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As the world's greatest author, Shakespeare has attracted attention from scholars and laypersons alike. But more and more people have questioned whether the historical Shakespeare wrote the plays popularly attributed to him. While other books on the subject have argued that some other particular person, such as the Earl of Oxford, wrote the plays, this is the first book in As the world's greatest author, Shakespeare has attracted attention from scholars and laypersons alike. But more and more people have questioned whether the historical Shakespeare wrote the plays popularly attributed to him. While other books on the subject have argued that some other particular person, such as the Earl of Oxford, wrote the plays, this is the first book in over 80 years to comprehensively revisit the authorship question without an ideological bias, the first to introduce new evidence, and the first to undertake a systematic comparative analysis with other literary biographies. It successfully argues that William Shakespeare was the pen name of an aristocrat, and that William Shakespeare of Stratford was a shrewd entrepreneur, not a dramatist. Price exposes numerous logical fallacies, contradictions, and sins of omission in the traditional accounts of Shakespeare's whereabouts; his professional activities; his personality profile; the play chronology; autobiographical echoes in the plays; the dramatist's education and cultural sophistication; circumstances of publication of the plays and poetry; and the testimony of his supposed literary colleagues, such as Ben Jonson. New or previously ignored documentation is used to reconstruct Shakespeare's career as a businessman, investor, theater shareholder, real estate tycoon, commodity trader, money-lender, and actor, but not a writer. In fact, Shakespeare is the only alleged writer from his time for whom no contemporaneous literary paper trail survives.


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As the world's greatest author, Shakespeare has attracted attention from scholars and laypersons alike. But more and more people have questioned whether the historical Shakespeare wrote the plays popularly attributed to him. While other books on the subject have argued that some other particular person, such as the Earl of Oxford, wrote the plays, this is the first book in As the world's greatest author, Shakespeare has attracted attention from scholars and laypersons alike. But more and more people have questioned whether the historical Shakespeare wrote the plays popularly attributed to him. While other books on the subject have argued that some other particular person, such as the Earl of Oxford, wrote the plays, this is the first book in over 80 years to comprehensively revisit the authorship question without an ideological bias, the first to introduce new evidence, and the first to undertake a systematic comparative analysis with other literary biographies. It successfully argues that William Shakespeare was the pen name of an aristocrat, and that William Shakespeare of Stratford was a shrewd entrepreneur, not a dramatist. Price exposes numerous logical fallacies, contradictions, and sins of omission in the traditional accounts of Shakespeare's whereabouts; his professional activities; his personality profile; the play chronology; autobiographical echoes in the plays; the dramatist's education and cultural sophistication; circumstances of publication of the plays and poetry; and the testimony of his supposed literary colleagues, such as Ben Jonson. New or previously ignored documentation is used to reconstruct Shakespeare's career as a businessman, investor, theater shareholder, real estate tycoon, commodity trader, money-lender, and actor, but not a writer. In fact, Shakespeare is the only alleged writer from his time for whom no contemporaneous literary paper trail survives.

30 review for Shakespeare's Unorthodox Biography: New Evidence of an Authorship Problem

  1. 4 out of 5

    BrokenTune

    2.5* This book poses a bit of a conundrum for me: Is it possible to like a work of non-fiction and enjoy reading it, while at the same time taking issue with - even vehemently disagreeing with - the content of the book? In Shakespeare's Unorthodox Biography: New Evidence of an Authorship Problem, Diana Price explores the reasons why Anti-Stratfordians believe that the author most of us know as William Shakespeare was not the one man from Stratford that has been credited with the creation of Shakes 2.5* This book poses a bit of a conundrum for me: Is it possible to like a work of non-fiction and enjoy reading it, while at the same time taking issue with - even vehemently disagreeing with - the content of the book? In Shakespeare's Unorthodox Biography: New Evidence of an Authorship Problem, Diana Price explores the reasons why Anti-Stratfordians believe that the author most of us know as William Shakespeare was not the one man from Stratford that has been credited with the creation of Shakespeare's works. Price goes through the arguments of why Shakespeare wasn't Shakespeare one by one and creates a well-rounded overview of the Anti-Stratfordian tenets. She starts with differences of names in records, mentions of Shakespeare in the writing of his contemporaries, financial records, biographical dates, and the works themselves, dissecting the use of language, rhythm etc. for clues of authorship. I am certainly no Shakespeare scholar, I have merely a passing interest, but overall I found the arguments really unconvincing, especially the ones based on financial records. One one hand, Price argues that there are hardly any records to show that Shakespeare, the Stratford man, received any payment for literary work, which Price uses as evidence that the man in Stratford didn't write the plays (etc.). On the other hand, Price argues that there are few records of any payment for the literary works created by anyone. There seem to be records for payments from various patrons to the actors and theatrical groups, but there seems little differentiation between actors and writers. Is this really all that surprising? At a time where printing had developed into an industry based on the sale of tangible goods but publishing had yet to establish itself because professional authorship as such was still in its infancy, why would we expect to see records of payments to authors? If printing produced tangible goods for sale (no advertising as yet) with no consideration given to authors, why would we expect theatrical players who had an even longer history of producing any known story with appeal to the crowds to make the distinction between writers and players? Copyright was not introduced to the UK until 1710, so why would there be a need for recording a distinction of works, and for recording payment (as proof of payment)? I don't get it. What I also didn't get was the argument that the Shakepeare the London playwright would not have needed to become a landowner and business man in Stratford becasue surely his literary success would have secured him an income. Literary success or success as an actor/producer/theatre owner was a risky and more so fleeting business. My question back to the author would really be why wouldn't a man supporting a growing family try to secure an income from a traditional source such as land and tenancies? I really don't get the basis for most of the arguments in the book, actually, even if I'm only mentioning two here. So why did I still enjoy reading this? I think the answer is because the book did make me look at how we look at biographies, research, and the presentation of arguments. I liked that the author tried to go into quite a lot of detail of looking at records and questioning how we read biographies and how some biography writers forego original research and simply re-work secondary sources, sometimes without fact-checking, which can lead to contradictory statements of fact. This is something I have come across in biographical work of other authors and other people on several occasions and it is a particular pet peeve of mine. However, while I share Price's annoyance with lazy research and I liked her questioning the "facts" presented by several biographers, I had little time for her reasoning and production of evidence for any counter-theories. Next up, I'll turn to Stanley Wells' short work on Why Shakespeare was Shakespeare for a - no doubt passionate - defense of the traditional view of Shakespearean biography.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Dick

    Diana Price found it hard to believe that any standard biography of "William Shakespeare" could be so vulnerable. There was this ""Authorship Question", the idea advanced by certain "anti-Stratfordians" that the greatest author we have ever known did NOT come from Stratford-upon-Avon, but was another person who kept his identity anonymous for reasons of his own. She did not take this notion seriously, so she read Samuel Shoenbaum's "William Shakespeare: A Complete Doocumentary Life", and it chan Diana Price found it hard to believe that any standard biography of "William Shakespeare" could be so vulnerable. There was this ""Authorship Question", the idea advanced by certain "anti-Stratfordians" that the greatest author we have ever known did NOT come from Stratford-upon-Avon, but was another person who kept his identity anonymous for reasons of his own. She did not take this notion seriously, so she read Samuel Shoenbaum's "William Shakespeare: A Complete Doocumentary Life", and it changed her mind. In her own words: "I was surprised to find nothing in it to prove that Shakespeare had written any plays ... a traditional biography convinced me that the Stratford man was no writer ... I found myself joining the ranks of the skeptics and doubters." Diana Price spends 300 pages expanding upon this newly-found conviction, and logically examines the evidence pro and con. Without embracing a particular person as the real identity of the author "Williiam Shakespeare", she systematically shows that the gentleman from Stratford-upon-Avon is not the author. As she puts it, "When unencumbered by prior assumptions ... one can follow the evidence wherever it leads." And it doesn't lead to Stratford-upon-Avon at all.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Karen Groves

    Diana Price lays out a well-crafted, and extremely compelling account of why William Shakespeare of Stratford had absolutely nothing to do with the actual writing of the Shakespeare plays we know and love. Fascinating and I am now hooked on this topic and am tip-toeing into the Anti_Stratfordian camp. Diana Price lays out a well-crafted, and extremely compelling account of why William Shakespeare of Stratford had absolutely nothing to do with the actual writing of the Shakespeare plays we know and love. Fascinating and I am now hooked on this topic and am tip-toeing into the Anti_Stratfordian camp.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Elliott

    "Positive and balanced"? Hardly. The third falsity is Price's subtitle. There's nothing "new" in Shakespeare's Unorthodox Biography, indeed the very inclusion of "new" within the title is little better than false advertising. Check out any anti-Shakespeare book and you'll find the same sources that Price uses: "Is Shakespeare Dead?" (106 years old at this writing and published before the discovery of Mountjoy v. Bellott), Looney (Price doesn't use Shakespeare Identified... but she is undoubtedly "Positive and balanced"? Hardly. The third falsity is Price's subtitle. There's nothing "new" in Shakespeare's Unorthodox Biography, indeed the very inclusion of "new" within the title is little better than false advertising. Check out any anti-Shakespeare book and you'll find the same sources that Price uses: "Is Shakespeare Dead?" (106 years old at this writing and published before the discovery of Mountjoy v. Bellott), Looney (Price doesn't use Shakespeare Identified... but she is undoubtedly familiar with him), Charlton Ogburn, Richard Roe, Richard Whalen... She even uses the exact same quote by Kenneth Muir with the exact same pertinent parts excised (Muir notes that Shakespeare was undoubtedly familiar with the Strachey manuscript, although that would not support Price's thesis). There are even the same illustrations: Dugdale's illustration with the same commentary (ignoring the fact that it's really a terrible drawing period, check out the skull on top). Although there is a hilarious section where Price gauges how "lumpy" the sack appears to be (so it couldn't be a cushion to write on!). Particularly bad is the section devoted to Shakespeare's learning (250). Price doesn't believe Shakespeare had much learning at all, so it's curious that she should bother to include this at all, even more so when you really look into the names she has and doesn't have. Shakespeare would have covered Tacitus, Homer, Lucian, Xenophon, Demosthenes, Hermogenes, Plutarch, Cato, Socrates, Hesiod, as well as many other authors with their works anthologized, or referenced such as Heraclitus who solely survives in other works that quoted him. These Price does not mention. Price also mentions books that influenced Shakespeare that don't appear in the Stratford grammar school curriculum which, Price intimates, means that Shakespeare could not have been familiar with ever. Puzzling is that she includes in this list Marlowe, Spenser, Nashe, Kydd, et al. who wrote after Shakespeare's schooling and so obviously their works would not have been taught to an adolescent Shakespeare. I mean, regardless of Shakespeare's education Price could have cut him a break for not having read works before they were written. She could also have illuminated the fact that Shakespeare was in the same circles as these writers as an actor at the very least. But, no. Diana Price obviously is in no mind to present a "balanced" view of what we know of Shakespeare cover blurbs be damned.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Karen

    Very well written account of the facts/evidence we have vs. the suppositions and biases we maintain about the man from Stratford. There is just no evidence to support the man from Stratford as being the writer of the complex plays of William Shakespeare. Ms. Price is not promoting anyone specific (e.g. Oxvford, Marlowe, etc.), but presents and discusses the actual evidence - much of which I had not known, was not taught in school, or was misrepresented as fact. She concludes that what we know of Very well written account of the facts/evidence we have vs. the suppositions and biases we maintain about the man from Stratford. There is just no evidence to support the man from Stratford as being the writer of the complex plays of William Shakespeare. Ms. Price is not promoting anyone specific (e.g. Oxvford, Marlowe, etc.), but presents and discusses the actual evidence - much of which I had not known, was not taught in school, or was misrepresented as fact. She concludes that what we know of the man from Stratford does not match up with the playwright, who must have been a gentleman with court ties and high status. You don't need to be a super scholar to get a lot out of this book. The man from Stratford does not fare well - the evidence shows he was miserly, ligitious and status-seeking. Price concludes that Shakspeare was more of a financier and broker of plays than the creator of the plays. What I found very interesting was her untangling of Ben Johnson's First Folio comments.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Shelly

    This is an agnostic, well-researched, logical take on the problem of Shakespeare's nearly non-existent biography. Very systematically reviews the evidence of documents associated with William of Stratford. Very revealing is the truth Price reveals, that scholars know even less than is generally assumed, and that much of what we thought we knew about the Stratford man is based on speculation and interpretation rather than actual evidence. This is a great book for anyone curious about what we do k This is an agnostic, well-researched, logical take on the problem of Shakespeare's nearly non-existent biography. Very systematically reviews the evidence of documents associated with William of Stratford. Very revealing is the truth Price reveals, that scholars know even less than is generally assumed, and that much of what we thought we knew about the Stratford man is based on speculation and interpretation rather than actual evidence. This is a great book for anyone curious about what we do know about William Shakspere, or for anyone for whom the biography just does not 'square' with the works. I have yet to see the orthodox Shakespeare scholars refute any of her points convincingly.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Ed

    With no particular axe to grind, the evidence is turned over and the weaknesses exposed. Rather than coming up with a candidate and showing why it is so, Price simply shows why the Stratford Shaksper isn't as 'case closed' as the establishment insists. The chart comparing extant evidence of numerous contemporaries is very interesting.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Boris

    REally a good read. A page-turner, if you can imagine that. And I'm not even a fan of Shakespeare or a big reader of classical literature. Not only does this author make a great case, she teaches the reader in lay terms about how literary research is done, what issues confound researchers, and how it is that a mainstream viewpoint can remain entrenched in the face of contrary evidence. Although written in eminently lay terms, this book is a scholarly book, abundantly illustrated and annotated wit REally a good read. A page-turner, if you can imagine that. And I'm not even a fan of Shakespeare or a big reader of classical literature. Not only does this author make a great case, she teaches the reader in lay terms about how literary research is done, what issues confound researchers, and how it is that a mainstream viewpoint can remain entrenched in the face of contrary evidence. Although written in eminently lay terms, this book is a scholarly book, abundantly illustrated and annotated with footnotes and references. In addition to surveying the evidence presented in prior biographies of Shakespeare, this author directly addresses various orthodox theories and interpretations. The rebuttals are fair and without prejudice. Very readable and interesting!

  9. 4 out of 5

    Jay Amari

    Shakespeare's Unorthodox Biography: New Evidence of an Authorship Problem by Diana Price is a fresh light on an old topic. At times the author of this cogent and excellently researched book sounds slightly whiney, as if the mere fact of William Shakespeare’s meager personal history, unavailable to the world, is such a pain in the ass that she can’t help but complain that the gods of history hadn’t been considerate enough to help her in her quest. It is a fascinating read - based on the premise tha Shakespeare's Unorthodox Biography: New Evidence of an Authorship Problem by Diana Price is a fresh light on an old topic. At times the author of this cogent and excellently researched book sounds slightly whiney, as if the mere fact of William Shakespeare’s meager personal history, unavailable to the world, is such a pain in the ass that she can’t help but complain that the gods of history hadn’t been considerate enough to help her in her quest. It is a fascinating read - based on the premise that the Stratford man William Shakspere was not the author William Shakespeare of London who is credited with writing the plays that appeared in the First Folio. Diana Price proffers a number of valid and interesting items- one is that the is no literary trail linking the Stratford man to the legacy of William Shakespeare. On the other hand there is plenty of information to support Shakespeare as a money lender, entrepreneur, business manager, and theatre owner. Price also brings up interesting facts that support nearly all the other playwrights of the period, including personal letters, published information about them, and their interaction with other writers of their time, something that is non-existent for William Shakespeare. If you are following the Anti-Stratfordian movement, or are just cusious about the Shakespeare legacy this book is a great little read.

  10. 5 out of 5

    Darin Stelting

    Lays out a clear, unassailable methodology and follows it rigorously.

  11. 5 out of 5

    Danielle

    3-4.

  12. 4 out of 5

    WRon Hess

    Finally Finished! An excellent treatment except for its lack of a comprehensive list of clues and matching candidates that could link her findings to a specific author (or authors) of the Shakespeare canon. Her conclusion that the writer was a noble who was dead by 1609 is very reasonable, narrowing it down to a few dozen candidates, some of them women (not Mary Sidney Herbert, Countess of Pembroke, who died in 1619). Ms. Price's father John Price was a leading Oxfordian (favoring the 17th Earl Finally Finished! An excellent treatment except for its lack of a comprehensive list of clues and matching candidates that could link her findings to a specific author (or authors) of the Shakespeare canon. Her conclusion that the writer was a noble who was dead by 1609 is very reasonable, narrowing it down to a few dozen candidates, some of them women (not Mary Sidney Herbert, Countess of Pembroke, who died in 1619). Ms. Price's father John Price was a leading Oxfordian (favoring the 17th Earl of Oxford, who officially died in 1604, although there is an interesting theory by Christopher Paul that Oxford's 1604 death was merely to evade creditors, allowing him to retire to Havering Forest, where he may have lived to circa 1608). But if she has truly rejected her father's conclusions, I suspect she may favor Thomas Sackville, who died in 1608 leaving many sonnets and other rumored works lost to posterity, in addition to his youthful masterpieces from the 1560s. Personally, I favor a more collaborative arrangement between Oxford as principal author and Sackville as Oxford's "literary mentor," as I've argued in my webpage article #11 at http://home.earthlink.net/~beornshall..., also published in large part in the "DeVere Soc. Newsletter" in Mar 2011, pp. 21-30. Otherwise, I'm very impressed with Ms. Price's scholarship, and find her book a most valuable resource, even if one could quibble (as Stratfordian Prof. Alan Nelson does on his webpage) about details and some of her reasoning and conclusions. Ms. Price is a wonderful speaker on this topic too, if you ever get the chance to hear her! W. Ron Hess ([email protected])

  13. 4 out of 5

    Laura

  14. 5 out of 5

    Bookwyrm

  15. 4 out of 5

    Michael Blanding

  16. 5 out of 5

    Rhonda Haft

  17. 4 out of 5

    taralaf

  18. 5 out of 5

    AK

  19. 4 out of 5

    Suzana Korun

  20. 4 out of 5

    Ocianain

  21. 4 out of 5

    Jennifer

  22. 4 out of 5

    Anna Sandler

  23. 5 out of 5

    Candace

  24. 5 out of 5

    Shelly

  25. 4 out of 5

    Ratko R.

  26. 5 out of 5

    Hank

  27. 4 out of 5

    Candy

  28. 5 out of 5

    Philip Buchan

  29. 4 out of 5

    Bibliovixen

  30. 5 out of 5

    Christopher Carolan

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