The Shakespeare Transcripts

(Critical Survey of Contemporary Fiction)

Ernest Dalrymple, J. Stirling Wirth Professor of Literature at Georgetown University, intends to resurrect his reputation by stealing the ideas of his brilliant graduate student Walter Sellers, whom Dalrymple also wants to discredit. When Sellers becomes involved with the beautiful young lawyer Ellen Kolinsky and her father in a search for manuscripts relating to Shakespeare, perhaps even holographs of the sonnets and THE MERCHANT OF VENICE, Dalrymple tries to secure ownership, or at least publication rights, to these also.

The documents that are the object of Sellers’ and Dalrymple’s quest concern Francis Bacon’s efforts in 1596 to claim authorship of Shakespeare’s plays as the young lawyer attempts to heighten his prestige with Queen Elizabeth. Bacon has powerful friends, while Shakespeare must rely on the skills of a clever lawyer and his beautiful and intelligent daughter, Madeline, who becomes the Dark Lady of Shakespeare’s sonnets.

The authors create much suspense in both plots. Even Shakespeare’s case, in which the outcome is a foregone conclusion, builds to an impressive climax. The authors also succeed in re-creating the sights, smells, sounds, and feel of the England of 1596.

Unhappily, the book’s history is sloppy. The Globe where Shakespeare is supposedly performing would not be built until 1599. Henry Carey, Lord Hunsdon, could not have dined with Queen Elizabeth in November of 1596, since he had died in July of that year. Francis Bacon’s death is recorded prematurely in 1624; he lived until 1626. Nor are Shakespeare’s texts faithfully reproduced. For example, the sonnet on page 99 contains three errors in fourteen lines, a poor performance even for a Shakespearean compositor.

One closes this book hoping that the authors will continue the literary collaboration begun here, but that in their next outing they will pay more attention to detail.