NONFICTION

Rosalind: A Biography of Shakespeare's Immortal Heroine

Pegasus. Mar. 2017. 304p. photos. notes. index. ISBN 9781681773353. $27.95; ebk. ISBN 9781681773889. LIT
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Thirlwell (William and Lucy: The Other Rossettis) here undertakes a unique project—to write a full-blown biography of a theatrical character. Like any real-life biographical subject, Rosalind, the heroine of William Shakespeare's As You Like It, undergoes the same rigorous attention to family history. Thirlwell examines ancestors: Homer's Athena, Ovid's Iphis, and Thomas Lodge's Rosalynde; Shakespearean sisters: Beatrice, Juliet, Portia, Rosaline, Viola, and Imogen; and literary descendants: Jo March in Louisa May Alcott's Little Women, Gwendolen Harleth in George Eliot's Daniel Deronda, etc. In addition to placing Rosalind in the context of her literary/dramatic family tree, Thirlwell also examines in detail the theatrical productions in which she has come alive for the past 400-plus years. Thirlwell gathers masses of interviews with the actors and directors who have created parts of Rosalind's ongoing life story. For this reviewer, these conversations are among the most valuable elements of the book.
VERDICT All Shakespeare fans will be eager to see what actors (e.g., Rebecca Hall, Adrian Lester, Vanessa Redgrave) and directors (e.g., Michael Attenborough, Kenneth Branagh, Greg Doran) have to say about Shakespeare's greatest female character in this novel biography.

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