Paperback: 390 pages

Publisher: W.W. Norton; 1st Edition (September 17, 2005)

Language: English

ISBN: 039332737X

Price: $14.95 USA

How could a young suburb man of Elizabethan England, with no formal education, move from his rural countryside to London and soon become the most noteworthy playwright of all time? Prize-winning writer Stephen Greenblatt, Professor of Humanities at Harvard University and editor of The Norton Shakespeare, provides an explanation to this phenomenon and adds yet another masterpiece to his oeuvre of Shakespeare studies with Will in the World. Greenblatt constructs a fascinatingly colorful biography of 'The Bard' in such a thorough manner that readers may believe Greenblatt was indeed the poet's greatest confidant, sitting and observing young William as the playwright constructed his finest work. He tackles the seemingly impossible question of Shakespeare's identity with graceful ease as he details every facet of Elizabethan life that might have affected the impressionable youth, delicately treating the rich culture of quotidian life in Elizabethan London with the greatest importance. From the humble suburbs to the excitement of the energized city, Greenblatt takes readers on a journey into the perils and wonders of Shakespeare's world just as the playwright would have experienced.

globeGlobe Theatre, London

Without the pedantic historicism that tends to burden many biographies, Will in the World is infused with a charge of fresh brilliance that both illuminates long known facts of Shakespeare's life and ushers in Greenblatt's vivid insights into numerous possibilities of how this life was developed in its Elizabethan setting. We begin by observing who William Shakespeare was and the many inconsistencies with which his family and his nominal variations were recorded. Greenblatt then colors a rich historical landscape, treating every detail as possible modes of inspiration for Shakespeare's cherished works. We learn how Shakespeare might have acquired the multitudinous texts that fill his imaginative literary mind with a precision that has baffled and astounded readers for generations. Our scholar introduces us to lesser known figures, those of authority and those running from the law, who may have played a vital role in the shaping of Shakespeare's persona as he allows us to meet them with a clarity and understanding that is both thorough and addicting. We observe Will honing his skills, making valuable connections, beginning a family, and shaping a successful career in the dangerous chaos of London in the English Renaissance. We feel the intensity of religious and political anxiety that both influenced and threatened the playwright's magnificent works, which don't go unnoticed but take the front seat in an account that carefully balances historical and literary substance. Greenblatt combines well known facts of Shakespeare's life with the subtle awareness of a true scholar to sculpt a vibrant history that brings us from the young talent of a suburb boy to the marvelous genius of perhaps the greatest writer of all time.

Word count: 453

Who's Afraid of the Big Bad Artist?

Who: Adel Abdessemed

What: Who's afraid of the big bad wolf

When: February 17 – March 17, 1012

Where: David Zwirner Gallery, 525 West 19th Street, New York, NY 10011


David Zwirner presents new works of Algerian conceptual artist Adel Abdessemed in his second solo exhibition, showing works from Who's afraid of the big bad wolf. Abdessemed incorporates everyday materials into a range of different media to create large-scale sculptural works that disturb, entertain, and astound viewers with their peculiarity and stunning detail. With this exhibition, the artist focuses his energy toward concepts of violence, war, and spectacle, as each piece evokes a different response from its viewers and engages their spectatorship in a conversational manner. Abdessemed draws from both social and political sources, juxtaposing the themes of his work with the everyday materials he uses, indicating a very vibrant border between meaning and matter. His jarring, yet sophisticated style is exemplified in Who's afraid of the big bad wolf.

Abdessemed's concern with the relationship between meaning and matter is most aptly and beautifully represented in Décor as the artist portrays four life-size sculptures of a crucified Christ, constructed from razor wire. This unsettling choice of physical material draws keen awareness to the relationship between meaning and matter as it both distinguishes the figures from their surrounding gallery space and recalls in subtle detail the Renaissance master Grünewald and his Crucifixion. Mimicking the visceral portrayal of this Renaissance Christ, Abdessemed maximizes the disturbing effect by using razor wire, and sculptural repetition, to suggest an immediate sense of pain and displeasure as he pays homage to the German master and develops a symbol of fervent spirituality.

Spectatorship floods an adjoining room in Coup de tete with two larger than life sculptural figures represented in matte black that become clearly identifiable with a closer look. One is French footballer Zinedine Zidane, frozen after delivering a headbutt to his Italian rival, Marco Materazzi, who begins to fall backward. This composition captures a memorable and aggressive moment of the 2006 World Cup, when Zidane apparently reacted to a verbal attack from Materazzi by headbutting him to the ground. By darkening these two figures, Abdessemed draws our attention from their particular identities and redirects it toward the violent fervor that accompanies spectators of popular sporting events. This work conveys the themes of the exhibition as it portrays the violence that stems from human behavior, which should evoke a charged response from spectators, and also ironically condemns a simple perusal of gallery artwork thought to exist outside the realm of human tendencies. Who's afraid of the big bad wolf successfully incorporates a unique visual discourse that relishes in large-scale pieces intended to question and probe viewers into an internal debate of universal conflicts and concepts.


Adel Abdessemed was born in Constantine, Algeria and attended the École des Beaux-Arts d'Alger, Algiers and the École nationale des Beaux-Arts de Lyon, France. He lives and works in Paris.

Word count: 455

Comparative Summary

Things to Consider Will in the World Who's Afraid of the big bad wolf?
Type Paperback book Conceptual art exhibition
Mode of Perception Meant to be read Observed with the eyes, then reflected upon for at least several hours
Purpose To historically discover how Shakespeare became Shakespeare To visually observe the presence of violence and spectatorship while becoming more aware of the border between meaning and matter
Accessibility Available at most online bookstores Trip to Manhattan, admission free of charge
Entertainment Value Entertaining for those interested in the persona of the genius playwright and any fans of historical and biographical texts Exciting for any lovers of art and any curious minds who would enjoy a refreshing look at marvelous and intellectual craftsmanship
Necessity Essential read for any fans of the Bard or skeptics of his identity Necessary for artists and students looking for a boost of creativity
Duration 390 pages, or as fast as you can read 30 min. walk through
Creator World renowned Shakespeare scholar Prolific Algerian conceptual artist

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