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Publication in France:
05 April 2018

496 pages

To Be Or Not To Be

Grégory Laburthe-Tolra

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Was William Shakespeare, born in 1564 in Stratford-upon-Avon, the true author of the plays of Shakespeare? This is a historical novel that explores a theory that is both arresting and credible.

Tormented love affairs, plots and political machinations provide the backdrop to the life of Francis Bacon, one of Elizabeth I’s diplomats. This philosopher, lawyer and playwright is just 17 when he meets the beautiful, flamboyant and capricious Queen Margot at the French court. Suffering greatly from the impossibility of their love, they communicate using a complex code which they conceal in works of drama. Having developed a true passion for theatre and a mischievous personality, Bacon spends his free time writing in taverns.

One day at the port, he meets a young doctor called James Rawley to whom he recounts his incredible adventures, full of intrigues which have inspired his imagination and his writing, and James gradually learns of the extraordinary background of Francis Bacon, who never signs his plays in his own name… Several years earlier, the dignified but distant Elisabeth I, who at the time had been incarcerated by her sister in the Tower of London, fell in love with the young count Robert Dudley. They were forced to conceal their love and also, it was said, to abandon their bastard son. The child’s name was Francis and he was entrusted to a couple named Bacon.
Giving free rein to his imagination, Grégory Laburthe-Tolra immerses us in Elizabethan England and gives substance to a crazy and yet entirely plausible theory in this captivating historical novel, which reveals many of the mysteries of the Tudor dynasty and calls into question the very status of the most important and fascinating queen in British history.


Grégory Laburthe-Tolra was born in Paris in 1980. Être ou ne pas être is his first novel.

More information in french