Everyone wants to pluck out the heart of Shakespeare's mystery, and Charles Hamilton believes that he has done so. There is an engaging zest about his account of his "obsession," his search to find records in the poet's hand. He scrambles out of bed at 5 a.m. to hunt through books for a clue, or rises at 12:45 a.m. on a freezing night to seek a document he may have overlooked, and excitedly reports on finding notes in Shakespeare's hand, "A chill shot up my spine, and lifted the hair on the back of my neck." As a "manuscript expert," Hamilton presents his conclusions as "facts," starting with his claim that Shakespeare's will, long assumed to have been drafted by a scrivener, "was in the poet's hand." He goes on to recount a series of other "discoveries" of documents said to be in the poet's writing, notably his application for a coat of arms, and numerous interlinear corrections in a manuscript containing works by Francis Bacon.
These finds lead to further speculations about Shakespeare's life and death. Hamilton suggests that besides writing plays and attending to his affairs at the Globe, Shakespeare was also a shrewd businessman, making money as an expert in heraldry and designer of coats of arms. In addition, the Earl of Southampton got him a job as ghostwriter for Francis Bacon, whose "Essays" he helped to compose. Shakespeare is also presented as an artist, who was really responsible for the famous sketch of Titus Andronicus usually attributed to Henry Peacham. As to the dramatist's death, a gruesome plot unfolds, in which his son-in-law, Thomas Quiney, married Judith Shakespeare for money, and murdered her father by administering arsenic, so as to prevent him from rewriting his will.