MLA: Shakespeare- Whose Life?

Lois Potter, U of Delaware: Newark, “Whose Life Is This Anyway?”

This is a live blogging of the session.

The picture is from people ask me how my biography will differ from other people’s biography. I say my name will be on the title page. On bad days, I burst into tears.

I am unsure how I can make it my life. What is going to be my approach?
Since I differ significantly from Shakespeare, I am trying to see what we have in common.
Literary biography takes on new life with Shakespeare.
In most literary bios, everything is always looking forward.
Some of the most recent, interesting research has been on the likelihood of collaboration and revision.
Means that even terms like early and late are not adequate.
Shakespeare saw more of his collaborators while working together than he did his wife and kids.

Everything I say about his relationships with Marlowe… Fletcher… This may be ruined if a computer program proves who wrote what.

How do I know what we want from biography? Publishers come up with the idea. People want to read multiple biographies of Shakespeare. Is this one more proof that Shakespeare has become a religion?
People read them to some extent to see how they become famous.

What we want to imitate in Shakespeare is not how he lived but how he wrote.
Jonson vilified and then prayed to him.

Writing blank verse becomes easier with time. So do rhyming lines.
What I do instead, of course, is quote him a lot.
Chapter titles and epigraphs taken from Shakespeare.

I know while we all want to quote. Quotations help us remember why we are writing the work in the first time.

I didn’t realize how important Shakespeare was in quoting worldwide. Until in Valencia, the politician wanted a translation of Shakespeare for a speech.

If S’s words can apply to events in 20th C Spain, they can certainly apply to his own life.

I want to give the words without making it seem that all of S’s words support what I am saying. (mostly what she said here, but not entirely)

Language is full of association. “You had a father.” Merry Wives of Windsor: “Your father was a real man and you should be one too.” Could relate to his losing his son and gaining a house that was falling into decay.
The house in the poem is only a fraction of the total reality in which he was embedded.

Critical biography…
One of my fantasies about it is that some way it can take into account fantasy.
Actions and dreams can be treated as one continuous stream in biography.

Famous case, S’s contemporaries thought one person’s life was being mirrored.
Essex, Homer, Achilles, Essex had already quarreled with his commander.
Sir John Hayward’s dedication, imitation of life…
Essex saw Richard II more than once. Implication is because he was interested.
Essex did not identify with Bolingbroke of the play.
Rode into the city rather than attacking the court, where he might have been successful.

Commonplace book headings. Particularly large numbers of Richard II.
A few lines might inspire revolution.
Duchess of Glouchester goes off stage and dies.
Most of the quotations are on grief and sorrow.
No one goes to hear Bolingbroke.
Everyone goes to hear Richard’s lines. Completely in line with Essex’s self-image. He said he would retire to the country if he had to come to Queen Elizabeth.

Three speakers… hermit… Essex withdrew from court.
Fear that his departure for Ireland made him afraid of what would happen as it had Richard.
“O that I could forget what I have been” great line

If the play had anything more to do with Essex, could only have been the passivity of his arrest.

Who did Shakespeare think he was? Ovid.

Patrick Cheney argues that his career was built on the tension between Virgil and Ovid.

Given the constraints of writing for the theater, Shakespeare might not have had a lot of choice of what to follow.
Emphasis on caring for the land
Classical romance was considered equivalent to epic.

What Cheney calls “career criticism” is a self-conscious description of genres.
Virgil was also a biographical figure.
It may have influenced some of the stories about Shakespeare, particularly about S holding horses for patrons.
Even Jonson’s comments on S’s virtue, might have been talking about Virgil.

Shakespeare knew Virgil meant to revise his work.
Virgil died at 52.
Time for Shakespeare to finish his courses. When he was 52 wrote the first draft of his will.
Writing is an activity that lends itself to superstition and “saving lie.”
If Shakespeare had superstitions, probably couldn’t act on them. Perhaps they helped him write. “A lot better if only one had been able to spend more time on it.”
Shakespeare thrived on constraints.
Perhaps he found that he couldn’t, when he retired to Stratford…
Virgil asked that the Aeneid should be burned on his deathbed.
We don’t know whether Shakespeare’s daughter would have not burned it.
“Cursed be he who moves my bones”- Not like Virgil, so Shakespeare was buried at Westminster Abbey.

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