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Modern biographies of William Shakespeare abound; however, close scrutiny of the surviving records clearly show that there is insufficient material for a cradle to grave account of his life, that most of what is written about him cannot be verified from primary sources, and that Shakespearean biography did not attain scholarly or academic respectability until long after Samuel Schoenbaum published William Shakespeare A Documentary Life in 1975.
This study begins with a short survey of the history and practice of biography and then surveys the very limited biographical material for Shakespeare.
Although Shakespeare gradually attained the status as a national hero during the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, there were no serious attempts to reconstruct his life. Any attempt at an account of his life or personality amounts, however, merely to "biografiction".
Modern biographers differ sharply on Shakespeare’s apparent relationships with Southampton and with Jonson, which merely underlines the fact that the documentary record has to be greatly expanded through contextual description and speculation in order to appear like a Life of Shakespeare.
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