This is a book about William Shakespeare's afterlife, but there's nothing mystical about it. It's a book about sex comedies with no sex, about tragedies where everyone lives happily ever after, about a Shakespeare festival where not a line of Shakespeare was spoken. It's a book about a king's teenage mistress and a prudish doctor afraid of blood, about the murder of a king and about royalist propaganda, about the almost religious adoration for a writer whose works no one could see in their original context. It's about a classic of children's literature written by a murderess, about a war fought in scholarly footnotes, and about foreign affairs being conducted on the London stage. It's about a regicide, a whore, and a forger all contributing toward the production of a genius. It's a book about a provincial bumpkin who became the great portraitist of the universal human condition. And it's only fitting that it should be about paradoxes, because it's a book about one of the greatest paradoxes in all of world literature-a book about how Shakespeare became Shakespeare.
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