The best stories wherein a fictional Shakespeare enters stage right

Clarissa Pattern Author Of Airy Nothing
By Clarissa Pattern

The Books I Picked & Why

The Sandman Vol. 3: Dream Country

By Neil Gaiman, Kelley Jones

Book cover of The Sandman Vol. 3: Dream Country

Why this book?

As someone who spends my happiest moments in entirely made-up places with people who, it pains me to write, don’t actually exist, I am obsessed with the wavy lines between the life we imagine and the life we live. And no one writes about that cloudy blue haze between reality and our interior world better than Neil Gaiman. Shakespeare is glimpsed in other parts of the epic Sandman saga, but it is in the stand-alone story A Midsummer Night’s Dream where he is the star. It is both delightful and disturbing in a way that Gaiman is a master of.

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The Daylight Gate

By Jeanette Winterson

Book cover of The Daylight Gate

Why this book?

I am secretly, or not so secretly now, in love with Jeanette Winterson. So I was very happy to discover that Winterson wrote a novel based on the 1612 Lancashire Witch Trials featuring an appearance by Mr. William Shakespeare. Not that this is a happy novel. It is brutal and made more horrific by the facts behind it, but that just makes it all the more enthralling to contemplate what humans are capable of doing to each other.

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The Book of Sand and Shakespeare's Memory

By Jorge Luis Borges, Andrew Hurley

Book cover of The Book of Sand and Shakespeare's Memory

Why this book?

I love anything that explores issues of identity, how we define ourselves and others. Throw in a subtle questioning of the ‘truth’ of our most treasured memories, and I am completely hooked. Jorge Louis Borges does all that in this irresistible short story where it is possible for a person to have access to Shakespeare’s memory. As wondrous as this sounds for scholars of Shakespeare’s work, the reality is actually much more mundane and troubling.

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A Dead Man in Deptford

By Anthony Burgess

Book cover of A Dead Man in Deptford

Why this book?

A Dead Man in Deptford was the last published novel of Anthony Burgess’s lifetime and can be seen as a companion piece to his earlier fictional biography of William Shakespeare, Nothing Like the Sun. A Dead Man in Deptford follows Christopher Marlowe’s life, and Will of Warwickshire lurks very very much in the background of this novel. This somehow adds to the poignancy, as even within his own story, the reader is always aware that Marlowe’s era will be dominated by the name of William Shakespeare. 

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No Bed for Bacon

By Caryl Brahms, S.J. Simon

Book cover of No Bed for Bacon

Why this book?

Shakespeare’s plays can be very funny, (many of my friends disagree with this, but I swear by the goddess of Renaissance puns it’s true!), and this is a light, fluffy book that deserves a place on any bookshelf because it embraces silliness and turns it right up to eleven. Our Will’s key predicament is something everyone who has ever written can relate to, being certain you have a literary masterpiece locked up in your mind if only you can be left alone long enough to make it magically appear on the blank page. 

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