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The Real Shakespeare: Retrieving the Early Years, 1564-1594

Overview

In this vivid and meticulous account of the first thirty years of Shakespeare's life, Eric Sams controverts all orthodox editions, biographies and reference books. He reveals how, in conventional Shakespeare scholarship, the reality of the playwright's youth has been concealed within a web of elaborate literary theories which misrepresent his life and work, and reject, ignore, or misdate his early plays. Pioneering a revolution in our understanding of the early years, Sams exposes the gulf between the accepted ...
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Overview

In this vivid and meticulous account of the first thirty years of Shakespeare's life, Eric Sams controverts all orthodox editions, biographies and reference books. He reveals how, in conventional Shakespeare scholarship, the reality of the playwright's youth has been concealed within a web of elaborate literary theories which misrepresent his life and work, and reject, ignore, or misdate his early plays. Pioneering a revolution in our understanding of the early years, Sams exposes the gulf between the accepted view and documented fact. Analysing the evidence carefully and thoroughly, he reveals Shakespeare to have been a disadvantaged country boy from an illiterate Catholic background, removed from school at the age of about thirteen to help on the family farm. Far from being a late developer, as conventionally portrayed, he was a husband and father at eighteen, and an actor and writer of popular plays soon afterwards. Sams traces the impact of Shakespeare's upbringing in the language and imagery of his early comedies, histories and tragedies, not only those of the Folio editions but others, including the so-called 'Bad Quartos', widely but wrongly assumed to have been the result of 'memorial reconstruction by actors'. Through detailed textual analysis, he argues compellingly against the established view that Shakespeare wrote nothing until his middle twenties, nor revised his own work.
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Editorial Reviews

Library Journal
Sams, who edited Shakespeare's Lost Play: Edmund Ironside (St. Martin's, 1986), which he identified as a Shakespearean play, tosses a grenade into the polite world of Shakespearean scholarship in this polemical book. His premise is that modern biographers and textual scholars have misled everyone regarding the facts about Shakespeare's life and works. Basing his claims on documentary data about Shakespeare dating from 1509 to 1594, Sams argues that early biographical information is more reliable than the theories of modern scholars. He also argues that Shakespeare was successful in the London theater years earlier than conventional scholarship asserts, and that he regularly revised his work. Sams claims that "memorial construction" (the orthodox view that the Bad Quartos are corrupt texts reconstructed by rogue actors) is bizarre fantasy for which there is no evidence, instead insisting that the Bad Quartos are early versions of Shakespeare's plays that he later revised. If Sams is right, the dating of the entire canon will have to be revised. This book is sure to provoke heated debate in academic circles; the general reader will be fascinated, too.-Bryan Aubrey, Fairfield, Ia.
Booknews
In this account of the first 30 years of the playwright's life, the author reveals how Shakespeare's youth has been concealed within a web of literary theories which misrepresent his life and work and ignore or misdate his early plays. He traces the impact of Shakespeare's upbringing in the language and imagery of his early work, including the "Bad Quartos," and argues against the established view that Shakespeare wrote nothing until his early 20s. Annotation c. Book News, Inc., Portland, OR (booknews.com)
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780300072822
  • Publisher: Yale University Press
  • Publication date: 10/28/1997
  • Edition description: Reprint
  • Pages: 272
  • Product dimensions: 6.21 (w) x 9.22 (h) x 0.62 (d)

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