Sweet Swan of Avon: Did a Woman Write Shakespeare? 

This is the book that compelled authorship conversations to include Mary Sidney Herbert, the Countess of Pembroke, as a serious Shakespeare authorship candidate. 

Robin Williams grounds her provocative study on documented evidence regarding Mary Sidney, a woman who developed the most important literary circle in English history, whose mission in life was to create great works in the English language, and who was unable to put her name on work written for the public theater. This writer had a love affair with a younger man (as told in the sonnets), was intimately connected to the world about which the plays are written, and was one of the most educated people in the country. She also had unlimited access to the source materials for the plays, many of which were written by her or others in her literary circle.

This book does not attempt to prove that Mary Sidney Herbert, the Countess of Pembroke, wrote the plays and sonnets attributed to William Shakespeare. Instead, Robin Williams’ intent is to provide enough documented evidence to open the inquiry into this intriguing—and entirely plausible—possibility. She accomplishes this by, on the one hand, debunking longstanding assumptions about the author of these works, and, on the other hand, providing overwhelming documented evidence connecting Mary Sidney to the Shakespearean canon.

Sweet Swan of Avon is now available in paperback.

Robin Williams, Ph.D., spent many years writing, designing, and producing dozens of best-selling and award-winning books about design, typography, the web, and the Macintosh computer. In Sweet Swan of Avon: Did a Woman Write Shakespeare?, she turns to a project that has been on her mind for more than thirty years.

Although the authorship of the Shakespearean canon may seem a far cry from computer books, Robin approaches the topic with the same calm, clear-headed consistency that she uses to unravel and explain difficult technology.

An independent scholar for many years, Robin has studied Shakespeare at St. John’s College in Santa Fe and Oxford University in England. She leads in-depth readings and discussions of Shakespeare for adults and guides play readings at The Mermaid Tavern and elsewhere in Santa Fe. She has been a featured speaker on several occasions at the Authorship Conference at Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre in London and also the Shakespeare Authorship Roundtable in Beverly Hills, California. Robin is an Associate Member, by invitation of Mark Rylance, of the Shakespearean Authorship Trust in London, founded in 1922. She was honored with a Distinguished Scholar award for her work in authorship by the Shakespeare Authorship Research Centre in Portland, Oregon. 

Robin is the first American with a postgraduate degree in Shakespearean Authorship, which she earned at Brunel University London in 2010. At Brunel she also earned her Ph.D. on the history and future of reading Shakespeare.

I Read Shakespeare, an ongoing project. 

Sweet Swan of Avon by Robin P. Williams
Third edition • 2019

Sweet Swan of Avon: Did A Woman Write Shakespeare? is Robin Williams’s compelling study of our greatest writer. Piece by piece, she builds the case that Mary Sidney Herbert, the Countess of Pembroke, is the actual author of the Shakespearean canon. Shakepeare’s true identity may be impossible to prove until doomsday, but this tantalizing and beautifully written book helps us look hard at the possibility not just that the Shakespearean works were written by a woman, but a very well-placed powerful woman.  

--Bonnie Wheeler, PhD, SMU, Texas

Robin Williams’ cogent and fully documented arguments in support of Mary Sidney’s authorship of the works attributed to Shakespeare have convinced me that no more important avenue of study exists today.

--Barbara Riley