The search for Shakespeare’s library (the books ostensibly owned by Shakespeare but dispersed without a trace after his death) is driven largely by the hope that marginalia, notes, and drafts might provide unfettered access to authorial intention. Inevitably, the missing library turns out to be central to a number of the anti-Stratfordian cases, including Diana Price’s convoluted and ill-informed set of precepts for determining literary credentials, which yields the ludicrous conclusion that ‘Shakespeare’ was a ‘collective conspiracy’. She deems this more likely than the possibility that Shakespeare’s papers once existed but have simply been lost. Stuart Kells, in Shakespeare’s Library: Unlocking the greatest mystery in literature, calls her argument ‘intellectually courageous’. Indeed, to the detriment of his own handling of evidence, Kells devotes an inordinate amount of time to the affectionately dubbed ‘Indiana Jones school of Shakespeare studies, whose adherents continue in their efforts to dig up clues, unravel ciphers and commune with the dead’.
David McInnis is Associate Professor of Shakespeare and Early Modern Drama at the University of Melbourne. He is author of Shakespeare and Lost Plays (Cambridge UP, forthcoming 2021) and Mind-Travelling and Voyage Drama in Early Modern England (Palgrave, 2013), and editor of Dekker’s Old Fortunatus for the Revels Plays series (Manchester UP, 2020). With Roslyn L. Knutson and Matthew Steggle, he is founder and co-editor of the Lost Plays Database. He has also edited a number of books, including Lost Plays in Shakespeare’s England (Palgrave, 2014; co-edited with Steggle) and a sequel volume, Loss and the Literary Culture of Shakespeare’s Time (Palgrave 2020; co-edited with Knutson and Steggle); Travel and Drama in Early Modern England: The Journeying Play (Cambridge UP, 2018; co-edited with Claire Jowitt); and Tamburlaine: A Critical Reader (Arden Early Modern Drama Guides, 2020).
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December 2013–January 2014, no. 357
Shakespeare Beyond Doubt: Evidence, Argument, Controversy by Paul Edmondson and Stanley WellsReviewed by Ian Donaldson