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Having reviewed over 1200 books on this blog, I have now written two myself. Motherdarling is a story about a search for a missing Will which reveals long-hidden family secrets. The Kids of God is a thriller set in a dystopia ruled by fascist paramilitaries. Both are available as paperbacks and on Kindle through Amazon. I live in Canterbury, England. I lived for more than thirty years in Bedford. Having retired from teaching; I became a research student at the University of Bedfordshire researching into Liminality. I achieved my PhD in 2019. I am now properly retired. I love reading! I enjoy in particular fiction (mostly great and classic fiction although I also enjoy whodunnits), biography, history and smart thinking. Follow me on twitter: @daja57

Tuesday, 10 May 2011

"Contested Will" by James Shapiro

This common sense but even-handed investigation of the ‘Who wrote Shakespeare’ controversy concludes that Shakespeare did. The argument that he did not rests on the concept that a Glover’s son would not have had the experience to write such wonderful plays; it argues that the author of the plays must have lived in Italy, must have had three daughters, must have experienced betrayal, must have been captured by pirates; because these experiences are recounted in the plays. Shapiro suggests that this is an anachronistic understanding of Elizabethan literature: the fact the fiction today is heavily based on autobiography does no mean that it was so then.

The argument against the Earl of Oxford being the author is principally that he died in 1604 but that some of the plays were being premiered up to 1610. Oh, but he wrote them and they were first performed after his death. But there are references to historic occurrences after 1604. Oh, but they were inserted by other authors.

Shapiro shows how Shakespeare’s dramas changed after 1604 (a) because he resumed collaborating after years of single authorship and (b) because the Globe had burned down and his company was using an indoor venue which required candles which needed to be refreshed periodically so his plays began to include music and dancing so that the refreshment could proceed. Would a noble author such as Oxford or Bacon really have co-authored with low commoners as Shakespeare’s collaborators?

Shakespeare wrote Shakespeare. The only argument that Shapiro neglects is the unusually high proportion of Warwickshire words in the plays.

A brilliant book. I must find out more about Shakespeare.

May 2011; 316 pages

Books about Shakespeare reviewed in this blog include:


Random points I noted.

The creator of the Oxfordian myth was a man named Looney who came from Blyth where my Dad came from.

Shapiro uses the term ‘sock-puppetry’. Wikipedia tells me that this means " the use of multiple accounts to deceive other editors, disrupt discussions, distort consensus, avoid sanctions, or otherwise violate community standards"

In Elizabethan times “People didn’t think in terms of modern binaries of ‘homosexualty’ and ‘heterosexuality’” (p307)


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