A swarm of books boasting William Shakespeare as a central character have hit the bookstands in recent years. The question is, why? Does the poet’s life merit this kind of attention, or is he a blank slate on which anyone can write? How does he come off as a fictional character? In some books he is rather insipid, as if his brand is too hot to tamper with, and he is reduced to the status of a sacred cow. In other books he is too busy fighting for truth and justice to be bothered with taking up the quill, while in others, he is an opportunistic “Shake-scene” who has no qualms about “beautifying” himself with his contemporaries’ feathers. I propose to look at such works in the aggregate and determine the basic character traits that modern scribes attribute to our Will. My journey will take me primarily to novels (of the historical fiction school), but I shall be stopping along the way to consider a couple of dramas, as well as a recent TV series, that also feature the Bard. Among the novelists included in my study are Bernard Cornwall (Fools and Mortals), Rory Clements (Martyr), Tiffany Grace (My Father Had a Daughter), Leonard Tourney (Falstaff’s Murder), Karen Harper (Mistress Shakespeare), Benet Brandreth (The Spy of Venice), and Sally O’Reilly (Dark Aemelia). The dramatists are Morgan Lloyd Malcolm (Emilia) and Dead Centre’s Bush Moukarzel and Ben Kidd (Hamnet). The TV series is the Ben Elton “sitcom” Upstart Crow.
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