Ramie Targoff has written a vivid, finely crafted portrait of four extraordinary Renaissance women whose writing, long buried in archives, defied all the rules. Mary Sidney's translations, Aemilia Lanyer's poems, Anne Clifford's diaries, and Elizabeth Cary's dramas contained radical messages of autonomy at a time when women had few legal rights and almost no access to education. Raised to keep quiet and obey their husbands, these writers kept diaries, created female heroines, and gave women starring roles on the stage and page. Targoff, an esteemed scholar of Renaissance literature, restores these women to the starring roles they deserve in this fresh, galavanting, and indispensable history of Renaissance England. Shakespeare's Sisters challenges and expands our historical memory in sweeping, cinematic prose. Scholarly storytelling at its finest.
Over the past thirty years, scholars - mostly women - have recovered and celebrated the works of an array of long-forgotten female writers of the English Renaissance. Now Ramie Targoff has had the ingenious idea of telling the lives and exploring the works of some of them in an innovative group biography. She brings back to life and shares with a wider readership the literary talents of four women of varying backgrounds but equal fortitude.
A vibrant portrait . . .Targoff's narrative is full of vivid personalities and intriguing tales of court alliances and rivalries. It's an enlightening study of the era's literary scene and the women who persevered despite their exclusion from it.
With fluid prose, Targoff braids these four biographies to give an outstanding revisionist portrait of an age. She catalogues the difficulties these women faced - from lack of education, to extreme poverty, to obstreperous husbands - but the overall picture is not one, like Woolf imagined, of depression and madness. Targoff's re-written Renaissance is one in which women's lives are not relegated; where their voices are heard on the page.