Will – Grace Tiffany

Will: A Novel

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“Will Shakespeare has left Stratford for London and pitched himself headlong into the chaotic, perilous world of the theater. Through raw will-and an amazing gift for words- he raises himself from poor player to master playwright. But as his success earns him great pleasure and adoration from others, it also draws the jealous wrath of Christopher Marlowe, a baby-faced genius whose anger is as punishing as his poetry is sweet…

From the pen of Grace Tiffany, a Renaissance scholar and Shakespeare historian, leaps a wild, vivid tale that brings Will Shakespeare to life.”

So, this review comes to you while I’m on a bus to London (Ontario, not England), and I, like the young William Shakespeare so beautifully described in this book, am hoping to pass the time by writing.

I must admit that, while I enjoy what little of Shakespeare I’ve read (one day I’ll read all of his plays…one day), I didn’t really know much about the man himself. This book solved that problem.

Starting a few months before he met (and eventually married) Anne Hathaway, Will tells the story of Shakespeare’s humble beginnings in Stratford, his early experiments with writing, his struggle to become an established playwright while acting (on the stage) the plays of his rivals, his consequent success, and ends as the Globe Theatre burns to the ground.

What’s interesting is that it doesn’t focus just on his writing – it shows the complicated relationship between Will and his sometimes-estranged wife and children. Anne shows confusion – and occasional bitterness – toward her husband’s writing obsession, especially when it draws him away to far-away London with few trips home in between staging his plays.

The writing is very well-done: historical details and fictional elements blend so that sometimes it’s hard to see what is true and what is not so true. But that’s part of what makes the book so fascinating.

At times, I forgot that I was reading about a real person: Will was such a fleshed out character, with visible flaws that, rather than spoil my image of the great playwright, made him more real (more accessible, I guess).

The only problem is that I keep trying to talk like Shakespeare i.e. throwing in “methinks” and “dost” and “forsooth”, etc.

Highly recommended for any Shakespeare fan and/or anyone who fancies a well-described jaunt through 16th century England.

And thus ends my review.

[Exit, pursued by a bear.]

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