William Shakespeare and Jane Austen: Biographical Challenges

  • Robert Bearman


William Shakespeare and Jane Austen have attracted the attention of numerous biographers despite the difficulties raised by the nature of the surviving evidence. In Shakespeare’s case, none of his letters survive, nor any contemporary personal account by a third person of his character or beliefs. With Jane Austen, there is more to guide the biographer, not least a revealing collection of her letters. Yet, the presentation of this evidence has been profoundly influenced by later generations of Austen’s family, who strove to promote an idealized image of the author. As a result, with Austen, as with Shakespeare, biographers have tended to treat her work as if it were to some extent biographical. This chapter begins by highlighting these biographical issues, and then proposes that it is the very uncertainties arising from this lack of data that explains the imaginative approaches to Shakespeare’s and Austen’s lives and works, and their present iconic status.


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Copyright information

© The Author(s) 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  • Robert Bearman
    • 1
  1. 1.Honorary Research FellowUniversity of BirminghamBirminghamUK

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