Whalen reviews Contested Will

Book Review: Contested Will: Who Wrote Shakespeare? by James Shapiro (New York: Simon & Schuster, 2010)

Richard F. Whalen

For the first time, a leading Shakespeare establishment professor, James Shapiro of Columbia University, has given serious consideration to the controversy over Shakespeare’s identity in a book-length analysis — a precedent that may help make the authorship issue a legitimate subject for more research and discussion in academia, even though Shapiro remains a Stratfordian.

Shapiro’s book is a history of the authorship controversy, from Delia Bacon in the 1850s to DoubtAboutWill.org in 2007. He recognizes that the seventeenth Earl of Oxford is by far the most impressive challenger and that his backers have achieved considerable success in recent decades. His final word is that a choice must be made, a stark and consequential choice.

The book’s cover will dismay committed Stratfordians. It shows the Stratford monument depicting a writer with pen, paper and a pillow; but his head is cut off by the author’s name and the book’s title, including Who Wrote Shakespeare? Indeed, that is the question.

Shapiro, however, states at the outset that he aims to answer a different question: Why have so many eminent people doubted that Will Shakspere of Stratford was the author and why have they argued for someone else, such as Oxford? In so doing, Shapiro declines to enter the debate over the evidence for Shakspere or for Oxford in any depth of detail. As a result, the general reader is left with the impression that the question of Shakespeare’s identity may well be legitimate, despite efforts by many Stratfordians to dismiss it. That a scholar of Shapiro’s standing in the Shakespeare establishment should take this approach bodes well for Oxfordians.

Die-hard Stratfordians, of course, will be able to tease out what they need to defend Will Shakspere and shoot down Oxford. Shapiro cleverly provides ammunition here and there for pot shots, although nothing like an artillery barage. The discerning general reader, for whom this book is intended, should be able to see through this tactic.

To answer his question — why so many eminent doubters? — Shapiro argues that from the beginning the skeptics about Shakspere as Shakespeare were influenced by their predispositions — that is, their unspoken, underlying assumptions and their worldviews. Most of his book describes the skeptics’ predispositions — and those of Oxfordians —based to a great extent on new primary-source research.

Another major argument of his book is that Elizabethan and Jacobean writers, including Shakespeare, relied entirely on their imagination and were not autobiographical. This is a difficult assertion to support given the lack of biographical information about nearly all the writers of the period, and it’s probably not true, as even some Stratfordian scholars have found. Oddly, Shapiro undercuts his own argument against autobiography in Shakespeare by saying that Will Shakspere probably did draw on his life experience but that not enough is known about it to indentify how and where.

Oxfordians can point to the extensive, documented record of Oxford’s life, which Shapiro mostly ignores. He mentions just a few correspondences between Oxford’s life and Shakespeare’s works and then dismisses them as unconvincing. He tries to ignore the core debate about who wrote Shakespeare, but in the end he can’t escape it.

Shapiro’s prologue opens dramatically with what he suggests is an elaborate anti-Stratfordian forgerythe story of James Wilmot of Warwickshire. Wilmot reportedly searched circa 1785 in and around Stratford for documents about Shakspere as the poet-dramatist, found none, and decided that Shakespeare was Sir Francis Bacon. Wilmot told a friend, but swore him to secrecy. The friend finally disclosed Wilmot’s story with two lectures dated 1805. When Shapiro examined the manuscript lectures, he found anachronisms, leading him to suggest that they were a mid-twentieth century forgery by a Baconian, probably attempting to counter the claims for Oxford.

What Shapiro does not say in his text is that Daniel Wright of Concordia University came to this conclusion seven years ago after John Rollett of the De Vere Society told him about his own suspicions. Professor Wright reported on his investigations at a conference at Concordia, and a news article on his talk was published in the summer 2003 issue of Shakespeare Matters. Shapiro mentions the article in his bibliographic essay. Also left unsaid by Shapiro, but subtly implied, is that although Stratfordians would commit many frauds and forgeries, the first forgery was anti-Stratfordian; and that he, Shapiro, has brought it to the attention of the general public.

Then follow the book’s four chapters, entitled simply “Shakespeare,” “Bacon,”  “Oxford,” and “Shakespeare” redux, plus an epilogue and a lengthy bibliographic essay.

True to Shapiro’s intention, the first “Shakespeare” chapter is not about evidence for Shakspere as the dramatist. It is largely about the deification of Shakespeare, the drive to find out more about Shakspere and the forgeries of William Henry Ireland and John Payne Collier, who concocted new “evidence” for Shakspere as the poet-dramatist.

Ireland’s forgeries were exposed by Edmond Malone, the leading Shakespeare scholar of the eighteenth century. But Malone comes under fire for trying to find Shakspere’s autobiography in the plays, thus opening the door, says Shapiro, for anyone to use an author’s fiction as a source for biography and to indulge in excessive speculations about Shakspere’s biography. Shapiro is hard on Malone, a revered Shakespeare scholar.

Shapiro then suggests that a convergence of trends in scholarship accelerated skepticism about Shakspere as Shakespeare. This convergence included Malone’s autobiographical speculations, research into Shakspere’s life that was yielding only business records, and growing doubts about his role in writing all of the plays in the canon, combined with the emergence of doubts about Homer as a person and about the Bible as a reliable source for the life of Jesus. Shapiro’s thesis is an impressive merging and melding of multiple literary-cultural trends.

The “Bacon” chapter has much more information on Delia Bacon, an American, than on Sir Francis Bacon, the authorship candidate. Shapiro describes at length and with new, primary-source information describing how Delia Bacon’s background and romantic difficulties influenced her conviction that Shakespeare could not have been written by the Stratford man. She was a brilliant, eloquent lecturer on Shakespeare’s works. Her book on the works published in 1857 was the first to contend that the plays must have been written by aristocrats, a shockingly revolutionary idea at a time of intense Bardolatry. Bacon was uncompromising, and to her contemporaries she appeared to be obsessed. She spent the last years of her life in a mental institution. Most Stratfordians ridicule Delia Bacon, but Shapiro is quite sympathetic, depicting her as an articulate, outspoken woman — an eccentric in a man’s world of literature studies and public lecturing  who argued radical ideas about Shakespeare. It’s possible that she was unfairly stigmatized by the nineteenth century, catchall label of female hysteria.

The “Bacon” chapter continues with Mark Twain, who persuaded himself that all fiction, especially his own, is autobiographical (Shapiro disagrees) and got drawn into the arcane world of ciphering (which Shapiro debunks). Henry James’s ambiguous pondering on the authorship issue was as much about his own genius and legacy as about Shakespeare’s and is thus, unreliable, according to Shapiro. Sir Francis Bacon, the most popular candidate in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, is dismissed in a few paragraphs about the failure of Ignatius Donnelly’s ciphers to gain followers, and the disparity of writing styles between Bacon the essayist and Shakespeare the poet-dramatist.

Although Shapiro uses the predispositions of the early skeptics to disparage their heretical skepticism, he is hardly in a position to do so. As a career Stratfordian, he is naturally predisposed to believe in Shakspere of Stratford as the poet-dramatist. He has a doctorate in Shakespeare studies from the University of Chicago. He has taught Shakespeare for twenty-five years at Columbia, and he has published two earlier books about Shakespeare. One manifestation of his Stratfordian predisposition is that while researching and writing his book, he politely declined to consult or communicate with Oxfordians.

The “Oxford” chapter covers eighty-seven years of the Oxfordian movement from J. Thomas Looney’s book in 1920 identifying Oxford as Shakespeare to the DoubtAboutWill.org web site launched in 2007. Shapiro tries to score against Oxford, but an historical narrative is not conducive to arguing points of evidence. In any case, in this chapter Shapiro is not as harsh and dismissive as his more strident colleagues, and he describes the success of the Oxfordian movement with a fair amount of admiration. 

The chapter opens with Sigmund Freud’s idea that Hamlet must reflect aspects of the dramatist’s life. Shapiro explores Looney’s influence on Freud, concluding that Freud, unconventional in his views and a strong supporter of Oxford as the poet-dramatist, deceived himself and revealed more about his concern to find confirmation of his Oedipal theory of the unconscious than about whether Oxford wrote Hamlet. His analysis of Freud is fascinating, but his conclusion about what he describes as Freud’s conflicted obsession about Oxford as Shakespeare seems facile.

Shapiro admires Looney’s book, “Shakespeare” Identified in Edward de Vere, Seventeenth Earl of Oxford, and did a great deal of research on his background. He says Looney was heavily influenced by his unusual worldview. Looney was a follower of Auguste Comte’s Positivist philosophy. In England this philosophy became a religion that venerated Shakespeare.  Shapiro tells at some length how Looney aspired to become a PositivistPriest of Humanity. The new information that Shapiro found supported his view that Looney was feudalistic, reactionary, anti-democratic and authoritarian. Shapiro damns Looney with faint praise by noting that Looney was not a Nazi-sympathizer despite some of his letters.

In effect, Shapiro’s critique of the early skeptics, Baconians, and Oxfordians with Looney, in particular, for their worldviews and predispositions amounts to an ad hominem argument, the argument of last resort: i.e. If you don’t like the message, attack the messenger.

Shapiro’s specific criticisms of Looney are that he assumed that the Shakespeare plays were not written for money and were autobiographical. At the same time, he criticizes his fellow Stratfordians for making fun of Looney’s name and dismissing Looney’s “Shakespeare” Identified that Shapiro praises as a formidable book and a compelling tour de force.

Shapiro concludes that Oxford quickly took over from Bacon and other contenders as the leading candidate for a number of reasons. The autobiographical correspondences in the plays were more persuasive. Contemporaries praised Oxford, an aristocrat, for his poetry and his plays; and his early writings could be compared to Shakespeare’s. Looney’s book was heartfelt and convincing, and his followers were committed. Today’s Oxfordians could certainly agree with that assessment.

After a quick survey of many Oxfordian supporters and scholars well known to Oxfordians, Shapiro examines their predispositions and then their efforts to find new ways to support Oxford. Like the Baconians, he says, Oxfordians began to find reasons to ascribe the writings of many Elizabethans to Oxford, among them Marlowe, Spenser, Gascoigne, Montaigne, Thomas Nash, Anthony Munday, John Lyly, Robert Greene and Arthur Brooke. Shapiro calls this effort reckless. Leading Oxfordian scholars of course are generally cautious, finding so far evidence possibly involving Brooke, Greene, Nash and perhaps Lyly than for the other more famous writers. In any case it has little to do with the basic evidence for Oxford as Shakespeare.

Shapiro then uses the so-called Lord Admiral and Prince Tudor hypotheses to discredit the case for Oxford. He notes that Looney and Freud hated the Prince Tudor theory, which suggested the third Earl of Southampton was the son of Oxford and Queen Elizabeth. He adds that the Lord Admiral hypothesis that Oxford was the son of a teenage Elizabeth and Thomas Seymour, the Lord Admiral, piles incest upon incest. In his prologue, Shapiro had told how a nine-year-old asked him a classroom whether Shakespeare or someone else wrote Romeo and Juliet and how relieved he was not to have been asked about the Virgin Queen’s incestuous love life. Shapiro’s technique is the gentle jab rather than the harsh put-down.

The two hypotheses, Shapiro says, reveal the burning desire by Oxfordians to find a story about Oxford’s traumatic life in the Shakespeare plays. Conjectured conspiracies and cover-ups are inevitable, he notes, although adding that Oxfordians are divided on this issue.

Shapiro is very selective in his choice of early Oxfordian researchers and writers for consideration. He says little or nothing about the exhaustively researched books and articles of Eva Turner Clark, Dorothy and Charlton Ogburn and Ruth Loyd Miller, major works that find Oxford’s biography in Shakespeare. But he devotes three pages to Percy Allen who used a medium to get in touch with Shakspere, Bacon and Oxford to confirm that Oxford was Shakespeare and to suggest the location of manuscripts.

Shapiro observes, however, that the Stratfordian mocking of Allen is perhaps not fair since dead writers speak to the living in their writings, and professors like himself make a living interpreting their writings from beyond the grave. He might have added that spiritualism was a very popular movement in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries that attracted prominent men and women and was at its peak in the 1920s.

Shapiro cleverly describes the impressive success of the Oxfordian movement. Oxfordians in the early 1980s, he says, would never have believed the success they would enjoy in 2010. He demonstrates this with an imaginary article in The Shakespeare Oxford Newsletter in 2010 that would have been beyond belief for Oxfordians in the 1980s. Filling a full page in his book, the imaginary article describes the Oxfordian successes:

  • Universities offering advanced degrees in authorship studies;
  • supporters like Derek Jacobi, Mark Rylance and others from the theater world;
  • books by independent scholars and books for young adults from mainstream publishers;
  • high school students competing to write the best Oxfordian essay;
  • major articles in the Atlantic, Harper’s, and The New York Times and programs on NPR;
  • moot court debates before justices from the highest courts in America and England;
  • peer-reviewed Oxfordian journals;
  • international conferences;
  • Oxfordian editions of the plays for teachers of Shakespeare;
  • impressive Wikipedia entries and Internet web sites that are more professional and impressive than Stratfordian sites;
  • and multiple discussion groups on the Internet.

All this, says Shapiro, without any new documentary evidence.

He ends the “Oxfordian” chapter with an admiring description of John Shahan’s DoubtAboutWill.org web site that is deliberately anti-Stratfordian, not Oxfordian.

Shapiro’s “Oxford” chapter concludes with additional recognition of landmarks in his history of the Oxfordian societies and the success of the Oxfordian movement since the 1980s. He cites the moot court before three justices of the U.S. Supreme Court as most important in making the authorship issue legitimate. He mentions the PBS-TV Frontline programs, Charles Beauclerk’s lectures and TV appearances, Roger Stritmatter’s doctoral dissertation on the markings in Oxford’s Bible, and William Niederkorn’s major articles in The New York Times.

Shapiro says that much in Niederkorn’s articles promoted the Oxfordian proposition, but the quotes he uses from Times articles are factual and objective. His quarrel with Niederkorn’s articles is that they gave the authorship controversy more prominence — but so will Shapiro’s own book. After this generous report on the success of the Oxfordian movement, the general reader may well conclude that there must be something to the case for Oxford as Shakespeare

The last chapter, “Shakespeare,” (and the Epilogue) retell familiar arguments for Shakspere but in a curiously haphazard way, and significantly, they amount to Shapiro’s own imaginary biography of Shakspere as the poet-dramatist. He says that book buyers, printers and playgoers in London would have known if Shakspere was not Shakespeare and would have left word about it. There is no agreement, he says, among Oxfordians about how such a far-fetched conspiracy to hide Oxford’s authorship, if there was one, would have worked. If Oxford wanted to hide his authorship he should have left the plays anonymous. The hyphen in “Shake-speare” is no evidence for it being a pen name; it was a quirk of typesetting.

Shapiro doesn’t make many errors, but one involves the spelling of the dramatist’s name. He gives “Shakspere” as one of the spellings on early editions the plays to try to show no difference from the various spellings of Shakspere of Stratford. He’s referring to Love’s Labor’s Lost, but on that quarto it’s spelled “Shakespere,” the spelling on all the plays and poems, except for the second “a” in this single instance. Shapiro erroneously makes it appear that “Shakspere” or a Stratford variant was the byline not only on this play but also on other plays, which is not true.

He also cites the “Shaxberd” spelling for the playwright Shakespeare in the Revels Account for 1604, but that was declared a forgery by all the leading Shakespeare scholars when the notorious forger John Payne Collier published its “discovery.” It is almost certainly a forgery, although the Shakespeare establishment decided later to accept it, probably because “Shaxberd” is a variant of the Stratford spelling, thus tying the Shakespeare plays listed in the 1604 Revels Account to Shakspere of Stratford.

Whoever wrote the plays, Shapiro continues, had to know the performers in the acting companies so he could write parts to their capabilities, and Shakspere was an actor. Most persuasive for Shapiro are the two different epilogues written for Part Two of Henry IV, supposedly one for the public theater and the other for a court performance. It’s not conceivable for Shapiro that Oxford, or anyone but the commoner-actor Shakspere, could have spoken the epilogue claiming authorship of the play before an audience at court. Oxfordians would argue the reverse.

Shapiro continues with more bits of evidence: the Stratfordian interpretation of Groatsworth of Wit, the praise for Shakespeare (Shapiro’s Stratford man) by many contemporaries, Francis Meres’ mention of both Oxford and Shakespeare as poets (powerful evidence for Shapiro), the Parnassus plays, and Ben Jonson’s mixed praise for Shakespeare in Timber.

The evidence in the First Folio, always cited by Stratfordians, gets just a few descriptive paragraphs, without supporting argument or mention of the obvious ambiguities therein that Oxfordians note. He briefly misreads Diana Price’s argument that Shakspere left no paper trail, but devotes ten pages to the Blackfriars theater, a long passage having little to do with the authorship debate.

To counter the anti-Stratfordian point that no one noticed when Shakspere, supposedly the famous poet-dramatist, died in 1616, Shapiro offers an argument that most readers should recognize as quite flimsy. He cites the publication in 1619 of the Pavier quartos of several Shakespeare plays. But that’s three years later and the quartos did not eulogize the dramatist or even note that he had died.

He concludes this chapter with five pages on recent Stratfordian scholarship suggesting that five late plays show stylometric signs that Shakspere collaborated on them with other playwrights. Shapiro does not believe that Oxford would have collaborated with anyone. That’s probably true, but he offers only a grudging, half-hearted dismissal of the Oxfordian response that nothing in the allegedly post-1604 plays proves they were written after Oxford’s death in 1604 and that other dramatists may have revised some plays after Oxford died. In the end, Shapiro indulges in a gentle jibe about would-be collaborators squabbling over five of Oxford’s late Shakespeare plays at a garage sale after Oxford’s death.

In the “Epilogue,” Shapiro returns to the argument that while fiction in recent centuries has often been autobiographical, that was not the case for Elizabethan-Jacobean writers. As it happens, however, Stratfordian scholars have argued that those writers did indeed draw on their life experience, their times, and their reading. Professor David Riggs, the biographer of Ben Jonson, says that Jonson created his works out of his life and that Volpone in particular is a self-portrait. Shakespeare editor Harry Levin of Harvard says Jonson lampooned contemporaries and what he wrote drew on his observations of life in London. In her biography of Jonson, Marchette Chute says that many touches in Jonson’s plays are based on literal fact. The Shakespeare scholar Edward Berry says that an autobiographical impulse characterizes many writers of the Tudor period, and, for example, Philip Sidney covertly identified himself and Penelope Rich in Astrophil and Stella. Not enough is known about many Shakespeare contemporaries, but various commentators on Spenser and Marlowe also contend that their lives are, or must be, reflected in their writings. As Professor Berry concludes in his book on Sidney, autobiographical touches in fiction were an integral part of Elizabethan culture.

Shapiro’s position on autobiography is also tellingly ambiguous. He rejects autobiography in Elizabethan-Jacobean fiction, including Shakespeare, but says he has no doubt that Shakspere drew on his personal experiences. But because almost nothing is known about Elizabethan writers, anything that might have been evidence for Shakspere as Shakespeare is missing. The second argument negates the first. Or the first makes the second irrelevant.

Shapiro leaves unsaid that a great deal is known about the documented life of Oxford, so that his biography can be compared to passages in the plays to see if there are correspondences that add up to evidence for his authorship. Oxfordian literature, of course, is replete with such correspondences. Recent examples include Mark Anderson’s Shakespeare by Another Name and the Oxfordian editions of Macbeth and Othello.

Shapiro argues that Stratfordian autobiographical readings of Shakespeare are speculative exercises that only encourage Oxfordians to do even more speculation. As an example of the latter, he uses Hank Whittemore’s one-man performance at the Globe based on Whittemore’s book, The Monument. Shapiro praises it as a spellbinding performance, enthusiastically received by the audience. He adds, however, that he left the theater disheartened by what he construed as a merging of the Prince Tudor conspiracy theory, spurious history, and fiction as autobiography.

Shapiro generally does not distinguish clearly between two different ways of researching and writing biography. The first method, which is fundamental to biographies of writers, is to take the documented facts of a writer’s biography and then determine how a writer, such as Shakespeare, drew on his documented life experience and his times to write his plays. This might be called reading forwards from the writer’s known biography to the imaginative works. The second, more dubious method is to discover in writers’ works supposed biographical details about his life and emotions that are not supported by his documented biography. This method has been called reading backwards from the works to write biography. Fiction becomes a source for biography but a conjectural and unreliable source.

One of Shapiro’s main arguments against Oxfordians is that they look in the works, such as the Sonnets, to find Oxford’s biography, but that’s not true. Like all reputable biographers, Oxfordians take Oxford’s documented biography and then go to the Shakespeare plays and poems to determine whether and how Oxford’s life experience and concerns are reflected in them, evidence tending to confirm his authorship of them. Shapiro fails to distinguish this method of biography from the method of reading backwards from the works, that is, using fiction as a source for biography.

After ranging through a hundred and fifty years of the authorship controversy, Shapiro makes a rush for the finish line in the final seven pages with more unsupported, Stratfordian assertions. They add to his own imaginary biography of Shakspere as Shakespeare. Authors, he says, can write fiction about things they have not experienced; the Shakespeare plays did not require visits to Venice or Verona. How did he do it? We don’t know. He may have owned or borrowed books. He may have gleaned what he needed by browsing in the bookstalls. The theaters may have kept cheap copies of the classics for an actor-playwright to ransack when he was not rehearsing or acting. (Will the general reader believe all this conjectural biography?)

It is nonsense, Shapiro asserts, that only aristocrats had access to all those books that were sources for the plays. Shakspere’s knowledge of the world, including everything about Italy, could have come from conversations with all sorts of travelers. His knowledge of hawking, hunting and other aristocratic pursuits and the ways of monarchs and courtiers could have come from his visits to royal palaces with the acting companies. His education in the Stratford grammar school was about equal to that of a university today and better in the classics than that of a typical classics major. His vocabulary was no greater than that of other educated men and women. Playgoers in the Globe and other public theaters would have no trouble understanding the Shakespeare plays. Shakspere could imagine all the roles in the plays; he didn’t need any life experience. Creating literature is mystery. Great writers have powerful imaginations.

Rapid fire and cursory, Shapiro’s summary of the case for Shakspere comes across as superficial and half-hearted. Even the general reader may have a hard time swallowing his encapsulated conjectures and his fervid emphasis on the all-encompassing power of a writer’s imagination. They may wonder, too, at Shapiro’s objection to the frankly imaginary biographies of Shakspere as Shakespeare by Stephen Greenblatt of Harvard and Rene Weis of University College London. He could have included Jonathan Bate of Warwick University.

Does it make any difference who wrote the great plays and poems? To his credit, Shapiro’s final words in his book are that it matters a lot, and that there is a choice to be made. It matters how we imagine the Elizabethan-Jacobean times and how they were different from our own. Most important, it matters how we are predisposed to read the plays—as by a dramatist who needed no life experience to write the works of Shakespeare but could imagine it all, or as by a dramatist whose life experience inspired, influenced and enriched the works of his imagination as he created great literature out of life. Shapiro calls it a stark and consequential choice, in contrast to most Stratfordian scholars, who don’t want there to be a choice at all.

Granted, there is much for Oxfordians to critique and rebut, including material omissions, unbalanced emphases, unsupported opinions, faulty judgments, the usual straw-man arguments, contradictory stances and some other clever rhetorical tactics. At times, his handling of evidence is so devious as to deftly conceal his errors of interpretation. Oxfordians would have preferred a book by a Shakespeare establishment professor that would open the door even wider to scholarly discussion of the evidence for Oxford as Shakespeare, but Shapiro’s is a big step in that direction.

On balance, Shapiro’s book might be considered good news for Oxfordians, who could have expected much harsher treatment by a scholar in the Shakespeare establishment. Shapiro shows a fair measure of appreciation for the Oxfordian proposition, and he freely acknowledges Oxfordian successes. That alone is reason enough to welcome his book. In addition, the book’s title and cover deliver a strong message of legitimacy for the authorship question.

Shapiro acknowledges that little is known about Shakspere as Shakespeare. He takes very seriously the notable people who became skeptical of Shakspere and supported Oxford. He acknowledges that the correspondences between Oxford’s life and Shakespeare’s works were found persuasive. He does not resort to sarcasm, as have S. Schoenbaum and other hard-line Stratfordians, and he deplores the imaginary biographies of Shakspere by Greenblatt and Weis.

Shapiro observes that the long-standing taboo against authorship studies in most of academia has not made the question go away, and acknowledges that the case for Oxford has achieved some legitimacy in academia. Oxford is the most successful candidate, and the issue is attracting more people than ever before. The Internet has created a level playing field for Oxfordians.

In sum, the very fact that that a tenured professor of English and comparative literature at Columbia University, a leading Shakespeare scholar, and the author of two other books on Shakespeare,would devote three or four years to researching and writing a book on the authorship controversy will give greater prominence to the Shakespeare authorship issue. Shapiro’s book may persuade general readers who love Shakespeare to look into the authorship controversy and the case for Oxford. It may inspire more professors of English literature and Renaissance history to consider authorship a legitimate subject for research and study, doctoral theses, scholarly journal articles, and more books like Professor James Shapiro’s Contested Will: Who Wrote Shakespeare?.

Richard F. Whalen is the author of
Shakespeare: Who Was He?: The Oxford Challenge to the Bard of Avon, co-editor with Professor Daniel Wright of The Oxfordian Shakespeare Series, editor/ annotator with Ren Draya of Othello and editor/annotator of Macbeth in the series. He is past president of the Shakespeare Oxford Society and a regular contributor to the Shakespeare Oxford Newsletter.

Note March 28, 2008:
Robert Detobel has translated Richard Whalen’s English-language review of James Shapiro’s new book, Contested Will: Who Wrote Shakespeare?, into German and Whalen’s review is now available on the German-language Shake-speare Today website.

Richard Whalens Rezension von James Shapiros neuem Buch Contested Will: Who Wrote Shakespeare? wurde von Robert Detobel ins Deutsche übersetzt und ist jetzt auf der deutschsprachigen Internetseite Shake-speare Today zugänglich.

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