For two hundred years after William Shakespeare's death, no one thought to argue that somebody else had written his plays. Since then dozens of rival candidates - including The Earl of Oxford, Sir Francis Bacon and Christopher Marlowe - have been proposed as their true author. Contested Will unravels the mystery of when and why so many people began to question whether Shakespeare wrote the plays (among them such leading writers and artists as Sigmund Freud, Henry James, Mark Twain, Helen Keller, Orson Welles, and Sir Derek Jacobi).
Shakespeare scholar James Shapiro's fascinating search for the source of this controversy retraces a path strewn with fabricated documents, calls for trials, false claimants, concealed identity, bald-faced deception and a failure to grasp what could not be imagined. If Contested Will does not end the authorship question once and for all, it will nonetheless irrevocably change the nature of the debate by confronting what's really contested: are the plays and poems of Shakespeare autobiographical, and if so, do they hold the key to the question of who wrote them?
'[Shapiro] writes erudite, undumbed-down history that . . . reads as fluidly as a good novel.' David Mitchell, The Guardian
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'I devoured this book. Shapiro guides us through this strange history with a beguiling mixture of scepticism and sympathy. Packed with many fine pen-portraits, it's a timely contribution to a vexed debate.' --Simon Russell Beale
'Shapiro's book is… authoritative, lucid and devastatingly funny, and its brief concluding statement of the case for Shakespeare is masterly.' --Peter Carey, Sunday Times
'Unlike most other books on the subject ... it is a pleasure to read. Like its splendid predecessor, 1599: A year in the Life of William Shakespeare (2005), it is briskly paced, cleverly detailed, elegantly argued, and never forgets that for all the complexities and quiddities of the material, the writing of history is essentially the telling of a story (or in this case, the story of a story).' --Charles Nicholl, Times Literary Supplement
Contested Will: Who Wrote Shakespeare? is James Shapiro's investigation into who wrote Shakespeare's plays, from the bestselling author of 1599.
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