'What Was He Really Like?'

in Critical Survey

People write biographies of Shakespeare for many different reasons, often in combination. Rarely, if ever, is it out of a desire to disseminate new information, though a technique that can illuminate is to find new ways of placing long-established facts within a fresh context. Biographical discoveries, and serious scholarly treatment of biographical issues, are more likely to be communicated through articles in learned journals. Full-length biographies may be the consequence of a creative wish to engage with and to entertain imagined readerships, or a desire to educate, or the fulfilment of personal or polemical agenda, possibly at least partly subconscious: feminist, or psychosexual, or political; and also, less worthily but no less understandably, of a desire to make money or a search for professional advancement.