Why, then, does Hathaway have such a poor image? Greer puts it down to the misogyny, prejudice and ignorance of male scholars through the ages, who she says believe that if a man of genius is to realise his potential, he must put his wife away.
"By doing the right thing, by remaining silent and invisible, Ann (sic) Shakespeare left a wife-shaped void in the biography of William Shakespeare, which later bardolaters filled up with their own speculations, most of which do neither them nor their hero any credit," she writes in her new book, Shakespeare's Wife.full article
"If Greer's is a dangerous enterprise, it should also be conceded that it is an admirable one, scraping away accretions of ancient, often misogynist gossip," wrote Min Wild in the Independent on Sunday, reviewing Germaine Greer's Shakespeare's Wife. "Despite appearances, this isn't a biography," said Duncan Wu in the Daily Telegraph. "It is, rather, an impressively wide-ranging compendium of erudition ... Think of it as a social history focusing on the treatment of women." However, John Carey in the Sunday Times objected to Greer's "lengthy digressions on Elizabethan farming, cheese- making, haberdashery and Ann's other supposed occupations". "Greer's Hathaway . . . makes malt, brews ale, raises pigs, cures her own bacon, bakes bread," noted Jonathan Bate in the Sunday Telegraph. "She does not need a man. She is Germaine Greer on her smallholding just outside Saffron Walden in Essex."
Why scholars should so long have denigrated Hathaway, Greer could only surmise. Perhaps they feel jealous that their literary hero might actually have loved his wife, and that she might even have been responsible for putting up the money for the publication of the famous First Folio after his death, thereby ensuring his reputation?
The author, who revealed she had been researching and writing an article about Princess Diana, said: "One of things I have always been troubled by with Diana was why her whole life was such a mess. She made a mess of being Princess of Wales but that is fine because the job is not do-able. It is an insane job and historically all but one of the Princesses of Wales have come to a sticky end, some even stickier than Diana's."
Seated on a high stool, dressed in a black smock, her back as straight as a board, her belligerent chin delivering a resounding up-yours to the world of half-truths, Greer perched like a wise matriarch – ever fascinating, ever fluent and engaging.
Cutting through the bull, as only Greer knows how, she dismissed the speculation of renowned literary scholar Professor Stephen Greenblatt that Shakespeare had a physical revulsion to his wife’s body.
“It’s like Tina Brown writing about Diana’s orgasms. How did you know, Tina?” she challenges dryly. “Did you ask James Hewitt?”