René Weis (4 stars)

Shakespeare Revealed: A Biography (John Murray)


Combining taut prose with tight scholarship, René Weis has written a gripping biography of the world’s most famous Bard. With the great man’s life notoriously wreathed in mystery, Weis has plunged into the works for clues. He cites John Keats as his inspiration for conflating fiction and fact, but centuries of biblical exegesis are never far away. It is with the passion of a believer that Weis sets out to uncover the rich seam of biographical information that he detects in Will’s output.

The dark lady and the androgynous young man of the sonnets both feature but more contentiously, Weis argues that Shakespeare was disabled, ‘made lame by Fortune’s dearest spite’. Given that most scholars have difficulty stomaching Shakespeare’s egg-shaped head, Weis is treading on delicate sensibilities. Against the unfolding life of a literary genius, he builds a colourful picture of an England full of petty disputes, sexual misdemeanours and raw, religious schisms.

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