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Contested Will: Who Wrote Shakespeare? Paperback – April 19, 2011
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From Publishers Weekly
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—The New Yorker
"Shapiro is an engaging and elegant guide . . . a masterful work of literary history, an empathetic chronicle of eccentricity, and a calmly reasoned vindication of 'the Stratford man.'"
—Kevin O'Kelly, The Boston Globe
"James Shapiro is an erudite Shakespearean and a convincing one. . . . A bravura performance."
—Saul Rosenberg, The Wall Street Journal
"It is authoritative, lucid and devastatingly funny, and its brief concluding statement of the case for Shakespeare is masterly."
—John Carey, The Sunday Times (London)
Top Customer Reviews
It so happens that I'm familiar with a lot of the backstory - the rise of biblical criticism and the questioning of who Homer was - that serve as a foundation to the earliest anti-Stratfordian theories. It's easy to understand how, in the early 19th century, people who felt this approach so important could be convinced that another great author was not who he seemed. But as time went by, this became a story of lies, deceit and forgery, as well as convoluted conspiracy theories.
Deep down, it seems that there are two essential elements that come into play. The first is that, according to skeptics, there is no way the son of a glover could have written so eloquently about so many things. His limited education could not have enabled him to write such profound plays. As if in the nature vs. nurture argument, only nurture counts. This has been proven wrong with many artists, musicians and authors who came from humble beginnings, so it seems like a moot point, and surprises me that so many people bring up this point to deny Shakespeare's legitimacy.
The second element is the belief, which became prevalent in the romantic period, that all art is personal; that art reflects personal experiences. If this is the case, the skeptics say, then Shakespeare, who never visited Italy, could not have written about Italy. This argument seems childish to me; could a writer who has never visited Mars write about that planet?Read more ›
But there is a long tradition that Francis Bacon or Edward deVere (or many others) wrote Shakespeare's works, and that somehow generations of scholars have been fooled. Why anyone would think anything so preposterous on the face of it, has always interested me. I once put it down to snobbery, that the son of a glove-maker from Stratford could not have been smart enough to write such plays.
But it is more complicated than this. Shapiro's main idea is that many people want to believe that such great writing has to be based on experience, and Shakespeare could not have had the experiences which led to the poems and plays.
Shapiro is a scholar of Shakespeare, but in this book he had to treat many times and subjects, from 19th century positivism to Freud, and had to try to explain why such great thinkers as Mark Twain, Henry James and Sigmund Freud believed that someone else wrote Shakespeare. Surprisingly, Shapiro is respectful of what others would call lunacy. To explain one phase of the movement, which purported to find hidden codes in the plays, he explains how the development the telegraph and Morse code infused the culture of the times.
Shakespeare's poetry is of such extraordinary depth and beauty that it seems that it could only have been written by a man of letters, not an actor.Read more ›
A fine book. Read it!
Most Recent Customer Reviews
Mr. Shapiro takes the time to explain the "why" behind the authorship controversy and presents a convincing argument in favor of the Man from Stratford as the author of the... Read morePublished 1 month ago by Dorothy
Read this instead: Contested Year: Errors, Omissions and Unsupported Statements in James Shapiro's "The Year of Lear: Shakespeare"Published 5 months ago by spotchboy
Brilliant and thorough analysis of the history of "Shakespeare didn't write Shakespeare" arguments written in an engaging and easy-to-read style. Read morePublished 6 months ago by J. Creamer
I heard the author on an NPR show and bought the book. A fine exposition of what might be described as a Tempest in a crock pot. Read morePublished 8 months ago by eva mauer
This is the place to start if you want to know about the supposed debate on the authorship of Shakespeare's plays. Read morePublished 9 months ago by G W W3
This is a nonfiction book, the best I've encountered that addresses the Shakespeare authorship question with a stated pro-Stratford Man bias, taking an inventive approach by... Read morePublished 9 months ago by John C. Sherwood
I have read a lot of books about this topic. I found this very well researched and clearly written.Published 9 months ago by Irene Finley
I realize that this is a scholarly and carefully researched work on a controversial subject and that I am merely a plebeian reader who does not have the credentials to appreciate... Read morePublished 16 months ago by Erica Miles, author of Dazzled by Darkness