Who Wrote Shakespeare?

Who Wrote Shakespeare?

by John Michell, John Michell


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Was the most famous poet and writer of all time a fraud and a plagiarist? Was Shakespeare the "upstart crow" described by Greene as strutting in borrowed feathers, or Jonson's "Poet-Ape" who patched plays together from others' work? These questions have been debated ever since the eighteenth century, when the writing styles of Marlowe and other playwrights were discerned in such plays as Titus Andronicus. The orthodox view is that the author of the works of Shakespeare was, of course, the actor and businessman of Statford-upon-Avon. But the known facts about this man are surprisingly meager and contrast puzzlingly with the learned, courtly philosopher revealed in the sonnets and plays--the universal genius and supreme stylist. John Michell's witty investigation of the theories and claims reads like a series of detective stories. By the end of the book even the most faithful disciples of the Bard will find themselves asking, "Who Wrote Shakespeare?"

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780500281130
Publisher: Thames & Hudson
Publication date: 07/28/1999
Pages: 274
Product dimensions: 6.69(w) x 9.61(h) x 0.58(d)

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Who Wrote Shakespeare 5 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 3 reviews.
brokenangelkisses on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
When I felt a fledgling desire to explore the issues surrounding the authorship of Shakespeare¿s plays, I quickly decided that I could do much worse than start with a novel labelled `the best overview yet of the authorship controversy¿ by the respectable Washington Post. Since my interest was born out of idle curiosity, rather than burgeoning belief in any particular conspiracy theory, I felt that an overview of the current state of affairs sounded perfect. I¿d never previously heard of John Michell, but a `quick scan¿ of this book in Waterstones led to me getting deeply engrossed in the evidence the author had to offer. I found this equally easy to read when I bought it home and completed it within a few days as I waited to discover Michell¿s conclusion. Was Shakespeare really the `upstart crow¿ or the `poet ape¿ his contemporaries suggested? Or, was he, as current orthodoxy has it, England¿s greatest literary genius?Now I have a rather shocking confession to make. As a pupil, student and finally teacher of English language and literature, I have never fallen in love with Shakespeare. (Cue horrified shrieks and gasps of `can we trust her to educate our children?¿ (You can, you know, although I admit to being fond of encouraging debate throughout the curriculum.)) Yes, he¿s a universal genius. Yes, his plays are as timely today as they ever were. I knew all of this, except that I didn¿t know it, not really. I knew it in much the same way that I know gravity exists: if I drop a glass, it falls (and usually smashes, damnit,); if I mention Shakespeare, someone reflexively splutters `genius, the greatest genius in English history¿in world history¿ever!¿ Yes, I¿d read several of the plays, even studied some of them, but personally I tended to prefer dramatists like Tenessee Williams, where I really believed in and felt for his characters and their situations. Where is she going with all this, you begin to wonder. Well, while reading this book, it was the first time I ever felt convinced that Shakespeare was a genius. As Michell clearly outlined the scope of Shakespeare¿s knowledge and showed how he was regarded in a wide range of fields, including seamanship, law and the classics, I discovered a new respect and genuine belief in this man¿s genius welling up in me. For someone who has always felt like a bit of a heretic ¿ a bit like someone who dares to claim not to really like chocolate or ice cream (I mean, are they normal???) then really enjoys a soft, sweet slice of triple chocolate cake ¿ it was a lovely moment. Personally, I¿d have bought the book for this revelation alone. But, delightfully, there was more.After carefully outlining Shakespeare¿s many virtues and skills, Michell then outlined the `normal¿ biography of `William Shakspere¿, the actor and business man who has become irrevocably associated with the talented playwright of the same name. Developing the investigation in this manner allowed the questions to show up starkly. How did a man so thoroughly business minded create such noble minded plays? Why did nobody mourn Shakspere¿s passing in 1616? Gradually, the conspiracy deepens. Could Shake-speare be a pseudonym for a somebody (or bodies) else? If so, who?I won¿t include many details about the ground Michell covers, or there¿d be less point in reading the book. Suffice it to say that he covers objectively each of the main candidates for the man behind the proposed mask. In doing so, he treats each case so gently and in such a balanced manner that I felt my convictions swaying towards each candidate in turn! In each chapter, Michell presents the case for the candidate, including their main proponents and a brief timeline of their life, then explores the objections or problems besieging their candidature, and finally offers a concise summary of the situation. In fact, a criticism of this book has been that, although he doesn¿t cover the more, shall we say, ¿unusual¿ candidates (such as Queen Elizabeth I), Michell is
juglicerr on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
This is a wonderful book for someone who wants to understand the Shakespearean author debate, without bogging themselves down in reading dozens, hundreds, thousands of books. The author does not read a definite conclusion, so the reader who is frustrated by explorations of open questions should avoid it. I don't think that would be worth the effort, but this is. Even though I don't actually think it is terribly important who wrote Shakespeare (either Shakespeare or someone who called himself Shakespeare, as they say of Homer) I find books like this that toss around ideas without taking sides fascinating. The book is lucid, thorough and restrained. The author offers a few comments and conclusions of his own, but in a very fairminded spirit. I learned a great deal about Shakespeare (or Shakspere) of Avon that I never knew, and about his times and contemporaries. I'd recommend it for anyone who is interested in Shakespeare, this era, or just likes to play with ideas. For the latter person, I'd also recommend Royal Blood; Richard III & the Mystery of the Princes by Bertram Fields. That is a trifle more partisan, but offers the same fun of juggling ideas.
jsoos on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
This is a great volume. An unbiased introduction to the authorship question and controversy surrounding Who really wrote Shakespeare? Michell provides a summary of the question and presents the main arguements for several leading candidates presented through history. Chock full of information with a bibliography containing more than 150 more volumes (for those of you who want to investigage further). This is a must-have volume if you are interested in Shakespeare!