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Shakespeare By Another Name

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Most Helpful Favorable Review

1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

OXFORD, STEP FORTH!

Once a hobbyhorse for eccentrics, the debate over who really wrote Shakespeare has evolved rapidly into the Copernican revolution of literary history. Other claimants, like Francis Bacon, have faded, leaving as sole alternative Edward de Vere, 17th Earl of Oxfor...
Once a hobbyhorse for eccentrics, the debate over who really wrote Shakespeare has evolved rapidly into the Copernican revolution of literary history. Other claimants, like Francis Bacon, have faded, leaving as sole alternative Edward de Vere, 17th Earl of Oxford (1550-1604), one of the most brilliant and complex figures of the Elizabethan world. Despite shelves of absurdly confident bios of the alleged author from Stratford, we still know very little about him the last shred of evidence was unearthed in 1909, with nothing new since. There is no firm evidence that Stratford ever professed as a writer, and he left a poorly- written will with no mention of books, manuscripts, or literary rights. By contrast (and without necessarily taking sides), postwar Renaissance scholars have steadily amassed a mountain of hard biographical data on Oxford, once shadowy and unknown, to the point where insisting that Stratford created this corpus now looks decidedly more far-fetched than claiming Oxford did so. After Joseph Sobran's 1997 'Alias Shakespeare,' the best brief on the Oxford case, we needed a detailed biography of the man himself, and now we have it. Like Sobran, Mark Anderson is a journalist who undertook years of research outside academe from him we get the fresh viewpoint of a smart, hard-working amateur. 'Shakespeare By Another Name' is one of the richest and best written Elizabethan biographies to appear in recent years. Born to a top feudal dynasty, Edward de Vere got one of the most brilliant educations in Renaissance England. Fluent in Latin and French before ten, Oxford became a grandee who knew everyone and went everywhere. Through 400 pages and extensive notes, Anderson shows how concretely these experiences were embedded in the plays and sonnets. 'Hamlet,' for instance, is filled with allusions to Oxford's life. Orthodox scholars accept that Polonius lampooned Elizabeth's chief minister, who was also Oxford's foster father. Anderson details how Hamlet's bickering with Polonius incorporates phrasing from private letters between the author and his foster father, letters a rank-and-file actor from Stratford could not have seen. And the dating of the plays is largely baseless, crammed into the years we know Stratford acted in London. Thus, 'King Lear' is dated 1605, even though theater manager and diarist Philip Henslowe enjoyed it in 1594! With Oxford as author, new layers of depth and meaning suddenly open: this courtier's world appears in his work as allegory or satire behind many characters we see real people Oxford knew. So many unsolved problems of the 1623 Stratford attribution--a scam we now understand clearly--are solved at a stroke by restoring Oxford as author. For the Oxford Movement, Anderson's book is a big, beautifully wrought step forward. This movement aims to bring a titanic figure back from consigned oblivion--an act of supreme literary justice.

posted by Anonymous on August 10, 2006

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Most Helpful Critical Review

1 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

A Waste of Paper

This book is a waste of paper and the time to read it. No stars would be my choice. Mark Anderson, who has no background in literature or theatre, repeats the same old same old that the Oxford crowd has been trying to get people to believe since 1920. At first...
This book is a waste of paper and the time to read it. No stars would be my choice. Mark Anderson, who has no background in literature or theatre, repeats the same old same old that the Oxford crowd has been trying to get people to believe since 1920. At first glance, Anderson's book looks impressive, but a closer look shows that it's a house of cards. Time and time again, Anderson's claims have been debunked. There are no links from Oxford to Shakespeare or to the Shakespeare canon.

posted by Anonymous on August 24, 2005

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  • Posted March 16, 2012

    I'm afraid I don't share the previous reviewer's effusive evalua

    I'm afraid I don't share the previous reviewer's effusive evaluation of this book. While the documented details of Oxford's life were interesting, and some of the similarities between events in his life and the events in Shakespeare's plays were certainly intriguing, the author's laborious attempts to assign particular roles in the plays to people in Oxford's circle of acquaintance - particularly his wife, father-in-law and Queen Elizabeth herself - were almost laughable. (I kept imagining a similar book that postulated Benjamin Disraeli as the author of Dickens' works, equating Miss Havisham with Queen Victoria.) Because the author takes it as a given that the Earl of Oxford wrote Shakespeare's plays, anyone who doesn't automatically share his point-of-view may well find this book somewhat tedious. It would be a valuable addition to the Shakespearean authorship controversy to have a scholarly and unbiased appraisal of Oxford's life, but this is not it.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted November 10, 2006

    Bacon by Another Name

    Mark Anderson's book is not convincing. What I expected to find was evidence like Bacon's Promus Notebook where hundreds of actual phrases from the Shakespeare works can be found preceding publication and performance of every play. This Promus Notebook is the only shakespeare diary on record and is clear evidence that Bacon was behind the works. Anderson's book produces circumstantial evidence that can easily be matched by the circumstances surrounding Bacon. For example,, Anderson makes much ado about DeVere's connection with Lord Burleigh,treasurer under Elizabeth I aka, William Cecil, and probable character Polonius in Hamlet. Bacon's Uncle was the same Lord Burleigh and so the emphasis on this point is muted. Oxfordians like to streamline what they know and they know very little as compared to the evidence for Francis Bacon's authorship

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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