Inventing Shakespeare: re-imagining a national icon

O'Reilly, Sally (2019). Inventing Shakespeare: re-imagining a national icon. Writing in Practice, 5



In this article the writer presents an investigation of her creative process while writing Dark Aemilia, a historical novel about the relationship between William Shakespeare and the poet Aemilia Lanyer. The novel charts the progress of their relationship, its breakdown and aftermath, and the production of their works: Shakespeare’s Macbeth and sonnets 127-154, and Lanyer’s poetry collection Salve Deus Rex Judaeorum. The author examines her approach to the creation/recreation of the character William Shakespeare, and the research into facts and fictions which went into this. Arising from this, she reflects on the issue of fictionalizing actual historical figures, and the challenges and dilemmas that this presents. In addition, the author interrogates the Shakespeare myth which has been developed in previous fictionalized versions of his life, focusing on five accounts which informed her own work. In exploring the development of her version of Shakespeare, she argues that writing from the perspective of a female poet offers an original interpretation of his cultural status and interrogates assumptions about male artists, whether or not this interpretation can be described as “feminist”.

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