WMU News

Tiffany's second novel offers new view of "Will"

May 26, 2004

KALAMAZOO--In "Will: A Novel," Grace Tiffany combines fact and fiction to provide a compelling account of what William Shakespeare's life could have been, and she does it with the same style and attention to detail that won praise for her first novel, about Shakespeare's younger daughter.

A professor of English at Western Michigan University, Tiffany's first novel, "My Father Had a Daughter," is about Judith Shakespeare and was released in May 2003. The two fictionalized accounts have more in common than just the family name. One actually spawned the other, but not in the order they were published.

"I had written and rewritten 'Will' before I even began writing 'My Father Had a Daughter,' says Tiffany. "Some of the agents and publishers who read 'Will' suggested that I write a story about Shakespeare from the perspective of his wife. At first, I found that insulting. I wasn't too interested in the wife's perspective, but I did begin to think it would be interesting to fashion a character out of Shakespeare's younger daughter, Judith, and to see what she thought of her dad."

Writing Judith Shakespeare's story proved much easier than writing about Will, in large part because of the years of research Tiffany had already conducted into Elizabethan culture and customs in preparation for writing "Will." Once, Judith's tale was told, Tiffany returned to "Will" for a final rewrite in the light of what she'd written in "My Father Had a Daughter."

"There was a symbiosis between the two books," says Tiffany.

"Will: A Novel" begins with Shakespeare as a mischievous schoolboy and continues through his later years. Tiffany depicts an historically accurate Elizabethan England, the rise of the Globe and its competing playhouses, Queen Elizabeth's influence on the public and on the arts, and the colorful cast of characters who likely affected Shakespeare's life and work, including Christopher Marlowe, Ben Jonson and the Queen.

At the book's start, a heedless young Shakespeare discovers and cultivates his interest in literature, offering brilliant and creative but unappreciated answers in school, and stealing away from household chores to write poetry on rare scraps of paper. Will develops into an ambitious, slightly eccentric and brash young man. He works in his father's tannery in the country town of Stratford, marries a local girl and starts a family. He quickly grows restless and leaves home for London, seeking his fortune as a playwright. As Will rises to fame in London, he is guilt-ridden by the wife and children he left behind in Stratford. The personal intimacy for which he longs both taunts and perpetually eludes him.

Through "Will," Tiffany creates a vivid picture of Shakespeare's life as a playwright, and introduces the possible sources of inspiration behind such beloved plays as "Romeo and Juliet," "Richard III," "Hamlet," "Macbeth," and "The Winter's Tale."

A member of the WMU faculty since 1995, Tiffany was promoted to professor in 2003. She is an expert on Shakespeare and Elizabethan-Jacobean drama and has published numerous articles and another book, "Erotic Beasts and Social Monsters: Shakespeare, Jonson, and Comic Androgyny." She has one more novel in the works and will write a children's book, "Ariel," to be published by Harper Collins in 2005.

Tiffany is also the editor of Houghton-Mifflin's New Riverside edition of "The Tempest," and this summer is completing a scholarly work on English Reformation-Protestant authors' literary uses of ideas of Catholic pilgrimage. She earned her bachelor's degree from Duke University and a doctoral degree from the University of Notre Dame.

"Will: A Novel" by Grace Tiffany is 403 pages in hardcover and is
published by Berkley Books. Both "Will" and "My Father Had a Daughter" are available through Amazon.com and Barnes and Noble bookstores. Hardbound editions list for $21.95. A paperback edition of "My Father Had a Daughter" is scheduled for release in August.

Related story
Shakespeare's daughter the subject of new tale

Media contact: Thom Myers, 269 387-8400, thom.myers@wmich.edu

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