For centuries scholars have debated the true identity of the author of the magnificent body of poems and plays attributed to William Shakespeare, the actor and co-owner of a successful theater company who hailed from Stratford-upon-Avon. And yet many credible voices Mark Twain, Sigmund Freud, and Walt Whitman, to name a few have challenged conventional wisdom, proposing alternative candidates from rival playwrights Ben Jonson and Christopher Marlowe to Queen Elizabeth herself, in what has become a centuries-old parlor game.
In this provocative and convincing new book, historian and attorney Bertram Fields presents a stunning, and highly plausible, new theory of the case. Mastering four centuries of evidence and argument, Fields revisits all the critical facts and unanswered questions. Could there have been a single man in the English theater with such breadth and range of knowledge, a man who knew Latin and Greek, the etiquette and practices of nobility, the workings of the law, and the tactics of the military and navy? 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.
Fields (Royal Blood), a high-profile, L.A.-based entertainment lawyer, makes his case in the debate about who Shakespeare really was. Fields doesn't make any original contribution to the controversy; instead, he gives a digest of assorted arguments on both sides, though he sides with the anti-Stratford school. Fields examines the surviving evidence about William Shakespeare, whom he refers to as "the Stratford man." The scattered documentary proofs leave Fields free to conclude that, unlike the great-spirited author of the great works bearing his name, Shakespeare was "acquisitive, selfish, petty, mean-spirited, litigious, and narrow." Fields ascribes all the best qualities to the poems and plays, including The Merchant of Venice, which he reads (in tune with Al Pacino's recent performance) in an unconvincingly pro-Semitic vein. The book's final third presents the cast of alternate candidates for the works' authorship: Edward de Vere, the earl of Oxford (Fields's own favorite); Francis Bacon; Christopher Marlowe; William Stanley, the earl of Derby; Roger Manners, earl of Rutland; and even Elizabeth I. Fields concludes by hypothesizing that de Vere, a talented poet, anonymously collaborated with Shakespeare (a theatrical professional) on the plays; Fields attributes the low humor and objectionable opinions to the Stratford man and the lofty ideals to his idealized nobleman. In light of Stephen Greenblatt's elegant biography identifying the Stratford man as the great playwright, this won't carry much weight with either scholars or readers. (Mar. 15) Copyright 2005 Reed Business Information.