Flashback/The Luncheon Society—San Francisco/Feminist Germaine Greer on her book, “Shakespeare Wife.”/One Market Street/March 30, 2009

A polemical, ground-breaking study of Elizabethan England that reclaims Ann Hathaway’s rightful place in history.

Little is known about the wife of the world’s most famous playwright; a great deal, none of it complimentary, has been assumed. The omission of her name from Shakespeare’s will has been interpreted as evidence that she was nothing more than an unfortunate mistake from which Shakespeare did well to distance himself.

Yet Shakespeare is above all the poet of marriage. Before him, there were few comedies or tragedies about wooing or wedding. And yet he explored the sacrament in all its aspects, spiritual, psychological, sexual, sociological, and was the creator of some of the most tenacious and intelligent heroines in English literature. Is it possible, therefore, that Ann, who has been mocked and vilified by scholars for centuries, was the inspiration?

Until now, there has been no serious critical scholarship devoted to the life and career of the farmer’s daughter who married England’s greatest poet. Part biography, part history, Shakespeare’s Wife is a fascinating reconstruction of Ann’s life, and an illuminating look at the daily lives of Elizabethan women, from their working routines to the rituals of courtship and the minutiae of married life. In this thoroughly researched and controversial book, Greer steps off the well-trodden paths of orthodoxy, asks new questions, and begins to right the wrongs done to Ann Shakespeare.

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