The Shakespeare Conspiracy

Written by Sandra Hochman
Review by Val Adolph

Imagine that William Shakespeare had a wife who was beside him every day from the time he arrived in London until his death. Imagine this wife was responsible for much of his research and some of his writing. This is the premise of The Shakespeare Conspiracy.

The author opens with a ‘poetic prologue’ explaining how she came into possession of Anne Shakespeare’s diary one day while walking in the church cemetery in Stratford-upon-Avon. The novel, in the form of a diary, details Anne’s life in London with William, living disguised as his cousin ‘Arthur Headington’. William and ‘Arthur’ gain favor in the courts of both Queen Elizabeth I and King James I.

The descriptions of life in London from 1601 until the Globe Theatre burned down in 1613 are the strength of this novel. The courts of both Elizabeth I and James I are revealed by a writer with a discerning eye. The personalities, clothing, feasting, backbiting, and jealousies are vividly portrayed. More poignant are the jealousies and possible conspiracies that develop between the actors and writers of the literary and theatre worlds of the time.

William Shakespeare is portrayed as a happy genius who finds it hard to believe ill of the writers around him who sometimes conspire against him, relying on the more practical nature of Arthur Headington to keep him safe.

The author describes this novel as a historical fantasy. She weaves an interesting tale, bringing to life many of the court figures of the time as well as actors such as Burbage and other writers such as Marlowe and Ben Jonson. Fantastical as it is, the author shows us a Shakespeare that we have seldom seen before. Not to mention Anne Shakespeare, his literate and literary wife— a combination of diarist, muse and bodyguard.