Rebecca's Reviews > Contested Will: Who Wrote Shakespeare?

Contested Will by James Shapiro
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's review
Oct 28, 2010

really liked it
bookshelves: nonfiction
Read from October 28 to November 07, 2010

This is a history of the debate over who wrote Shakespeare, tracing it from the 1700s through the current day. It's quite fascinating, focusing on those who claimed Bacon wrote the plays, and then those who claimed the Earl of Oxford wrote them (these claimants are still active today, more than ever). People who interested themselves in the debate included Helen Keller, Henry James, and Mark Twain. Shapiro points out that people opposed to Shakespeare's writing the plays most often look to the content of the plays as being autobiographical, and use those as proof that their candidate was the writer. Shapiro presents all this information objectively until the last few chapters, in which he presents his own, staunch, Stratfordian views; the views of those who believe that Shakespeare was the actual writer. As proof, he examines the actual facts of Shakespeare's life as we know it, but also the facts of Elizabethan life at the time, of how the theater worked, how people related to each other, how plays could become political liabilities, and so forth. He presents a supremely believable argument, hinging also on the fact that writers are not required to experience something in their own lives to be able to imagine it and write about it. Makes sense to me!

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