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William Shaksper of Stratford was an actor and entrepreneur who had little education, never left England, and apparently owned no books. In the centuries since his death more and more questions have arisen about the true source of the plays and poetry conventionally attributed to him. Now journalist Mark Anderson’s page-turning and groundbreaking new biography “Shakespeare” by Another Name offers tantalizing proof that it was the 17th Earl of Oxford, Edward de Vere—a courtier, spendthrift, scholar, traveler, scoundrel, patron, and prolific ghostwriter of state propaganda—who actually created this timeless body of work.
Weaving together a wealth of evidence uncovered in ten years of research, Anderson brings to life a colorful figure whose biography presents countless mirror images of the works of Shakespeare. De Vere lived in Venice during his twenties—racking up debt with the city’s money- lenders (Merchant of Venice); his notorious jealousy of his first wife spawned both self- critical works (Othello, The Winter’s Tale) and self-mocking japes (The Comedy of Errors); an extramarital affair led to courtly disgrace (Much Ado About Nothing) as well as street fighting between his supporters and rivals (Romeo and Juliet). Anderson contends that the only way de Vere’s compromising works— including brutally honest portraits of the powerful elite at Queen Elizabeth I’s court—could ever be published was under another man’s name