William Shakespeare has been the lodestar of English literature, not only to our finest biographers and critics but to our greatest imaginative writers as well. Oscar Wilde, Mark Twain, and James Joyce have all written of the manas enigma, ancestor, or phantom. In Shakespeare Anthony Burgess, whose Nothing Like the Sun Harold Bloom called "the only successful novel ever written about Shakespeare," takes up that daunting challenge once again, reimagining the actual world of Shakespeare the author, actor, and man.
Burgess is ever-mindful of the few facts we have about Shakespeare, and handles them with great dexterity. But this is not a mere recounting of facts. It is an attempt by one virtuoso writer to capture the likeness of the supreme virtuoso, to locate him exactly and take his measure. It is also an attempt to present himas only a gifted professional writer canas a working writer among others, a man of his time in his own milieu.
Shakespeare the Elizabethan upstart? The literary genius without peer? The representative man? The actor among actors, businessman among businessmen? What Burgess so skillfully gets acrossalongside what he calls "the main facts about the life and society from which the poems and plays arose"is a genuine feel for who Shakespeare was and where he was. In the end, Burgess claims for himself the right of every Shakespeare-lover: "to paint his own portrait of the man."