In William Shakespeare: A Biography, A. L. Rowse has written a lively and detailed account of the life of the dramatist and poet William Shakespeare in his familiar settings of Warwickshire, Stratford, and London. His story is told within the context of Shakespeare’s relationships with family members, friends, and fellow actors and playwrights, as well as within a larger frame of theater history, contemporary events, and political issues.
The book opens with descriptions of the countryside, history, and citizenry of Warwickshire; it then describes Stratford in this same manner. Next, Shakespeare’s family history is traced. The book closes with Shakespeare, after his life in London, returning to Stratford as a country squire; he is portrayed there toward the end of his life, living with family and friends and improving his business holdings. The text ends with the subsequent histories of family members, friends, and fellow actors. In between are references to many visits back to Shakespeare’s hometown, during the theater off-seasons and the plague years, but also detailed accounts of the neighborhoods of Shakespeare’s lodgings in London. Rowse shows, with generous quotations from Shakespeare’s plays and poems, that imagery, place names, and characters were taken from these settings.
Rowse attempts an accurate chronology of Shakespeare’s development as a playwright and poet by linking it to contemporary events, devoting a chapter to each...
(The entire section is 469 words.)