Jacket for 'Shakespeare Unbound. Decoding a Hidden Life'

Shakespeare Unbound. Decoding a Hidden Life

By René Weis

Published Jan 2010

At last – a key that unlocks the secrets of Shakespeare’s life…
Intimacies with Southampton and Marlowe, entanglements in London with the elusive Dark Lady, the possible fathering of an illegitimate son – these are among the mysteries of Shakespeare’s rich and turbulent life that have proven tantalizingly obscure to scholars. Breaking with tradition, René Weis draws upon a lifetime of research to reveal that it is the plays and poems themselves that contain the richest seam of clues about the details of Shakespeare’s personal and professional life – at home in Stratford and later, in the shadowy precincts of theatrical London. Scenes from King Lear and Othello, for example, were influenced by the Bard’s several love affairs. Likewise, Shakespeare’s grief at the death of son Hamnet spawned his most ambitious tragedy, while his own twins provided the counter reality to Twelfth Night. Shakespeare’s art was unquestionably, an extension of his life.

Weis also offers new and persuasive data to clear up old mysteries, The Fair Youth, the author argues, had to be Henry Wriothsley, the Earl of Southampton; the Dark Lady was Emilia Lanier, a strikingly lascivious Venetian beauty, Marlowe was the rival poet who figured so prominently in the Sonnets. These informed speculations are based largely on assiduous study of overlooked sources, hidden in Shakespeare’ birthplace, as well as neglected sources in Stratford and the records now held by the Shakespeare Birthplace Trust, of which Weis is a trustee.
The author’s familiarity with the local landscape and with Elizabethan oral traditions provides additional insights to support his belief that Shakespeare’s thirty nine plays and the Sonnets closely reflect his life. On the family front, Shakespeare was almost certainly the father of the dramatist William Davenant, the offspring of an affair with a wealthy and glamorous patron of the London stage. Weis identifies Shakespeare’s second daughter, Judith, as the muse of his late plays, which focus on father-daughter relationships.
Shakespeare Unbound not only provides links between the life and the work but surprises readers with exciting new information about the London stage, England’s dangerous religious wars and Shakespeare’s close friendships and entangled family life. Neither musty nor academic, it speaks in today’s idiom without sacrificing the beauty of the playwright’s rich and mellifluous language. Controversial and always spirited, René Weis’ biography of the world’s greatest writer is authoritative, compelling and compulsively readable.

Other books by René Weis