New Hampshire Sleuth Finds New Source for Shakespeare’s Plays

Geoffrey Greer

Two men, one play.

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The origins of Shakespeare's plays have been a subject of great debate for centuries. Dennis McCarthy, a Shakespeare sleuth and New Hampshire resident, has made groundbreaking progress in the field by identifying Thomas North as the source of at least twelve plays attributed to Shakespeare.

McCarthy examines North's writings against all previous scholarship on this topic and discovers what he calls "a profound resemblance" between passages from some of North's books and known works by Shakespeare. In addition to finding such an extensive correlation in the wording of dozens of sentences, his scholarly work has been confirmed by prominent Shakespearean scholars and has been published in top academic journals.

Now, McCarthy’s work is the subject of a new bestselling book, North by Shakespeare: A Rogue Scholar's Quest for the Truth Behind the Bard's Work by Michael Blanding.

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Blanding first met McCarthy when he was giving a guest lecture. At first, Blanding thought that McCarthy was one of those crazy kooks who believed that Shakespeare’s plays had not been written by Shakespeare. But McCarthy assured him that was not the case. Blanding agreed to meet with him again and McCarthy laid out his case for North being a key source of Shakespeare’s plays.

Using software originally intended to identify plagiarism, McCarthy found passage after passage in which North had used similar language to Shakespeare. McCarthy went on to publish his findings in top academic journals. Convinced, Blanding decided to write a book about McCarthy, the rogue Shakespeare scholar, and it has landed on bestseller lists.

This story goes to show how a single person working in their living room can outwork and outthink an army of academics.

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