Shakespeare: Upstart Crow to Sweet Swan

Katherine Duncan-Jones

DOI: 10.5040/9781472555496

ISBN: 9781408130148

An original and provocative study of the evolution of Shakespeare's image, building on the success of Duncan-Jones' acclaimed biography, Shakespeare: An Ungentle Life. Taking a broadly chronological approach, she investigates Shakespeare's changing reputation, as a man, an actor and a poet, both from his own viewpoint and from that of his contemporaries. Many different categories of material are explored, including printed books, manuscripts, literary and non-literary sources. Rather than a biography, the book is an exploration with biographical elements. The change in public opinion in Shakespeare's time is quite startling: Henry Chettle attacked him as an 'upstart Crow' in 1592, an attack from which Shakespeare sought to defend himself; and yet by the time of the First Folio in 1623 he had become the 'Sweet Swan of Avon!' and was fast becoming the national treasure he remains today.

This engaging and fascinating study brings the politics and fashions of Shakespeare's literary and theatrical world vividly to life.

'Katherine Duncan-Jones...has given much energy and expertise over the years to showing that it was the other, less lyrical, shrewd-headed Shakespeare we glimpse in county archives and Chancery documents who secured the success and eventual apotheosis of 'Gentle Shakespeare,' the poet commemorated by a fine folio edition of his works in 1623. Duncan-Jones' Shakespeare is Shakespeare the survivor, the tradesman's son with no university credentials and no connections in high places...This new book is valuable for its revaluation of previous material (from Ungentle Shakespeare) its greater conciseness and its updated research...(which) allows Duncan-Jones to drawn the line she sees in Shakespeare's life more sharply...

...Her writing is immersed in close textual detail, yet there is still a strong, overriding sense of Shakespeare's presence in his various milieus...(Duncan-Jones has) an astute touch.' John Stubbs, Literary Review

'Shakespeare, in this analysis, is characterised as someone who had to assert his own position amid a fiercely hierarchical society...Duncan-Jones demonstrates that Shakespearean self-promotion was as much literary as social.' Peter J Smith, Times Higher Education Supplement

This learned, readable and often entertaining book informs, challenges and stimulates in equal measure. English Studies