The Atlantic

The Books Briefing: The Bard by Any Other Name

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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.

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