Shakespeare Was a Woman and Other Heresies Summary and Reviews

Shakespeare Was a Woman and Other Heresies

How Doubting the Bard Became the Biggest Taboo in Literature

by Elizabeth Winkler

Shakespeare Was a Woman and Other Heresies by Elizabeth Winkler X
Shakespeare Was a Woman and Other Heresies by Elizabeth Winkler
Buy This Book

About this book

Book Summary

A thrillingly provocative investigation into the Shakespeare authorship question, exploring how doubting that William Shakespeare wrote his plays became an act of blasphemy...and who the Bard might really be.

The theory that Shakespeare may not have written the works that bear his name is the most horrible, vexed, unspeakable subject in the history of English literature. Scholars admit that the Bard's biography is a "black hole," yet to publicly question the identity of the god of English literature is unacceptable, even (some say) "immoral."

In Shakespeare Was a Woman and Other Heresies, journalist and literary critic Elizabeth Winkler sets out to probe the origins of this literary taboo. Whisking readers from London to Stratford-upon-Avon to Washington, DC, she pulls back the curtain to show how the forces of nationalism and empire, religion and mythmaking, gender and class have shaped our admiration for Shakespeare across the centuries. As she considers the writers and thinkers—from Walt Whitman to Sigmund Freud to Supreme Court justices—who have grappled with the riddle of the plays' origins, she explores who may perhaps have been hiding behind his name. A forgotten woman? A disgraced aristocrat? A government spy? Hovering over the mystery are Shakespeare's plays themselves, with their love for mistaken identities, disguises, and things never quite being what they seem.

As she interviews scholars and skeptics, Winkler's interest turns to the larger problem of historical truth—and of how human imperfections (bias, blindness, subjectivity) shape our construction of the past. History is a story, and the story we find may depend on the story we're looking for.

An irresistible work of literary detection, Shakespeare Was a Woman and Other Heresies will forever change how you think of Shakespeare... and of how we as a society decide what's up for debate and what's just nonsense, just heresy.

Membership Advantages
  • Reviews
  • "Beyond the Book" articles
  • Free books to read and review (US only)
  • Find books by time period, setting & theme
  • Read-alike suggestions by book and author
  • Book club discussions
  • and much more!
  • Just $45 for 12 months or $15 for 3 months.
  • More about membership!

Reviews

Media Reviews

"Probing and smart, this is sure to stir up lively debate…. [Winkler] uses the controversy to serve up thoughtful meditations on the role of the author, the objectivity of biography, and the limits of scholarly study." —Publishers Weekly (starred review)

"A shrewd, entertaining journey into a literary quagmire." —Kirkus Reviews

"A must-read for those obsessed with the bard." —Booklist

"Elizabeth Winkler is blessed with the clear-eyed wit of a heroine in a Shakespearean comedy. Her undoing of the fools in the forest of the authorship question is iconoclasm As You Like It—joy to behold, lesson for us all." —Lewis Lapham, founder of Lapham's Quarterly

"Elizabeth Winkler's Shakespeare Was a Woman and Other Heresies is one of the most engaging, riveting, scholarly, and challenging whodunits anyone with an interest in theater, human psychology, literature, and history can hope to read. Following in the footsteps of Henry James, Mark Twain, Mark Rylance, and innumerable other skeptics, Winkler writes about what has been essentially a centuries old theological dispute about the origins of Shakespeare's astounding body of work like a Shakespearean drama itself: full of complex characters with false reputations and deceptive appearances." —Bessel van der Kolk, MD, New York Times bestselling author of The Body Keeps Score

"An extraordinarily brilliant and scholarly work, written with an unyielding sleuthing instinct and sparkling with pleasurably naughty moments. This page-turner is mesmerizing." —André Aciman, PhD, New York Times bestselling author of Call Me by Your Name

This information about Shakespeare Was a Woman and Other Heresies was first featured in "The BookBrowse Review" - BookBrowse's membership magazine, and in our weekly "Publishing This Week" newsletter. Publication information is for the USA, and (unless stated otherwise) represents the first print edition. The reviews are necessarily limited to those that were available to us ahead of publication. If you are the publisher or author and feel that they do not properly reflect the range of media opinion now available, send us a message with the mainstream reviews that you would like to see added.

Any "Author Information" displayed below reflects the author's biography at the time this particular book was published.

Membership Advantages
  • Reviews
  • "Beyond the Book" articles
  • Free books to read and review (US only)
  • Find books by time period, setting & theme
  • Read-alike suggestions by book and author
  • Book club discussions
  • and much more!
  • Just $45 for 12 months or $15 for 3 months.
  • More about membership!

Author Information

Elizabeth Winkler

Elizabeth Winkler is a journalist and book critic whose work has appeared in The Wall Street Journal, The New Yorker, The New Republic, The Times Literary Supplement, and The Economist, among other publications. She received her undergraduate degree from Princeton University and her master's in English literature from Stanford University. Her essay "Was Shakespeare a Woman?", first published in The Atlantic, was selected for The Best American Essays 2020. She lives in Washington, DC.

More Author Information

Membership Advantages
  • Reviews
  • "Beyond the Book" articles
  • Free books to read and review (US only)
  • Find books by time period, setting & theme
  • Read-alike suggestions by book and author
  • Book club discussions
  • and much more!
  • Just $45 for 12 months or $15 for 3 months.
  • More about membership!

More Recommendations

Readers Also Browsed . . .

more history, current affairs and religion...

Membership Advantages
  • Reviews
  • "Beyond the Book" articles
  • Free books to read and review (US only)
  • Find books by time period, setting & theme
  • Read-alike suggestions by book and author
  • Book club discussions
  • and much more!
  • Just $45 for 12 months or $15 for 3 months.
  • More about membership!

Become a Member

Join BookBrowse today to start discovering exceptional books!

Find out more


Top Picks

  • Book Jacket: The Postcard
    The Postcard
    by Anne Berest
    Anne Berest's The Postcard — with an elegant translation from the French by Tina Cover &...
  • Book Jacket
    Elektra
    by Jennifer Saint
    Few cultures in history mastered the art of tragedy quite like the ancient Greeks. And very few ...
  • Book Jacket: Salvage This World
    Salvage This World
    by Michael Farris Smith
    In the near-future universe of Michael Farris Smith's Salvage This World, life-threatening ...
  • Book Jacket: Where Coyotes Howl
    Where Coyotes Howl
    by Sandra Dallas
    Where Coyotes Howl may appear to be a classically conventional historical novel — a wide-eyed ...

Book Club Discussion

Book Jacket
The First Conspiracy
by Brad Meltzer & Josh Mensch
A remarkable and previously untold piece of American history—the secret plot to kill George Washington

Members Recommend

  • Book Jacket

    The Little Italian Hotel
    by Phaedra Patrick

    Sunny, tender and brimming with charm, The Little Italian Hotel explores marriage, identity and reclaiming the present moment.

Win This Book
Win Girlfriend on Mars

30 Copies to Give Away!

A funny and poignant debut novel that skewers billionaire-funded space travel in a love story of interplanetary proportions.

Enter

Wordplay

Solve this clue:

Y S M Back A I'll S Y

and be entered to win..

Your guide toexceptional          books

BookBrowse seeks out and recommends the best in contemporary fiction and nonfiction—books that not only engage and entertain but also deepen our understanding of ourselves and the world around us.