Sunday, April 27, 2008

Greer (bbke)

Amazing the reactions to Ms Greer and her book, 'Shakespeare's Wife'.

It's obviously getting a push in the New World at the moment judging by the number of reviews - many by people who admit a degree of bemusement at the subject, most by people with little expertise in the area and some who don't actually seem to have read the book.

A great many of the reviews are more concerned with 'Shakespeare' rather than the 'wife' - and with Greer herself, than the subject of the book. What is frightening is that several of the commentators don't seem to be able to get beyond the Wiki biography of Greer - which underplays considerably her respectability as a 'Shakespeare Scholar' - not one of the reviews I've read has mentioned her book in the Oxford series - A Short Introduction to Shakespeare.

Don't get me wrong - there are some good reviews: I quite like this from 'thestar' - even though the writer is no Shakespeare expert - and doesn't always agree with my views; another I quite like is in the New York Times, Reclaiming the Shrew ...

... and some truly dreadful ones from people who really don't get the point of the book - The Times of London's is a classic silly man talking!

Greer is also getting a bit of personal exposure - again, I like some of it, especially when she is doing the talking.

So much for the 'professional' reaction.

If that were all, I don't think I'd bother about it - book reviews are all part of the entertainment business; but there is also a strong reaction in the blogosphere - especially the Shakespeare blogosphere.

I need to be careful here - most of the people blogging are good honest citizens with a passion for Shakespeare and a desire to put that into whatever they write.

What has surprised me is the closed minds shown to the book by several people - who openly claim they would never read the book. A couple of common reasons given are 'it is only speculation' and it is an attack on good honest scholarship - and good respectable biographers who know what they are talking about. A third reason, not so often stated but implied, is the book is seen as an attack on Shakespeare.

The 'speculation' is interesting - especially as the whole point of the book is to point out how much of the accepted view of Shakespeare's relationship not only to his wife, but women and marriage in general is based on little if any evidence - and that much of the evidence there is is open to alternative interpretation. The book is aimed at revealing the degree of speculation, not claiming any 'correctness' in Greer's own speculations. Some of the views expressed by Greer are obviously slightly 'tongue in cheek

What Greer does give is a very clear, detailed and documented picture of domestic life for women like Ann Hathaway in towns like Stratford - a much firmer base for speculation than any supposed autobiographical element in the either the plays or the poems.

Interesting is the way such information gives a new set of parameters to view the plays through - and Shakespeare himself.

Far from being an attack on Shakespeare - he comes out of the biography very well - as a much more sympathetic human.

As for the attack on the the critics - well, maybe they deserve all they get?

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