The Apocryphal William Shakespeare by Sabrina Feldman

The Apocryphal William Shakespeare

From the "A 'Third Way' Shakespeare Authorship Scenario" series, volume 1
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Another painstakingly detailed argument that questions the authorship of works attributed to William Shakespeare.

In this debut history book, Feldman digs through stacks of Elizabethan poetry, long-forgotten plays, and the collection of works including A Midsummer Night’s Dream and As You Like It to argue that while the Stratford-born actor William Shakespeare wrote a series of undistinguished plays, someone else wrote the plays and sonnets generally admired as his works. Feldman’s candidate for the true author is nobleman Thomas Sackville, a theory she develops further in the book’s sequel, Thomas Sackville and the Shakespearean Glass Slipper. To support her interpretation of literary history, Feldman draws on a close reading of the Shakespeare Apocrypha, a group of works attributed to Shakespeare in the 1600s but generally discounted by subsequent scholars. Feldman’s theory also draws heavily on assumptions: events “probably” or “likely” occurred as the book describes them more than 120 times. Some of the inferences are entirely plausible (Thomas Sackville concealed his writing career because it was inconsistent with his status as a courtier), while others require a higher degree of credulity (“One suspects the man’s physical appearance was fairly typical for an Elizabethan, and that Greene simply couldn’t stand the sight of him”). Feldman’s theory also relies on literary analysis to establish conclusions about actual events, requiring the reader to assume quite a bit about authorial intention (“Pistol’s feisty lines convey the sense of an older playwright deciding to show the newcomers he could still write circles around them”). While the book rests on a solid base of documentary evidence and previous scholarship, Feldman’s decision to forego footnotes for an appendix of chapter notes and to “not attempt to document well-established historical facts or common scholarly opinions” make it challenging for readers less familiar with the source material to verify the book’s interpretations.

A complex theory depending on many assumptions presents the not-entirely-implausible contention that William Shakespeare did not write his famous plays.

Pub Date: Oct. 25th, 2011
ISBN: 978-1-45-750721-2
Page count: 376pp
Publisher: Dog Ear
Program: Kirkus Indie
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