Customer Review

4.0 out of 5 stars Could the sweet swan of Avon be a woman?, 23 May 2013
This review is from: Sweet Swan of Avon: Did a Woman Write Shakespeare? (Paperback)
I am very interested in the subject of Shakespearean authorship, and have read many books on the topic.

Why should you be sceptical of Shakespeare as an author?

If you are like me you may assume that the person who wrote Shakespeare was University educated. Yet there is no evidence even that he attended grammar school. If he had attended University either Oxford or Cambridge would have claimed him. Yet the plays express scholarly values and some even feature scholars as main characters.

What of connection with patrons?

Other than the first two poems Venus and Adonis and Rape of Lucrece both dedicated to the Earl of Southampton, there is no documented record of any correspondence between Shakespeare and Southampton.

What about his will?

His will does not mention a single poem or piece of literature, and assumming the writer of the plays had books yet William Shakspeare does not bequeath any literature in his will.

What about about evidence of writing?

Not a single handwriting example exists that can be said to be Shakspeare. Only six signature said to be his exist, and even these are inconsistent and experts cannot agree that all are his. The method of making out the signature compared to well known writers of the era is considered by some not to be that of a writer.

What about references from other poets?

Considering the supposed fame of Shakespeare there is only one reference to Shakespeare by other poets following his death in 1616 and the publication of the First Folio in 1623. Even though Shakespearean scholarship has determined that he cowrote plays with Fletcher Wilkins and Middleton, and a poem named Ghost of Lucrece a response to Rape of Lucrece has been attributed to Middleton, none of his reputed cowriters had a thing to say about his death. A shroud of poetic silence concerning his death.

The Pembrokes were the patrons for the 1623 Folio and Ben Jonson's First Folio of 1616, and Ben Jonson wrote the famous eulogy. However, Shakespearean scholars would point you away from Jonson's poem 'On Poet Ape' of 1616 which
appears to be a diatribe about Shakespeare. One has to wonder why Jonson would be asked to write a eulogy where he praises Shakespeare yet makes sarcastic comments such as: "I confess thy works to be such as neither man nor muse can praise too much," and undercuts him 'little knew he Latin and less Greek'.

What of this book?

The evidence supporting the candidacy of Mary Sidney as the writer of the plays is not as ludicrous as it might seem. A piece called the Tragedy of Antonie was published under her name, and another piece The tragedy of Cleopatra was published by her protege Samuel Daniel. Another piece by Daniel the Civil Wars is a source for several Shakespeare plays. There is some speculation that she may have written portions of work by Philip Sidney her brother after his death.

I would consider her as a stronger candidate for authorship than say DeVere whose adherents rely on commonalities in the events of DeVere's life and parallels with the plays. However with Mary Sidney actual published source material constitutes some strong if not overwhelming evidence. So I do consider this book worth a read if you are interested in this topic.

Another book I enjoyed was North of Shakespeare / The True Story of the Secret Genius Who Wrote the World's Greatest Body of Literature which puts the case for Sir Thomas North. Several plays such as Julius Caesar, Timon of Athens, and Antony and Cleopatra did use North, the translator of Plutarch's Lives as a source occasionally copying pasages from prose into verse and dialogue almost verbatim.

I think you will enjoy it and I hope this was helpful.
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