First, let me give you this, an entertaining article from The Times (of London) on what we actually (surprisingly) know about Shakespeare's private life. My favorite tidbit:
I hadn't (after all these years reading and seeing and teaching Shakespeare - sorry, Shagspere) realized quite how unusual a case his marriage was. Anne Hathaway, you minx, you get more and more intriguing the more I find out about this relationship.Did his marriage to Anne Hathaway involve her father’s shotgun?
Quite possibly. He was 18 and Anne Hathaway was 26. The parish records for Stratford-upon-Avon show that over the 50-year period of Shakespeare’s life he is one of just three men in the locality to marry before the age of 20 and the only one whose bride was pregnant. He was so young, in fact, that he needed a special Bishop’s License, on which his name is spelled Shagspere.
And who can resist a bit of staging-shapes-dramatic-form gossip?
Not someone who teaches theatre history, that's who.Did he go in for lighting and sound effects?
Yes, the Blackfriars indoor theatre (which was used from 1608) in London was candlelit. His last plays have a clear five-act structure, and the reason for this was that candles lasted only so long; you needed four points in the action in which the play could stop, music play and the (brief) candles be changed.
Some of the rest is a bit speculative for my tastes. (How can we really be sure that the use of dog-related epithets as slurs in the plays mean that Shagspere didn't go in for puppies as pets? Perhaps it was familiarity that bred contempt. Perhaps that was just the usage of a culture of ubiquitous dog-ownership.) But highly entertaining.
And now this: an English professor (because really, what don't we study?) who works on textual concordances* has discovered that Agatha Christie may have been suffering from Alzheimer's when she wrote her final novel, (wait for it) Elephants Can Remember.**
His process in determining this, combined with work that is being done elsewhere in using writing as an early indicator of Alzheimer's, is riveting, and not a little unnerving to those us who have a family history of the disease. (Is it utterly irrational that I gained some relief from the hypothesis that convoluted syntax may be a sign that its creator is less predisposed to dementia? Perhaps the frequency with which I get grammatically lost, mid-sentence, in lectures should make me a bit less giddy.)
*An old-fashioned but indispensable field of research - how else would we know that Milton never used the word "because"? This sort of work is always fascinating to me.
** The novel itself - which I haven't yet read, although I think that it sits on a shelf somewhere - apparently deals with a protagonist who struggles with memory and memory loss.