Should we assume that people who lived some time ago were quite similar to us or should we assume that they need to be thought of as alien beings with whom we have little in common? This specially commissioned collection explores this important issue through an analysis of the lives and work of a number of significant early modern writers. Shakespeare is analysed in a number of essays as authors ask whether we can learn anything about his life from reading the Sonnets and Hamlet. Other essays explore the first substantial autobiography in English, that of the musician and poet, Thomas Wythorne (1528-96); the representation of the self in Holbein’s great painting, The Ambassadors; whether we have a window into men's and women's souls when we read their intimate personal correspondence; and whether modern studies that wish to recapture the intentions and inner thoughts of early modern people who left writings behind are valuable aids to interpreting the past.
This book was originally published as a special issue of Textual Practice.
1. Introduction: Does Shakespeare’s Life Matter? Andrew Hadfield 2. The Death of the Reader Catherine Belsey 3. Was there a real Shakespeare? René Weis 4. Whose Life is it Anyway? Shakespeare’s Prick Marshall Grossman 5. The Pith and Marrow of our Attribute: Dialogue of Skin and Skull in Hamlet and Holbein’s The Ambassadors Gail Kern Paster 6. Early Modern Autobiography, History and Human Testimony: The Autobiography of Thomas Whythorne Andrew Mousley 7. Early Modern Lives in Facsimile Alan Stewart 8. Afterword Elizabeth Jane Bellamy