Shakespeare: A Biographical Handbook

Shakespeare: A Biographical Handbook

Shakespeare: A Biographical Handbook

Shakespeare: A Biographical Handbook

Excerpt

My chief concern in this book has been to present the life of William Shakespeare and his methods of work with the strictest fidelity to the surviving documents, with the least personal bias I can achieve, and with a minimum of the cultural bias of our time toward the literary artist. Documents are stark, and to the untrained imagination they often seem dull. Nevertheless, I hope that by presenting the hundred or more surviving Shakespearean ones in the context of similar records, against the background of Elizabethan customs and prejudices, and in relation to one another, I can set up the essential outline of the man who lived in Stratford and London and not some fancied man our individual imaginations would like to create.

Such a summary book as this is dependent upon the painstaking efforts of hundreds of collectors and editors and scholars from John Ward in the mid-seventeenth century to Leslie Hotson in the mid-twentieth. In the course of three centuries they have unearthed the records upon which any truthful account of the life of William Shakespeare must be based. When I quote or summarize the documents they have found, I have generally, though not invariably, cited the name of the discoverer; but like everyone who writes about Shakespeare I am heavily indebted to their devoted and painful labors.

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