"Author! Author!" : Shakespeare and biography
Since 1996, not a year has passed without the publication of at least one Shakespeare biography. Yet for many years the place of the author in the practice of understanding literary works has been problematized, and even on occasions eliminated. Criticism reads the “works”, and may or may not refer to an author whose “life” contributed to their meaning. Biography seeks the author in the works, the personality that precedes the works and gives them their characteristic shape and meaning. But the form of literary biography addresses the unusual kind of “life” that puts itself into “works”, and this is particularly challenging where the “works” predominate massively over the salient facts of the “life”. This essay surveys the current terrain of Shakespeare biography, and considers the key questions raised by the medium: can we know anything of Shakespeare's “personality” from the facts of his life and the survival of his works? What is the status of the kind of speculation that inevitably plays a part in biographical reconstruction? Are biographers in the end telling us as much about themselves as they tell us about Shakespeare?