Books

Sweet Swan of Avon: Did a Woman Write Shakespeare? is the flagship book at Wilton Circle Press.

Robin Williams’ premise that a woman may have written the works attributed to William Shakespeare is not based on analysis of the female characters in the plays or on any perceived feminine attributes. Rather, she grounds her provocative study on documented evidence regarding Mary Sidney, a woman who developed the most important literary circle in English history, whose mission in life was to create great works in the English language, and who was unable to put her name on work written for the public theater. This writer had a love affair with a younger man (as told in the sonnets), was intimately connected to the world about which the plays are written, and was one of the most educated people in the country. Furthermore, she had unlimited access to the source materials for the plays.

This book does not attempt to prove that Mary Sidney Herbert, the Countess of Pembroke, wrote the plays and sonnets attributed to William Shakespeare. Instead, Robin Williams’ intent is to provide enough documented evidence to open the inquiry into this intriguing—and entirely plausible—possibility. She accomplishes this by, on the one hand, debunking longstanding assumptions about the author of these works, and, on the other hand, providing overwhelming documented evidence connecting Mary Sidney to the Shakespearean canon.

 

What others say:

It is long overdue that someone take a closer look at Mary Sidney. I have a suspicion that Mary Sidney's life, and especially her dedication to the English language after her brother's death, may throw important light on the mysterious authorship of the Shakespeare plays and poems.

Mark Rylance, Actor
Artistic Director Shakespeare's Globe Theatre 1996-2006
Chairman of The Shakespearean Authorship Trust
 

Sweet Swan of Avon: Did A Woman Write Shakespeare? is Robin Williams’ compelling study of our greatest writer. Piece by piece, she builds the case that Mary Sidney Herbert, the Countess of Pembroke, is the actual author of the Shakespearean canon. This tantalizing and beautifully written book helps us look hard at the possibility not just that Shakepeare was written by a woman, but a very well-placed, powerful woman.

Bonnie Wheeler, Ph.D.
English and Medieval Studies
Southern Methodist University
 

The first question I am immediately asked by curious freshmen in my Shakespeare course is always, “Who wrote these plays anyway?” Well, because of Robin Williams’ rigorous scholarship and artful sleuthing, Mary Sidney Herbert will forever have to be mentioned as a possible author of the Shakespearean canon. Sweet Swan of Avon doesn’t pretend to put the matter to rest, but simply shows how completely reasonable the authorship controversy is, and how the idea of a female playwright surprisingly answers more Shakespearean conundrums than it creates.

The real beauty of Sweet Swan of Avon is not, however, primarily academic; this book reminds us of a day when scholarship was fun, and important and original books were written for curious readers everywhere.

Cynthia Lee Katona
Professor of Shakespeare and Women’s Studies
Author of Book Savvy