Shakespeare: For All Time

Written by Stanley Wells
This was a very interesting and well-researched book.  It covered not only Shakespeare's life, but his legacy throughout the ages since his death.  I liked that the author gave Shakespeare the benefit of the doubt that he actually loved his family, and though his job required him to spend much of his time in London, Wells mentioned several things Shakespeare did in his hometown, pointing out that he did spend at least some time with his family in Stratford.  (He mentions that many biographers are of the opinion Shakespeare all but abandoned his family during the London years.)
I was disappointed in other areas of this biography, though, namely author's handling of the sonnets, particularly the ones written to a boy.  Wells, while careful not to personally subscribe to this theory himself, has to mention that Shakespeare may have been bisexual because of these sonnets.  I watched the tv series Searching for Shakespeare and the author of that program seemed to think that these sonnets were written to his only son, Hamnet, who died at the age of eleven.  Wells doesn't even mention this as a possibility, and only rarely brings up what a devastating blow this must have been for Shakespeare as a father.  I would like to have read more about the plays and poems written during the time of his son's death, as well as at other times in his life when something important was going on either personally, socially, or politically that might have had some effect on Shakespeare's writing.

On that thought, though, I should mention that Wells describes two schools of thought on the poems, and to a lesser extent, the plays.  Some biographers feel that Shakespeare's writing was auto-biographical, and others do not.  Of course, there is a spectrum there.  He obviously would have to use his life experience to make believable characters, etc. but whether or not he actually used events in his own life remains a question.  Wells believes that his writing was not auto-biographical.  He even throws out the idea that some of the sonnets may be speeches for unwritten plays that rattled around in Shakespeare's head for a while before he decided not to write out the whole story.  Personally, I would think there is probably a bit of both in the vast amount of Shakespeare's work.

The second half of the book covers what has happened to Shakespeare's plays since his death.  This is interesting, too, but maybe not as much as Shakespeare's life.  Lots of information about the different people of different ages that adapted the plays, preformed in the plays, researched the plays, and printed the plays.  Some of the stories are interesting, others, not so much.

All in all, Stanley Wells' Shakespeare: For All Time was a good biography.  Much time and research obviously went into it, but I would prefer to find a different one for my children to read in high school.  I would like to find a simple and straight-forward, 'just-the-facts' biography, and as it is widely acknowledged that we don't know very much about him, I imagine it won't be a 500 page best-seller.   It's a shame, in my opinion, that authors feel the need to 'flesh-out' ("There's a double meaning in that!") their books with assertions that, in the first place could never be proved, and in the second have little to no bearing on his legacy 400 years later.
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