(Robert Gore-Langton’s article appeared in Newsweek, 12/29; via Patricia N.Saffran.)

The greatest ongoing investigation in literary history has been caused entirely by William Shakespeare’s thoughtlessness. He left no paper trail. Not a single poem or letter or play has ever been found in his own hand. We have just six shaky signatures. His will mentions no books, plays or anything else to suggest the balding Stratford businessman was also a writer.

His personality, love interests, movements are all a total mysery. The documents relating to his life are all of a legal nature. Nobody ever recognised Shakespeare as a writer during his lifetime and when he died, in 1616, no one seemed to notice. Not a single letter refers to the great author’s passing at the time.

Now, a new book has fanned the flames of treason by saying that Shakespeare of Stratford, far from being the most colossal literary genius of all time, was a provincial Midlands nobody who could barely write his name. Shakespeare in Court by Alexander Waugh is written in a mock trial format. It sifts the evidence and, without putting forward any other candidate, asserts that there are plenty of reasons to think Shakespeare was a front man or pseudonym for some highly educated, well-travelled courtier, who preferred to keep his identity secret in an age when pen-names were common.


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