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Who was William Shakespeare? How did the ‘rude groom’ from Stratford grow up to be the greatest poet the world has known? Not for a generation, since the late Anthony Burgess’s SHAKESPEARE (1970), has there been anything approaching a popular, mainstream biography of the greatest and most celebrated writer. Yet Shakespeare’s life was as colourful, varied and dramatic as his works: the Warwickshire country boy who ‘disappeared’ for seven years before fetching up in London as an apprentice actor…whose fellow players could scarcely keep up with the plays he turned out for them…who rapidly became a favourite at the court of Elizabeth I…and returned to Stratford a prosperous ‘gentleman’, proud to realise his father’s dream of a family coat of arms, before his death at 52.
Anthony Holden brilliantly interleaves the poets own words with the known facts to breathe new life into a story never before told in such absorbing detail. ‘The perfect blend of erudition and accessibility’ – the Daily Telegraph’s verdict on Holden’s life of Tchaikovsky – applies equally to his revealing, very human portrait of Shakespeare.


A Shakespeare for our time; scholarly, witty and bold
Melvyn Bragg
It deserves its place in the turbulent and constantly expanding firmament of Shakespearean studies.
There's no denying the precision with which he nails his narrative with a well-chosen line. And those lines tend to be good.
Holden's book is lively, readable and lit with real enthusiasm for the play and poetry. It should reach a wide audience who will be fascinated by the riddles which make up Shakespeare's life story.
smooth, professional.