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Shakespeare - Swan or ugly duckling ?
on 5 September 2014
Reading Schoenbaum, Ackroyd, Shapiro, Wood and others' traditional "Stratford" biographies I have been less than impressed by the amount of corroborative fact they provide in their "his name is on the books so it must have happened like this" approach based on sparse contemporary historical records, hearsay (Scuttlebutt as Price would say) and inferences from the texts, although a few tell a good story.
Price spreads out all that we actually know from contemporary records, including possible, suspected references from the period and not only analyses them but gives the best interpretations of the "facts" i have yet read to build a credible picture of Shakspere of Stratford. It's not always a flattering portrait but it fits well with the evidence, and a lot of the rumour of the time.
It leaves us with a street smart (unscrupuous?) entrepreneur and successful business man who came from the country and made good in the big city but shows how unlikely he is to be the genius behind the bulk of the poetry and drama published under the name of WIlliam Shakespeare. Price doesn't speculate on the exact identity of likely candidates (except the suggestion that they were nobility) and avoids the pitfalls of portrait analysis and detailed intepretations of the sonnets that have spoiled some other books on the topic. If you are interested in the debate (and why wouldn't you be?) then this is an excellent place to start.