MRS SHAKESPEARE: The Complete Works By Robert Nye (Sinclair-Stevenson Books, $255) ONE of the most awe-inspiring things a lover of literature can do is to study the dates when Shakespeare is believed to have written his plays. What strikes you is the speed. You end up with this picture of the Bard scribbling away with his quill, while his wife Anne shouts out: ''Odds bodkins! I'm pregnant again. Go and knock out another masterpiece, Bill.'' It is this premise which has inspired Robert Nye to write Mrs Shakespeare, a historical comedy which recreates aspects of his life from the point of view of Anne Hathaway. Anne tells the story of how her eccentric husband goes off to London to work in the theatre, and how she discovers his bisexual streak. (Scholars have long believed that many of the love sonnets were written to a man.) Sadly, Mr Nye has the most infuriating style of writing. The book is printed entirely in italics, and each sentence is presented as a paragraph, as in tabloid newspapers: Twenty arches. London Bridge has twenty arches. I should know. I counted them. Well it was something to do. You have to have something to do. The result is a short story masquerading as a long book. Then there is Anne's curious tendency to hop between the language of her century: ''I was wearing my peachflower taffeta gown with the partlet at the neck, and those new soft green neat's leather ankle-boots'' and modern idioms, such as ''What a way to start a holiday!'' and ''Other news in brief''. These are not mistakes. Mr Nye's long pedigree as a historical writer shows that they are attempts to be playful. No doubt he hopes other scholars will enjoy themselves de-constructing his puzzle into its component parts. But the tabloid-style paragraphs and modern idioms are a fatal flaw. They repulse the most sincere reader's attempts to get into the mind-set of the 1590s, making the experience wholly unsatisfying. These are basic errors of literary construction the Bard would never have made.