Books April 2002
Much virtue in “if”
A review of Ungentle Shakespeare: Scenes from his Life, by Katherine Duncan-Jones.
Katherine Duncan-Jones must be granted a certain originality. There cannot be many Shakespeare scholars who combine a refusal to accept that Hand D in the manuscript of Sir Thomas More has been demonstrated beyond reasonable doubt to be Shakespeare’s, with a willingness to believe that he might have been part-author of a run-of-the-mill domestic drama of c. 1605 called A Yorkshire Tragedy. When, moreover, we find Duncan-Jones misquoting the editors of the latter play—attributing to them the statement that “there is very strong evidence” for Shakespeare’s authorship when they actually say “there is apparently very strong external evidence” (italics added)—and failing to acknowledge that they are not persuaded by this evidence, we are less than impressed. This curious combination of wariness and rashness occurs elsewhere in Ungentle Shakespeare. She...
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