cover image Alias Shakespeare: Solving the Greatest Literary Mystery of All Time

Alias Shakespeare: Solving the Greatest Literary Mystery of All Time

Joseph Sobran. Free Press, $25 (320pp) ISBN 978-0-684-82658-5

Provocatively separating William Shakespeare of Stratford from William Shakespeare the playwright, Sobran demonstrates that neither one could have been the other. The burgher from Stratford who became an occasional actor and an investor in a London playhouse appears to Sobran to have had neither the schooling nor the experience of the world to have written the most spellbinding and sophisticated dramas produced in England. Nor did he have, Sobran guesses, the essential aristocratic and erudite contacts to have been able to write so knowledgeably about law courts, literary antecedents and the lives of the nobility. And, while Sobran can match lines of the Shakespeare plays to an overwhelming number of individuals and experiences from the life of Edward de Vere, 17th earl of Oxford, he finds no such connections to Shakespeare of Stratford. ""Oxford,"" he declares, ""seems to have known everyone Mr. Shakespeare should have known if he was Shakespeare."" To clinch the matter, Sobran finds no sources for the famous plays emerging after the earl's death in June 1604. Sobran, a journalist and longtime amateur of Shakespeare, makes one of the most persuasive arguments yet for the identification of Oxford as Shakespeare; however, the subtitle seems overconfident. Why has the alleged identification always faded before? Why were there no contemporary claims? The earl may have wanted to conceal his connection with a money-grubbing trade, but why, in a lively press, did no gossips expose, posthumously, the stand-in for his imposture? (Apr.)