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Contested Will, By James Shapiro

Reviewed by Boyd Tonkin

Published 07/01/2011

Shapiro's irresistible proof that – shock! – Shakespeare wrote his own works hums with learning and panache.

No scholar has ever given such polite yet ruthless scrutiny to the mind-boggling 150-year record of snobbery and delusion behind the claims that either Francis Bacon or the Earl of Oxford pulled off the scam of the ages while having plays "delivered surreptitiously to the stage door of the Globe".

Shakespeare was never an alias, but often a collaborator: this vivid account of collective play-making renders the conspiracy theories even more laughable.

No one has better accounted for the big fat lie of the "authorship controversy". Shapiro cogently shows that both sceptics and old-style Bardolaters share similar fantasies about solitary and secret genius.

Belfast Telegraph

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