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Nine Lives of William Shakespeare
     

Nine Lives of William Shakespeare

by Graham Holderness
 

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Acclaimed as the greatest dramatist of all time, William Shakespeare needs little introduction. Or does he? Going beyond Shakespeare the writer and actor, Graham Holderness explores the fact and fiction, tradition and myth, surrounding Shakespeare's life.

Combining biography and fictional narrative, Holderness takes a fresh critical approach to the problem of

Overview

Acclaimed as the greatest dramatist of all time, William Shakespeare needs little introduction. Or does he? Going beyond Shakespeare the writer and actor, Graham Holderness explores the fact and fiction, tradition and myth, surrounding Shakespeare's life.

Combining biography and fictional narrative, Holderness takes a fresh critical approach to the problem of piecing together a definitive account of Shakespeare's life and work from scant historical information. Instead, this study builds upon and examines the many theories that surround the life of this well-known, yet remarkably unknown man. Nine Shakespeares are presented: writer, player, butcher boy, businessman, husband, friend, lover, Catholic and portrait. By carefully critiquing these biographies and reimagining these nine men, Nine Lives of William Shakespeare creates a unique picture of how this playwright became Shakespeare as he is understood today.

Shakespeare Now! is a series of short books that engage imaginatively and often provocatively with the possibilities of Shakespeare's plays. It goes back to the source - the most living language imaginable - and recaptures the excitement, audacity and surprise of Shakespeare. It will return you to the plays with opened eyes.

Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher

“Required reading for anyone interested in Shakespeare's life or in how literary biography gets written. There's no better place to turn for distinguishing facts and traditions from more imaginative accounts of how Shakespeare became Shakespeare. Graham Holderness is a terrific guide and a talented writer.” —James Shapiro, author of '1599' and Professor of English at Columbia University

“There have of course been hundreds of biographies of William Shakespeare down the centuries, but none so breathtakingly nimble and adroit as this one. Shakespeare has long been a battleground between what can be historically verified and what in the end is simply speculation. Holderness - who is saturated in his subject - disentangles fact from fiction, but then starts to weave beautiful new tapestries of his own. This is the best and most enjoyably imaginative book on Shakespeare since Anthony Burgess' 'Nothing Like the Sun' - high praise, as Burgess' only rival was the chapter about Shakespeare in James Joyce's 'Ulysses'. Were he to bound back from beyond the grave, this is the volume Shakespeare himself would most love reading.” —Roger Lewis, Daily Mail

“Holderness brilliantly shows how biography is built of a writer's desire to create a coherent life picture, one that explains a particular view of Shakespeare . . . The book is immensely thoughtful and written so clearly that it will engage al readers.” —Choice Magazine

“One of the most original of biographical essays on Shakespeare.” —Alberto Manguel, El Pais

“'Nine Lives' belongs to the Shakespeare Now! series, which is defined by its editors as "a rallying cry... for aesthetic immediacy" on the "premise that art is as much as subject as an object, less like aggregated facts and more like a fascinating person or persons". Graham Holderness's fictional experiments serve that argument in that they abandon the posture of objectivity, but more essentially in their enjoyment of the escape. He is scrupulous about the facts, but denies that "the more data we possess, the more solid and dependable will be our understanding of the life", and instead offers Shakespeare biography as an exercise in negative capability: a form of storytelling which knows that, beyond interpretation, 'Shakespeare keeps his silence'.” —Times Literary Supplement

“Graham Holderness knows the power of the Shakespeare myth and its fictions . . . in this volume, he offers a twist . . . Recognising the flimsy factual basis for Shakespeare biography, he draws on wit and wordplay to flesh out a fiction more palatable than the po-faced fantasies of the scholarly biographers. The nine Shakespeares on show here - writer, player, butcher boy, businessman, husband, friend, lover, Catholic and portrait - are each lovingly dissected before being painstakingly reassembled” —Times Higher Education

“Hugely enjoyable . . . brilliantly imagined . . . the most fun I have had from a Shakespeare biography in a long time.” —Peter Holland, Shakespeare

“Genuine, and often excellent, fiction . . . a gifted writer.” —Lois Potter, Shakespeare Quarterly

“As a biographical study, this is fascinating for the way in which it looks at possible interpretations of a long-bygone life . . . any devotee of the Bard, or even of Tudor social history, will certainly find much to savour here.” —The Bookbag

“Though always displaying allegiance to the traditional Shakespeare story, Holderness critiques the biographies in useful ways and shows just how weak and tenuous many of their assertions are . . . a dazzling satire.” —The Brooklyn Rail

“This book takes a novel approach by presenting nine different theories about the Bard's possible lives.” —The Catholic Herald

“[A]n interesting literary biography in which Holderness uses a combination of critical essays and fictional narratives to explore nine aspects of Shakespeare's life and career. "The Adventure of Shakespeare's Ring" is a pastiche that has Holmes, Watson, Lord Alfred Douglas, and Oscar Wilde examining the possibility that Shakespeare was a homosexual.” —Peter E. Blau, Scuttlebutt from the Spermaceti Press Newsletter

“[Nine Lives of William Shakespeare] takes a fresh look at the facts, the traditions, and the possible relations between his life and the works that life created.” —The Perth Shakespeare Club

“Holderness includes a creative piece of his own which both illustrates the creative investment involved in biography and provides some ironic funpoking at the serious Shakespearean biographies he follows. Holderness even stretches his repertoire, one must admit with some success, at Shakespearean porn.” —Joseph Sterrett, Aarhus University, DK, English

“A witty exploration of [a] mutable subject . . . Holderness' range is impressive and his experience as a poet and novelist is always in evidence” —Shakespeare Survey

“Graham Holderness is one of the best-known and most prolific of British Shakespearean scholars, not least in the area of Shakespeare and popular culture ... Holderness offers no conventional biography ... There is much to admire in this book, and in particular, I applauded observations on the origin of Shakespeare's celebrity as deriving from his work as an actor.” —Geoff Ridden, Southern Oregon University, The Shakespeare Newsletter

Daily Mail - Roger Lewis

There have of course been hundreds of biographies of William Shakespeare down the centuries, but none so breathtakingly nimble and adroit as this one. Shakespeare has long been a battleground between what can be historically verified and what in the end is simply speculation. Holderness - who is saturated in his subject - disentangles fact from fiction, but then starts to weave beautiful new tapestries of his own. This is the best and most enjoyably imaginative book on Shakespeare since Anthony Burgess' 'Nothing Like the Sun' - high praise, as Burgess' only rival was the chapter about Shakespeare in James Joyce's 'Ulysses'. Were he to bound back from beyond the grave, this is the volume Shakespeare himself would most love reading.
Choice Magazine

Holderness brilliantly shows how biography is built of a writer's desire to create a coherent life picture, one that explains a particular view of Shakespeare . . . The book is immensely thoughtful and written so clearly that it will engage al readers.
El Pais - Alberto Manguel

One of the most original of biographical essays on Shakespeare.
Times Literary Supplement

'Nine Lives' belongs to the Shakespeare Now! series, which is defined by its editors as "a rallying cry... for aesthetic immediacy" on the "premise that art is as much as subject as an object, less like aggregated facts and more like a fascinating person or persons". Graham Holderness's fictional experiments serve that argument in that they abandon the posture of objectivity, but more essentially in their enjoyment of the escape. He is scrupulous about the facts, but denies that "the more data we possess, the more solid and dependable will be our understanding of the life", and instead offers Shakespeare biography as an exercise in negative capability: a form of storytelling which knows that, beyond interpretation, 'Shakespeare keeps his silence'.
Times Higher Education

Graham Holderness knows the power of the Shakespeare myth and its fictions . . . in this volume, he offers a twist . . . Recognising the flimsy factual basis for Shakespeare biography, he draws on wit and wordplay to flesh out a fiction more palatable than the po-faced fantasies of the scholarly biographers. The nine Shakespeares on show here - writer, player, butcher boy, businessman, husband, friend, lover, Catholic and portrait - are each lovingly dissected before being painstakingly reassembled
Shakespeare - Peter Holland

Hugely enjoyable . . . brilliantly imagined . . . the most fun I have had from a Shakespeare biography in a long time.
Shakespeare Quarterly - Lois Potter

Genuine, and often excellent, fiction . . . a gifted writer.
The Bookbag

As a biographical study, this is fascinating for the way in which it looks at possible interpretations of a long-bygone life . . . any devotee of the Bard, or even of Tudor social history, will certainly find much to savour here.
The Brooklyn Rail

Though always displaying allegiance to the traditional Shakespeare story, Holderness critiques the biographies in useful ways and shows just how weak and tenuous many of their assertions are . . . a dazzling satire.
The Catholic Herald

This book takes a novel approach by presenting nine different theories about the Bard's possible lives.
Scuttlebutt from the Spermaceti Press Newsletter - Peter E. Blau

[A]n interesting literary biography in which Holderness uses a combination of critical essays and fictional narratives to explore nine aspects of Shakespeare's life and career. "The Adventure of Shakespeare's Ring" is a pastiche that has Holmes, Watson, Lord Alfred Douglas, and Oscar Wilde examining the possibility that Shakespeare was a homosexual.
The Perth Shakespeare Club

[Nine Lives of William Shakespeare] takes a fresh look at the facts, the traditions, and the possible relations between his life and the works that life created.
English - Joseph Sterrett

Holderness includes a creative piece of his own which both illustrates the creative investment involved in biography and provides some ironic funpoking at the serious Shakespearean biographies he follows. Holderness even stretches his repertoire, one must admit with some success, at Shakespearean porn.
Shakespeare Survey

A witty exploration of [a] mutable subject . . . Holderness' range is impressive and his experience as a poet and novelist is always in evidence
The Shakespeare Newsletter - Geoff Ridden

Graham Holderness is one of the best-known and most prolific of British Shakespearean scholars, not least in the area of Shakespeare and popular culture ... Holderness offers no conventional biography ... There is much to admire in this book, and in particular, I applauded observations on the origin of Shakespeare's celebrity as deriving from his work as an actor.
author of '1599' and Professor of English at Col James Shapiro

Required reading for anyone interested in Shakespeare's life or in how literary biography gets written. There's no better place to turn for distinguishing facts and traditions from more imaginative accounts of how Shakespeare became Shakespeare. Graham Holderness is a terrific guide and a talented writer.
PSNews Rama Gaind

[…]a studious initiative, this insight into a possible relationship between a "life and the works that life created" draws on clever use of words and ingenuity to flesh out a fiction more palatable than the fantasises from scholarly biographers.
James Shapiro

Required reading for anyone interested in Shakespeare's life or in how literary biography gets written. There's no better place to turn for distinguishing facts and traditions from more imaginative accounts of how Shakespeare became Shakespeare. Graham Holderness is a terrific guide and a talented writer.

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9781472517302
Publisher:
Bloomsbury Academic
Publication date:
11/07/2013
Series:
Shakespeare Now! Series
Edition description:
Reprint
Pages:
240
Sales rank:
1,359,453
Product dimensions:
6.10(w) x 9.10(h) x 0.70(d)

Meet the Author

Graham Holderness is Professor of English at the University of Hertfordshire, author or editor of numerous studies in early modern and modern literature and drama, and General Editor of the peer-reviewed journal Critical Survey. He is also a creative writer, novelist and award-winning poet.

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