The Two Loves of Will Shakespeare

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Editorial Reviews

VOYA - Caitlin Augusta
Lawlor's depiction of events from the life of young Shakespeare meets with mixed results. The novel imagines an explanation for the intriguing fact that eighteen-year-old William Shakespeare possessed two marriage licenses for two women-his wife, Anne Hathaway, and Anne Whateley. The novel sketches aborted love affairs, half-blown attempts to become an actor, and law-breaking skirmishes as the prelude for Shakespeare's hasty marriage to the pregnant Anne Hathaway and departure for the dramatic world of London. While the premise is fascinating, Lawlor's execution is sometimes flawed. The story stands on the popularity of its main character, eschewing narrative in favor of vignettes linking known facts about Shakespeare's life. The story's episodic structure better fits a nonfiction work; as fiction it lacks the tight weave of an engrossing read. As a result, the first third of the book is densely packed with details and many words foreign to modern English speakers. Although discerning readers will relish the chance to envision Shakespeare's youth, Lawlor's decision to depict Shakespeare as lazy, whining, and feckless may decrease the novel's popularity with Shakespeare's teenage fans, the supposed audience for a work too racy for curricular use. Inserting plots from Shakespeare's plays as biographical events (including Macbeth's witch) seems forced, especially as most of Shakespeare's plots have attributable literary sources. Try instead Shakespeare's Secret by Elise Broach (Henry Holt 2005/VOYA August 2005) or The Shakespeare Stealer from Gary Blackwood (Dutton, 1998/VOYA August 1998).
Children's Literature - Claudia Mills
In a closing author's note, Lawlor explains that her novel is inspired by the historical fact that in November, 1582, William Shakespeare applied for two different marriage licenses, one day apart, to two different Annes: Anne Hathaway of Shottery and Anne Whateley of Temple Grafton. Obviously young Will was quite amorously active! Lawlor traces a bawdy and boisterous tale of a lazy apprentice, relentless prankster, plagiarizing poet (she shows Will borrowing love sonnets wholesale from his younger sister), and lusty womanizer who belied predictions of a well-deserved hanging to go on to become the greatest writer in the English language. The rollicking story creates a believable sixteenth century landscape, and it is satisfying to see such a flagrant underachiever come into his own. While the details of Will's sex life would be hard to leave out from this two-timing adventure, they are quite graphic for young readers: we are pretty much told about every single orgasm. And the multiple allusions to Shakespeare's plays (e.g., the bad influence of drunken Uncle Hal) will likely be missed by all but the most sophisticated young Shakespeare devotees.
School Library Journal
Gr 9 Up-Lawlor bases her story of the Bard's early life on an enigmatic historical snippet. She introduces readers to a rebellious, ale-loving 18-year-old who likes nothing better than wooing women and taking part in pranks that subvert both the law and his parents' wishes. However, when Will's best friend, Richard, begs him to write love sonnets so that he might capture the heart of beautiful Anne Whateley, Shakespeare finds that he, too, is completely smitten, and he vows to rectify his ways in order to win her love for himself. Old habits, of course, die hard, and, though mesmerized by the charms of the virginal Anne, he cannot resist the sexual thrills he finds with Anne Hathaway-a woman eight years his senior. Torn between love and lust, Will eventually decides to wed Anne Whateley and applies for a marriage license to do so. His plans are foiled, however, when Mistress Hathaway's pregnancy becomes known, and Will is made to marry the woman who will bear his child. The rest of the poet's tale-going to London, writing for the theater, and becoming the greatest English playwright of all time-is also well documented. The well-written chapters overflow with interesting and accurate details of Elizabethan life. Much is made of Shakespeare's parents' circumventing the religious laws of the times by secretly practicing the Old (Catholic) Faith, as well as of the difference in gender expectations for children in Elizabethan households. The book is a thoughtful and generally plausible attempt at explaining an unknown part of Shakespeare's life.-Nancy Menaldi-Scanlan, LaSalle Academy, Providence, RI Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
Lawlor offers a rip-roaring tale about Will Shakespeare as a wild adolescent with a touch of ADD. Whether bedding the plain barmaid Mopsa or playing midnight pranks with his sodden Uncle Hal, Will manages to spend as little time as possible in his father's glove-making establishment, where he is officially an apprentice. He lies and daydreams and chases after theater folk and is mean to his sister, who has learned to read and write. When a friend asks Will to write love sonnets so he can woo his ladylove, Will does so, stealing a few lines from his sister, and then falls head-over-heels for the girl himself. Meanwhile, Anne Hathaway, an older woman (she's 26) tired of her stepfamily's house seduces a most willing Will. Weaving a few known facts of Shakespeare's early life with generous swaths of historical color, Lawlor paints a vivid and reckless portrait, ending with the birth of Will and Anne's daughter Susanna and only the tiniest glimmer of what rough magic is to come. (Historical fiction. 14+)
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780823419012
  • Publisher: Holiday House, Inc.
  • Publication date: 5/1/2006
  • Pages: 256
  • Age range: 17 years
  • Lexile: 720L (what's this?)
  • Product dimensions: 5.90 (w) x 8.30 (h) x 1.00 (d)

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Sort by: Showing 1 Customer Reviews
  • Posted November 18, 2008

    more from this reviewer

    Reviewed by Emylee for TeensReadToo.com

    Meet Will Shakespeare, a lazy, boozing, promiscuous teenager from Stratford-upon-Avon. When he isn't busy avoiding work in his father's glove shop, or sneaking off with the local barmaid, he's finding a way to obtain admittance into the frivolous plays that his town's clergy condemns. The fanciful dialogue greatly inspires Will, and when his friend, Richard, asks him to help compose some verses for his beloved, Will gladly obliges. <BR/><BR/>Aided by his ambitious sister, Will begins to write enchanted poems that slowly melt the heart of Anne Whately, Richard's love interest. However, as William delivers the poems to Anne, he finds that he, too, is in love with the righteous Anne. He vows to change his life, abstain from drinking and carousing, and work honestly in his father's shop. <BR/><BR/>But a trip to the intriguing Anne Hathaway threatens to jeopardize his new way of life. Can Will manage to stay true to his ways, or will cunning Anne Hathaway lure him away from the lovely Anne Whately? And will Will ever adjust to the glove-making business, or is something grander beginning to surface on the horizon? <BR/><BR/>THE TWO LOVES OF WILL SHAKESPEARE is an entertaining novel that embellishes on the two marriage records historians have found that belonged to William Shakespeare. While the story line is fiction, the atmosphere of 16th-century England is brought alive through the allusions of the time period's culture and the religious turmoil that took place. I recommend this book to readers who enjoy learning about the Elizabethan period; however, a reader should not look at it as a biography of William Shakespeare.

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