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Shakespeare's Unorthodox Biography: New…

Shakespeare's Unorthodox Biography: New Evidence of an Authorship Problem…

by Diana Price

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This is a calm and well-constructed analysis of the facts of Shakespeare's life and a fair and even handed appraisal of the "Shakespeare authorship problem". Mrs. Price has no axe to grind. She started the book with a view to disproving the seemingly ludicrous claim - that "Shakespeare" was not the author of the plays that bear his name - however like so many individuals who take the time to delve into the Stratfordian dogma she has found herself in a can of worms.

What she manages to do in a robust and intelligent way is prise the facts from the fiction that surrounds Shakespeare's life. She quotes; Mark Twain

"Shall I set down the rest of the Conjectures which constitute the giant Biography of William Shakespeare? It would strain the Unabridged Dictionary to hold them. He is a Brontosaur: nine bones and six hundred barrels of plaster of Paris."

Her "Unorthodox Biography" is a breath of fresh air and clarity, unorthodox also in that unlike the vast deluge of fabrication and supposition that seeps from the pens of his most fawning biographers, Mrs. Price sticks to the facts; an almost unique accomplishment for a biography of Shakespeare.

This book offers no challenges to those "true believers" convinced of Stratfordian claims or otherwise because she brings little “new evidence” to the debate. What she does do however is reshuffle the deck and discard a multitude of jokers, she also clearly points out the many marked cards inserted over the years by Stratfordian fundamentalists and wishful thinkers. Not so much new evidence as drawing attention to past perjury. What we have for the first time is perhaps an unstacked deck and an even playing field.

Mrs. Price’s lack of biographical fabrication, supposition, crackpot theorizing and distortion is a welcome respite from orthodox biographies and the long list of “alternative” authors. She fairly addresses Shakespeare’s alleged lack of education, lack of books or correspondence and a functionally illiterate family. It is not that these "facts" are in dispute but that orthodox biographies so often gloss over them to invent a rich and vibrant mythology from a few bare threads..

It is a scholarly work that might well invite peevish attacks from true believers, but it does an excellent job of separating the facts from the greater body of fiction that surrounds Shakespeare's life. In presenting those facts without embellishment Price allows the reader to make up his or her own mind. Something that should find favour on both sides of the authorship divide. The book is well researched, scholarly and erudite but its presentation might not be too welcome in the Stratford camp; it does suggest that the emperor, if not entirely naked, is at best wearing only a very small and shrinking fig leaf. ( )
1 vote flocky | Feb 16, 2011 |
Despite the subtitle, "new evidence" is in scant supply here. The author constructs an elaborate, arbitrary, internally inconsistent argumentum ex silentio to "prove" that William Shakespeare of Stratford-upon-Avon could not have written anything. My review is at http://stromata.tripod.com/id115.htm ( )
  TomVeal | Jul 1, 2006 |
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0313312028, Hardcover)

As the world's greatest author, Shakespeare has attracted attention from scholars and laypersons alike. But more and more people have questioned whether the historical Shakespeare wrote the plays popularly attributed to him. While other books on the subject have argued that some other particular person, such as the Earl of Oxford, wrote the plays, this is the first book in over 80 years to comprehensively revisit the authorship question without an ideological bias, the first to introduce new evidence, and the first to undertake a systematic comparative analysis with other literary biographies. It successfully argues that William Shakespeare was the pen name of an aristocrat, and that William Shakespeare of Stratford was a shrewd entrepreneur, not a dramatist.

Price exposes numerous logical fallacies, contradictions, and sins of omission in the traditional accounts of Shakespeare's whereabouts; his professional activities; his personality profile; the play chronology; autobiographical echoes in the plays; the dramatist's education and cultural sophistication; circumstances of publication of the plays and poetry; and the testimony of his supposed literary colleagues, such as Ben Jonson. New or previously ignored documentation is used to reconstruct Shakespeare's career as a businessman, investor, theater shareholder, real estate tycoon, commodity trader, money-lender, and actor, but not a writer. In fact, Shakespeare is the only alleged writer from his time for whom no contemporaneous literary paper trail survives.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:19:33 -0400)

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