The Merger of Life and Drama
The life had a clear pattern that concluded with a peaceful death. It blended Shakespeare’s life with his drama, removed him from the theatre and from literary genres and traditions, and even rejected from the canon such plays as Titus Andronicus and The Taming of the Shrew.
THIS APPROACH INEVITABLY LED TO THE IDENTIFICATION OF SHAKESPEARE WITH HIS LEADING CHARACTERS… WHETHER AS LEAR (A FATHER’S TROUBLED RELATIONSHIP WITH HIS DAUGHTERS)… TIMON (BECAUSE I HAD APPARENTLY BEEN SWINDLED BY SOMEBODY) … OR PROSPERO (ANNOUNCING MY RETIREMENT).
The model was developed by the Danish critic Georg Brandes in another influential work, William Shakespeare: A Critical Study (three volumes, 1895-6).
IT WAS HERE THAT I DISCOVERED THAT SHAKESPEARE WROTE HAMLET FOLLOWING THE DEATH OF HIS FATHER. I TOOK IDEAS FROM BRANDES FOR ULYSSES (1922), TREATING IT AS AN INDISPUTABLE ACCOUNT OF THE BARD. THIS PATTERN-MAKING CULMINATED IN FRANK HARRIS’S THE MAN SHAKESPEARE AND HIS TRAGIC LIFE STORY (1909).
Harris’s biography was a series of feckless domestic tragedies: Shakespeare’s flight from his jealous wife, his love for one of the Queen’s Maids (the Dark Lady of the sonnets and love interest in all of the plays), the expression of his raging passions through his characters, his premature retirement in Stratford, idealizing his daughter in his final romances. Harris wondered of Hamlet (and implicitly of Shakespeare too), “Has no one made him out to be an Irishman?”.