Cover image for William Shakespeare : a popular life
William Shakespeare : a popular life
O'Connor, Garry.
Personal Author:
Expanded updated and revised edition.
Publication Information:
New York : Applause Books, [2000]

Physical Description:
377 pages : illustrations ; 24 cm
Format :


Call Number
Material Type
Home Location
Item Holds
PR2894 .O286 2000 Adult Non-Fiction Central Closed Stacks
PR2894 .O28 2000 Adult Non-Fiction Non-Fiction Area

On Order



Garry O'Connor's biography creates a vivd impression of Shakespeare's family life, his marriage and sexuality, the intimate details of his background, and his relationships with the theatre, his audiences and the towering political figures of his time such as Queen Elizabeth and the Earl of Essex. It captures the darkness and confusion of his religious feelings, and his painful search for identity as well as his continuous commitments to change and development. O'Connor imaginatively and persuasively reconstructs the playwright's life and career.

Reviews 2

Publisher's Weekly Review

Rather than taking on the Sisyphean task of sifting through the reams of documents generated by zealous scholars, British biographer O'Connor has chosen "to give Shakespeare a life, not only as a historical figure who can be brought to life, but the dimension of one who is still living." This strategy, for him, entails two major departures from typical Bardology (such as Park Honan's bio earlier this year): First, O'Connor freely and assuredly speculates on the contents of Shakespeare's mind ("Fugitive Jesuits in disguise popped in and out of his imagination as vividly as images of woman's delight"; the Bard later finds that "twins are exhausting"). Second, he draws upon the thoughtful opinions of those who have worked closely with the plays in performance and in noncritical writings: Iris Murdoch, Jonathan Miller, Peter Brook and Trevor Nunn, among others. Their smartly chosen quips have a refreshing authority. O'Connor's approach to the plays themselves ranges from irreverently colloquial (Prospero's Epilogue is "the old man signing off") to casually shrewd--a digression on "the textual use of musical sounds and instruments" is as good as any of the academic research he eschews. While his hostility to the vicissitudes of contemporary scholarship is understandable, O'Connor's reliance on an 80-year-old book for a chronology of "facts and traditions" at the end surely weakens the chronology's credibility; many discoveries have since been made. As an idiosyncratic overview of Shakespeare's present-day status among admirers outside the Ivory Tower, the book's a gem, but its speculative aspects remain ungrounded. (Jan.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

Library Journal Review

While some readers may not yet be ready to entertain the idea of a feminine Shakespeare suffering from womb envy, those who can push through some of these sorts of bold speculations will find valuable nuggets of plausible biographical information. Often psycho-sexual in his approach, O'Connor (Ralph Richardson: An Actor's Life) presents Shakespeare as a full-blooded person as opposed to the nearly sainted playwright of some critics' imaginations. Clear descriptions of the theater environment of that time are given from the viewpoint of actor, audience, and writer. Extensive tables at the end of the work outline "fact and tradition, showing what is proved and what is not proved about Shakespeare's life and writings." While this work may not appeal to some, especially those who hold that the Earl of Oxford authored the plays (dismissed here as "cranks"), this gives a fresh spin to Shakespeare's life and work. Recommended for public and academic libraries.ÄKaren E. Sadowski, Brookline, MA (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

Table of Contents

Introductionp. 1
Part 1 Consummatum est
Blessed is the wombp. 5
Rage and swellp. 11
The kingdom of childhoodp. 19
A father forgottenp. 25
Fire in the bloodp. 35
Part 2 Plays and Maidenheads
A great professionp. 43
Factions and fictionsp. 48
The wonder of our stagep. 55
Outer and inner worldsp. 62
The ground-plan of imaginationp. 69
Half a godp. 73
The body is his bookp. 81
Drops of waterp. 87
Queint mistery of Ovidp. 91
The lure of foreign partsp. 99
Part 3 The True Patron
A friend's infirmitiesp. 109
Investigation of marriagep. 118
La Passionatap. 123
Lawful magicp. 133
The shape of a griefp. 140
The absence of mothersp. 149
Green fieldsp. 159
Life measured by the actp. 167
The cockle of rebellionp. 176
I am that I amp. 183
Part 4 A Troubled Mind
Whole men sickp. 199
Double blessingp. 204
A sense of limitp. 210
The gathered selfp. 221
Deeds of darknessp. 229
Violent vanitiesp. 247
The restoration of mothersp. 255
Flying the courts of princesp. 261
Sick men wholep. 265
Part 5 Plots Do Pall
What's in a face?p. 273
In one person many peoplep. 278
Dying menstruumsp. 284
The great invisiblep. 292
Life measured by the spacep. 297
Anon anon sirp. 302
Postscript: Look here upon this portrait, and on thisp. 305
Chronologyp. 309
Tables of Facts and Traditionsp. 310
Playhousesp. 318
Plays in the 1623 Foliop. 320
Acknowledgmentsp. 322
Select Bibliographyp. 324
Notes and Referencesp. 327
Indexp. 367