Synopses & Reviews
For centuries scholars have debated the true identity of the author of the magnificent body of poems and plays attributed to William Shakespeare. The majority of academics and other "Shakespeare authorities" have accepted the idea that the author was indeed one William Shakspere, the historical figure who hailed from Stratford-upon-Avon, acted on the London stage, and co-owned a successful theater company. And yet many credible voices -- including Mark Twain, Sigmund Freud, Benjamin Disraeli, Ralph Waldo Emerson, Oliver Wendell Holmes, and Walt Whitman -- have challenged the conventional wisdom, casting irresolvable doubts on the Stratford man and proposing alternatives from rival playwrights Ben Jonson and Christopher Marlowe to Queen Elizabeth herself.
Now, in this provocative and convincing new book, historian and attorney Bertram Fields reexamines the evidence and presents a stunning, and highly plausible, new theory of the case -- an unconventional approach that will change, once and for all, how we think about the question, "Who was Shakespeare?"
With an attorney's mastery of four centuries of evidence and argument, Fields revisits all the critical facts and unanswered questions. With thirty-six plays, two long narrative poems, and 154 sonnets to his name, why did Shakespeare leave behind not a single word of prose or poetry in his own hand? Is it really possible that the Stratford man -- who had a grade school education at best -- possessed the depth and scope of knowledge reflected in the work? Shakespeare the author used Latin and Greek classical works with familiarity and ease, and drew upon Italian and French works not yet translated into English. Was there a single man in the English theater with such breadth and range of knowledge -- a man who also knew the etiquette and practices of nobility, the workings of the law, and the tactics of the military and navy? Is it possible that any culture had produced a figure with both the poet's lofty ideals and empathetic humanity, and the streetwise, boisterous theatrical sense of the crowd-pleasing playwright?'
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) " Publishers Weekly (Copyright Reed Business Information, Inc.)
“With lawyerly deliberation... [Fields] argues a persuasive case.” Peter Bart, Variety
In one of the liveliest debates of the past 400 years, scholars have argued about the true identity of the great playwright William Shakespeare. Most believe that the Bard was an actor and part owner of a theatre company in the English town of Stratford-upon-Avon. Yet for centuries, a vocal minority--including prominent figures such as Mark Twain and Sigmund Freud-have asserted that these astonishingly erudite and literate plays are more likely the work of a nobleman or even, as some have proposed, Queen Elizabeth herself. In this complex and important case, Fields serves as the perfect guide through the maze of false assumptions and reasonable doubt, taking us closer than ever before to the true identity of the great Bard himself.
In the perfect match of author and material, one of America's top attorneys investigates the points of one of the most studied modern mysteries--moving closer than ever before to a sound theory on the real identity of Shakespeare.
About the Author
Bertram Fields is widely regarded as the most prominent entertainment lawyer in America. The author of Royal Blood, which was named Ricardian Book of the Year by the Ricardian Society, and two novels under a pseudonym, he lives in Los Angeles.