Shakespeare’s plays meet plagiarism-detection software

Steve Donoghue in the Christian Science Monitor:

The “rogue scholar” referred to in Michael Blandings’ captivating book, “North by Shakespeare: A Rogue Scholar’s Quest for the Truth Behind the Bard’s Work,” is a researcher who has confronted one of the most entrenched literary orthodoxies: that William Shakespeare of Stratford-upon-Avon wrote the plays that bear his name.

Dennis McCarthy, an amateur independent researcher, is hardly the first to challenge that orthodoxy, of course. For well over a century, iconoclasts of all stripes, including such public figures as Sigmund Freud, Helen Keller, Henry James (who came to think that “the divine William is the biggest and most successful fraud ever practiced on a patient world”), and of course Mark Twain, whose little 1909 book “Is Shakespeare Dead?” still makes hugely entertaining reading.

As Blanding relates, McCarthy’s approach to this vexing question centers on Elizabethan courtier and famed Plutarch translator Sir Thomas North. McCarthy’s innovation isn’t to contend that North actually wrote the plays that bear Shakespeare’s name; instead, he argues that Shakespeare wrote the plays by plagiarizing liberally from North’s earlier works, some of which were published and are now lost.

More here.