Shakespearean biographies

Fictional Shakespeares

The frustrating absence of rich details of Shakespeare’s daily life has arguably resulted in some somewhat strained works of biography, but has also doubtless contributed to the development of a literary sub-genre where Shakespeare himself is cast as a character. This selective list of notable examples in the collections of Senate House Library emphasises those that are most likely to be overlooked or forgotten.

Chambrun, Clara Longworth, Comtesse de, My Shakespeare Rise! (Stratford-upon-Avon, 1935)
A fancifully full novel, told from the perspective of one John Lacy, a fellow actor of Shakespeare’s.

Cuthbertson, Evan J. William Shakespeare: The Story of his Life and Times (London, 1897)
A readable blending of historical fact and unexamined tradition.

Dane, Clemence [pseudonym of Winifred Ashton], Will Shakespeare: An Invention, (London, 1921). The Library holds two copies of this biographical play, one in an attractively illustrated limited edition.

Hollans, Ruth, One Crown with a Sun (London, 1952)
A novel imaginatively recasting Shakespeare’s life from boyhood to death.

Kingsmill, Hugh, The Return of William Shakespeare (London, 1929)

Krieger, Norbert, Prologue to Shakespeare’s Hamlet (Jerusalem, 1942)
An intriguing script for an unmade film, an allegorical presentation of the process of Hamlet’s first performance.

Martin, George Madden, A Warwickshire Lad: The Story of the Boyhood of William Shakespeare (New York, 1906)
An Edwardian account for children of the development of ‘tall sturdy Will Shakespeare’.

Oman, Carola, The Best of his Family (London, 1933)
An extensively researched yet vivid biographical novel.

Payne, Robert, The Royal Players (London: 1956)

A lively novel of Shakespeare’s training as an actor.

Rubinstein, H.F., Unearthly Gentleman: A Trilogy of Plays about Shakespeare (London, 1965)

——— and Clifford Bax, Shakespeare: A Play in Five Episodes (London, 1921)

Saward, William T., William Shakespeare: A Play in Four Acts (London, 1907)

Sisson, Rosemary Anne, The Young Shakespeare (London: 1959)
A breathless novel of Shakespeare’s boyhood for younger readers.

Somerset, Charles A., Shakspeare's Early Days: A Drama in Two Acts (London, [1886])
A rousing hymn to Shakespeare that closes with the cast singing ‘Shakspeare! Shakspeare! none beside! / Shakspeare is his nation’s pride!’

Williams, Robert Folkestone, Youth of Shakespeare (London, 1839).
Three-volume novel by a popular historian, historical novelist and magazine journalist.


This list includes works attempting to extend biographical knowledge of Shakespeare, but it intentionally excludes those doing so in order to demonstrate unorthodox theories of authorship. This bibliography intentionally foregrounds those biographies which might easily be overlooked, simply because they are older, or because they tend towards the more unreliabl, or fanciful manifestations of a desire to know the playwright. Those looking for scholarly recent lives of Shakespeare should consult this list. Drawn from several continents and from across three centuries, together these works give a vivid and immediate portrait of changing conceptions of who Shakespeare was, or perhaps who we have needed him to be.

Acheson, Arthur, Shakespeare's Lost Years in London, 1586-1592: Giving New Light on the Pre-Sonnet Period, Showing the Inception of Relations between Shakespeare and the Earl of Southampton and Displaying John Florio as Sir John Falstaff (London, 1920)

———, Shakespeare, Chapman and Sir Thomas More: Providing a More Definite Basis for Biography and Criticism (London, 1931)

Adams, Joseph Quincy, A Life of William Shakespeare (London, 1923)

Beeching, Henry Charles, The Character of Shakespeare (London, 1917)

Bentley, Gerald Eades, Shakespeare: A Biographical Handbook (New Haven, Connecticut, 1961)

Bohn, Henry George, The Biography and Bibliography of Shakespeare (London, 1863)

Bonac-Melvrau, F. Défense de Will: la véritable identité de William Shakespeare (Paris, 1951)

Brandl, Alois, Shakespere (Berlin, 1894)

Brown, Ivor. The Women in Shakespeare's Life (London, 1968)

———, How Shakespeare Spent the Day (London, 1963)

Butler, Pierce, Materials for the Life of Shakespeare (Chapel Hill, 1930)

Calmour, Alfred C., Fact and Fiction about Shakespeare (Stratford-upon-Avon, [1894])

Carter, Thomas, Shakespeare, Puritan and Recusant (Edinburgh, 1897)

Chambers, Edmund Kerchever, Sources for a Biography of Shakespeare (Oxford, 1946)

———, A Short Life of Shakespeare, abridged by C. Williams (London: 1933)

Chambrun, Clara Longworth, Comtesse de, Shakespeare Rediscovered by Means of Public Records: Secret Reports & Private Correspondence Newly Set Forth as Evidence on his Life & Work (New York, 1938)

———, Essential Documents Never Yet Presented in the Shakespeare Case (1972)

Chapman, William Hall, Shakespeare: The Personal Phase (Los Angeles, 1920)

———, William Shakespeare and Robert Greene: The Evidence (Oakland, California, 1912)

Collier, John Payne, New Facts Regarding the Life of Shakespeare in a Letter to Thomas Amyot, (London, 1835)

Corney, Bolton, An Argument on the Assumed Birthday of Shakspere: Reduced to Shape A.D. 1864 (1864?)

Creighton, Charles, Shakespeare's Story of his Life (London, 1904)

De Groot, John Henry, The Shakespeares and "the Old Faith" (New York, 1946)

De Quincey, Thomas, Shakespeare: A Biography (Edinburgh, 1864)

Dodd, Alfred, Shakespeare, Creator of Freemasonry: Being a Remarkable Examination of the Plays and Poems, which Proves Incontestably that these Works were Saturated in Masonry, that Shakespeare was a Freemason and the Founder of the Fraternity (London, [1937])

Eccles, M., Shakespeare in Warwickshire (Madison, 1961)

Fido, Martin, Shakespeare (London, 1978)

Field, Arthur, Recent Discoveries Relating to the Life and Works of William Shakespeare (Southampton, 1953)

Fraser, Russell A., Young Shakespeare (New York, 1988)

———, Shakespeare: the Later Years (New York, 1992)

Fripp, Edgar Innes, Shakespeare: Man and Artist (London, 1938)

Fullom, S.W., History of William Shakespeare, Player and Poet: with New Facts and Traditions (London, two editions, 1862 and 1864)

Furnivall, F.J., Shakespeare: Life and Work (London, 1910)

Gray, Arthur, A Chapter in the Early Life of Shakespeare (Cambridge, 1926)

Gray, Joseph William, Shakespeare’s Marriage, his Departure from Stratford and Other Incidents in his Life (London, 1905)

Halliday, Frank Ernest, Shakespeare in his Age (London, 1956)

———, Shakespeare: A Pictorial Biography (London, 1956)

———, The Life of Shakespeare (London, 1961)

Halliwell-Phillipps, James Orchard, Outlines of the Life of Shakespeare (London, various editions, 1882-1889)

Harris, Frank, The Man Shakespeare and his Tragic Life Story (London, 1909)

Harrison, George Bagshawe, Shakespeare at Work, 1592-1603 (London, 1933)

Henty, William, Shakespeare, with Some Notes on his Early Biography (London, 1882)

Hessen, Robert, Leben Shakespeare’s (Berlin, 1904)

Irving, Washington, and F.W. Fairholt, Shakespeare’s Home Visited and Described (New York, 1877)

Isaacs, Jacob, Shakespeare's Earliest Years in the Theatre (London, 1953)

Kenny, Thomas, The Life and Genius of Shakespeare (London, 1864)

Knight, Charles, William Shakespeare: A Biography (1843)

Lee, Sir Sidney, A Life of William Shakespeare (Numerous editions from 1898)

Macardle, Dorothy, Shakespeare, Man and Boy (London, 1961)

Madden, Dodgson Hamilton, Shakespeare and his Fellows: An Attempt to Decipher the Man and his Nature (London, 1916)

Marcham, Frank, William Shakespeare and his Daughter Susannah (London, 1931)

May, Robin, Who was Shakespeare? The Man, the Times, the Works (Newton Abbott, 1974)

Neil, Samuel, Shakespere: A Critical Biography (London, 1863)

Nelson, W.A., and A.H. Thorndike, The Facts about Shakespeare (New York, 1913)

Pohl, Frederick Julius, Like to the Lark: The Early Years of Shakespeare (London, 1972)

Quennell, Peter, Shakespeare: The Poet and his Background (London, 1963)

Rolfe, William James, A Life of William Shakespeare (London, 1905)

Rowse, Alfred Leslie, William Shakespeare: A Biography (London, 1963)

———, Shakespeare the Man (London, 1973)

———, Shakespeare the Elizabethan (New York, 1977)

———, Shakespeare's Globe: His Intellectual and Moral Outlook (London, 1981)

Schoenbaum, Samuel, Shakespeare's Lives (Oxford, 1970)

———, William Shakespeare: A Documentary Life (Oxford, 1975)

———, William Shakespeare: A Compact Documentary Life (Oxford, 1977)

———, William Shakespeare: Records and Images (London, 1981)

Scottowe, Augustine, The Life of Shakespeare: Enquiries into the Originality of his Dramatic Plots and Characters, and Essays on the Ancient Theatres and Theatrical Usages (London, 1824)

Shackford, Martha Hale, Shakespeare in London (Natick, 1926)

Shore, William Teignmouth, Shakespeare's Self (London, 1920)

Smeaton, Oliphant, Shakespeare, his Life and Work (London, [1911])

Smith, Goldwin, Shakespeare, the Man: An Attempt to Find Traces of the Dramatist's Personal Character in his Dramas (Toronto, 1899)

Speaight, Robert, Shakespeare: the Man and his Achievement (London, 1977)

Stopes, Charlotte Carmichael, Early Records Illustrating the Personal Life of Shakespeare (London, 1927)

———, Shakespeare's Family: Being a Record of the Ancestors and Descendants of William Shakespeare, with Some Account of the Ardens (London, 1901)

Sullivan, Lucy, Shakespeare’s Shattered Youth: Laming or Elixir? (Windsor, New South Wales, 2009)

Symon, Josiah Henry, Sir, Shakespeare at Home (Adelaide, 1905)

Tannenbaum, Samuel Aaron, Was William Shakspere a Gentleman? Some Questions in Shakspere's Biography Determined (New York, 1909)

Wagenknecht, Edward, The Personality of Shakespeare (Norman, Oklahoma, 1972)

Watson, Edward, William Shakespeare and William Shaksper: Dual or Singular? (Westminster, [1922])

Wetz, Wilhelm, Die Lebensnachrichten über Shakespeare mit dem Versuch einer Jugend und Bildungsgeschichte des Dichters (Heidelberg, 1912)

White, Richard Grant, Memoirs of the Life of William Shakespeare (Boston, USA, 1865)

Wilson, John Dover, The Essential Shakespeare: A Biographical Adventure (Cambridge, 1932)

Yeatman, John Pym, The Gentle Shakspere: A Vindication (Birmingham, 1911)


Corbin, John, A New Portrait of Shakespeare: The Case of the Ely Palace Painting as against that of the So-Called Droeshout Original (London, 1903)

Craig, E. T., The Portraits, Bust and Monument of Shakspeare ([Stratford-upon-Avon, 1864])

Duncan-Jones, Katherine, Portraits of Shakespeare (Oxford, 2015)

Forster, Henry Rumsey, A Few Remarks by Henry Rumsey Forster on the Chandos Portrait of Shakespeare, Recently Purchased at Stowe, for the Right Hon. Earl of Ellesmere, and a Letter upon the Same by H. Rodd (London, 1849)

Friswell, J. Hain, Life Portraits of William Shakspeare: A History of the Various Representations of the Poet (London, 1864)

Griffiths, Mark, ‘Shakespeare: Cracking the Code; Face to Face with Shakespeare’, in Country Life, May 20, 2015

Halliwell-Phillipps, James Orchard, A Catalogue of a Small Portion of the Engravings and Drawings Illustrative of the Life of Shakespeare, Preserved in the Collection Formed by J.O. Halliwell Esq (Privately printed, 1868)

Kingman, Tracy, An Authenticated Contemporary Portrait of Shakespeare (New York, 1932)

Ogden, William Sharp, Shakspeare’s Portraiture: Painted, Graven and Metallic (London, 1912)

Page, William, A Study of Shakespeare's Portraits (London, 1876)

Wright, Charles, The Stratford Portrait of Shakespeare, and the Athenæum; also Ben Jonson; and the Macaulay-Penn Controversy; in Connexion with that Periodical - or its Editor [W.H. Dixon]. ([London?, 1861?])

Handwriting and other mementoes

Ewen, C. L’Estrange, What Shakespeare Signatures Reveal: A Chapter from an Unpublished Book (Paignton, 1940)

Green, Charles Frederick, The Legend of Shakespeare's Crab Tree: with a Descriptive Account, Showing its Relation to the Poet's Traditional History (London, 1857?)

Hall, William, Shakespeare’s Grave: Notes of Traditions that were Current at Stratford-upon-Avon in the Latter Part of the Seventeenth Century (Brighton, 1884)

Ingleby, C.M., Shakespeare’s Bones: The Proposal to Disinter them, Considered in Relation to their Possible Bearing on his Portraiture (London, 1883)

McLaren, Moray, ‘By me…’: A Report upon the Apparent Discovery of some Working Notes of William Shakespeare in a Sixteenth-Century Book (London, 1949)

Shakespearean Relics: The History of Shakespeare’s Brooch (Stratford-upon-Avon, 1833?)