There’s an edifying “Digressive Comic Interlude Featuring Shakespeare’s Ambiguously Revised Testimony in the Wigmaker’s Lawsuit,” and Rosenbaum’s “second most gratifying moment” is a legitimate one, Bernice Kliman’s acceptance of his suggested “pray on garbage” for “prey on garbage” in the Ghost’s speech in Hamlet 1.5. But he’s too busy posturing and pontificating (and I haven’t even mentioned “the Embarrassing Incident”) to get anywhere near the Bard’s bottom. Today’s Shakespeare wars include the continuing claims of the Oxfordians (Mark Anderson’s “Shakespeare” by Another Name is the latest volley) and the matter of Shakespeare’s collaborators (Brian Vickers’s Shakespeare, Co-Author is the current touchstone). Rosenbaum ignores these, and also Shakespeare’s involvement in the politics and religion of his time, questions raised, in different ways, by Greenblatt’s Will in the World and the closet-Catholic Shakespeare of Clare Asquith’s Shadowplay (whose “Shakespeare is usually seen as a writer so outstanding that the politics of his time are seen as irrelevant, even distracting” could be a Rosenbaum rebuke). In this context, The Shakespeare Wars is just a skirmish.
THE SHAKESPEARE WARS | BY RON ROSENBAUM | RANDOM HOUSE | 601 PAGES | $35
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