The argument over whether or not Shakespeare actually existed has raged amongst a sizable minority of scholars for well over a century. Were all (or, indeed, any) of the plays, sonnets and poems traditionally attributed to a William Shakespeare in fact written by him? There were (and are) many who have opposed the conventional belief that Shakespeare wrote all of the works bearing his name; moreover, there are many (including Twain) who believed that Shakespeare wrote absolutely nothing! (with the exception of his modestly written epitaph and a few articles bearing his signature). In one of Twain's most skeptical works, IS SHAKESPEARE DEAD? examines the subject of Shakespeare's authenticity with vigorous logic. How did this one man, from the most humble origins, rise to such artistic and intellectual heights? How did he manage his vast education, business acumen, legalistic savvy, travel experience, etc., etc., and still have the time for his enormous literary output (in and of itself, an almost impossible feat)? However, the real "kick in the head" (and this puzzles Twain the most) is how Shakespeare's amazing achievements were virtually unknown to his contemporaries!...and not only his achievements, but Shakespeare himself lived and died unknown and unremembered. The life of the greatest and most famed writer is, in actuality, a blank space in history!!! Personally, I never gave much consideration to this issue. The reading and studying of his plays was more than enough to keep me occupied while in school and beyond, down to the present. But Twain's IS SHAKESPEARE DEAD? is an intriguing and thought-provoking work. The only complaint I have is that while he posits the possible Whats, Ifs and Hows of Shakespeare's non-authenticity with analytical precision, Twain never gets to the Why of the matter. Indeed, WHY did this alleged Shakespeare ruse occur? If there's someone out there with an answer or opinion, your comments are urgently requested.
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