Nothing Like the Sun: A Story of Shakespeare's Love Life

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First edition (Heinemann)

Nothing Like the Sun is a fictional biography of William Shakespeare by Anthony Burgess first published in 1964. The novel concerns alleged relationships of Shakespeare from his perspective, including one with the notorious Elizabethan prostitute, Lucy Negro.


Burgess recounted in his Foreword added to later editions that the novel was a project of his for many years, but the process of writing accelerated so that publishing would coincide with the quatercentenary of Shakespeare's birth, on April 23, 1964.[1]:1–2 Though often disregarded by reviewers, Burgess explained in the Foreword that the novel does have a frame story in which a professor of a Malaysian college named "Mr. Burgess" delivers his final lecture on the life of Shakespeare before returning to the United Kingdom while progressively becoming more drunk on rice wine and gradually less inhibited as the lecture progresses.[1]:1The "lecture" begins with "Mr. Burgess" reading Sonnet 147, to which he will eventually reference as proof of Shakespeare contracting syphilis, proposing that his Dark Lady's name is spelled in acrostic in the poem, the letters F T M H being a latinization of the Arabic name "Fatjmah", meaning "destiny".

The novel also includes a plot of Shakespeare becoming cuckolded by his younger brother Richard, who had stayed in Stratford, a thesis Burgess first encountered in literature in the Scylla and Charybdis episode of James Joyce's Ulysses.[1]:2

The novel's title refers to the first line of Sonnet 130: "My mistress' eyes are nothing like the sun."

Burgess uses a style which owes something to both Elizabethan English and Joycean wordplay.


It ranks among Harold Bloom's favourite Burgess novels.[2] He noted it in his book, The Western Canon, as the most effective biography of Shakespeare,[3]:181 and proposed it as a canonical work in that book's appendices.[3]:386


  1. ^ a b c Burgess, Anthony (1992) [1982]. Nothing like the sun: a story of Shakespeare's love-life (repr. ed.). London: Vintage. ISBN 0-09-919431-7.
  2. ^ Bloom, Harold (November 11, 2009). "Road Trip". New York Times. Retrieved 22 October 2012.
  3. ^ a b Bloom, Harold (1995). The Western canon : the books and school of the ages (1st Riverhead ed.). New York: Riverhead Books. ISBN 1573225142.

Further reading[edit]

  • Burgess, Anthony (1992). Nothing Like The Sun. London: Vintage. ISBN 0-09-941690-5.
  • Burgess, Anthony (2013). Nothing Like The Sun. New York: W. W. Norton & Company. ISBN 978-0-393-34640-4.