A unique literary journey through seven great writers' responses to Shakespeare—including Virginia Woolf, Allen Ginsberg, John Keats and more.
No writer in the Western canon has been more influential on subsequent generations of writers than William Shakespeare. In The Great William, Theodore Leinwand explores how seven renowned writers—Samuel Taylor Coleridge, John Keats, Virginia Woolf, Charles Olson, John Berryman, Allen Ginsberg, and Ted Hughes—wrestled with this literary titan. What emerges is a constellation of remarkable intellectual and emotional encounters.
Theodore Leinwand builds impressively detailed accounts of these writers' experiences through their marginalia, lectures, letters, journals, and reading notes. We learn why Woolf associated reading Shakespeare with her brother Thoby, and what Ginsberg meant when referring to the mouth feel of Shakespeare's verse. From Hughes's attempts to find a "skeleton key" to all of Shakespeare's plays to Berryman's tormented efforts editing King Lear, Leinwand reveals the palpable energy and conviction with which these very different writers engaged with Shakespeare. In uncovering these public and private reactions, The Great William reveals the inspired insights, intense vexations, and profound admiration these writers experienced while reading Shakespeare.
A CHOICE Outstanding Academic Title Award-winner