William Niederkorn Reviews “Nine Lives of William Shakespeare” by Graham Holderness in “The Brooklyn Rail”

Here’s a fascinating review in The Brooklyn Rail by former New York Times editor and writer William S. Niederkorn, who examines a new book about Shakespeare that may signal the beginning of the Great Paradigm Shift of views about the authorship to which anti-Stratfordians have been looking forward.

The book is Nine Lives of William Shakespeare (Continuum, Dec 2011) by Graham Holderness, a prolific writer about the Bard and an English professor at the University of Hertfordshire, north of London.  Niederkorn calls it a “dazzling satire” in which the author “has ditched the Humpty Dumpty project” of fitting together the contradictory pieces of a traditional Shakespeare biography in favor of examining some individual pieces by themselves.

Niederkorn tells us that the narrator of Holderness’ ninth story is “Edward,” but I  have no idea whether that choice of name owes anything (consciously or unconsciously) to Edward de Vere.  In any case, Edward grows “more and more restless in the poisonous, gnawing knowledge” that certain beliefs about the Bard are “based upon a misunderstanding,” leading him to become “more and more determined to expose the absurdity” of these beliefs.

Graham Holderness

Edward the Narrator explains to Dr. Pericles, leader of the so-called Bardolians, that “some people have even ventured to doubt whether Shakespeare himself was the author of the plays, and to propose that they may have been written by someone else.”  Later that night, however, Edward wakes up to see that he is about to be “seized and arrested as a heretic and blasphemer.”

Now I suggest you read the full review in The Brooklyn Rail and discover Niederkorn’s delicious conclusion on your own.

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4 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. No doubt it is a satire. Shakespeareans of all colours are being criticised. Yet I wish to add somthing for the subsection “speculation” of Life 9 “Shakespear’s Face”. I see in Droeshout’s picture two right sleeves opposed to the general opinion that they both are left since it is an engraving. But if you look at it as at a portrait you see two right hands. It corresponds with my hypothesis who wrote Shakespeare’s plays : I presume that two authors were resposible for them: Francis Bacon and his ward Roger Manners, fifth Earl of Rutland. This picture is on the title-page of a complete set of Shakespeare’s plays which means that the plays were written by two right hands. While on Marshall’s portrait in the second 1640 edition of Shakespeare’s Sonnets one of the hands (with the additional right sleeve in the Droeshaut portrait) is covered with a cloak – poems were written by one person, Bacon was not a born poet. I wrote about it in the book “The Justification of Shakespeare”, published in 2008 in Moscow (600 p.).It is not a biography. I analyse the relationship of Ben Jonson, Rutland, Bacon, John Donn, based on their works. Only one example. In one of Jonson’s early comedies there is a personage “Puntarvolo” by name. This Italian name means “a flying point” – a periphrasis of “Shakespeare”. William Camden in his “Remains” wrote that Elisabethans were fond of playing with names. It is very difficult to write anything in a foreign language. Please, forgive my English. Professor of Moscow State Linguistic University Marina Litvinova.

    • Sounds fascinating. Is the book translated? Anyway, best wishes for you and your work.

  2. Thank you. Unfortunately the book is not translated. I can’t do it and can’t pay for its ttranslation. Now I am writing the second book where I try to show the relationship between the lives of Bacon and Rutland and Shakespeare’s plays and Sonnets. My first book contains some information never published before. For instance, parallel phrases in “Coryat Crudities” (1611) and in some Shakespeare’s plays. As the Shaksper myth dosn’t block my research I see Rutland in Ben Jonson’s comedies (“Every Man Out of His Humour”, “Cynthia’s Revels”, “Poetaster” and others). The events of Rutland’s life corresponds exactly to what we can read in Shakespeare’s plays. In his book “Who Wrote Shakespeare?” John Miichell said: “We cannot close the list of entries before hearing the most convincing case of all, that of Roger Manners, fifth Earl of Rutland”. Against him there are only two objections: he was too young to compose poems and hronicles, and there is no evidence that he was a poet. The first objection is nullified by Bacon’s tutorial supervision, the second – by Ilya Guililov’s discovery. Thus it is not necessary “to shift our attention from debating who wrote Shakespeare’ works to whether it’s possible to discover the author’s emotinal, sexual, and religious life through them” as proposed by James Shapiro in his book “Contested Will” (p.268). Shakespeare’s works contain self-revelation just as works of all writers of genius .

    • Best wishes to you and your work.


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