Saved by the Bard

Michelle Ephraim MA’93, Phd’98 looks at her life through Shakespearean eyes in Green World.

Book cover: The Green World. A Tragic Memoir of Love and Shakespeare, by Michelle Ephraim

Attending a Shakespeare-recitation party in college got Ephraim more than she bard-gained for.

In literary analysis, a “green world” is a whimsical realm that provides respite from and resolution to characters’ real-world dilemmas. In Green World: A Tragicomic Memoir of Love and Shakespeare, Michelle Ephraim MA’93, PhD’98 reflects on how discovering the Bard gave her scattered life a new direction — and a green world of her very own.

As the daughter of Holocaust survivors, Ephraim was frequently subjected to her parents’ volatile emotions and overprotective tendencies. Eager to escape her oppressive upbringing, she pursued a degree in poetry and, eventually, a doctorate in literature. But grim reality haunted Ephraim: her boyfriend dumped her, and she struggled to keep up with her studies. Hope was nearly lost for our headstrong heroine until she stumbled upon a Shakespeare- recitation party and dedicated her career to studying his works.

Green World chronicles Ephraim’s journey to becoming a Shakespeare scholar, a winding path riddled with humor and heartbreak that rivals the best of the Bard’s stories. Ephraim even finds a kindred spirit in Jessica, the strong-willed Jewish daughter of Shakespeare’s Merchant of Venice, and she finally achieves the ever-elusive peace of a green world right here in Wisconsin.

“In a culture where artificial intelligence is ever-encroaching, Green World reaffirms our love of reading, enforcing how vastly literature can transform us,” writes author Jennifer Gilmore. “It changed Michelle Ephraim, and the joy and urgency of that discovery, shown through her own life, is breathtaking.”

Green World received the 2023 Juniper Prize in Creative Nonfiction from the University of Massachusetts. Ephraim is a professor of English at Worcester Polytechnic Institute in Massachusetts.


Published in the Summer 2024 issue


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