Review: Contested Will: Who Wrote Shakespeare by James Shapiro (Simon & Schuster 2010)
Thomas Hunter, Ph.D.
Let’s start with the good news about James Shapiro’s Contested Will. The good news is that for the first time a Stratfordian has become familiar in some detail with Oxfordians and Oxfordian history. The bad news is the distortion, twisting, and misrepresentation Shapiro feels obliged to employ in telling the Oxfordian story.
Shapiro goes out of his way to protest the history of shabby, if not hostile, treatment of authorship proponents by the scholarly community. As his narrative plays out, however, it becomes clear that Shapiro’s attitude toward authorship is as shabby and hostile as that of any of the traditional scholars he criticizes. It doesn’t take long for the book’s surprisingly collegial initial façade to deteriorate into the more familiar hard face of Stratfordian bias and intolerance.
From concept to conclusion, Contested Will is another perversion of scholarship to make a point. We have seen this before in Alan Nelson’s monstrous biography of Oxford.
Shapiro conducts no substantive analysis of authorship issues. He provides no discussion of the merits. His approach is to talk about the personalities of authorship. His modus is to explain away authorship by explaining away its proponents through the years. His book is one prolonged, detailed ad hominem attack — pure and simple.