Tuesday, September 19, 2006

Biography of Shakespeare

The Hindu : Book Review / Language Books : Biography of Shakespeare: PREMA NANDAKUMAR

WHAT A relief to know that Tamil critics are turning increasingly to bring English writers to their milieu with crisp monographs like Natakamalla Vaazkkai!

There was a time when Shakespeare was familiar enough to kitchen-bound housewives through imaginative translations like Amaladittan (Hamlet), but now even graduate students do not seem to give much attention to the Bard of Avon. How come this turning away from a writer who is eminently contemporaneous?

A hearty welcome then to N. Chokkan's refreshing biography of Shakespeare that is the very stuff of romance.

He misses no detail of importance though almost all these details remain conjectures. William Shakespeare might have studied in the local Grammar School and may have stopped his studies for no known reason. It appears that his was a gunshot wedding to Ann Hathaway. Did he poach deer? Did he become an ostler in London playhouses? Did he become an actor? How about his poetry? And the immortal dramas?

So we gather information about Shakespeare's sonnets and his first published poem, `Venus and Adonis'; his patron Henry Wriothesley; the admiration of Queen Elizabeth I for Falstaff; the various theatres like The Globe and The Blackfriers; some of the sex scandals associated with our playwright; and Francis Bacon and Christopher Marlow who vie for Shakespearian authorship.

The author concludes: "In short questions like who was Shakespeare and whether he really wrote all the dramas that go by his name continue to thrive. No one can give an assurance that `this is the truth'. Yet, scholars in general opine that the true Shakespeare is the Stratford Shakespeare whom we have been referring to so far.

The other names are considered to be only surmises and no more."

The summaries of 17 dramas of Shakespeare (including Twelfth Night and King Lear) form a helpful appendage to this stimulating reconstruction, as impossible a feat as taking up a few holes to produce a fishing net. Two cheers for Natakamalla Vaazkkai!

NATAKAMALLA VAAZKKAI: N. Chokkan; Kizhakku Pathippagam, No 16, Karpagambal Nagar, Mylapore, Chennai-600004. Rs. 60.

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