The true story of a self-taught Shakespeare sleuth’s quest to prove his theory about the source of the world’s most famous plays, taking readers inside Elizabethan England as well as the contemporary scene of Shakespeare scholars and obsessives.
... entertaining ... [an] energetic narrative ... [Blanding] also delves into Tudor history, illuminating North’s life as a traveler and aristocrat ... It’s unclear if Blanding’s highly enjoyable foray into the field will have an impact on Shakespearean scholars, but at the very least, North by Shakespeare will provide readers with the tools to enter the fray themselves. The book includes McCarthy’s estimated timeline of North’s plays next to a timeline of Shakespeare’s work, which readers can use along with McCarthy’s other techniques to examine passages from both North and Shakespeare themselves. It’s almost as much fun as sitting in a theater.
...captivating ... Years ago, McCarthy impulsively self-published a book outlining some of his earliest thoughts on the subject. He called it North by Shakespeare, and in a neat gesture of writerly magnanimity, Blanding adopts that title in order to tell the story of McCarthy’s journey, North’s adventures, and, ultimately, the whole Shakespeare authorship question ... Blanding dramatizes very effectively the thrill of this literary investigation, giving readers a revelation-by-revelation account of the developments in McCarthy’s thinking without ever drowning them in trivia. The book likewise does a virtuoso job of evoking both the realities of Shakespeare’s world and the twists and turns of the whole Shakespeare question ... a curiously invigorating glimpse of that jobbing, hustling Shakespeare ... this isn’t some silly conspiracy theory. Orthodox scholars who simply ignore it do so at the peril of their reputations.
McCarthy does not join those who have denied Shakespeare’s authorship, typically attributing the Bard’s works to Francis Bacon or Edward de Vere. However, Blanding interprets McCarthy’s views as discernibly similar. Readers not persuaded by McCarthy’s theory may still gain from his insights into how guardians of orthodoxy deal with an interloper.