James Shapiro believes, and so do I, that Shakespeare’s plays and poems were written, on the whole, by one William Shakespeare, “a young man of ill condition, a lout from Stratford,” as Henry James, in conversation with Percy Lubbock, quaintly called him. In Contested Will: Who Wrote Shakespeare? (2010), Professor Shapiro examined the evidence in favor of other Elizabethans for whom a claim of authorship of the plays and poems had been made, notably Francis Bacon and Edward de Vere, seventeenth Earl of Oxford. He conceded that “literature in support of alternative candidates—both print and digital—dwarfs that defending Shakespeare’s claim.” No matter: he ended with a strong...

 

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