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Was it the Bard?

The verses of the just-discovered “Shakespeare” poem printed in The Times (Dec. 15) sound much more like the work of the 16th-Century lutenist and songwriter John Dowland (1562-1626) than of the famous Bard of Avon. The meter, the use of many rhetorical questions and the theme of the speaker’s adoring but unrequited love for a lady are all characteristic of Dowland’s lyrics (e.g., his “Shall I Sue”). The alleged date of composition (sometime between 1593 and 1959) also coincides with Dowland’s most productive period (he published the first collection of his lute songs in 1597).

Dowland was a competent lyricist, but his verses were never on a par with those of his illustrious contemporary. The pedestrian nature of the verse, together with the stylistic peculiarities mentioned above, argue for Dowland’s rather than Shakespeare’s authorship.

PATRICK McCAGUE

San Diego

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