Item description for Ungentle Shakespeare - Arden Shakespeare: Scenes from his Life (Ungentle Shakespeare: Scenes from His Life) by Katherine Duncan-Jones...
This lively, readable and challenging new biography, by the editor of the acclaimed Arden edition of Shakespeare's Sonnets, takes a fresh look at an enduring cultural icon, about whose life it is widely claimed that nothing is known. As a result Shakespeare has tended to be viewed in Romantic isolation: the Bard as lonely inspired singer enthroned on a mountain peak. The aim of this study is to replace the image of the lonely genius with one of Shakespeare as deeply involved, even enmired, in the geographical, social and literary context of his time. This Shakespeare is a man who lives in a congested city and has to deal with disease, debt and cut-throat competition; his manifest brilliance often makes him the object of envy and malice, rather than adulation. Much of his life and writing is seen as the result of accident and circumstance, rather than the product of artistic vision or a grand career plan. From his shotgun wedding at the age of 18 to the burning down of the Globe Theatre over 30 years later, he is beset by bad luck. His most brilliant works are seen as creative responses to external constraints, such as the plague outbreaks that frequently closed the public theatres during the late sixteenth and early seventeenth centuries. Katherine Duncan-Jones also takes a fresh look at the tradition of Shakespeare's love for a 'Dark Lady' and concludes rather that he devoted his most personal and passionate writing to the service of young men.
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Est. Packaging Dimensions: Length: 1.25" Width: 7" Height: 9" Weight: 2.2 lbs.
Release Date Mar 22, 2001
ISBN 1903436265 ISBN13 9781903436264
Availability 0 units.
More About Katherine Duncan-Jones
Katherine Duncan Jones has published over forty articles on Elizabethan and Jacobean literature. Her biography Sir Philip Sidney: Courtier Poet appeared in 1991, and her edition of Shakespeare's Sonnets was published by Arden in 1997. She is a Tutorial Fellow in English at Somerville College, Oxford, and a Fellow of the Royal Society of Literature.
Katherine Duncan-Jones has an academic affiliation as follows - Somerville College, Oxford.
Reviews - What do customers think about Ungentle Shakespeare - Arden Shakespeare: Scenes from his Life (Ungentle Shakespeare: Scenes from His Life)?
An ax to grind ... Aug 21, 2008
Honestly, I can't understand why people with such an education as she holds would feel so compelled to drag Shakespeare through the mud, except it just seems to be the fashion among many Academics.
And I have to admit, my Life experience shows there is no good correlation between education (big brains) and an ability to reason with good discretion. It's almost Aristotelian, that smart people need to harness their 'intellect' if they're to make a good pursuit of Truth.
As one of the other reviewers said, she believes any 'veneration' of Shakespeare (Bardolatree) is to the detriment of his peers. If that's her case, she could apply her critical tools & methods to their works, but instead she cherry-picks from scant biographic facts and spins her web to catch an 'ungentle' Shakespeare. For instance, to compare his 'generosity' with 'public-minded' politicians who give for others to notice, is in fact, unfair, because promoting one's Public Image is contrary to Biblical lessons (don't parade your charity) Shakespeare may have actually taken to heart, so we just don't know. (In fact, I hope I don't sound skeptical, but sometimes I wonder if names on buildings and Foundations might be as much (or more) about Ego as it is philanthropy.)
In her Preface she says, 'I don't believe any Elizabethans were what we might now call 'nice' - liberal, unprejudiced, unselfish.' To me, this is an unconscionably close-minded, prejudiced and (yes) self-aggrandizing statement to make. She is, in fact, very generous giving her Judgments of the (mercurially) quick & (syphilitically) dead Shakespeare. (She Nose.)
To be honest, I did not study her entire book because I've learned to read how a person thinks and judged myself she is not very disciplined in her 'objectivity,' sometimes even laughably so. The unfunny part is that's she's a Professional and others defer to her expertise.
If you want a good biography and have already read 'Will in the World,' Ackroyd's Shakespeare and Schoenbaum's Documents, maybe you should take a break and just brush up on your Shakespeare. It's far better not to read yet another biography, but to 'read him'. Hope this review helps.
Rattling the Bones Jun 6, 2004
I enjoyed this highly original Shakespeare biography, if only because of its deliberate departure from mainstream Bardolatry. Biographers of Shakespeare are in a paradoxical situation: Shakespeare left behind reams of writings of genius, and many legal documents, but there is little solid indication of what sort of personality he was, or what made him tick. Would-be biographers therefore resort to supposition and fabrication to fill in the numerous blanks. Biographies of Shakespeare thus reflect more about the desires, needs, and personality of the biographer than Shakespeare himself. Duncan-Jones' book is no exception. She seems to be motivated by a rather adolescent resentment of Shakespeare because many fine Elizabethan or Jacobean writers, such as Sidney, Nashe, Webster, and Marston, are neglected at his expense. This leads her into the worst possible interpretation of Shakespeare's activities at every turn. Despite this, or because of it, Ungentle Shakespeare is compelling, provocative, and important, by forcing us to acknowledge the possibility that Shakespeare (gasp!) was a complex, flawed guy. It is well-written and generally well-argued. Occasionally, her animus against Shakespeare leads her into assertions which are plain silly: Why should Shakespeare's appropriation of Robert Greene's Pandosto for the plot of The Winter's Tale be seen as "settling scores"? More realistically, this is a probably a generous tribute to a departed rival.
Readers seeking a more favorable slant are advised to read Michael Wood's intriguing biography (another shocker: was Shakespeare Catholic?) or the very sober, but highly reliable biography by Park Honan.
Provocative and informative Feb 25, 2004
The reviewer who dismissed this book as "fiction" was totally wrong. This is a highly original book, which shows us that the implications of the familiar evidence for Shakespeare's life have never been fully understood until now. The author is not afraid to challenge many of our most entrenched assumptions about Shakespeare -- not least the hope that he must have been "a nice person". Duncan-Jones uses her brilliant knowledge of original documents and sources to demonstrate that there is a great deal of evidence that Shakespeare behaved pretty badly in relation to the poor and towards his daughters, and that he wangled his way to getting a coat of arms. It's a refreshing picture, which hasn't been presented in ANY previous biography; perhaps it's no coincidence that this is the first Shakespeare biography written by a woman. But this is by no means simply a hatchet job. Duncan-Jones' account of Shakespeare's social climbing is balanced by some wonderfully sensitive accounts of the plays; she shows her capacity both for sharp psychological insight, and for appreciative literary criticism. Anyone interested in Shakespeare (and who isn't?) needs to buy this book.
Yawn Nov 9, 2003
As with Duncan-Jones's biography of Sidney, her strength is her imagination. A book, like so many other 'Shakespeare biographries', that belongs on the 'fiction' shelf.
The Arden Shakespeare graced by a provocative new biography Aug 18, 2001
Recent years have given us several fine new works on Shakespeare, among them Harold Bloom's prickly but masterful "The Invention of the Human" and Park Honan's well-researched, sober "Shakespeare - A Life". To these we must now add Katherine Duncan-Jones' "Ungentle Shakespeare". Where Bloom illuminates the works and marvels at the scope of Shakespeare's mind, and Honan relates the life based on the "facts", with as little speculation as possible, Ms. Duncan-Jones draws on what is clearly an encyclopedic knowledge of documents, history, and scholarship to consciously extract from the context of the times possible insights into the man and his craft.
The author (refreshingly) sets out with nothing special to prove and no incipient desire to deify or demonize the Bard. Even Honan seems to tend, if in doubt, to "find in the Bard's favour": the sum left Stratford's poor in Shakespeare's will, for example, is deemed a "generous bequest". Until, that is, it is viewed next to the bequests of other contemporary people of wealth, as Duncan-Jones does, revealing it as paltry by comparison - once we view it in a broader context.
This is the pattern for the entire book: intentionally not an exhaustive biography, "Scenes From His Life" (the book's sub-title) are used to illuminate the poet's achievement, hitherto unexplored but likely aspects of his personality, and his journey through his times in a way that nicely supplements more (and also far less) cautious biographys. In questioning certain aspects of received wisdom, Duncan-Jones invites us to envision Shakespeare the man, living and interacting in a complex, high-pressure reality, not as a Cultural Icon on a pedestal.
For those of us who wish to "take him all in all", Duncan-Jones' "Ungentle Shakespeare" is a wonderful invitation to broaden our perspective on the Bard. Orchids to the Arden Series for publishing it, as it expands on and supplements information in the series' excellent introductions to specific plays. My bottom line: I've seldom put down a biography with such a sense of having gotten real insights about a famous historical figure about whom (ostensibly)"little is known".