This imaginative, cradle-to-the-grave, fictional autobiography of the world's most admired playwright dramatizes the surprisingly tumultuous life of William Shakespeare, from his colorful childhood in the town of Stratford-upon-Avon, through his precarious adult years as a recusant player and playwright in London, and his final, scandal-plagued years back in Stratford. The novel seamlessly integrates many of Shakespeare's poems and play excerpts to create a compelling narrative voice for this courageous genius.
An entertaining afterword includes sections on Separating Fact from Fiction, Recommended Reading, Great and Good Shakespearian Movies, Essential Documentaries, Shakespearian Vacations and Day Trips, and The Plays the Thing (Seeing Live Performances). Combined with the novel, it makes the book's readers expert on "All Things Shakespeare."
Gray impressively brings to life the legendary figure of William Shakespeare in both his greatest works and the tempestuous world in which he lived in this impressive tale.
Blending history and literary interpretation with variations of his own, Gray expertly sketches William’s relatively comfortable early life in Stratford as a glover’s son, the government’s crackdown on Catholics and his father’s subsequent fall as a public figure in Stratford, the financial gravities which forced him to seek employment as a writer and actor in London, his son Hamnet’s death that profoundly affected both his life and art, and his dual specters of government prosecution and censorship while doing theatre. Gray explores some of the hotly debated questions such as Shakespeare spending time in the household of subversive secret Catholics, his steady conviction in his faith among others. With his deft skill at setting and character, Gray not only brings the Tudor era and the early Jacobean Age alive but also the artistic progress as well the historical upheavals Shakespeare had to live through. Seamlessly integrating dozens of Shakespeare’s poems and play excerpts into this enthralling and surprisingly little-known life story, the book brings readers closer to the elusive genius. This is a must-read.
A brilliantly constructed and superbly executed historical tale…
Gray skillfully makes use of the scant biographical resources, bringing a sensible eye to Shakespeare’s life story in his debut. As Gray tells it, William Shakespeare was his parent’s first child to survive the infancy and had a relatively comfortable life in the beginning. After his marriage with Anne Hathaway and the birth of his three children, he spent most of his time in London writing and performing in plays. Using the first-person narrative ..., Gray weaves an intriguing tale with Shakespeare at the center. The various perspectives—from Shakespeare as a young lad growing up in Stratford-upon-Avon to a grown up man trying to make something out of his literary talent in the vast art world of London ring completely true. Gray deftly describes Tudor period details, food, manners, clothing, pastimes, socio-economic politics, the prosecution of Catholics under the regime of Elizabeth, and the vibrant early Jacobean Age. This wonderful biographical novel creates a thoroughly vivid and full portrait of Shakespeare. Readers will be mesmerized.
BookView Review: What kind of research did you do for Love’s Labour’s Won?
William Gray: As this project was a fictional autobiography of the world’s most well-known and admired literary artist, the research required to write the novel was a multi-year effort. It involved reading dozens of books about Shakespeare and the historic eras in which he lived. I also travelled to England to visit Shakespeare-related sites in London and his hometown of Stratford-upon-Avon. Fortunately, I came to this task with a reasonably good foundation in the dramatic and poetic works of William Shakespeare. Living in Orlando for the last 20 years has given me the opportunity to see numerous excellent productions of Shakespearian plays at Orlando’s Lowndes Shakespeare Center. My initial exposure to Shakespeare came in high school. While there, I read Henry V and I attended a screening of Roman Polanski’s Macbeth that made a strong impression upon me. Also, during my undergraduate studies at the U. S. Naval Academy, I took a literature course in which we read and studied some of the plays. Over the years, I have read many more of his plays and poems. The road map of the extensive research I did for this book is shared with the reader in the book’s “All Things Shakespeare” afterword including the “Recommended Reading” and “Good and Great Shakespearian Movies” sections.
BookView Review: Can you tell us a little about how this story first came to be?
William Gray: In the early 2000’s I read a number of Shakespeare biographies and I became fascinated with those that theorized Shakespeare may have been a recusant Catholic. I realized, If this was true, it would mean Shakespeare was a member of a persecuted minority within later Elizabethan and early Jacobian society. As a closet Catholic or Catholic sympathizer, he would be a classic outsider looking in at society through a unique lens. Seeing his world from this perspective would be a story worth telling. This insight led to my decision to write the novel.
BookView Review: Which character in the novel was the most difficult to create?
William Gray: The protagonist – Shakespeare himself. As most of the novel is a first-person fictional memoir, creating a unique and believable narrative voice for Shakespeare was its greatest challenge. In my effort to meet that challenge I studied Shakespeare’s use of language within his plays and poetry and, where appropriate, incorporated many of his poems and play excerpts into the novel. When it was feasible, I allowed Shakespeare to speak directly to the reader through his own poems and play excerpts.
BookView Review: Which scene in the book was the most difficult to write?
William Gray: The first chapter of any novel, including this one, is always difficult because it needs to compellingly set the stage for everything that follows. In this novel, I eventually settled upon introducing Shakespeare’s first-person narrative, which begins in chapter II, through an omniscient-voiced introductory chapter featuring Shakespeare’s granddaughter, Lady Elizabeth Barnard. After Elizabeth finishes reading her grandfather’s memoir, we come back to Lady Elizabeth’s return to Stratford story in the concluding chapters of the novel. Setting Shakespeare’s first-person narrative as a story within the outer shell of Elizabeth’s later story allowed me to inform the reader of the important aspects of Shakespeare’s legacy and family history which occurred after his death.
BookView Review: What do you hope readers take away from their experience reading this book?
William Gray: After giving this question considerable thought, there are three things I hope readers will take away from this work. First, I hope it will give them a greater understanding of Shakespeare the man and his remarkable artistic achievements. Second, I hope the book in the aggregate illuminates and helps readers explore both the positive and negative aspects of later Elizabethan and early Jacobian society – and to discover that many of the issues the people of those eras grappled with remain relevant today. Lastly, I hope the reader will draw inspiration from the way I believe Shakespeare lived his life and come to the conclusion that, if we live life remaining true to our fundamental beliefs and principles, despite whatever “slings and arrows of outrageous fortune” we encounter along the way, then our lives (like Shakespeare’s) will be a Love’s Labour’s Won rather than a Love’s Labour’s Lost.
William Gray's imaginative novel about William Shakespeare has received four 5 star reviews from the following Readers' Favorite reviewers: Author Emily-Jane Hills Orford, Author K. C. Finn, Saifunnissa Hassam, and Rabia Tanveer. These reviews are available for viewing via the below-listed link to the book's Readers' Favorite book review web page.
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