The majority of Professor Lynch’s presentation was not an overview of Shakespeare’s life or even an analysis of his works, but rather an examination of the time period Shakespeare’s death and the present and how his works and reputation evolved into the form that it takes now. He discussed, for instance, how Shakespeare was truly “discovered” in the 1800s through the editing of his works by Nicholas Rowe. Part of that surge in popularity, and part of what also makes Rowe significant, was for his status as the first writer to attempt a biography of Shakespeare. While that biography ultimately proved to be flawed in several ways, it nevertheless established the concept of the literary biography and would prove to be influential in how we would view Shakespeare and other author’s works. It is only natural that for a writer as influential and significant as Shakespeare, we would want to know as much about his personal history as possible. And when we start to learn more about him (or notable author), we inevitably begin to wonder how his work might have been influenced by his own personal experiences. Lynch mentioned Falstaff’s deer poaching in The Merry Wives of Windsor as an example, as Shakespeare was known to take part in that activity as well. Even ignoring his writing, Shakespeare’s first biography by Rowe established the precedent which led scholars to wanting to learn more about his life, and the knowledge that they have cultivated from that search has had a big impact on our understanding of the man and his works.
As Lynch discussed, this impact can be both a positive and a negative one. Having a literary biography gives us an insight into Shakespeare’s life, as well as the general life in England at the time. And it could conceivably help our understanding of his works; however, it also opens up the door to misinterpreting his work as well if we cannot separate fiction from reality. Ultimately, as Lynch stated, knowing the personal details behind an author’s life can be interesting and worthwhile, but it should never overshadow the text itself or our understanding of it. These issues are not ones that are exclusive to Shakespeare, as we must balance our knowledge of the text and our knowledge of the author with all works of literature and writing in general. Nevertheless, Rowe’s creation of a literary biography for Shakespeare was particularly significant for Shakespeare, as it set the stage in a time before the information age for scholars’ endless pursuit of information about the man. On the whole, Lynch’s presentation proved to be quite interesting and useful, as it provided us with a perspective on the Shakespeare timeline that we haven’t spent much time on in the class. The information that he discussed gives us a more well-rounded understanding of Shakespeare and his place in the literary world.