Tuesday, October 16, 2018

Imagining Shakespeare's Wife by Katherine West Scheil

I've had a slight increase in interest in Shakespeare ever since last year when we visited Stratford-upon-Avon and the Globe in London. So when I saw this book on Anne Hathaway, I decided to request a copy.

As with Shakespeare, we know very few details about Anne Hathaway's life, which makes it very easy for historians to reimagine her the way they want. Imagining Shakespeare's Wife first takes us through the known facts of Anne Hathaway and her legacy, and then goes through the ways that she has been represented in great detail.

The sad fact is that Anne has always been used to illuminate aspects of her husband. As his wife, she would have known (and could have said) a lot about his character. And since she was about seven years older than him, speculation about their marriage has been rife. If people want to portray Shakespeare as a libertine man about town, they tend to view Anne and her marriage to Shakespeare very negatively. If people want to view Shakespeare as a great moral character, they tend to view Anne as someone embodying feminine virtues. And in recent years, Anne has been re-interpreted (sometimes drastically in novels) to fit certain feminist messages.

Obviously, this was a fascinating read. I've always felt a certain sympathy for the way Anne has been portrayed because it has been really unflattering at times. To see how people have interpreted her silence is really astounding. And like James Shapiro said in Contested Will, there is very little we know about Shakespeare's personal life, which means that the temptation to read into his marriage through his works is very great.

If you're interested in Shakespeare, I think you'd enjoy this. It's fairly easy to read and contains a lot of great analysis about the ways Anne Hathaway has been interpreted throughout history. It's probably not related to any of Shakespeare's plays (except for the part where people use his plays to pass judgment on her) but if you want to know more about the Bard and his Wife, this is a book to read.

Disclaimer: I got a free copy of this book from the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for a free and honest review.

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