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21 April 2010

Book Review: Shakespeare's Wife

Shakespeare's Wife
by Germaine Greer 

I think this book is best described by my husband, who picked it up when he was looking for something to read, opened it to the middle, read for 5 seconds, and threw it down, saying, "This is someone's dissertation gone wild."

Despite the fact that I'm always interested in the theories put forth about the man who may have been Shakespeare, the main problems I had with this book are as follows;

Greer is angry and biased. She lambastes other scholars for their conclusions then states her conclusions. Both sets of conclusions are based on very little fact. It is all opinion. No one knows who might be right. Yet Greer sneers and insults earlier scholars through gritted teeth.

Meanwhile, she does the same thing. She approaches the scarce evidence through her own personal bias. She, feminist. They, misogynist. But still all conjecture. No need for bile here and Greer has much bile.

She also works to hard to prove a point that cannot possibly be proved. She didn't find Ann's will, she didn't find a box of long lost letters. She has what everyone else has. She just thinks everyone else is wrong. So she writes lists and lists and lists of examples of life in Stratford and how these examples might have related to Ann. For example, Greer brings up widow's wills and their bequests. This subject designed to prove that Ann was probably a self-sufficient early feminist who supported herself admirably. The problems; no matter how many examples you list of widow's wills (too many) what the heck does that prove if you don't have Ann's will?

This book would have been much better served if it hadn't set out to prove anything. A "This is What Life Was Like in Stratford and Here's What We Know About Some People Who Lived, Worked, Birthed and Died There." And even then, ease up on the scholarly proof. Or at least present it in a more engaging way.

This was a slog. Good information. Impeccable research, I'm sure. But a slog nonetheless.

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