3.5 out of 5 stars.
I would rather have teeth pulled than read another book disputing whether the fellow from Stratford wrote
the plays of William Shakespeare. This is not merely a figure of speech: I had
two wisdom teeth extracted a few weeks ago and it was way more fun than reading
yet another book saying that a grammar school dolt from the sticks simply could not have written such superb plays. But what if he did?
Fortunately, this is not such a book. The author goes at the question in a roundabout way, examining apocryphal plays which may have been written by the young Shakespeare. If they were, why were they so clumsy and how did Shakespeare get so good in only a few years?
Furthermore, why were some of his contemporaries so hostile to him in print? There seem to be quite a few snarky, encoded references to Shakespeare as a plagiarist and some hints that Thomas Sackville did write the better plays, with W.S. as a front man to protect his position in court.
The problem is that this indirect evidence, which is so indirect that it might not be evidence at all, cannot prove anything. There are apparently 2 more volumes projected [note from S. Feldman -- only one, Thomas Sackville and the Shakespearean Glass Slipper] and I would like to read them, but piling up more indirect evidence still would not decide anything.
What would be required to reach any conclusions would be a stylometric analysis of Sackville's known works versus the Shakespeare plays. If such an analysis confirms the thesis of this book, I will give it more stars. If it shows the thesis is untenable, fewer stars.
Of course, the issue could also be decided if someone finds a holographic copy of Hamlet in Sackville's hand with a letter from Shakespeare thanking him for the play.
Barring one of these two means of deciding, the issue remains unresolved for me. What I do know is that this book surprised me by making the question of authorship of the Shakespeare plays respectable, in my opinion, for the first time.