Shakespeare scholar takes on authorship issue

Author James Shapiro, whose 1599: A Year in the Life of William Shakespeare, delighted the literary world, has a new book, this time investigating whether the Bard of Stratford-upon-Avon actually wrote his plays. Robert McCrum of The Observer has a review.

From the review of Contested Will: Who Wrote Shakespeare? :

Into this vacuum, a bizarre fraternity, including Mark Twain, Charlie Chaplin, Orson Welles and Sigmund Freud, have projected a "Shakespeare" written by a more obviously accomplished writer: Edward de Vere (the 17th earl of Oxford), Sir Francis Bacon and the playwright Christopher Marlowe, to name the leading contenders in a field that also includes Sir Walter Raleigh, John Donne and even Elizabeth, the Virgin Queen herself.

This is the delusional world that Shapiro has chosen to explore in Contested Will. He justifies his investigation with an assertion of scholarly daring – "this subject remains virtually taboo in academic circles" – and claims that his interest is less in what people think about the authorship question, more why they think it. "My attitude", he goes on, "derives from living in a world in which truth is too often seen as relative and in which mainstream media are committed to showing both sides of every story."