Definition of Biography

A biography is simply an account or detailed description about the life of a person. It entails basic facts, such as childhood, education, career, relationships, family, and death. Biography is a literary genre that portrays the experiences of all these events occurring in the life of a person, mostly in a chronological order. Unlike a resume or profile, a biography provides a life story of a subject, highlighting different aspects of his of her life. A person who writes biographies, is called as a “biographer.”

Types of Biography

There are three types of biography:


An autobiography tells the story of a person’s own life. While that person writes his own account, he or she may take guidance from a ghostwriter or collaborator.


A biography narrates the life story of a person, as written by another person or writer. It is further divided into five categories:

  1. Popular biography
  2. Historical biography
  3. Literary biography
  4. Reference biography
  5. Fictional biography


This is a more focused writing than an autobiography or a biography. In a memoir, a writer narrates the details of a particular event or situation that occurred in his or her lifetime.

Examples of Biography in Literature

Example #1: Shakespeare: A Life (By Park Honan)

This biography is the most accurate, up-to-date, and complete narrative ever written about the life of William Shakespeare. Park Honan has used rich and fresh information about Shakespeare in order to change the perceptions of readers for the playwright, and his role as a poet and actor.

This book completely differs from other biographies that imagine different roles for him, commenting on his sexual relationships and colorful intrigues. Though detailed psychological theories and imaginative reforms about the famous playwright could be amusing, in fact, they damage the credibility of the sources. Therefore, many attempts have been made to know about Shakespeare, but this one is a unique example.

Example #2: Arthur Miller: Attention Must Be Paid (By James Campbell)

This biography is written in the form of a drama, presented in just two acts. In the first act, the author shows the famous dramatist, Arthur Miller, in his early success, having the love of the most beloved woman in the world, and resisting tyranny. However, in the second act of this biography, the author shows that the hero was badly assaulted and ridiculed by a rowdy mob called critics, who are expelled from the conventional theater. He ends his book with rhetorical details related to a revitalization in the fortunes of the playwright.

Example #3: The Life of Samuel Johnson (By James Boswell)

This biography is frequently hyped as a perfect example of modern biography, and all-time best example in the English language. This masterpiece of James Boswell has covered the whole life of the ubiquitous literary writer Samuel Johnson, with whom Boswell was well-acquainted. The unique quality of this book is that it shows Johnson as a walking intellectual amongst us.

Example #4: The Bronte Myth (By­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­ Lucasta Miller)

Emily, Anne, and Charlotte Bronte were very famous and eminent writers in the history of English literature. Many rumors and gossips were associated with them when they reached the peaks of their careers and received great approval for writing the most admired novels of the nineteenth century. In their biography, Lucasta Miller chunks the myths related to these young enigmatic women. This is a fine example of a biography.

Example #5: Why this World: A Biography of Clarice Lispector (By­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­ Benjamin Moser)

After perusing his own private manuscripts and writings, this modernist writer, Benjamin Moser, has explored the mystique surrounding Brazilian writer Clarice Lispector. This is one of Moser’s biographies, which comes a little closer to finding her true nuances. All those readers who are going to read her myriad of works for the first time would find this biography interesting, and her life as beautiful and tragic, yet riveting.

Function of Biography

The function of writing biographies is to provide details regarding the life of a person or a thing in an entertaining but informative manner. By the end of a biography, readers feel like they are well-acquainted with the subject. Biographies are often non-fictional, but many biographers also use novel-like format, because a story line would be more entertaining with the inclusion of strong exposition, rising conflict, and then climax. Besides, the most inspirational life stories could motivate and put confidence into the readers.

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