In his search for the historical Bard of Avon, religious historian Wilson (Jesus: The Evidence, 1991) penetrates the Elizabethan stage's shadow world with some success but tendentiously turns Shakespeare into a cypher for crypto-Catholic theories. Beginning with scholarly straw men (the Francis Bacon theories of authorship and the Stratford tourism version of Shakespeare), Wilson delves deeply into Shakespeare studies to recreate the world of the acting company, suggesting with some justification that the apprentice bard may have acted more important roles in much more elaborate and historically accurate productions in the newly discovered Rose theater than previously believed; Wilson also describes the bustling Elizabethan literary life of competitive poets and noble patrons. In a conjectural opening move for his crypto-Catholic theory, Wilson proposes the possibly recusant noble Ferdinando Stanley as Shakespeare's mysterious first patron who introduced him into the conspiracy-ridden court scene, which would later involve the playwright with the Essex rebellion. While Wilson rightly cites the uncertain post-Reformation stance of provincial Stratford, he oversimplifies the breadth and complexity of the Elizabethan experience with Catholic revisionism and reads highly tenuous interpretations into Shakespeare's texts, such as dubious references to Mary, Queen of Scots in King John or a pro-Jesuit reading of the porter scene in Macbeth. Most disingenuously Wilson obscures well-known evidence conflicting with his theory: He avoids the paper trail of an early multi-authored play, The Booke of Sir Thomas More, that links Shakespeare with Anthony Munday, a literary hack whom Wilson consistently vilifies for his pro-Protestant Elizabethan espionage; and he omits the fact that the London family whom Shakespeare lodged with for many years were Huguenots—which would have been an absurd risk for a recusant. Despite unearthing some controversial historical possibilities, Wilson ultimately displays as much wishful thinking in making Shakespeare a crypto-Catholic as others have in attributing his plays to Francis Bacon. (54 b&w photos, not seen; 14 figures)

Pub Date: Dec. 5, 1994

ISBN: 0-312-11335-8

Page Count: 512

Publisher: St. Martin's

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 1994

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet

If the authors are serious, this is a silly, distasteful book. If they are not, it’s a brilliant satire.


The authors have created a sort of anti-Book of Virtues in this encyclopedic compendium of the ways and means of power.

Everyone wants power and everyone is in a constant duplicitous game to gain more power at the expense of others, according to Greene, a screenwriter and former editor at Esquire (Elffers, a book packager, designed the volume, with its attractive marginalia). We live today as courtiers once did in royal courts: we must appear civil while attempting to crush all those around us. This power game can be played well or poorly, and in these 48 laws culled from the history and wisdom of the world’s greatest power players are the rules that must be followed to win. These laws boil down to being as ruthless, selfish, manipulative, and deceitful as possible. Each law, however, gets its own chapter: “Conceal Your Intentions,” “Always Say Less Than Necessary,” “Pose as a Friend, Work as a Spy,” and so on. Each chapter is conveniently broken down into sections on what happened to those who transgressed or observed the particular law, the key elements in this law, and ways to defensively reverse this law when it’s used against you. Quotations in the margins amplify the lesson being taught. While compelling in the way an auto accident might be, the book is simply nonsense. Rules often contradict each other. We are told, for instance, to “be conspicuous at all cost,” then told to “behave like others.” More seriously, Greene never really defines “power,” and he merely asserts, rather than offers evidence for, the Hobbesian world of all against all in which he insists we live. The world may be like this at times, but often it isn’t. To ask why this is so would be a far more useful project.

If the authors are serious, this is a silly, distasteful book. If they are not, it’s a brilliant satire.

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 1998

ISBN: 0-670-88146-5

Page Count: 430

Publisher: Viking

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 1998

Did you like this book?

The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the...


Elie Wiesel spent his early years in a small Transylvanian town as one of four children. 

He was the only one of the family to survive what Francois Maurois, in his introduction, calls the "human holocaust" of the persecution of the Jews, which began with the restrictions, the singularization of the yellow star, the enclosure within the ghetto, and went on to the mass deportations to the ovens of Auschwitz and Buchenwald. There are unforgettable and horrifying scenes here in this spare and sombre memoir of this experience of the hanging of a child, of his first farewell with his father who leaves him an inheritance of a knife and a spoon, and of his last goodbye at Buchenwald his father's corpse is already cold let alone the long months of survival under unconscionable conditions. 

The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the sphere of suffering shared, and in this case extended to the death march itself, there is no spiritual or emotional legacy here to offset any reader reluctance.

Pub Date: Jan. 16, 2006

ISBN: 0374500010

Page Count: 120

Publisher: Hill & Wang

Review Posted Online: Oct. 7, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2006

Did you like this book?