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on 17 April 2012
It's really good to see a non-literary critic look at the evidence about Shakespeare's identity. Given that literary critics have a vested interest, I was very glad to read this book, which is by a scientist, a problem-solver, and a chess player (all the same person). the facts are looked at and conclusions drawn.

These conclusions mean that I can never again accept that Shakspere of Stratford wrote the wonderful plays of Shakespeare. However, I'm not too bothered about that. We have the plays and they don't get any less important simply by debunking the myth of who wrote them. People interested in this might like to watch the film "Anonymous" which is on the same topic. It starts with Derek Jacobi reading the prologue, so presumably he also doubts canonical theories.

Pointon gives us a very good example of the emperor having no clothes. The myth has been going so long that it would be impossible to drop it now, even if everyone agreed on the what the 'evidence' actually means.

Another good aspect of this book is that it shows us that Shakspere of Stratford was an interesting person in his own right, and that his identity has been stolen. The book returns this identity to him.

A very good read, inspiring us to look elsewhere for ideas about who the real Shakespeare might be.
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on 19 March 2012
Firstly, it is important to set out what this book is not. This is not a biography of "William Shakespeare" and nor does it seek to demonstrate who Shakespeare may have been if not yer man from Stratford. What it attempts and succeeds very well in doing is to prove that William Shakspere (sic) could not possibly have been the same person as the pseudonymous and world-famous playwright William Shake-speare (sic). It seeks to restore to Shakspere, an illiterate, successful merchant and theatrical player, his true identity; a man worthy of study and respect in his own right. This is not something that to my knowledge has ever been attempted before in one volume and is therefore to be commended for that to begin with. Pointon demonstrates a vast and encyclopedic knowledge of Shakespeare scholarship while wearing it very lightly; a neat trick if you can pull it off and he does so admirably. He exhibits a very dry wit and somewhat exasperated temperament in regard to the alleged scholarship of the Stratfordian orthodoxy, for what truly shocked me was the sheer fragility of their argument. Can it really be that so much is founded upon so little? Apparently so, and Pointon presents us with a juggernaut of hard evidence to prove that their preferred candidate is absolutely the least likely. In seeking to defend their man they will, as Pointon remonstrates, merely pick holes in the arguments of the supporters of other candidates as though that strengthens their case. It doesn't. Not one iota, in fact.

Personally, I have never fallen for the canard that the authorship question is motivated by snobbery. There is nothing to preclude a humble soul from a West Midlands market town in the early modern period from being a literary genius (if they could write...) but if that was so then they would have written about what they knew about such as... life in a West Midlands market town in the early modern period. Genius and education are not the same thing. There was simply no opportunity in those days to "pick up" esoteric knowledge in the way that we can today. Where was he supposed to have gotten his world-class education from? Word-of-mouth? Chapbooks?? Put it this way: if no one ever had the faintest clue as to who Shakespeare was meant to have been and then someone came along proposing Shakspere as a candidate, would they deserve to be taken seriously?

Hardly, methinks.

So who knows? Perhaps, one day, we will be able to restore William Shakspere's bust to it's rightful place within his memorial at Holy Trinity Church, Stratford-upon-Avon, and relegate the "self-satisfied pork-butcher" to some dusty corner of a local museum. This book is a masterclass in how to conduct scholarship and if only it were all so then entirely new vistas would open up before us... It is a pleasure to read; the tone is calm, authoritative and quite without any axe to grind. There's no need; it's simply a case of stating the facts. As for production values, this is a well furnished paperback with only a very few typos. I noted the use of raised ink upon the cover... Quality!

Pointon takes us by the hand and leads us through the streets of Stratford; he'll show you something to make you change your mind...
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on 3 May 2012
This book lays out the bare facts relating to Shakspere of Stratford and proves beyond reasonable doubt that he was not the great dramatist. The name Shakespeare was a pseodonym. Exactly why Shakspere of Stratford was 'framed' (after his death) was argued less convincingly in this brilliant, analytical book, and I lost some of the plot in the fine detail: for example, about the Stratford Monument. In other words, where there are facts, the case Pointon argues seems unshakeable, but I hope he goes on to prove in a similar way who the real writer was! Compulsive reading! Everyone should buy it!
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on 31 May 2012
This is a very useful book: offering clarity and forensic examination of the facts. Three quarters of this book is excellent. It is in the latter part that I suspect a hidden bias begins to distort the material. I wonder whether Pointon is a supporter of Oxford as the true author. He seems to plead his case and set up doubts of the orthodox chronology of the works of Shakespeare in order to manage the fact that Oxford died in 1604, thus making it impossible for him to write Macbeth and other late plays. There is good evidence for the dating of the late plays. He dismisses Cardenio/Double Falshood and this prejudice is not justified as a careful examination of DF shows it containes the remains of a Shakespeare-Fletcher text (see the new Arden edition). The Two Noble Kinsmen contains material reflecting the imprisonment of Overbury which dates that play to 1613. So this book is a valuable addition to the literature building on Diana Price's book (Shakespeare's Unorthodox Biography, which he quotes). There are a couple of mistakes I spotted: Bacon was NOT the owner of the Northumberland Manuscript (page 210). The owner was Henry Neville. There were marked dissimilarities between the character of Edward de Vere and that we can summise of Shakespeare and their poetry was very different (page 213). I therefore suspect Pointon is preparing the way for Oxford to be recognised as the bard. However the evidence for Henry Neville (whose dates and experiences are a much better fit) is much stronger and more evidence is emerging. Nevertheless I can recommend this book: it rings the death knell of the Stratfordian myth and does so with clear evidence well presented.
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on 4 May 2012
I read this book after seeing the positive review of it by Alexander Waugh in the Wall Street Journal, and was not disappointed. It systematically takes to pieces the theory that Shakespeare was a man from Stratford whose family name was Shakspere. By tackling all the accrued "evidence" that has been invented over the years, item by item, the author gives a fair overview of the best candidates to be Shakespeare, but perhaps has held back his view of which is the real one for another volume.
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on 24 April 2012
This book is a very odd mixture. Some of Pointon's judgments, on broad issues, are wild and speculative. On the other hand when he gets into nitty gritty evidence he is generally accurate and sometimes very helpful which may perhaps reflect his background---not as a Shakespeare scholar---as an engineer, physicist and a member of ACAS a board of arbitration.

On the wild and speculative side he claims that it is not "entirely ridiculous" to think of Queen Elizabeth, the best educated best informed woman of her time as "a rival to William Shakspere" of Stratford for having written the plays. This is an extremely poor judgment---as he later notes she died in 1603 and could therefore not have made the final revisions to Hamlet (let alone written plays like Cymbeline that were written after that date). So in my judgment the proposition certainly is ridiculous. Similarly with Marlowe, Pointon wonders in an appendix if the circumstances surrounding Marlowe's death were "a cover-up for Marlowe faking his own death." He even concludes that the wound described in the coroner's report "was probably made on the body post-mortem" for which he provides not the slightest evidence, nor does he suggest a real cause of death. The circumstances of having Marlowe and three men spend eight hours parading around the town in a visible way, fit equally well with a plot to show him having been killed accidentally in a quarrel, as well as they do a cover-up plot of faking his death. To take yet another example Pointon argues that the dedication to the First Folio about "country hands" is a jibe by Ben Jonson at Heminges, a grocer. In fact it is well known that this part of the preface is a parody of the dedication of Pliny's Natural History.

Pointon is more at home on boring historical details concerning the life of the Man From Stratford, and indeed provides a useful Annex of key dates. Much of the book is concerned to show that the Man From Stratford was associated with the name `Shakspere' and not the name ` Shakespeare'. Pointon also argues that he was likely illiterate. This is a bad judgment since as an actor the Man from Stratford would necessarily have been literate in order to read his role/roll script. As to the name, in Pointon's own Annex there is evidence that his brother Edmund was buried in 1607 under the name `Shakespeare', in December 1607. It was as Shakespeare that William appeared to collect money in 1595 for a performance at Court the previous year, and the same spelling appears in the Harrison law-suit of 1569 (which Pointon forgets to mention) in which his father was referred to as `Shakespeare' from "Stratford Upon Haven". So although the dominant spelling of his family name was Shakspere, there certainly were times when it was spelt `Shakespeare'.

There is no evidence to support Pointon's contention that in 1623 when the First Folio was being compiled that there was a sudden effort to associate the name that had appeared on the Quartos, with the actor in the former Chamberlain's Men. Pointon supplies not the slightest evidence as to why such an attempt would have been made. It is much more likely that in his time in London, Mr Shackspere was indeed the actor who everyone believed to have written the Shakespeare plays. Indeed the First Folio preface by Heming and Condell describe how they received the play scripts from him.

Whether he actually wrote those scripts, or was a broker for another learned brain, is quite another--and more interesting--- matter and I wish that Pointon had focused more on that.
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on 12 May 2012
This is an excellent and unbiased attempt to drill down into the known facts about the player from Stratford and to see what actual evidence there is that he wrote the plays by `William Shakespeare'.

This author has no academic brief or pre-conceived notions so he starts his investigations neither a member of the faithful nor a heretic on the Authorship question.

The outcome is a book which comprehensively demolishes the notion that the bloke from Stratford was the author behind the pseudonym Shakespeare.

This is an excellent book, true believers in William S from Stratford will not be influenced, a faith is emotional not rational.

The rest of us can really enjoy the possibilities that are opened up by the authorship mystery that is revealed. I challenge anyone to remain convinced of the conventional view about Shakespeare once they have read this book.
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on 15 January 2016
A very intricate view of W.S.who the author gives his option on his life and work.
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on 26 February 2013
Makes a very strong case that William Shakspere of Stratford upon Avon was not the author "William Shakespeare".

A first class read. Highly recommended.
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on 6 June 2015
Another great book against William Shakspere.
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