About the Author
From The Washington Post
In a throwback to the glory days of bookbinding, Robin P. Williams's Sweet Swan of Avon: Did a Woman Write Shakespeare? (Wilton Circle, $27.95) contains a page that folds out to four times normal size. The publisher has taken this trouble to display a timeline juxtaposing Shakespeare's documented life, the dates of his works and the documented life of (alarums offstage) Mary Sidney, countess of Pembroke.
Williams, an independent scholar, is among the latest in a long line of doubters who make much of the dearth of hard facts about Shakespeare, not to mention the disparity between his humble background (the son of a man who wrote his name by making an "X") and his immense vocabulary and range of knowledge. To these skeptics, "William Shakespeare" was a cover for someone of higher education who rubbed shoulders with princes and nobles from an early age but who, for some reason or other, could not bring himself to sign his name to "Measure for Measure," "Hamlet" and the rest.
Sir Francis Bacon has long been a favorite for this role, as has Edward de Vere, the 17th earl of Oxford. Williams, however, suggests that the real playwright might have been a woman. Mary Sidney came from a noble family with close ties to Queen Elizabeth, and Mary's brother Philip became a famous poet in his own right. Even if you're inclined to say "Fie" to this theory, Williams should be thanked for bringing attention to a skilled and powerful writer. In the King James version, part of Psalm 58 reads, "Break their teeth, O God, in their mouth; break out the great teeth of the young lions, O Lord." Mary's socko take on the same passage goes: "Lord crack their teeth/ Lord crush these lions' jaws."
The Case for Mary Sidney
Copyright 2006, The Washington Post. All Rights Reserved.