Pam Webb

a writer's journey as a reader

2/50: Bloom’s BioCritiques–William Shakespeare

William Shakespeare  Frustrated Harold Bloom.

Harold Bloom knows a lot about literature. I think “intimidated” along with “impressed” are among my reactions to his introduction on William Shakespeare


2015 is going to be my Shakesyear, since I have set out a goal to gather research to write about Shakespeare. I’m not sure from what angle I’ll proceed, but I’m looking forward to the process. I do enjoy researching. It’s the doing something with it all that I struggle. I do know I have a daunting task ahead of me. Consider how little we know about him, I realize I’m probably going to be chasing about looking at the same old information presented by different people. Maybe I’ll be fortunate and find two needles in the info haystack…

The first book I’ve come across is a dandy. Harold Bloom, esteemed literary critic, takes on the task on presenting literary biographies of all sorts of famous authors. Although intended for juvenile readers, I found his vocabulary and syntax fairly challenging at times. For instance, what middle schooler would grasp this sentence easily: “I surmise that the egregious interventions by Vencentio and Iago displace the actor’s energies into a new kind of mischief-making, a fresh opening to a subtler playwriting-within-the-play.”

Bloom creates a portrait of Shakespeare through the observations of others including Samuel Johnson and Ralph Waldo Emerson. Considering this volume is under 200 pages, it’s packed with vital insights, including a chronology, works list, and a bibliography, to set me off along the trail in my search for Shakespeare.

Some new-to-me facts about the Bard:

  • he was “fostered” out to another family whose connections might have helped him rise above the failings of his father (which is quite the story in itself)
  • in 1587, when Shakespeare was 23, five theatrical companies visited Stratford and it wasn’t long after that Billy Boy went off to London
  • Hamlet, produced in 1601, was among the first plays the Lord Chamberlain’s Men performed at the Globe theater
  • Shakespeare’s company performed at least twelve plays every year for King James and his court
  • The purchase of the Blackfriars, another theatre, allowed Shakespeare’s acting troupe to perform year round since this was an enclosed theatre, unlike the Globe

I look forward to my discovering of William Shakespeare, and I hope you won’t become bored with my Bardinating over the course of the year.

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9 thoughts on “2/50: Bloom’s BioCritiques–William Shakespeare

  1. Little known fact: he wrote The Odd Couple.

    You’re welcome.

  2. Ah! If you’re looking into Shakespeare you really need to watch a documentary called ‘Muse of Fire’. You can get it on iTunes in the US and UK, and Vimeo in the US, UK and Australia. It’s basically two guys traveling around and speaking to people in the entertainment industry and scholars (like Harold Bloom) about acting, directing and studying Shakespeare.
    I had enrolled to study some Shakespeare at uni and I was a little bit apprehensive about it, but after watching this documentary I was really excited about it. You can also watch the full length interviews on the Globe Theatre website ( ). It’s mostly actors so I don’t know if it’s the sort of info your after, but there might be a few things here and there that are of interest to you – there is an interview with Harold Bloom so that may be of use.

    Anyway, good luck and have fun!

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