Players: The Mysterious Identity of William Shakespeare

Front Cover
HarperCollins, Mar 15, 2005 - Biography & Autobiography - 308 pages
1 Review

For centuries scholars have debated the true identity of the author of the magnificent body of poems and plays attributed to William Shakespeare. The majority of academics and other "Shakespeare authorities" have accepted the idea that the author was indeed one William Shakspere, the historical figure who hailed from Stratford-upon-Avon, acted on the London stage, and co-owned a successful theater company. And yet many credible voices -- including Mark Twain, Sigmund Freud, Benjamin Disraeli, Ralph Waldo Emerson, Oliver Wendell Holmes, and Walt Whitman -- have challenged the conventional wisdom, casting irresolvable doubts on the Stratford man and proposing alternatives from rival playwrights Ben Jonson and Christopher Marlowe to Queen Elizabeth herself.

Now, in this provocative and convincing new book, historian and attorney Bertram Fields reexamines the evidence and presents a stunning, and highly plausible, new theory of the case -- an unconventional approach that will change, once and for all, how we think about the question, "Who was Shakespeare?"

With an attorney's mastery of four centuries of evidence and argument, Fields revisits all the critical facts and unanswered questions. With thirty-six plays, two long narrative poems, and 154 sonnets to his name, why did Shakespeare leave behind not a single word of prose or poetry in his own hand? Is it really possible that the Stratford man -- who had a grade school education at best -- possessed the depth and scope of knowledge reflected in the work? Shakespeare the author used Latin and Greek classical works with familiarity and ease, and drew upon Italian and French works not yet translated into English. Was there a single man in the English theater with such breadth and range of knowledge -- a man who also knew the etiquette and practices of nobility, the workings of the law, and the tactics of the military and navy? Is it possible that any culture had produced a figure with both the poet's lofty ideals and empathetic humanity, and the streetwise, boisterous theatrical sense of the crowd-pleasing playwright?'

Or -- as Fields asks in his tantalizing conclusion -- was this not one man at all, but a magnificent collaboration between two very different men, a partnership born in the roiling culture of Elizabethan England, and protected for centuries by the greatest conspiracy in literary history?

Blending biography and historical investigation with vibrant scholarship and storytelling, Players revolutionizes our understanding of the greatest writer -- or writers -- in our history.

What people are saying - Write a review

LibraryThing Review

User Review  - Cynfrank - LibraryThing

This book lays out the arguments for various authorships very objectively. Author’s analysis of some of the plays is way off base, but this is not a book you would read when doing research on ... Read full review

Players: the mysterious identity of William Shakespeare

User Review  - Not Available - Book Verdict

This book covers the same evidence as many other books on the question of who really wrote Shakespeare's plays and sonnets. Lawyer Fields, former editor of the Harvard Law Review and author of Royal ... Read full review

Other editions - View all

References to this book

About the author (2005)

Bertram Fields is widely regarded as the most prominent entertainment lawyer in America

Bibliographic information