Little is known of the wife of England's greatest playwright; a great deal, none of it complimentary, has been assumed.
The omission of her name from Shakespeare's will has been interpreted as evidence that she was an unfortunate mistake from which Shakespeare did well to distance himself.
In Shakespeare's Wife Germaine Greer combines literary-historical techniques with documentary evidence about life in Stratford, striving to re-embed the story of Shakespeare's marriage in its social context, and presents a new set of hypotheses about the life and career of the farmer's daughter who married our greatest poet.
Shakespeare's Wife is a compelling, insightful book that already goes some way to right the wrongs done to Ann Shakespeare.
About the Author
Germaine Greer gained her PhD from the University of Cambridge in 1967 with a thesis on Shakespeare's early comedies and has taught Shakespeare at universities in Australia, Britain and the US. In 1986 she was invited to contribute the volume on Shakespeare to the prestigious Past Masters series. In 1989 she set up her own publishing imprint, Stump Cross Books, and went on to publish scholarly editions of Katherine Philips, Anne Wharton and Anne Finch, Countess of Winchilsea. She lives on three acres by a motorway exit in north-west Essex, with two dogs, thirteen geese and a fluctuating number of doves. Shakespeare's Wife has also been short-listed for The Prime Minister's Literary Awards.
Longtime feminist provocateur Greer (Whitefella Jump Up: The Shortest Way to Nationhood, 2004, etc.) proffers a wildly far-fetched "biography" of the Bard's underdocumented spouse.The author blithely disregards the perils of extrapolating a historical record from Shakespeare's writing in this glue-and-scissors account. Greer is annoyed by the bad rap Ann Hathaway has earned from most Shakespearean scholars, who assume that because Ann was eight years older she lured the 18-year-old glover's boy into an early marriage and made him so miserable that he skirted off to London for most of their adult lives. Because there is very little on record except dates of birth, marriage and lawsuits, Greer works by examining the parallel lives of Ann's siblings and Stratford's inhabitants: how they lived, worked and died and what their expectations of marriage were at the time. The author asserts, for example, that Ann was probably a farm servant, could read the Bible a little and was left to fend for herself and the children when Will left around 1587. Greer suggests that the purchase of New Place in 1597, usually seen as part of Shakespeare's "gentrification project," was "very much more likely" instigated by Ann, who ran a lively business in malt-making and money-lending from the enormous Stratford house. The fact that the scant documents relating to such activities are all in Will's name is waved away: "the dealings of married women were invariably subsumed within their husband's." Using Shakespeare's poetry as evidence, Greer insists that Ann must have loved and missed Will very much. She suggests that, far from being a chronicle of homosexual and adulterous love, some or all of the Sonnets may have been written for Ann. She is, to put it mildly, overanalyzing her sources. An exasperating work that edifies only with its intensive study of the era's mores; it can be used as a sociological study of Elizabethan women, but it doesn't offer a plausible judgment of Ann Hathaway Shakespeare. (Kirkus Reviews)
Number Of Pages: 406
Published: 1st November 2008
Publisher: Bloomsbury Publishing
Country of Publication: GB
Dimensions (cm): 19.7 x 12.8 x 3.7
Weight (kg): 0.28
Edition Number: 1