email page print pageAll Topic Reviews
"Are You There Alone?""How Come Boys Get to Keep Their Noses?""My Madness Saved Me"10% Happier365 Days49 Up56 UpA Beautiful MindA Beautiful MindA Beautiful MindA Book of ReasonsA Can of MadnessA Child's Life and Other StoriesA Dangerous LiaisonA Fight to BeA First-Rate MadnessA Good Enough DaughterA Heartbreaking Work of Staggering GeniusA Lethal InheritanceA Lethal InheritanceA Life ShakenA Life Worth LivingA Little PregnantA Message from JakieA Million Little PiecesA Numerate LifeA Pocket History of Sex in the Twentieth CenturyA Slant of SunA Special EducationA Tribe ApartAbout FaceAddicted Like MeADHD & MeAEIOUAgainst Medical AdviceAgents in My BrainAileen - Life and Death of a Serial KillerAlgernon, Charlie and IAll Out!All Seasons PassAlphavilleAlways Too Much And Never EnoughAlzheimer'sAn Anthropologist on MarsAn EducationAn Unquiet MindAngela's AshesAngelheadAnna Freud: A BiographyAnnie's GhostsAnother Bullshit Night in Suck CityAnthology of a Crazy LadyApples and OrangesApproaching NeverlandAre You There, Vodka? It's Me, ChelseaAs I Live and BreatheAs Nature Made HimAt Home in the Heart of AppalachiaAt the End of WordsAvalancheBad BoyBad GirlBeautiful BodiesBeautiful BoyBeautiful WreckBecause We Are BadBecoming AnnaBecoming MyselfBen Behind His VoicesBequest and BetrayalBereftBertrand RussellBlackoutBlanketsBloodlettingBodies in Motion and at RestBoneBorn on a Blue DayBoyBoy AloneBoyleBrain on FireBreaking ApartBreaking the SilenceBrokenBulimics on BulimiaBuzzCamus and SartreCharles DarwinChasing the HighCheeverCherryCity of OneCluesClumsyComfortComplications Compulsive ActsConfessions of a Cereal EaterConfessions of a Former ChildConfessions of a Grieving ChristianConfessions of the Other MotherConfidingConquering the Beast WithinContesting ChildhoodCrackedCrazyCry Depression, Celebrate RecoveryDamned to EternityDancing at the Shame PromDante's CureDaughter of the Queen of ShebaDavid Sedaris Live at Carnegie HallDays With My FatherDefeating the VoicesDementia Caregivers Share Their StoriesDepression and NarrativeDescartesDetourDevil in the DetailsDiagnosis: SchizophreniaDirty DetailsDirty SecretDivided MindsDivine MadnessDon't Get Too ComfortableDown Came the RainDress Your Family in Corduroy and DenimDrinkingDriving My FatherDrunkardDryEarly Embraces IIIEarly ExposuresEinsteinEinstein and OppenheimerElectroboyElegy for IrisElijah's CupElliott Smith and the Big NothingElsewhereEnough About YouEpilepticEvery Girl Tells a StoryEverything In Its PlaceExamined LivesExiting NirvanaFaces of Huntington'sFamily BoundFast GirlFearless ConfessionsFind MeFinding Iris ChangFirst Person Accounts of Mental Illness and RecoveryFirst Person PluralFixing My GazeFlanneryFolie a DeuxFor the Love of ItFortress of My YouthFrank Ramsey (1903-1930)Franz KafkaFraudFree RefillsFreudFreudFreudFriedrich NietzscheFrom Joy Division to New OrderFumblingFun HomeFuriously HappyGalileo Get Me Out of HereGetting OffGirl in Need of a TourniquetGirl Walking BackwardsGirl, InterruptedGirl, InterruptedGirls on the VergeGoing BlindGoing Through Hell Without Help From AboveGraysonGrowing Up JungGuttedHalf a Brain Is EnoughHardcore from the HeartHead CasesHeal & ForgiveHeal & Forgive IIHeavier than HeavenHeinz KohutHeinz KohutHello from Heaven!Hello to All ThatHer HusbandHer Last DeathHigh PriceHole in My LifeHolidays On IceHolidays on IceHope's BoyHouse of Happy EndingsHouse of Happy EndingsHow I Stayed Alive When My Brain Was Trying to Kill MeHow to Lose Friends & Alienate PeopleHow to Make Love Like a Porn Starhow to stop timeHumeHunger Makes Me a Modern GirlHurry Down SunshineI Am Dynamite!I Am I Am I AmI Feel Bad About My NeckI Never Promised You a Rose GardenI Remain in DarknessI'd Rather Eat ChocolateI'd Rather LaughIf I Die Before I WakeImagining RobertIn Search of FatimaIn the Realms of the UnrealIn the Wake of SuicideInside TherapyInternInvisible No MoreIt Happened to NancyIt Takes a Worried ManJack Cole and Plastic ManJean-Paul SartreJohn Stuart MillJourneys with the Black DogJust CheckingKafkaKantLa SierraLab GirlLast Flight OutLearning to FallLet Me Make It GoodLife As We Know ItLife InterruptedLife ReimaginedLimboLincoln's MelancholyListening in the Silence, Seeing in the DarkLittle PeopleLive For Your Listening PleasureLive Through ThisLiving in the Shadow of the Freud FamilyLiving With SchizophreniaLiving with SchizophreniaLockeLonelyLong ShotLook Me in the EyeLooking for The StrangerLoose GirlLosing Mum and PupLosing My MindLove Is a Mix TapeLove SickLove Times ThreeLove Works Like ThisLove You, Mean ItLuckyLudwig WittgensteinLyingMad HouseMad PrideMadame ProustMadnessMagical ThinkingMalignant SadnessManicMarcel ProustMarcus AureliusMary BarnesMaverick MindMaybe You Should Talk to SomeoneMe Talk Pretty One DayMeaningMelanie KleinMemoirMemoirs of an Addicted BrainMemoirs of My Nervous IllnessMen-ipulationMisconceptionsMiss American PieMockingbird YearsMomma and the Meaning of LifeMommies Who DrinkMonkey MindMore, Now, AgainMortificationMy Age of AnxietyMy Body PoliticMy Brain Tumour AdventuresMy DepressionMy Father's HeartMy First Cousin Once RemovedMy Flesh and BloodMy Horizontal LifeMy Life Among the Serial KillersMy Sister LifeMy Stroke of InsightName All the AnimalsNeural MisfireNietzscheNietzsche: The Man and His PhilosophyNinety DaysNo Apparent DistressNo Hurry to Get HomeNo Impact ManNo More ShavesNo One Cares About Crazy PeopleNolaNotebooks 1951-1959NothingOdd Girl Speaks OutOedipus WreckedOf Spirits & MadnessOn Being RapedOn the Edge of DarknessOn the MoveOne Hour in ParisOne Hundred DaysOphelia SpeaksPagan TimePassing for NormalPeople Who Eat DarknessPerfect ChaosPerfect ExamplePermanent Present TensePersepolisPlanet of the BlindPlaying with FirePlease Don't Kill the FreshmanPoisoned LovePollockPOPismPortraits of Huntington'sPoster ChildProzac DiaryPsychiatrist on the RoadPsychosis in the FamilyPuppy Chow Is Better Than ProzacQuitting the Nairobi TrioRaising BlazeReasons to Stay AliveRebuiltRecovered, Not CuredRelative StrangerRescuing JeffreyRestricted AccessRevengeRewind, Replay, RepeatRichard RortyRiding the Bus With My SisterRobert Lowell, Setting the River on FireRoom For JRosemaryRough MagicRunning After AntelopeRunning with ScissorsRXScattershotSchizophreniaSchopenhauerSecond OpinionsSectionedSeeing EzraSeeing the CrabServing the ServantSet the Boy FreeSex & Single GirlsSex ObjectShakespeareShe Bets Her LifeShe Got Up Off the CouchShut the DoorSickenedSilencing the VoicesSimone de BeauvoirSinging in the FireSkin GameSlackjawSlut!SmashedSome Assembly RequiredSome Kind of GeniusSometimes Amazing Things HappenSometimes Madness Is WisdomSongs from the Black ChairSongs of the Gorilla NationSoren KierkegaardSpeak to MeSpeaking Our Minds: Revised EditionSpecial SiblingsSpentStandbyStick FigureStill LivesStretchSunset StorySurviving OpheliaSwing LowTales from Both Sides of the BrainTales of PsychotherapyTalk to HerTell Me Everything You Don't RememberTellingTelling Tales About DementiaThe Accidental BillionairesThe AddictThe Anatomy of HopeThe Anti-Romantic ChildThe Art of MisdiagnosisThe Bastard on the Couch CDThe BeastThe Bell JarThe Best Seat in the HouseThe Big FixThe Body SilentThe Boy on the Green BicycleThe Boy Who Loved Too MuchThe Boy Who Loved WindowsThe Bright HourThe Buddha & The BorderlineThe Burn JournalsThe Camera My Mother Gave MeThe Cancer Monologue ProjectThe Center Cannot HoldThe Chelsea WhistleThe Churkendoose AnthologyThe Day the Voices StoppedThe Devil WithinThe DisappearanceThe Discomfort ZoneThe Doctor Is InThe Eden ExpressThe Family GeneThe Family SilverThe Farm Colonies: Caring for New York City's Mentally Ill In Long Island's State HospitalsThe Fasting GirlThe First Man-Made ManThe First TimeThe Geography of BlissThe Glass CastleThe Good DoctorsThe Hillside Diary and Other WritingsThe Incantations of Daniel JohnstonThe Infidel and the ProfessorThe Last AsylumThe Last Good FreudianThe Last Time I Wore a DressThe Liars' ClubThe Lives and Loves of Daisy and Violet HiltonThe Lives They Left BehindThe LobotomistThe Long GoodbyeThe Looked After Kid: Memoirs from a Children's HomeThe Loony-Bin TripThe Madness of Our LivesThe Making of a PhilosopherThe Making of Friedrich NietzscheThe Man Who Couldn't EatThe Man Who Shocked the WorldThe Man Who Tasted ShapesThe Marvelous Hairy GirlsThe Maximum Security Book ClubThe Me in the MirrorThe Memory PalaceThe Mercy PapersThe Mistress's DaughterThe Mother of Black HollywoodThe Naked Bird WatcherThe Naked Lady Who Stood on Her HeadThe Neuroscientist Who Lost Her MindThe Night of the GunThe Noonday DemonThe Notebook GirlsThe NursesThe Only Girl in the CarThe Only Girl in the WorldThe Orchid ThiefThe Other HollywoodThe OutsiderThe Philosopher's Autobiography The Philosophical Breakfast ClubThe Philosophical IThe Pits and the PendulumThe Pornographer's GriefThe Private Memoirs and Confessions of a Justified Sinner The Professor and the MadmanThe Psychopath TestThe Quiet RoomThe RecoveringThe Red DevilThe Rescue of Belle and SundanceThe Ride TogetherThe Rules of the TunnelThe Secret of LifeThe Shaking Woman or A History of My NervesThe Shared HeartThe Shiniest JewelThe Siren's DanceThe Statistical Life of MeThe Story of My FatherThe Strange Case of Hellish NellThe Summer of a DormouseThe SurrenderThe Talking CureThe Thought that CountsThe Three of UsThe Undoing ProjectThe Vagina MonologuesThe Velveteen FatherThe Winter of Our DisconnectThe Woman Who Walked into the SeaThe Years of Silence are PastThe Yellow HouseThe Yipping TigerThick As ThievesThinThis Close to HappyThomas S. SzaszTiger, TigerTits, Ass, and Real EstateTo Redeem One Person Is to Redeem the WorldTo Walk on EggshellsTransforming MadnessTrue CompassTruth & BeautyTruth Comes in BlowsTuesdays with MorrieTweakTwitch and ShoutUltimate JudgementUndercurrentsUnholy GhostUnlikelyVoices of AlcoholismVoices Of Alzheimer'sVoices of CaregivingVoices of RecoveryVoluntary MadnessWaiting for DaisyWar FareWashing My Life AwayWastedWaveWe're Going to Need More WineWe're Not MonstersWeather Reports from the Autism FrontWeekends at BellevueWhat Did I Do Last Night?What Goes UpWhat I Learned in Medical SchoolWhat's Normal?When a Crocodile Eats the SunWhen Breath Becomes AirWhen Do I Get My Shoelaces Back?.....When It Gets DarkWhen the Piano StopsWhen You Are Engulfed in FlamesWhere Did It All Go Right?Where is the Mango Princess?Where the Roots Reach for WaterWhile the City SleptWhile They SleptWho Was Jacques Derrida?Why I Left, Why I StayedWhy I'm Like ThisWildWill's ChoiceWinnicottWinnieWish I Could Be ThereWith Their EyesWomen Living with Self-InjuryWomen, Body, IllnessWrestling with the AngelYou Must Be DreamingYour Voice in My HeadZeldaZor
Does anyone know the nature of genius? Why is it or how is it that some people produce imaginative works of arts and sciences that so far outshine the ordinary that we are in awe as we stand before their works? Are these geniuses of another species than the rest of us? Are they somehow blessed by the gods? What ingredients are missing in those non-geniuses who end up reading about the real geniuses instead of producing outstanding and original works in the arts and sciences?
We have all heard that Einstein failed math as a student. And that Shakespeare was a poor kid with little or no education from hick town Stratford. Right?
Wrong. Einstein never failed math. And Shakespeare's family was not poor, but what today we would call middle class. And he had a fairly rigorous education in a good school in Stratford. We seem to thrive on telling stories about our geniuses, but often the stories are mere fabrications we tell ourselves in order to exaggerate their lives to make some point or other to help us understand how they could be so different from us.
We know a great deal about Einstein, and recent biographies are filled with revelations and information gleaned from papers, personal letters, and memoirs by people who knew him and worked with him. We have learned that he was able to keep secret even the existence of his first daughter, an illegitimate child whose life and death is still shrouded in mystery, and who is the subject of speculation and guesswork.
It's quite different with Shakespeare. We have a very limited number of biographical facts, a few documents with his signature, and some information from theatre records of the 17th century. Still there are some very large biographies of Shakespeare filled with stories that are usually introduced with phrases like, "It may have been..." or "It is likely that..." or "It could have been that...".
Brubaker's book is different. First of all he arranges the book on the basis of a plan he borrows from Gail Sheehy's book Passages (1974). In that book Sheehy suggested that every seven years or so we find ourselves in quite different circumstances as the world around us changes and we change with it. The seven-year plan provides a new framework for exploring and explaining Shakespeare's evolving genius within the changing world of Elizabethan England. Brubaker spotlights minor aspects of Shakespeare's life and art that might elude other biographers. For example, he explains Shakespeare's use of children in his plays in terms of the affection the playwright must have had for his own kids. "It seems to me that almost no other playwright of the period works on the emotions by using children in quite the same way," Brubaker notes.
Secondly Brubaker is in a unique position to write about Shakespeare because he has spent a life time in an intimate relationship with the Bard. He has taught the plays; he has acted in the plays; he has indeed been involved in some way or other with productions of all thirty-seven plays – acting, directing, stage-managing, and producing. He has worked on many different stages in the USA and in Canada but primarily in the theatres at the Oregon Shakespearean Festival in Ashland, Oregon, where he worked for several seasons in many different capacities. He has lectured widely on the plays, the theatres of the times, and studied Elizabethan culture and language as well as its history and politics. I first met Ed when he was playing Caliban in a splendid production of The Tempest, and I later played Antonio in a production of Twelfth Night which he directed on Vancouver Island. I mention this not only to indicate a personal connection with the author of the book under review but also to give a sense of the wide range of skills which Professor Brubaker brings to the understanding of Shakespeare. As an actor he was sensitive and powerful; as a director he was efficient and actor friendly but always true to the text and to the audience. Above all he was always a teacher.
When directing Twelfth Night, for example, after selecting his actors he held a read-through in which he indicated certain cuts to make the show a bit shorter, and then by the next day he had posted a rehearsal schedule in which the play had been broken into thirty-three units for purposes of rehearsal (this meant that actors knew exactly when they were to be at the theatre). Working with many student actors he was able to teach many skills on the way to the final production. I can still hear in my memory his booming voice answering a student question: "What emotion am I supposed to be feeling for this scene?"
"Just say the lines; the emotion will follow."
Brubaker's book is splendid. It is easy to read; written with respect and love for its subject. It is filled with interesting facts gleaned from a lifetime of research here and in the UK. He deconstructs many of the myths floating around Shakespeare and in so doing presents us with a fully human artist who worked and wrote in a specific time but who was able in his dramatic literature to touch the eternal truths of the human heart in original ways that will remain clean and true forever. Above all the Shakespeare that emerges from Brubaker`s book is deeply emerged in his times and in the theatre. He is an actor and hence understands an actor's point of view; he is a poet and hence knows how to make an audience see the truth beyond and through the words; he is a business man and hence knows how to construct a play so that it can be presented with as few actors as possible; he is, perhaps, a closet Catholic and hence knows the importance of ambiguity; he has been enchanted by drama from his childhood and hence is involved in a labor of love.
With a prologue and epilogue as bookends the book has seven major chapters each covering roughly seven years. Each chapter has a head note comprised of a quote from a playwright other than Shakespeare (an efficient way of showing that Shakespeare was not alone in the English renaissance theatre) and presents a mix of biographical material, analysis of the plays, and a review of the events of the time.
· Chapter 1 – The Cradle of Security 1564-1571
· Chapter 2 – Jack Juggler 1571-1578
· Chapter 3 – The Destruction of Jerusalem 1578-1585
· Chapter 4 – The Spanish Tragedy 1585-1592
· Chapter 5 – Sir John Oldcastle 1592-1599
· Chapter 6 – The Malcontent 1599-1606
· Chapter 7 – Mucedorus 1606-1613
Brubaker has presented his story of William Shakespeare with skill and insight. His readings of the plays are often extremely useful, coming as they do from a man of the theatre instead of a literary critic in a study. He sees the structure of the plays, the architecture developed by Shakespeare to present the complex rational-emotional complex that is Othello, Hamlet, Anthony and Cleopatra, and King Lear. The book suggests that the best source of information about Shakespeare the man is in the plays and poems that he crafted.
Shakespeare: A Life in Seven Chapters is a good read. It contains insights into genius, humorous stories, first rate interpretations, and an overall feeling of the value of drama and the drama of human life then and now. Let me say again: this is a splendid book.
[You can buy this book from the Franklin & Marshall College Bookstore, phone number (717) 291-4093]
© 2008 Bob Lane
Bob Lane is an Honorary Research Associate in Philosophy and Literature at Vancouver Island University in British Columbia.