Contested Will: Who Wrote Shakespeare? by James Shapiro - review by Katherine Duncan-Jones

Katherine Duncan-Jones

Much Ado About Nothing

Contested Will: Who Wrote Shakespeare?


Faber and Faber 367pp £20

I approached this book with a heavy heart. Why should such an able scholar as James Shapiro devote a whole book to the non-question of who wrote Shakespeare? Didn’t Samuel Schoenbaum cover the Baconians et al in great detail in his Shakespeare’s Lives (1970)? And in the end, how much does ‘authorship’ matter? 

I am delighted to confess that my instinct was wrong. The self-contradictory subtitle ‘Who Wrote Shakespeare?’ turns out to be a line spoken by a foolish character in a play called High Life Below Stairs, written as long ago as 1759. Schoenbaum’s book is indeed weighty and, in

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