e m i n e n t l i v e s S h a k e s p e a r e The World as Stage Bill Bryson
To Finley and Molly and in memory of Maisie±
ContentsChapter One In Search of William Shakespeare 1 Chapter Two The Early Years, 1564–1585 22 Chapter Three The Lost Years, 1585–1592 45 Chapter Four In London 66 Chapter Five The Plays 96 Chapter Six Years of Fame, 1596–1603 117 Chapter Seven The Reign of King James, 1603–1616 132 Chapter Eight Death 152 Chapter Nine Selected Bibliography Acknowledgments Claimants 181 197
About the Author Other Books in theEminent Lives Series Cover Copyright About the Publisher CreditsOther Books by Bill Bryson
Chapter One In Search of William Shakespeare± Before he came into a lot of money in 1839, Rich-ard Plantagenet Temple Nugent Brydges Chandos Gren-ville, second Duke of Buckingham and Chandos, led a largely uneventful life. He sired an illegitimate child in Italy, spoke occasionally in the Houses of Parliament against the repeal of the Corn Laws, and developed an early interest in plumbing (his house at Stowe, in Buckinghamshire, had nine of the first ﬂush toilets in England), but otherwise was distinguished by nothing more than his glorious prospects and many names. But after inherit-ing his titles and one of England’s great estates, he astonished his associates, and no doubt himself, by managing to lose every penny of his inheritance in just nine years through a series of spectacularly unsound investments. Bankrupt and humiliated, in the summer of 1848 he ﬂed to France, leaving Stowe and its contents to his creditors. The 
Bill Bryson± auction that followed became one of the great social events of the age. Such was the richness of Stowe’s furnishings that it took a team of auctioneers from the London firm of Christie and Manson forty days to get through it all. Among the lesser-noted disposals was a dark oval portrait, twenty-two inches high by eighteen wide, purchased by the Earl of Ellesmere for 355 guineas and known ever since as the Chandos portrait. The painting had been much retouched and was so blackened with time that a great deal of detail was (and still is) lost. It shows a balding but not unhandsome man of about forty who sports a trim beard. In his left ear he wears a gold earring. His expression is confident, serenely rakish. This is not a man, you sense, to whom you would lightly entrust a wife or grown daughter. Although nothing is known about the origin of the paint-ing or where it was for much of the time before it came into the Chandos family in 1747, it has been said for a long time to be of William Shakespeare. Certainly it lookslike William Shake-speare—but then really it ought to, since it is one of the three likenesses of Shakespeare from which all other such likenesses are taken.