of the first half of Shakespeare's career are comedies and history plays — that is, celebrations of falling in love and of entering upon manhood. The romantic solution of Shakespeare's comedies enables the male to make the trajectory across the hazardous terrain with the least possible pain. It can be stated that after having explored in Pericles a narrative of recovering a wife whom the father has abandoned, and of a reunion with a daughter after long years of separation, Cymbeline experiments with a story in which the mother is more than superfluous; she is part of the problem.

Keywords: Shakespearean real life; Shakespeare; biography; love; manhood; comedies; Pericles; Cymbeline

Chapter.  6500 words. 

Subjects: Shakespeare Studies and Criticism

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