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Extended Audio Sample Contested Will: Who Wrote Shakespeare? Audiobook, by James Shapiro Click for printable size audiobook cover
4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 4.00 (16 ratings) (rate this audio book) Author: James Shapiro Narrator: Wanda McCaddon Publisher: Tantor Format: Unabridged Audiobook Delivery: Instant Download Audio Length: Release Date: April 2010 ISBN: 9781400186488
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For nearly two centuries, the authorship of William Shakespeare’s plays has been challenged by writers and artists as diverse as Sigmund Freud, Mark Twain, Henry James, Helen Keller, Orson Welles, Malcolm X, and Sir Derek Jacobi. How could a young man from rural Warwickshire, lacking a university education, write some of the greatest works in the English language? How do we explain the seemingly unbridgeable gap between Shakespeare’s life and works?

Contested Will unravels the mystery of Shakespeare’s authorship, retracing why and when doubts first arose, what’s at stake in the controversy for how we value Shakespeare’s achievement, and why, in the end, there can be no doubt about who wrote the plays.

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Quotes & Awards

  • “The book is rich with insight and analysis. Shapiro’s examination…is sensitive and convincing.”

    Wall Street Journal

  • Contested Will is a masterful work of literary history, an empathetic chronicle of eccentricity, and a calmly reasoned vindication of ‘the Stratford man.’”

    Boston Globe

  • “With lucid writing for the common reader, with sense, and with respect toward those with whom he rightly disagrees, Shapiro tells how this whole mishegas got started, and then, with unbelievable patience, shows how it has not a shred of a breath of a hope of being anything.”

    Philadelphia Inquirer

  • “Entertainingly combative.”

    San Francisco Chronicle

  • “As Shapiro admirably demonstrates, William Shakespeare emerges with his name and reputation intact.”

    Publishers Weekly (starred review)

  • “Shapiro’s lucid and fair-minded account and McCaddon’s exemplary narration combine to make this work accessible to anyone who loves Shakespeare.”

    AudioFile

  • “A thorough, engaging work.”

    Kirkus Reviews

Listener Opinions

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Katrina | 1/18/2014

    " Very throrough. I now understand how Shakespeare's authorship came to be questioned. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Mark | 1/16/2014

    " Really quite a fascinating book. Really, authorship is not the issue here as much as the issues that underly it: class and the sense of self, the role of autobiography in the writing life, the sense of modernity. A compelling look at the people and concepts that have driven the authorship debate, with a final solid defense of the man from Stratford. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Claire Haeg | 1/9/2014

    " This is a less compelling account that his previous (fabulous) book "1599" (which I'd recommend to anyone, BTW!) I thought Geraldine Greer's "Shakespeare's Wife" added some editional evidence to Shapiro's already excellent case for Shakespeare being Shakespeare. Worth reading. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 John Kenneth Fisher | 1/1/2014

    " Gives a strong retelling of the origins of various anti-stradfordian conspiracy theories. It doesn't waste time debunking them - just seeing the silly premises that spawned them is enough, and it's an enjoyable retelling of how a conspiracy theory spreads and mutates. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Cary Barney | 12/30/2013

    " A wonderful read, whether or not you care who wrote the plays. Shapiro does a fantastic job tracing the origins of the Shakespeare authorship "controversy", placing a lot of the blame on early Shakespeare worshipers, those who deified him and, later, those who could not conceive of an author writing anything other than veiled autobiography. He puts the controversy in a wider perspective, today's culture, where truth is relative and the appeal of conspiracy rumors elevates them to news status. This book really should put an end to the whole sorry authorship debate. But it won't, because no amount of evidence or common sense can persuade Oxfordians to renounce what is for them an article of faith. For the rest of us, though, this is thrilling, fascinating, fair-minded scholarship, entertaining from beginning to end, and thoroughly convincing. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Randy | 12/20/2013

    " This is a fantastic book. If nothing else, read it for its extensive review of the failure of criticism. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Carrie Lee | 11/11/2013

    " I went to hear James Shapiro speak at the Newberry Library last month. He gave a wonderful lecture, and his book lived up to it! "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Lauren | 11/5/2013

    " A little dense in the middle, but the ending saved it. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Kir | 9/15/2013

    " A very readable, clearly reasoned argument for the authorship of Shakespeare. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Alex Nagler | 7/25/2011

    " SHAKESPEARES PLAYS WERE WRITTEN BY SHAKESPEARE "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Kevin | 5/4/2011

    " A very informative and convincing piece of work on the questions of who really wrote Shakespeare and the history behind the conspiracy theories. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Lauren | 2/12/2011

    " A little dense in the middle, but the ending saved it. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Katrina | 9/2/2010

    " Very throrough. I now understand how Shakespeare's authorship came to be questioned. "

  • 2 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 5 Barb | 8/10/2010

    " I have to admit I gave up. I guess I really am not that interested in the speculative history of the playwright. Whoever wrote the plays is my hero. Enough said. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Jane Knutson | 8/9/2010

    " Finally finished the book (got side-tracked). It's a really good discussion about who wrote Shakespeare. I recommend it for anyone who interested in William Shakespeare. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Leslie | 8/3/2010

    " while maybe not as engrossing a read as 1599, i think i have a much better grounding in the various authorship theories regarding shakespeare's works. and Shapiro makes a good argument for Shakespeare, which i admit i find more compelling than the Baconian and Oxfordian conspiracy theories. "

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About the Author

James Shapiro is professor of English at Columbia University, where he has been the most admired lecturer in the university. He has written several scholarly books on Shakespeare. He lives in New York City.

About the Narrator

Wanda McCaddon (a.k.a. Nadia May or Donada Peters) has narrated well over six hundred titles for major audiobook publishers, has earned numerous Earphones Awards, and was named a Golden Voice by AudioFile magazine.