Paul Franssens fascinating and astonishingly wide-ranging study often suggests that Shakespeares (supposed) life has been even more stimulating to the imagination than his own plays and poems. Perhaps that is not surprising. The severe limitations of surviving life-records have left huge empty quarters positively asking to be peopled with lively fiction. When did Shakespeare leave Stratford for London? What was the nature of his love life or his religious allegiance or his friendships? The data is so inadequate that some of the writers chronicled by Franssen have not troubled to draw on surviving records, in some cases even ignoring Shakespeares own plays and poems. However, continental fictionalizers tend to approach the topic with a measure of reverence: ridicule of Shakespeare is largely a British phenomenon.