Will in the World: How Shakespeare Became Shakespeare
Title: Will in the World: How Shakespeare Became Shakespeare
Author: Stephen Greenblatt
A portrait of Elizabethan England and how it contributed to the making of William Shakespeare discusses how he moved to London lacking money, connections, and a formal education and rose to became his age’s foremost playwright.
A brilliant reading of Shakespeare’s world yields a new understanding of the man and his genius.
A young man from the provinces — a man without wealth, connections, or university education — moves to London. In a remarkably short time he becomes the greatest playwright not just of his age but of all time. His works appeal to urban sophisticates and first-time theatergoers; he turns politics into poetry; he recklessly mingles vulgar clowning and philosophical subtlety. How is such an achievement to be explained?
Will in the World interweaves a searching account of Elizabethan England with a vivid narrative of the playwright’s life. We see Shakespeare learning his craft, starting a family, and forging a career for himself in the wildly competitive London theater world, while at the same time grappling with dangerous religious and political forces that took less-agile figures to the scaffold. Above all, we never lose sight of the great works — A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Romeo and Juliet, Hamlet, Macbeth, and more — that continue after four hundred years to delight and haunt audiences everywhere. The basic biographical facts of Shakespeare’s life have been known for over a century, but now Stephen Greenblatt shows how this particular life history gave rise to the world’s greatest writer.