Adam Gopnik - The New Yorker
“The most complexly intelligent and sophisticated, and yet the most keenly enthusiastic, study of the life and work taken together that I have ever read.”
Maureen Corrigan - "Fresh Air"
“Greenblatt's revelatory book pays tribute to the glorious democracy of Shakespeare's art by the openness and elegance of his own writing style.”
At last, the book Shakespeare has deserved: a brilliant book written by a virtual eyewitness who understands how a playwright takes the stuff of his life and his world and makes it into theater.
Robert Hurwitt - San Francisco Chronicle
“An exceptionally well-told tale, an engrossing page-turner, in fact.”
Laura Miller - Salon
“Greenblatt takes the bits we do know, nourishes them with a thorough understanding of the Elizabethan world Shakespeare inhabited, and then coaxes each bud of information to flower within our understanding of the plays.... Only a churl would be unpersuaded by it.”
Greenblatt approaches Shakespeare's biography by drawing clues from existing documents and the published plays. He poses interesting theories about Shakespeare's "lost years," potential ties to Catholicism, and relationships with other playwrights in an engaging, very readable book. (LJ 8/04)
… Greenblatt has unusual talents. He is learned, he marshals an enormous amount of detail in the book, and he depicts the fabric of Elizabethan life, both its paranoia and festivities, compellingly. He is a masterful storyteller; his prose is elegant and subtle, if sometimes slippery; and his imagination is rich and interesting. When he focuses more exclusively on Shakespeare's texts, as he does in his chapter on the sonnets, he is a brilliant critic. One can see why Will in the World is a nominee for the National Book Award.
The Washington Post
There are no obscure invocations of the French philosopher Michel Foucault in these pages, no pseudo-Marxist readings of Shakespeare's plays. Instead, in the opening sections of this book, Mr. Greenblatt succinctly and vividly conjures up the Elizabethan world in which young Will came of age, showing how the religious and political upheavals of the day, as well as contemporaneous aesthetic conventions, shaped his sensibility and his work.
The New York Times
This much-awaited new biography of the elusive Bard is brilliant in conception, often superb in execution, but sometimes-perhaps inevitably-disappointing in its degree of speculativeness. Bardolators may take this last for granted, but curious lay readers seeking a fully cohesive and convincing life may at times feel the accumulation of "may haves," "might haves" and "could haves" make it difficult to suspend disbelief. Greenblatt's espousing, for instance, of the theory that Shakespeare's "lost" years before arriving in London were spent in Lancashire leads to suppositions that he might have met the Catholic subversive Edmund Campion, and how that might have affected him-and it all rests on one factoid: the bequeathing by a nobleman of some player's items to a William Shakeshafte, who may, plausibly, have been the young Shakespeare. Nevertheless, Norton Shakespeare general editor and New Historicist Greenblatt succeed impressively in locating the man in both his greatest works and the turbulent world in which he lived. With a blend of biography, literary interpretation and history, Greenblatt persuasively analyzes William's father's rise and fall as a public figure in Stratford, which pulled him in both Protestant and Catholic directions and made his eldest son "a master of double consciousness." In a virtuoso display of historical and literary criticism, Greenblatt contrasts Christopher Marlowe's Jew of Malta, Elizabeth's unfortunate Sephardic physician-who was executed for conspiracy-and Shakespeare's ambiguous villain Shylock. This wonderful study, built on a lifetime's scholarship and a profound ability to perceive the life within the texts, creates as vivid and full portrait of Shakespeare as we are likely ever to have. 16 pages color illus. not seen by PW. Agent, Jill Kneerim. (Sept.) Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.
Dan Cryer - Newsday
“So engrossing, clearheaded, and lucid that its arrival is not just welcome but cause for celebration.”
William E. Cain - Boston Sunday Globe
“Vividly written, richly detailed, and insightful from first chapter to last . . . certain to secure a place among the essential studies of the greatest of all writers.”
Richard Lacayo - Time
“Dazzling and subtle.”
Denis Donoghue - Wall Street Journal
“A magnificent achievement.”