Sunday, September 09, 2007

The Shakespeare Authorship Coalition

Ok, the authorship question is no stranger here.  The link above is the home of "the Declaration of Reasonable Doubt About the Identity of William Shakespeare", and it's about to get very popular.  You see, Derek Jacobi (and others) have also signed it.  Surely it says something when one of the most well known Shakespearean actors of the day signs such a document?

It is important to read what's actually being said, though.  These are not a bunch of loonies saying "Bacon did it!" or "It was de Vere, you morons!"  Instead, these are people who are simply acknowledging that there is room for doubt.  It's up to each person individually to decide how much doubt they have.  The site itself, for instance, says clearly that "we doubt that he [the man from Stratford] was the author of the works."  So that's the position they're coming from.  I would take the opposite stance, namely that the lack of evidence does not change my opinion that he did, even if I'm willing to admit that there is room for doubt.

I like the way Jacobi put it.  "I subscribe to the group theory," he said.  "I don't think anybody could do it on their own." And later, "I think the leading light was probably deVere as I agree that an author writes about his own experience, his own life and personalities." 

An interesting development indeed!  It's a public document.  Would you sign it?


fl said...

I agree that this is a far less "loony" statement than we typically encounter from the "anti-Stratfordian" camp, but it still relies a misunderstanding of the Early Modern notion of "authorship." And it sets up a straw man in "orthodox scholars," who usually do acknowledge that authorship at the time was a collaborative process among actors, writers, and theater managers, but they understand that Shakespeare's lack of a "college education" and status as a glovemaker's son don't cast doubt on his role in writing the plays attributed to him.
So no, I wouldn't sign it. But it's a question I'd bring up in the classroom, solely because of what it has to say about critical reasoning and the nature of conspiracy theories.

James said...

This is a fascinating area of research as most modern day scholars agree that William Shakespeare was not Shakespeare. However, the problem that non-Stratfordians have is finding any significant connection to Stratford-upon-Avon. No such problem for the newest and strongest candidate; Fulke Greville, Lord Brooke, who was a magnificent poet and sonneteer, as well as a lawyer, soldier, sailor, Chancellor, and who was Recorder of ... Stratford-upon-Avon!! If this subject is of interest, see

Merry Jelinek said...

I wouldn't sign it for reasons I outlined here It's not so much a matter of not believing the possibility that there was another author as a very strong distaste for the elitist bigotry that seems to push this particular group.

I don't subscribe to the 'group' theory. In all of my reading of Shakespeare's works, I've found no discrepancies indicative of multiple authors. In lay man's terms, every good author has a distinct voice. While a good writer can mimic another's voice, it's not impossible, it's also not very easy to maintain another person's voice for the entirety of a play... I would say it's very unlikely and, if those pointing to lack of proof think it's a good enough reason to question Shakespeare, they should jump on the fact that there should be a trail to follow on multiple authors.

James' post is very interesting, and I'll follow the link to read a bit more into it - but, just off the top of my head, the fact that this person carried such a list of qualifications and was a recorder of Stratford might make him a good candidate for the real author - or it might make him a good candidate for the author's research material....

My point in the obvious leaning toward the acknowledged Shakespeare is primarily from the position of being a fiction writer - those who don't write often don't realize, but a good author does not need to live something to write it - they only need to research and empathise... No one's offered any evidence that the Shakespeare we acknowledge couldn't have done just that.