It purports to be a book about how the world Will lived in shaped his storytelling--and it does manage a little bit of that, but I don't think it's told me anything that I didn't know from Shakespeare of London or whatever the heck that book was called, although it's what, thirty years more current?
Sadly, it doesn't do much of this. Instead, it resorts to the time-honored masturbatory Shakespeareologist technique of biography by textual analysis. Memo to the academics: Anthony Burgess, Sarah Hoyt, myself, and the rest are allowed to do this, because we are fiction writers. We are writing fiction, not biography.
Oh, look. And now you're writing fiction, too.
Anyway, it's less cracktastic than the Wood book. But it doesn't have any maps. And it presents as fact a bunch of stuf that's educated guess or speculation. Also, Greenblatt doesn't seem to notice (in his careful ranging of textual evidence to demonstrate Will's (purported) crappy relationship with his wife and his (purported) closeness to Susannah and Hamnet) when he contradicts his own arguments.
Despite all this, the chapter on the sonnets is rather good, for fiction.
Also, I dunno why all Will's biographers have the unholy need to vilify Kit so heavily. Let's face it: Marlowe was better, younger, but he died while he was still more or less writing his juvenilia (Scary ass juvenilia, but.) and the surviving cannon is no competition to Will's. At least Greenblatt pauses to give him his chops as a writer between vilifications, which is something Wood can't manage to do.
(And why does vilify only have one ell ?)
He's just not a threat to Will's place in the firmament, guys; you don't have to tell me again what an awful horrid person he was. Also, Ben Jonson barely rates a mention, and Tom Greene gets the most of a chapter? WTF?
I did learn a few things about Peele I didn't know, though, so it was useful on that front.
It's nicely written, though, and the actual literary analysis rocks beyond whining about--especially the Hamlet chapter--and it has a lovely cover.
Now I have to buy and read Christopher Marlowe: A Renaissance Life, The World of Christopher Marlowe (which I sort of hold out hope will be the book that Will in the World was supposed to be), and Tamburlaine Must Die one of these lifetimes. And probably mock those too.
American commercial aircraft say NO STEP on the wings where you aren't supposed to walk. Canada Air planes say DO NOT WALK OUTSIDE THIS AREA where you are supposed to walk.
In America, they tell you what's forbidden. In Canada, they tell you what's allowed.
Somehow, I find that very telling about the often subtle differences between our two sister nations.
The memo to me part:
Memo to me, memo to me:
(The Stratford Man revision notes)
- Please, for the love of Mike, Bear, make the whole plot point revolving around the Jew plays make some freaking sense, would you?
- Fix the stupid thing you did with Poley's brat. You know the one I mean.
- Will really needs to be a little less achingly naive at the top of the book. You're not Sarah Hoyt. He can stay earnest, though. That's okay.
- When dealing with Shakespeare and Marlowe, you really never can have too many penis jokes.