Contested Will

Contested Will

Who Wrote Shakespeare?

Book - 2010
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Shakespeare scholar James Shapiro explains when and why so many people began to question whether Shakespeare wrote his plays.
Publisher: New York : Simon & Schuster, 2010
Edition: 1st Simon & Schuster hardcover ed
ISBN: 9781416541622
1416541624
1439170223
9781439170229
Branch Call Number: 822.36 Shapiro
Characteristics: 339 p. : ill. ; 25 cm

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lukasevansherman
Apr 15, 2014

The "true" identity of Shakespeare is either the greatest literary mystery ever or the biggest waste of time ever. Somehow the theory that somehow else wrote Shakespeare continues to thrive, with annual conferences, a large web presence, celebrity endorsements and a veritable plethora of books and articles. Professor James Shapiro, who also wrote the excellent "A Year in the Life of Shakespeare: 1599," is not so much interested in solving the mystery (although he's firmly a Startfordian), as in tracing its origins and development, touching on the host of famous people who endorsed it (Freud, Twain, Helen Keller) and the various authors who were likely candidates (Marlowe, Queen Elizabeth). Bacon gets a whole chapter, as does the Earl of Oxford, who is the current front runner. For Shakespeare aficionados, this is both fascinating and a little frustrating, with some conspiracy theories (an elaborate cipher for example) coming off as something from a Dan Brown book.
Shapiro, even when he doesn't agree, takes pains to present the other side as fully and sympathetically possible, which is no small achievement. An important book for Shakespeare scholars and readers.

crankylibrarian Oct 26, 2011

The title is somewhat misleading: this is NOT another book questioning the authorship of Shakespeare's plays, but a history of the controversy. Shapiro, an English professor at Columbia University, thoughtfully examines the evolving notions of biblical skepticism, autobiographical fiction, psychobiography, and mistrust of expert authority which led such disparate figures as Sigmund Freud, Mark Twain, and Helen Keller to become Shakespearean skeptics. Shapiro notes that in every age, as readers try to find themselves in Shakespeare's writing, they inevitably attempt to re-construct Shakespeare the man according to the values and prejudices of their day.

Also see Scott McCrea's _The Case for Shakespeare: The End of the Authorship Question_ for a thorough trouncing of the anti-Stratford theories.

debwalker Oct 25, 2011

Anonymous, based on Contested Will: Who Wrote Shakespeare? opens October 28th, 2011. The film, directed by Roland Emmerich, explores the possibility that the Earl of Oxford (played by Rhys Ifans) was the real writer of Shakespeare's plays.
Trailer looks gorgeous with I dont know how they do it panoramic vistas and aerial shots of Tudor London and lots of swashbuckling.

j
jmikesmith
Feb 10, 2011

This book about the history of the Shakespeare authorship controversy was very good. It explains how ideas about writing and criticism began to change 100 years or so after Shakespeare's death in 1616. It came to be felt that a writer couldn't write about something he had not experienced personally. There were so many adventures in Shakespeare's plays that many felt that Shakespeare, who by all accounts was an under-educated country merchant, didn't have the life experience to write the plays attributed to him. The book relates how various people tried to identify the "real" writer of the plays and some of their candidates. I did find the book assumed I knew a bit more about the Elizabethan period and terms and people from that period than I did. I could usually follow along, and some things were explained in the final chapter, but I likely would have enjoyed the book more if I were more knowledgeable abut Shakespeare's life and times.

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