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Sweet Swan of Avon: Did a Woman Write Shakespeare? (One-Off)


Sweet Swan of Avon: Did a Woman Write Shakespeare? (One-Off) Cover

ISBN13: 9780321426406
ISBN10: 0321426401
Condition: Standard
Dustjacket: Standard
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Synopses & Reviews

Publisher Comments:

It is long overdue that someone took a closer look at the brilliant Mary Sidney. I have a suspicion that Mary Sidney’s life, and especially her dedication to the English language after her brother’s death, may throw important light on the mysterious authorship of the Shakespeare plays and poems.

Mark Rylance

Actor; Artistic Director of Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre, 1996–2006; Chairman of the Shakespearean Authorship Trust

For more than two hundred years, a growing number of researchers have questioned whether the man named William Shakespeare actually wrote the works attributed to him. There is no paper trail for William Shakespeare—no record that he was ever paid for writing, nothing in his handwriting but a few signatures on legal documents, no evidence of his presence in the royal court except as an actor in his later years, no confirmation of his involvement in the literary circles of the time. With so little information about this man—and even less evidence connecting him to the plays and sonnets—what can and what can’t we assume about the author of the greatest works of the English language?

For the first time, Robin P. Williams presents an in-depth inquiry into the possibility that Mary Sidney Herbert, the Countess of Pembroke, wrote the works attributed to the man named William Shakespeare. As well educated as Queen Elizabeth I, this woman was at the forefront of the literary movement in England, yet not allowed to write for the public stage. But that’s just the beginning . . .

The first question I am asked by curious freshmen in my Shakespeare course is always, “Who wrote these plays anyway?” Now, because of Robin Williams’ rigorous scholarship and artful sleuthing, Mary Sidney Herbert will forever have to be mentioned as a possible author of the Shakespeare canon. Sweet Swan of Avon doesn’t pretend to put the matter to rest, but simply shows how completely reasonable the authorship controversy is, and how the idea of a female playwright surprisingly answers more Shakespearean conundrums than it creates...

Cynthia Lee Katona

Professor of Shakespeare and Women’s Studies, Ohlone College; Author of Book Savvy

About the Author

Robin Williams is the successful author of dozens of titles and has books in twenty-three languages. In this book, she has turned her attention to a topic she has been researching for seven years. An Independent Scholar, Robin has studied Shakespeare at St. John's College in Santa Fe and Oxford University in England. She teaches Shakespeare for adults at the local college, and guides two play readings a month. She runs ten-week guided discussions of selected plays for advanced readers, called The Understanders. For three years she has been a featured speaker at the Authorship Conference at Shakespeare's Globe Theatre in London, and will be consulting on the upcoming authorship exhibit at the Globe. Robin is an Associate Member, by invitation of Mark Rylance, of the Shakespearean Authorship Trust in London, founded in 1922.

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BardBuster, December 28, 2006 (view all comments by BardBuster)
While I neither profess to be a scholar on the subject of the Shakespeare authorship question, nor am I particularly well versed on the goings-on of the Elizabethan era, I have been fascinated for decades with the ongoing debate of who wrote Shakespeare.

When I earned my degree in English literature, university professors young and old tenaciously voiced their opinions concerning the credibility someone other than the man William Shakespeare actually wrote the plays and sonnets that we so carelessly attribute to WS today. (I say carelessly because of the widespread disagreement that exists regarding his life and what we've been taught). In short, it was a fascinating classroom debate. Students and instructors alike would argue for and against the possibility that WS was anything more than what we can prove today: an actor and litigious property owner with illiterate daughters who divorced his wife and left her his second-best bed in his will.

Robin P. Williams avoids pontificating that William Shakespeare is not the author of the works (despite the fact that no one can prove WS had a higher education, including an ability to read or write in French, Latin, and Italian?quite necessary because all but three plays are based on original literary works written in these three languages; nor does the name William Shakespeare appear in any of the extensive royal court registries, including the omission of even a single piece of handwritten manuscript!). On the contrary, in Sweet Swan of Avon: Did a Woman Write Shakespeare?, Williams provides one of the most exciting and socially volatile books ever on this subject by NOT debunking William Shakespeare, per se, but rather by EDUCATING readers about a woman who I suspect most have never heard of before, and who deserves recognition of her spectacular literary accomplishments.

It is the unfolding of such historical information Williams provides regarding Mary Herbert Sidney, the Countess of Pembroke, that one must recognize that for all the missing pieces of information, including the outrageously generous speculation that WS somehow learned his wealth of knowledge embedded in the works by "meeting people who shared their stories" (which of course cannot be proven), isn't it worth merely ASKING the question: Couldn't someone else have written these works?

Of course someone else could have written the works. Anyone documented in history as having spent a single day among the aristocracy... or who spoke more than one language... or who had an education that extended beyond public grade school is, in fact, more capable of having contributed the greatest works in the English language than our beloved William Shakespeare. The point is that once we examine the life of Mary Sidney Herbert, not only is her well-documented life vastly more in tune to the subject matter of the plays and sonnets than is William Shakespeare's, but also hers is a life that once copious significant facts are unveiled, one discovers enough historical overlap between Mary and William that behooves a closer investigation.

Sweet Swan of Avon is this investigation; it is not a trial, nor is it meant to be. For all the hundreds of years we've been told stories about the man William Shakespeare?from downright lies to conjecture to poorly stated facts?there is a woman named Mary Sidney who has been grossly overlooked by historians as a profound contributor to the literary annals, and now thanks to Robin P. Williams, her story is finally being told. Whether Mary's story is the story behind the Shakespearean cannon remains to be seen, but her story inarguably deserves to be told and celebrated because of her undeniable accomplishments?known, unknown, and just unfolding.
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jjcheek, June 7, 2006 (view all comments by jjcheek)
I have always thought that to review or comment or express an opinion on an unread book is the tactic of a demagogue wishing to influence the gullible. I have read "Sweet Swan of Avon" and over the years read and studied the works of Shakespeare. I am impressed with the depth and thoroughness of the research exhibited in this book. I think Robin P. Williams has accomplished the even more difficult task in making this book great fun to read.
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Lili318, June 7, 2006 (view all comments by Lili318)
I've just finished reading "Sweet Swan of Avon" about Mary Sidney and the Shakespeare authorship question. This is a terrific book! The combination of excellent scholarship and fresh viewpoints make this book a winner. And it is really fun to read.
Now, for the person who didn't like the book who didn't read the book: sorry, you evidently do not even understand the sonnets (which perhaps you haven't read, either?) and "Taming of the Shrew" is obviously written by a woman. Please, don't be afraid to read "Sweet Swan of Avon" -- it's easy enough for anyone to understand.
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Product Details

Williams, Robin P
Peachpit Press
Williams, Robin P.
Williams, Robin
Shakespeare, William
Pembroke, Mary Sidney Herbert
General Literary Criticism & Collections
Shakespeare, William - Authorship
Literary Criticism : General
Publication Date:
March 2006
Grade Level:
9.58x7.10x1.16 in. 1.72 lbs.

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Related Subjects

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Humanities » Literary Criticism » General

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