The Atlantic

The Books Briefing: The Bard by Any Other Name

Your weekly guide to the best in books
Source: U.S. Printing Co. / Library of Congress

Shakespeare, despite being perhaps the best-known writer in the English language, is a tricky figure to pin down. A new film about the playwright and poet’s life offers just one of many fictional interpretations of his biography. Meanwhile, a heated scholarly debate (two sides of which were featured in The Atlantic’s October 1991 issue) over Shakespeare’s identity has taken a fascinating feminist turn: Could the real author of Shakespeare’s work be a woman?

The writer Elizabeth Winkler explores that theory below. Such questions of, , and several other famous Shakespeare stories hinge on cases of dual or mistaken identity. Even words are double agents—Shakespearean puns are so plentiful that one scholar, David Crystal, created an entire dictionary to help actors and audiences appreciate them.

You're reading a preview, sign up to read more.

Related Interests

More from The Atlantic

The Atlantic3 min readPolitics
How American Women Are Amplifying Their Political Power
“I am not interested in building the capacity of people who are in office that want to take away my health care.”
The Atlantic2 min readPsychology
A Rational Case for Following Your Emotions
In the popular American imagination, emotion and rationality are often mutually exclusive. One is erratic, unpredictable, and often a liability; the other, cool, collected, and absent obvious feeling. And even though research suggests that people exp
The Atlantic3 min readPolitics
The Electoral Time Machine That Could Reelect Trump
White Christians are no longer the majority in America, but they’re still driving election results.