Then comes the really interesting stuff: According to Boog’s research, “there is almost a 25 percent chance that when you watch a Shakespeare play, [a character] will faint on stage.” Boog suggests it’s possible that Shakespeare’s fascination with dramatic swoons wasn’t merely a physiological response to strong emotions. Instead, he asserts, it could have been an indication of epilepsy or bipolar disorder–and according to historical records, Shakespeare did not exhibit any symptoms associated with these conditions.
Boog backs up his claims with plenty of excerpts from the plays and sonnets–as well as a healthy dose of humor. He also makes an argument for why exploring the playwright’s true identity is important, even centuries later. “The search for the ‘real’ Shakespeare is not just a search for the truth, it has to do with expanding our culture,” he writes, arguing that revelations like the ones he’s after could provide inspiration for bipolar individuals who still encounter stigma and mistrust. While his litany of conspiracies at times can feel a bit rambling, Boog’s good-natured voice will keep more casual readers onboard, while enthusiasts of Shakespearian identity mysteries will find many points of interest.
Takeaway: A deep, sometimes funny dive into theories about Shakespeare’s true identity and mental health.
Great for fans of: James Shapiro’s Contested Will: Who Wrote Shakespeare?, Ted Bacino’s The Shakespeare Conspiracy: A Novel About the Greatest Literary Deception of All Time.
Design and typography: B
Marketing copy: C+