The Women of Shakespeare

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Frank Harris
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I had thought of calling it The Woman Shake speare for the woman a man loves is the ideal in himself; the veiled goddess who corresponds to all the desires, conscious and unconscious, of his nature as lock to key, as light to the eye. These are correlatives and suppose and complete each other. To find fault therefore with the woman one loves is to blame oneself. He alone fails to win her who fails to possess himself: she was his from the beginning if he be all he might be failure here even in degree is tragic. It should only be necessary then to reproduce faithfully the portrait Shakespeare has given of his mistress in order to describe him to the life for all those who have eyes to see. This book, as I conceived it, is in essence complementary to The Man Shakespeare. Here again Shakespeare will reveal himself as the gentle, passionate poet thinker-lover we learned to know in orsino-hamlet Antony, whose chief defects are snobbishness and overpowering sensuality, if indeed this latter quality is not rather to be reckoned as a virtue in an artist. And this irresolute fair Hamlet will naturally find his ideal in the domineering sensual false gipsy Cleopatra. The title The Woman Shakespeare might have been misunderstood, and so I changed it to The Women of Shakespeare in order also to mention and describe all the women who in any conspicuous degree entered into the poet's life and affected his art. There were four of them: his mother, his wife, his mistress and his daughter. His jealous scolding shrew wife, who was eight years his senior, overshadowed, as we shall see, all his early manhood, and left her bitter mark on most of his youthful work.

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