The true story of a self-taught Shakespeare sleuth’s quest to prove his eye-opening theory about the source of the world’s most famous plays, taking readers inside the vibrant era of Elizabethan England as well as the contemporary scene of Shakespeare scholars and obsessives.
Acclaimed author of The Map Thief, Michael Blanding presents the twinning narratives of renegade scholar Dennis McCarthy, called “the Steve Jobs of the Shakespeare community,” and Sir Thomas North, an Elizabethan courtier whom McCarthy believes to be the undiscovered source for Shakespeare’s plays. For the last fifteen years, McCarthy has obsessively pursued the true origins of Shakespeare’s works. Using plagiarism software, he has found direct links between Hamlet, Macbeth, Romeo and Juliet, and other plays and North’s published and unpublished writings—as well as Shakespearean plotlines seemingly lifted straight from North’s colorful life.
Unlike those who believe someone else secretly wrote Shakespeare, McCarthy’s wholly original conclusion is this: Shakespeare wrote the plays, but he adapted them from source plays written by North decades before. Many of them, he believes, were penned on behalf of North’s patron Robert Dudley, in his efforts to woo Queen Elizabeth. That bold theory addresses many lingering mysteries about the Bard with compelling new evidence, including a newly discovered journal of North’s travels through France and Italy, filled with locations and details appearing in Shakespeare’s plays.
North by Shakespeare alternates between the enigmatic life of Thomas North, the intrigues of the Tudor court, the rivalries of English Renaissance theater, and academic outsider Dennis McCarthy’s attempts to air his provocative ideas in the clubby world of Shakespearean scholarship. Through it all, Blanding employs his keen journalistic eye to craft a captivating drama, upending our understanding of the beloved playwright and his “singular genius.”