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    Shakespeare "Authorship Debates" and Amateur Scholarship

    So, just in time to ruin my New Year's celebrations, Newsweek has seen fit to publish a credulous article trumpeting the old who-wrote-Shakespeare conspiracy theories. I won't give Newsweek a link, but you can click through Amanda Marcotte's smart takedown at Rawstory if you're curious. The original piece is full of breathless non-facts like "Nobody ever recognised Shakespeare as a writer during his lifetime" [except for at least three dozen separate individuals, writing both in print and manuscript, because Shakespeare was famous]  "and when he died, in 1616, no one seemed to notice" [except the six different poets who wrote memorial verses for him]. Apparently you can always say, "there's no evidence" even when there is evidence.

    Now, I'm on record about this question on this blog, and under my professional name, and I've been quoted about it in a major newspaper, so I don't want to belabor the key facts here. As the above example suggests, this isn't really a debate about facts anyway. But this phony debate often gets cast as insiders vs. outsiders, the stuffy Shakespeare establishment, with all the PhDs and whatever vs. the free-thinking, imaginative amateur scholars. So I'd like to clarify a few things about how academic and amateur Shakespeareans work.

    1. Professional Shakespeareans constantly argue with each other and are rewarded for new ideas.

    The standard position of the Francis Bacon/Earl of Oxford/etc./etc. fans is that "orthodox" Shakespeareans are all sticking together because we are afraid of new ideas. This ignores the fact that academic Shakespeare scholars argue with each other constantly about any question that can reasonably be disputed. Winning arguments with each other is how we get ahead in our careers. And winning an argument that brings in a big new idea, or overturns an important old idea, is the gold standard. The academic Shakespeare establishment isn't a conspiracy. It's a boxing ring.

    This is one of the reasons that academic writing can be hard for general readers to enjoy: it focuses on highlighting the new idea that the writer is putting forward, rather than the ideas that the reader might find most interesting. Something that's interesting to you as a reader but that every scholar's agreed on for the last fifty years won't get much attention, while today's new idea, even if it's quite small, will get the most attention. And because every argument a scholar puts forward is liable to being torn apart by other scholars, scholarly writing tends to be carefully hedged and to carefully shore up even pretty small issues so that they don't give another critic an opening. That's another reason academese is hard to read.

    I don't write my scholarship to highlight how much I agree with more established Shakespeareans. It's just the reverse. I once criticized something written by the then-head of the Shakespeare Birthplace Trust (whom many Oxfordians especially dislike) so, ah, energetically that I was publicly accused, in print, of having been "unfair" to him. (Of course, I don't think that I was unfair, but hey, to offend and judge are distinct offices.) Scholarly writing demands pointing out where other scholars are wrong.

    A member of the "Shakespeare establishment" who could make a strong case that Shakespeare's works had been written by someone else would stand to benefit enormously. Even if it weren't a completely bullet-proof case, the rewards for making a reasonably strong case, opening room for legitimate doubt, would be huge. You'd immediately become a major player in the field. If I thought I had the evidence to back up a case like that, you'd better believe that I would make it. And so would a lot of other people like me. Yes, that would mean publicly disagreeing with many important senior scholars; that would only make it sweeter.

    (On the other hand, the reward for believing Shakespeare wrote Shakespeare is nothing, just like the reward for believing that the sky is blue and water is wet is nothing. No one beats someone else out for a job because they both believe the same thing that no one else doubts. One of the frustrations many literary scholars have teaching beginning undergraduates is those students' deep commitment to arguing things that are so obviously true that they're not worth bringing up; making arguments like that is not what professional academics value at all.)

    The reason I don't make a case for someone else writing Shakespeare is that I can't. The reason that a large group of other people inside the academic world haven't done it is that they can't either. If there were evidence to make a good case, someone would certainly be ambitious enough to make it. But it never happens.

    2. Amateur scholars are welcome in academic debates.

    One of my generation's two greatest historians of Shakespeare's theater is an independent scholar named Dave Kathman, who doesn't have a university job or a PhD in literature. Dave works as a financial analyst in Chicago, and does the Shakespeare-theater-history thing as a hobby. But he's enormously productive and valuable as a scholar. There's only one PhD-holder in my generation who's more important to that specific field than Dave is. (That scholar is an Oxford professor, very much part of the establishment.) Dave has found original documents that we had not known about, because he looked in archives people had not thought about trying. So suddenly, thanks to Dave, we have apprenticeship records for Shakespeare's boy actors. We can prove when they joined the company, and we can closely estimate their ages. It used to be we knew very little about the boys who played female parts, but now we know more about them than we know about some of the adult actors.

    Dave doesn't get turned away because he doesn't have a PhD in our field, or because he doesn't teach college. He's been welcomed and valued, because he makes important contributions. He has also made a strong argument that changed the way we think about an important primary document from theater history, a piece of old paper that's obscure to outsiders but which turns out to underwrite a lot of other theories about what was going on in the 1590s. Dave made strong case for that document being from a different year than we thought, and belonging to a different acting company. This, of course, led to a debate. Shakespeareans debate things. And Dave was opposed by some very high-profile senior scholars who were committed to the old way of looking at that document. But they didn't pull rank on him. No one said, "I teach at an Ivy and you don't have a PhD in English, so you're wrong." They had to meet him on the facts, and some eventually had to concede that he was right.

    We don't turn amateurs away because they're amateurs. An amateur who makes a strong case can win the day.

    3. Shakespeare "authorship disputes" are actually OLDER than professional Shakespeare scholarship. 

    In fact, the "authorship controversy" started in the days when every Shakespearean was an amateur. It didn't start until the 19th century, which is long enough after Shakespeare's death to raise difficult questions. (No one in the 16th, 17th, or 18th centuries expressed any doubts. But sometime after Shakespeare had been dead for 200 years a few people suddenly decided that it was impossible that he wrote his works.) But university courses on Shakespeare come even later still, as do doctoral degrees in English literature. Those don't get underway until the second half of the 19th century.

    So this didn't start as an argument between professors and outsiders. There were no professors of Shakespeare. Everyone was an amateur (and that includes some of the greatest Shakespeare scholars who have ever lived).

    But when literature departments got organized and people started writing research dissertations on Shakespeare, none of the maybe-someone-else-wrote-it stuff got used by the new group of pros. It wasn't because people conspired to exclude it. Someone who could prove that case in 1865 or 1915 would have been highly rewarded, the same way someone would for proving it in 2015. But the evidence for other candidates has never been there. And you can't get away telling your PhD adviser bullshit like "No one ever mentioned Shakespeare as a writer during his lifetime." Your adviser will know that's a lie.

    The "Shakespeare authorship" arguments are like astrology: an old idea that professionals working in the field have outgrown but that stays popular with a slice of the general public. Like astrology, the Shakespeare-authorship game has trouble generating new hypotheses that can stand up to a rigorous test. And so authorship debates, like astrology, tend to recycle old claims over and over again, giving them a certain time-in-a-bottle quality. I'm having trouble finding anything in that Newsweek story that you couldn't find somewhere else by, say, 1940. In the academic world, a piece that just repeats things from decades ago is completely unpublishable. But the authorship hobbyists are more than happy to dish out the same old cabbage, no matter how many times it's been served before.

    Journalists writing "news" stories about these conspiracy theories need to spin the Shakespeare-not-Shakespeare idea as somehow, well, new. But it's not new. It's a very old idea, nearly two hundred years old at this point, and it hasn't made any progress in a long time.


    Doc, I hate to tell you but... I wrote Hamlet.  Any monkey could do it, given enough time.

    Also, my favorite Shakespeare conspiracy has nothing to do with who wrote the plays.  It's this: everybody who ever saw one of the original productions is dead.  All of them.  Think about that.

    Happy New Year.

    IF you had a typewriter in 1602! J'accuse.

    And do you KNOW that Margery Jennings of  Bishopsgate, London is dead? Can you PROVE it?

    Man, those were two good retorts.


    Dear James

    Thanks for your thoughtful post. 

    [1. Professional Shakespeareans constantly argue with each other and are rewarded for new ideas. The standard position of the Francis Bacon/Earl of Oxford/etc./etc. fans is that "orthodox" Shakespeareans are all sticking together because we are afraid of new ideas.]

    I don’t take that view. I know there is considerable evidence in favour of Shakespeare of Stratford as the author. However, there is also considerable evidence that calls it into doubt. I think many Shakespeareans (certainly almost all that I’ve read) predicate their thinking on an assumption that Shakespeare is the author. This leads them to endow weak evidence as strong (e.g. Southampton was his patron based on V&A, Lucrece; scant records in the stationer’s register; records of performances), and to endow contrary indications as aberrations (George Buc’s two annotations, Groatsworth, Parnassus, Every Man Out, and ambiguity/ambivalence in Jonson’s FF poem; The Heminge/Condell letters - written by Jonson; even our sole example of Shax manuscript, Hand D in Sir Thomas More which, contrary to the 2nd Heminge/Condell letter, is riddled with blots and crossings-out). 

    [“One of the frustrations many literary scholars have teaching beginning undergraduates is those students' deep commitment to arguing things that are so obviously true that they're not worth bringing up; ...”]

    I understand time in the classroom is valuable. However it may be that students are challenging what they are being told they must believe, rather than being asked to make their own sense of all the evidence. Perhaps it is an unlucky quirk of history that the quantum of evidence for Shakespeare is not overwhelming, and there are many unsettling contrary indications. Nevertheless, we must deal with what we have and some of what we have undermines the “historical fact” of Shakespeare as the author. For this reason doubt is a valid response. As a doubter I often feel I’m being told that I don’t understand the cultural nuances that explain away all the contrary indications that exist. In your words... 

    [...arguing things that are so obviously true that they're not worth bringing up;] 

    As a former theatre academic myself, this argument has an emotional effect on me – as I’m sure it does on many students. However, having now looked at the evidence supporting Shakespeare of Stratford for many years, I still don’t get it. I find it all to be weak, ambiguous or contradictory. (I’d be glad to discuss any item in this regard). 

    [2. Amateur scholars are welcome in academic debates.]

    This may be true if you are on the Stratfordian side. You mention David Kathman below. I’ve read much of his work rebutting doubt about Shakespeare’s authorship, but I confess I’m ignorant of his contributions to Shakespeare scholarship outside of this. In relation to authorship, I find he is case-making rather than truth-seeking. In the comments below you urge charity towards the occasional error, with which I wholeheartedly agree. However, there is error and there is selective misrepresentation. I hope you’ll forgive my lengthy example. In his web article Shakespeare’s Friends Kathman attempts to elevate the cultural attainments of Shakespeare’s Warwickshire circle. To this end Kathman characterises Quiney’s letter to Shakespeare as one of affection only: 

    “This correspondence contains Quiney's famous letter to Shakespeare (in which he mentions that he is going to Court on business and may not be back that night).” 

    Similarly, in Shakespeare Beyond Doubt (p124-5) Kathman has: 

    “Quiney’s famous letter to Shakespeare is addressed to ‘my loving good friend and countryman, Master William Shakespeare’.” 

    On both occasions, Kathman makes true statements that nevertheless mislead the reader. He omits the clear primary intention of the letter which is to borrow 30 pounds and the substance which is to impress upon Shakespeare his need and creditworthiness. Of course Quiney’s letter is respectful. 

    The nature of the letter does not seem to cast any light at all on the authorship question, but it has been misused to advance an argument rather than to illuminate any truth. 

    Conversely, I find that academia tersely explains away the non-conforming evidence. To take the Heminge/Condell example above; here, a great poet (Jonson) forges letters from two actor/s (Heminge/Condell) addressed to two Earls (Pembroke and Montgomery). How is it that H/C can compile the old scripts but can’t write their own letters? For so long these letters have been bedrock proof that the actor Shakespeare is indivisible from the writer. But if Jonson wrote the letters this evaporates. And then we must question Jonson’s motivation for drafting and including these letters.

    (By the way, if a great poet pretending to be an actor as he writes to an earl is OK in the First Folio, wouldn’t that make the same thing a little less remarkable in the Dedications of V&A and Lucrece – upon which the certain fact of Southampton’s patronage rests?) 

    I'm sorry to have gone on for so long.

    In short, I would like to see more acknowledgement that the quantum of this contrary evidence diminishes our certainty that Shakespeare is the author. And, perhaps Professors might find a little more time for their less-unquestioning students. 

    Best wishes 

    Bruce Leyland

    Dear Bruce,

    1. The case for Shakespeare isn't weak because you say it is.

    The case isn't ambiguous because you say it is.

    There isn't a "quantum of contrary evidence" to acknowledge.

    Not a single one of those items you bring up actually point to any other author. Some of them point at Shakespeare quite firmly. [For those of you scoring at home, some of the things that Bruce says raise doubt about Shakespeare's authorship are documents that explicitly name William Shakespeare as the author. It's that bad.] And you avoid mention of the dozens of other records that point to Shakespeare's authorship entirely unambiguously.

    And then you make up non-existent lacks of evidence. "Scant records in the Stationers' Register"? Try it on someone who hasn't read the Stationer's Register.

    Who am I going to believe: dozens of primary documents, or you?

    2. You have obviously misread what I wrote about students. I wrote "arguing things so obviously true they are not worth bringing up," which you take to mean arguing against obvious truths, and conclude (because the Authorship Debate seems important to you) that that what I meant was students writing about the "Authorship Debate." Actually, they almost never do that.

    My complaint is that students put forward arguments that are too obviously true: Iago is a villain, revenge is a double-edged sword, love gets confusing in MND. The problem with alternate authorship theories is not that they are too obviously true. Oh, far from it.

    Not the best reading comprehension there, Bruce.

    3. As with our friend Authorship Skeptic, you misunderstand what I said about Kathman.

    My praise for Kathman has nothing to do with his arguing against anti-Stratfordians, because I do not considering arguing with anti-Stratfordians real work. There isn't an actual debate here, Bruce. It's just people insist

    And, like Authorship Skeptic, you tediously quote things Kathman has written that I was not discussing.

    I mentioned his work on the boy actors, the Plot of 2 Seven Deadly Sins, and the Inn playhouses. If you want to argue about Kathman, discuss those things, which are where his genuine intellectual contribution is. But please, next time you're fulminating about him, try to recall that he has made real contributions to theater history.

    If you had made a genuine contribution to knowledge, that would be welcolmed, too.

    Disappointing response. B

    Oh well. We don't get to control how others respond to us.

    No, one can't control how others respond to our thoughts. However, by discussing Kathman (who has a website dedicated to countering authorship discussion) in your article (also about authorship)  one might be forgiven for thinking discussion of Kathman in this context was pertinent. I cite Kathman as someone who has published, in a book, weak (invisible) evidence in order to make a case. That you choose not to examine these very accessible examples  and that you choose the words "tedious" and "fulminating" in response to this seems to me to perfectly illustrate my point about the terseness of academia towards non-conformant views. 

    I've cited several examples which might lead one to question the authorship of Shakespeare - about which you make no comment, other than the authoritarian "There isn't a "quantum of contrary evidence" to acknowledge" (in spite of the fact that I've just listed some). One doesn't have to identify an alternative candidate  to be moved by these examples.

    You say I avoid the dozens of items of evidence in favour of Shakespeare. Yes, I have no desire to be "tedious", but I acknowledged in my first para that there is evidence in favour of Shakespeare (which includes the stationers register). But when I examine these items in detail, I don't find them to be strong. Your imputation/s that I am playing loose with the truth are unfortunate. I have never done that, nor ever will. 

    Will you please acknowledge that the examples I have cited, however trivial you might regard them, nevertheless undermine the prevailing view that there is no doubt whatsoever that Shakespeare of Stratford is the author? Will you not acknowledge these are contrary to what we would expect?

    No. I will not. To do so would be dishonest.

    You write:

    Will you please acknowledge that the examples I have cited, however trivial you might regard them, nevertheless undermine the prevailing view that there is no doubt whatsoever that Shakespeare of Stratford is the author? Will you not acknowledge these are contrary to what we would expect?

    I will not acknowledge that, because it is simply not true. Nothing you mentioned is evidence of what you suggest. The "Authorship Controversy" has no validity whatsoever. Your doubts are not reasonable; if you demand further explanation, I shall be forced to be unkind.

    This is not a question of massive evidence vs. slender evidence. This is a case of massive evidence versus nothing whatsoever. It would be dishonest of me to pretend otherwise.

    Nor will I discuss Kathman yet again. I was being quite patient with you by telling you, at length, what I had already told another commenter on this thread. You were being a slightly rude by not reading the rest of the thread and demanding that I repeat myself. That you refuse to accept the repeated explanation again is extremely bad manners.

    This is not a debate about the "Authorship Controversy." That you try to treat it as so only reveals that you did not take the original post on board, or that you have willfully chosen to ignore its plain meaning.

    You do not get to demand that strangers interact with you on exactly the terms you choose. Nor do you get to demand that others acknowledge the validity of your pet theories. And when people tell you they are not convinced by your pet theory, because it is unconvincing, they are under no obligations to explain why.





    I'm not sure why further explanation would force you to be rude. However as you off none of this "massive evidence" I will leave it to other to assess the relative strengths of our arguments. I trust you will have the integrity to leave the posts as they are.

    While, as I have said I strongly disagree with you, I wish you well.


    As mentioned, I had hoped that you would leave the posts unchanged, and allow the reader to come to their own conclusions. I note that you’ve elected to edit your earlier post to insert a potshot.

    “[For those of you scoring at home, some of the things that Bruce says raise doubt about Shakespeare's authorship are documents that explicitly name William Shakespeare as the author. It's that bad.]”

    I’m not sure why you’ve done this, the insertion doesn’t contain any content, or attempt at balance. It’s just an authoritarian potshot. So, where you offer sarcasm by way of argument, I’ll offer real evidence. Of course these documents mention Shakespeare and his authorship – that is why they’re noteworthy. These documents mention him in ways that are negative, and in relation to the authorship of the greatest writer in the English language, unexpected.

    George Buc, stationer and later Master of the Revels – a respected theatre professional – in an annotation on Locrine (which is attributed on the title page to W.S.) complains that the play was actually written by his kinsman Charles Tilney and “s[ome] fellon hath published [it]”. Does this not constitute an unexpected piece of evidence in relation to his authorship? You declined to acknowledge this previously – “as it would be dishonest”.

    In Greene’s Groats-worth of Wit (1592) Greene rails against actors and in particular cautions the university-educated writers against: vpstart Crow, beautified with our feathers, that with his Tygers hart wrapt in a Players hyde, supposes he is as well able to bombast out a blanke verse as the best of you: and being an absolute Iohannes fac totum, is in his owne conceit the onely Shake-scene in a countrey.

    This apparent reference to Shakespeare has been taken to refer to him as an actor, certainly, and as some sort of a writer, probably. Irrespective, the reference is profoundly negative.
    Return to Parnassus is the last of three “Parnassus” plays performed at Cambridge University between 1598 and 1601. The author/s of these remarkable plays is unknown, but the perspective is that of a university-educated dramatist. Return to Parnassus contains numerous references to Shakespeare. It also presents his fellow actors Burbage and Kempe. They are characterised as dolts, who think that Metamorphosis is a playwright, and applaud the ability of “our fellow Shakespeare” to write better than the educated writers.
    Orthodox scholars interpret these satirical references to Shakespeare, as bemoaning the success of non-university-educated authors, while reserving some respect for Shakespeare the author. Indeed, the plays depict the torments of university-educated poets at the hands of moneyed ignorance. However, in the special case of Shakespeare, Doubters see the play as magnifying a particular comic irony, in the character of Gullio. Gullio is a superb narcissistic buffoon, uneducated but rich. He is wholly concerned with appearances:

    I stood stroking up my haire, which became me very admirably…

    He steals indiscriminately from the university poets (exploiting their poverty), and presents a mish-mash of their work as his own. Gullio is closely associated with Shakespeare. His name is a conflation of Gull (a dupe) and Gulielmus (William). His literary “pin-up” is William Shakespeare:

    O sweet Mr Shakespeare! I’le have his picture in my study at the courte.
    In a comedy, when a buffoon worships, it is always a tin god in whom the buffoon’s foibles are magnified. Always, the audience knows the object of adoration is suspect. (compare Mr Collins and  Lady Catherine de Bourgh in Pride  and Prejudice). If Gullio were to worship an acknowledged master about whom the audience had no doubt, this would be a very lame comic choice. Rather, this Mr. Shakespeare like Guullio's authorship is in some very real way, suspect.
    Later, Judicio (the voice of the playwright) reserves four lines to comment on Shakespeare’s poems only:
    Who loves not Adons love, or Lucrece rape?
    His sweeter verse contaynes hart throbbing line,
    Could but a graver subject him content
    Without loves foolish lazy languishment
    This praise seems genuine, if qualified and brief compared with the copious praise for the university poet Spenser and Ben Jonson the bricklayer. Clearly, the author admired Shakespeare’s poetic works, though Judicio makes no mention of his many plays. What is not explicitly stated is the writer’s attitude to Shakespeare the man. This must be inferred from the character of Gullio.

    Ben Jonson in Every Man Out of his Humour (1599) satirises Shakespeare’s ongoing application from 1596 for a coat of arms to include the motto Non sanz droict (Not without right). The foolish Sogliardo envisions his own bizarre colours as a headless boar, rampant on a silver dish. The character Buffone says:
    ...he has decyphered him well:  a swine without a head, without brain, wit, anything indeed, ramping to gentility.
    The wits of the play suggest that a motto be added, Not without mustard.

    Would it really be “dishonest” if you were to acknowledge this as unexpected evidence? I don’t object to your dismissing this evidence as unimportant – you are very much entitled to your view. However, I do object to your dismissal of it as non-existant, which it clearly isn’t.

    I would encourage people to examine the original documents constituting the evidence for Shakespeare of Stratford as the author (which I believe you overstate as “massive”), balanced against evidence which undermines this view. By the way, calling on your stated knowledge of the stationers register - how many mentions of Shakespeare are there?

    I hope readers will see that while in your article you have taken a lofty tone as an open-minded and genial teacher, by contrast in this discussion your “don’t argue” posts entirely belie this posture. Nor do smug back-slapping bon mots with your colleagues present well. They seem to me, as Jonson wrote of Shakespeare’s Pericles;
    Scraps, out of every dish/Thrown forth, and rak’t into the common-tub.

    I apologise if I misunderstood your  first comment regarding students in the article, nevertheless I still don’t find it abundantly clear. In your clarification you express frustration at the “obvious” insights of undergraduates. I hope you’re able to get past this, because facilitating their learning would seem to be your responsibility.

    Bruce Leyland

    So, the Parnassus plays name Shakespeare as the author, precisely as I said.

    And none of your other examples either mention Shakespeare by name at all, or deny that he wrote his works, Huh.

    Your original post also mentioned the First Folio prefatory material (Heminges and Condell's material, and Jonson's poem), both of which also explicitly name Shakespeare as author.

    So, in fact, your long post does not dispute my factual claim. Huh again.

    Does any document from the period name YOUR favorite candidate in plain, explicit language? No codes, no anagrams, no allusions to allusions to allusions, just a plain declaration that X wrote the plays?

    Oh, and of course, you started off mentioning Lucrece and Venus and Adonis, both of which have signed dedications from Shakespeare to the dedicatee.

    When he writes "Dear Lord of Southampton, I hope you like this poem of mine, William Shakespeare," THAT blows the Shakespeare-is-Shakespeare case right out of the water.

    Not if the real author is Southampton's best friend, Sir Henry Neville.

    So, you claim that a dedication that says it's from William Shakespeare is actually a sign that it's by Henry Neville instead?

    Weren't you angry at me for saying that you were using "documents that explicitly name William Shakespeare as the author" to argue for doubt? But you are doing that. I was not expressing bias. I was explaining facts.

    Wait, it is your hypothesis that Shakespeare is a thief, claiming attribution for works that he has plagiarized, or that Shakespeare is a pseudonym? Making both claims, while possible, seems very counter-intuitive.


    In the mid-Seventies, I left grad school and went to help my widowed mom build a house on Nantucket.  While there, I explored the library and came across a very old book called Bacon IS Shakespeare ... or was it, Shakespeare IS Bacon ... It was written around the turn of the 20th century.  It was ludicrous, using the most tortured logic I'd ever read up to that point in my life.  The author offered proof by citing the usual slams against Shakespeare, like how could an uneducated Butcher's son know anything about the Royal Court, much less write with so much insight?  Duh. He read books and (gasp) used his imagination.  The author also provided another explanation; an elaborate code that he 'discovered' in the sonnets. The fourth letter of the fourth stanza in each of the sonnets spelled out the sentence,  "I AM BACON" ... or something like that, I forget the exact code... Anyway,  I had to leave the library because I started laughing so loudly.  

    We are all bacon. Saw it on Food Network.

    To be fair, Bacon is delicious.

    HA! Indeed. 

    Seriously, the Baconians are especially addicted to idea of the coded message in the plays. (BTW, be sure to drink your Ovaltine.) People used to build complicated code-breaking machines. It was like Bletchley Park, except sad.

    Part of what I like about this idea is that you want to take the words of the poems and plays, which are widely agreed to be pretty darn neat, and TURN THEM INTO OTHER WORDS. The words on the page are cool, but could we turn them into a coded message that says something else? Or a treasure map?


    The Oxfordians are not far behind. Since they've not been able to come up with any evidence whatsoever for their Lord as the author, they've lately been reduced to finding cryptograms and codes and claiming those as evidence. As it was for the Baconians before them, it is a symptom of a movement in decline.

    The situation is much worse. At several places one should read the lines, the sentences verbatim. Not as literature, but as life. And dark, shady sentences get clear meaning. I really hope that 2016 will not be celebrated, as there's no cause to celebrate in that specific year.

    Mr. Smith, I went looking to see if I could find your actual book and instead what I found is that there's a fascinating little subculture movement of "Baconians" gathering steam in the late 19th century of such size that it would be hard to know which was the author of the book you read (irony!) And Rosicrucianism is involved, natch (I think Victorian fascination with the latter blows current Christian Scientist conspiracy theorizing out of the water, but that's another thing....)

    • I think I found it.  It's called Bacon is Shakespeare by Edwin Durning-Lawrence, published in 1910. ...Google it

    Doc I was off campus during your Shakespeare blogs and only read them last week. Just fascinating. I found the points about the actual kind of education Shakespeare received to be compelling in terms of answering the "how could a commoner do this?" question, the so called "aristocratic" view held oddly enough by Justice Stevens. (Stevens went so far as to research De Vere's actual bible looking for possible underlings of the "bed trick".). Stevens, who himself was not born an aristocrat takes the "commoner-pshaw" point of view---go figure..

    Thanks,. I'm glad that you like those other posts.

    Yeah, some smart people have bought into the conspiracy theories. Lots of the conspiracy theorists are lawyers or MDa (and often they insist that Shakespeare just had to be a lawyer, or an MD). The conspiracy theories are pretty good at working with what fairly educated people know or assume about Elizabethan life, but they fall apart pretty quickly if you learn enough about that era to do your own research in it.

    If Justice Stevens had asked a pro about the bed trick, he could have saved himself some time, That's an old plot device that started out in folk stories and moved to writers like Boccaccio. It's the Renaissance equivalent of the Man with the Hook in campfire stories.

    It's sad that Justice Stevens wasted his time with silly stuff, but smart people are sometimes silly or mistaken. That's a truth that conspiracy theorists don't accept, with their appeals to authority (How could Mark Twain be wrong?) and their ad hominem arguments (Hiw could such a money-grubbing commoner write such poetry?). On the other hand, working at scholarly arguments forces you to accept that no one is always right or always wrong. The people I've hit hardest in my scholarly arguments are brilliant scholars whom I respect enormously. They're not stupid. They're just wrong from time to time.


    The people I've hit hardest in my scholarly arguments are brilliant scholars whom I respect enormously. They're not stupid. They're just wrong from time to time.

    Always fight above your weight class.  Otherwise, you're just picking fights.

    Certainly. This is already one of my rules.

    The proof is within the original works. No fancy computer-generated cross-lines, no ideas about education, etc. Just the real meaning of the lines. And one should find the the prepared copies. Stay tuned.

    These are the crucial lines:

    And more, much more, than in my verse can sit,
    Your own glass shows you when you look in it.

    Apparently you can always say, "there's no evidence" even when there is evidence.

    Can you imagine how scientists who study evolution feel? wink

    Yeah. It's exponentially worse. But I have known a student who trafficked in both authorship theories and Creationism and some anti-Masonic theories out of Dan Brown. A memorable one-on-one conference in my office (about an assignment where he was supposed to write about metaphors and similes in a poem) ended with him shouting, "They never found the Missing Link! they never found the Missing Link!"

    But my point about academic motivations goes double, triple, and quadruple for evolutionary scientists. Can you imagine how someone who could provide scientific confirmation for the Biblical narratives would be rewarded? Think of how rich and famous that would make you. And think of how many scientists over the last two hundred years had strong religious motivations to find that evidence. If that evidence has never turned up, it's not because people don't want to find it.

    Anyone who would like to know why so many eminent people, including at least five U.S. Supreme Court Justices (Stevens, O'Connor, Scalia, Blackmun, Powell) and many of our greatest writers, thinkers, statesmen and actors, have expressed doubt that Will Shakspere of Stratford wrote the works of William Shakespeare should read the Declaration of Reasonable Doubt About the Identity of William Shakespeare. The Declaration has been signed by over 3,000 people -- nearly 1,200 with advanced degrees and over 500 current or former college/university faculty members. It can be read and signed at the website of the Shakespeare Authorship Coalition at Here's what James Shapiro says about it in his book Contested Will: Who Wrote Shakespeare?: "It is a skillfully drafted document, the collective effort of some of the best minds committed to [raising doubts about] Shakespeare's authorship." Shapiro did not even attempt to rebut it, nor has any other orthodox Shakespeare scholar. Read it and see why.

    Thanks for this skeptic, I always like to base my opinions on a popularity contest. I was especially impressed when reading your link that Jeremy Irons signed the document since the opinions of famous actors and musicians carry much greater weight when I decide what to believe. If only Beyonce would sign I, and I'm sure many others, would come to see the truth about the real author of "Shakespeare's" plays.

    In all fairness though, shouldn't there be two documents for us to sign? A doubtaboutwill and a nodoubtaboutwill document. Then we could see which is most popular and therefore true. Unfortunately I didn't have time to read the document nor have I followed the arguments, but I did add my signature.

    ;), Kat.

    The point of calling attention to the many prominent, highly-credible people, past and present, who have been authorship doubters isn't to argue from authority, as Stratfordians claim (and do themselves), but, rather, to contradict the false negative stereotype of who doubters are that is put out by the Shakespeare Birthplace Trust in Stratford and continually repeated by its allies. It's been very effective. Even Professor Stanley Wells, honorary president of the Trust, has now admitted that, contrary to what he has said previously, many doubters are very credible people. It's necessary to make that point to get people to take a look at the evidence themselves -- why bother if there are no credible people who take it seriously? Now that you know there are, take a look and then decide for yourself. That is all we ask. It creates a lot of cognitive dissonance to see who doubters really are, as opposed to the false negative stereotype put out by the Trust. If they are willing to mislead people about who doubters are, why believe anything else they say?

    I agree that there should be two declarations, and the SAC has challenged the Birthplace Trust to write a competing declaration stating the reasons why they say there is "no room for doubt" that Shakspere wrote the works, and see who signs theirs. They've declined. They know they can't write one as good as ours and would be embarrassed if they tried. Instead they wrote the book Shakespeare Beyond Doubt (Edmondson & Wells, 2013). It doesn't make the case, and doubters published Shakespeare Beyond Doubt? (Shahan & Waugh, 2013) one month later. The latter book has gotten better reviews, and is also selling better, at least on You should read it (after reading the Declaration), rather than just sticking your head in the sand.


    Had Shakespeare ever lain eyes on Queen Bey, many a verse would different.

    You didn't read it, no problem. But why are you mocking at it then? 

    I thought my points were very clear but some people have trouble with sarcasm so I'll explain. I wasn't mocking the document per se but the web site and the comment. My point was that one does not have to read the document on the site nor does one have to know anything about the arguments to sign the document. Even if I cared about the numbers game, and I don't, there's no evidence that anyone who signed has any expertise on Shakespeare when anyone can sign.

    That some of those who have signed the document have advanced degrees means nothing. Having a Phd doesn't mean one is an expert in every field. Being a Supreme Court justice doesn't give one any credibility when they are addressing questions about Shakespeare. In fact being a Supreme Court justice doesn't even necessarily make one a good Supreme Court justice.  I think Scalia is a partisan hack and I disagreed with many of O'Connor's opinions. Why should I attach any value to their opinion of Shakespeare when they sucked at the job they were trained for?

    Then there's the prominent display of actors who have signed on the main page. As if being an actor gives one some extra credence. DiCaprio played Romeo in a recent movie. Does that suddenly make him an expert on the authorship of Shakespeare's plays?

    Popularity contests are silly but skeptic can't let them go. In his reply to my comment he posted, "The latter book has gotten better reviews, and is also selling better, at least on" As if truth is found by choosing the book that has the most buys on Amazon.

    By the way, I did read the document, but the sarcasm wasn't funny and my point wouldn't have been made if I said that. Try this link if you're still having difficulty understanding my post

    Having a Phd doesn't mean one is an expert in every field.

    Thank you for your kind reply. I'm not from the field of literature, let alone having a PhD. Yet, as the signs show, presently I'm the closest in the world to prove -with real proof, only from the original Sonnet Quarto and First Folio- that the real author was Edward de Vere. What's more, even I'm not from an English-speaking country. These together -I'm more and more convinced- have played a great part in my discoveries. Stay tuned. 

    Wow, you've managed to extract DNA from two works attributed to Shakespeare and match it with DNA from de Vere? Impressive!

    “You have not experienced Shakespeare until you have read him in the original Klingon.”


    Well, at the risk of upsetting the good doctor, I've actually been doing my own research, and I've definitely identified Klingon-like patterns to his sonnets. For example, have you noticed that there are as many references in his sonnets to kittens as there are to targs? Furthermore, going a little deeper, when you do translate it back into its original Klingon, you encounter word phrases that are used by no other than the famous warrior-poet Kahless.

    Macbeth is a dish best served cold.

    You had me at "filled with nudity."

    Frightened to hell I've read through my comment for some track of DNA whatsoever - a goddamn moron would write something like that. Kind of eased I see that it's not me.

    Thank you for your insightful comment.

    Thank you for bringing up James Shapiro's Contested Will, which is a brilliant history of these authorship conspiracy theories. I've recommended it before, but I'm happy to recommend it to interested readers again. And readers can see for themselves if Shapiro actually thinks of the Declaration as too convincing to rebut.

    It's funny that you elided the one phrase that you did in that quotation. What Shapiro actually wrote was:

    "It is a skillfully drafted document, the collective effort of some of the best minds committed to casting doubt on Shakespeare's authorship." (Shapiro, Contested Will, p. 248)

    I wonder why the phrase "casting doubt" motivated you to change it. Hmm.

    And it's true. Shapiro does not attempt a point-by-point rebuttal. But he explains why. Let's see what he wrote in his next paragraph, on page 249, shall we?

    But as John M. Shanahan, the chairman of the Coalition created to disseminate the 'Declaration,' explained in the Oxford newsletter Shakespeare Matters, there were other, unspoken motives as well: 'We can organize Declaration signing ceremonies to try to attract media attention' and 'when we have enough signatories, especially prominent ones, we can formally challenge the orthodox to write a counter-declaration' explaining 'why they claim there is "no room for reasonable doubt."' (Shapiro, Contested Will, p. 249)

    So, you see, the documented purpose of that Declaration is to sucker the "orthodox" into a rebuttal, so that the fight can then be about that rebuttal. (BTW, this is what counts as evidence for the "orthodox" --  a document which records someone's stated intentions in plain language.)

    So, since the purpose of the "Declaration" is to make the orthodox rebut it, it is hard to use the fact that they won't rebut it as evidence.


    Shapiro does confess (at p. 48):  "One possibility is that Shakespeare went out of his way to ensure that posterity would find a cold trail."  Unfortunately, he doesn't speculate why Shakespeare would do that.

    Very nicely done, and your comments about Dave Kathman's excellent work is well-deserved by Dave. 

    He isn't the only non-professional doing good work, I think.

    No, not at all. I'm using him as an example, not a singular case.

    But he's also an exceptional example, because he's an important figure, better than almost all PhDs in that field. People will be citing Kathman on guild records, and on the Seven Deadly Sins Plot, a  hundred years from now and more.



    Dr. Cleveland,

    Are you aware of the bloopers in David Kathman's chapter in Shakespeare Beyond Doubt, the Edmondson/Wells book? Here's how they are described in the doubter book, Shakespeare Beyond Doubt?, in the chapter on the spelling of Mr. Shakspere's name vs. the author's name:

    Kathman wrote:

           "'Quiney’s son Thomas eventually married Shakespeare’s daughter Judith, and they named their first son, born in 1617, ‘Shakespeare.' (125)

    "This is incorrect on three counts. First, the Stratford church records show that the son of Thomas Quiney was born in November of 1616, not in '1617.' He died in May of 1617.  Second, the entry in the record of his christening in 1616 shows the name as 'Shaksper.' Third, the entry in the record for his burial in 1617 shows the name spelled 'Shakspere.' So regardless of which of the records he was looking at, Kathman misspelled the name! It’s hard for us to imagine that Kathman misspelled it 'Shakespeare' purely by accident since he has an article on the spelling debate on his website and is supposedly an expert."

    There's also this in a footnote at the bottom of the page (13):

    "David Kathman… also claims that Shakespeare’s plays and poems 'are peppered with dialect words from Warwickshire and the West Midlands.' He made this same claim in his answer to Question 7 in the Birthplace Trust’s '60 Minutes with Shakespeare' … In his rebuttal…, Michael Egan wrote: 'David Kathman is wrong; the plays are not ‘peppered’ with Warwickshire dialect words. In point of fact, Warwickshire and West Midlands references and dialect words form a distinct minority among the places and people Shakespeare refers to and in the speech forms he uses.’ Egan also notes that The Oxford Companion to Shakespeare (Dobson & Wells) has this to say: ‘It is somewhat strange that Shakespeare did not... exploit his Warwickshire accent, since he was happy enough to represent, in phonetic spelling, the non-standard English of French and Welsh speakers, and the national dialects of Scotland and Ireland.’”

    Oh well, I guess it doesn't matter if Kathman got it wrong because the plays don't have anything to do with the author's own life anyway, right?

    Oh, AS. I am trying hard not to be mean to you. Please try to make that job at least a little easier.

    That's what you've got? Really?

    I'll make three quick points and then leave it.

    1. Hard as you may find it to believe, I was not discussing Kathman's work arguing with "anti-Stratfordians," because it is far, far less important than his other work.

    If you actually read what I've written about Kathman above, you wil notice that I praise him for work that has nothing to do with the so-called "authorship controversy." I know that he has spent a good deal of time refuting and debunking Oxfordians, Baconians, and so forth. But that, however laudable and public-spirited of him, is not really scholarship, in that it doesn't discover anything new.

    Refuting "anti-Stratfordians" may draw upon scholarly learning, but it is not scholarship in that it does not actually move the ball forward. It is no more a contribution to human knowledge than denying the existence of Bigfoot is. There is no reason to believe in Bigfoot in the first place. While the "Authorship Controversy" may seem very important to you, it is actually nothing at all. Until and unless someone puts forward some genuine hard evidence for another candidate, there is no authentic debate.

    On the other hand, Kathman has made a number of real and significant contributions to our collective knowledge of early modern theater, in areas that have nothing to do with the conspiracy theories. He has expanded our knowledge of the players' guild connections, revised our understanding of a crucial document, and undertaken important work on the early performance sites in London inns. That is what makes his work important.

    2. Why yes. Even good scholars make errors some time. So?

    Yes, Dave made a clear error in the date of Shakespeare [sic] Quiney's birth. Because like everyone, Dave is a fallible human, neither always right or always wrong. Every scholar makes mistakes. My own work surely includes mistakes, some insignificant and others more significant, because I too am a fallible human. A scholarly book with NO errors at all is a rare bird.

    Does that mistake have anything to do with anything else under dispute? Do you mean to imply that because David Kathman once slipped up and got the date of William Shakespeare's short-lived grandson's birth wrong, that this somehow means William Shakespeare was not a playwright? Do you think because Kathman was wrong once, everything else he says should be dismissed?


    3. Your argument about the spelling of Shakespeare Quiney's name serves you poorly.

    You argue that Kathman got Shakespeare Quiney's name wrong because the parish register spells it "Shakspere" in one place and "Shaksper" in another. But here Kathman was simply following the standard practice of modernizing and regularizing spellings, because -- as anyone with any experience of original 16th and 17th century documents knows -- early modern English spelling is wildly irregular and inconsistent.

    Early scribes routinely spell the same word differently, even within the same text. This can be seen in any document from the period, not least in William Shakespeare's will, in the early printings of his plays, and in the very parish register you just brought up. The boy's name wasn't "really" Shakspere and not Shaksper, or "really" Shaksper and not Shakspere. Either spelling would have done (as would Shagspere, Shaxper, and Shakespeare).

    In the same way, William Shakespeare did not have two daughters named "Judyth" and "Judith," although both spellings appear in his will, nor two neighbors named "Hamlett Sadler" and "Hamnet Sadler." There's just a scribe (a professional scribe) with the standard loosey-goosey Jacobean approach to spelling. Nor were "Christopher Marlo," "Xtopher Marloe," "Cristofer Marley," and "Cristopher Marlin" distinct individuals, although all of those spellings of Marlowe's name can be found.

    If you do not believe this, you need to have a good long sit-down with some original documents.

    I know you may be reluctant to accept this obvious and demonstrable fact about early modern English, because much of the Oxfordian claim hinges upon the alleged distinction between the names "Shakespeare" and "Shakspear." But that alleged distinction is, to put it bluntly, hilarious.

    And after all, who am I going to believe: hundreds and hundreds of original doucments or you?

    I see you are not brave enough to tackle my Kahless-as-Shakespeare theory…

    I cal it the Worf-ian hypothesis.

    Dr. Cleveland,

    It's one thing to "modernize" spellings and quite another to falsify a spelling, putting it in quotes, suggesting that's exactly how it appears in the record, when in fact it's not. Stanley Wells did the same thing on page 81 of Shakespeare Beyond Doubt, when he claimed that Will Shakspere's name is spelled "Shakespeare" (again, putting it in quotes) in the Stratford parish burial record, when in fact it is spelled "Shakspere." Since when is it acceptable to falsify the record in this way? Surely Kathman and Wells knew what they were doing. It's an issue because Shakspere never once used the name "Shakespeare" in his life, as Bill Bryson pointed out. Even when it would have been to his benefit, he did not spell it the same way as the author's name. It's consistent in the parish records, and consistent on the works: two different spellings, suggesting two different names, two different people. If spellings were not yet standardized, why so much consistency?

    I notice you didn't address Kathman's false claim that Shakespeare's plays are "peppered" with Warwickshire dialect words. It's outrageous to make such a claim after it was pointed out to him that it was false and to say it in a book arguing that Shakespeare's authorship is "beyond doubt." At some point enough errors occur to make it look like the editors of SBD were being deliberately deceptive. Got some real humdingers for you, if you're interested.

    Come out and sing it, Skeptic:

    You believe that "Shakespeare" and "Shakspeare" mean two different people

    and your entire argument depends on that difference.

    If you want to make that clear to everyone interested in your theory, I think that's just great. Please please please tell everyone you encounter, as early in the authorship conversation as possible.

    Yes. Your CORE belief is that when the name is spelled "Shakespeare" that does NOT mean the Warwickshire actor and landowner William Shakespeare.

    Really, that's just fabulous. Thank you for making me smile.

    My dear Dr. Cleveland,

    No, I never said that's my "core belief," or that it's my "entire argument." Why misrepresent what I said in that way? I just gave you a few examples of orthodox scholars misrepresenting the evidence, and you have responded by misrepresenting what I said. What's with you people? The spelling issue only "suggests" two different people. It proves nothing, and I never said it did. But it's very odd that you Strats keep covering it up, and that you get upset when someone raises it.

    There are many good reasons to doubt that Shakspere wrote the works. A good place to start is the Declaration of Reasonable Doubt (, but it's just an overview. More detailed presentations are in Shakespeare's Unorthodox Biography, by Diana Price (Stanlay Wells has praised it); The Man Who Was Never Shakespeare, by A.J. Pointon; and Shakespeare Beyond Doubt?, Shahan and Waugh, eds. SBD? includes a list of "Twenty-one good reasons to doubt that Shakspere was Shakespeare" -- another good place to start.

    Now, what about Kathman's false claim that the plays are "peppered" with Warwickshire dialect words? Isn't that outrageous?

    What about my offer to show you some real humdinger examples of concealing evidence in the Edmondson and Wells book? For starters, why didn't they include the "hundreds and hundreds" of documents you mentioned. They didn't even include his will -- the one document we know is clearly the product of his mind and which he signed three times. Why leave that out of a book that's supposed to be making the case that his authorship is "beyond doubt"?


    Then you admit that there is no difference between "Shakespeare" and "Shakspeare"?

    Beautifully presented points, Doctor C! I enjoy discussions among Shakespearean professionals and scholars, because, if a person of whatever background can add something new to the ideas being mulled over, we do find new perspectives and possibilities. Authorship questioning, however, seems to be the kind of thing we end up with after end of the year celebrations - how many different ways can we use turkey and ham leftovers? Because basically, as you wrote above, the questioning is a rehash of very old meat with few variations.

    I've been taking a close look at the questioners, not the questions. The only questioners that continue to puzzle me are Shakespearean actors. Since the plays are arranged with all the consideration of an actor who understands the needs and desires of actors, a huge clue that the work really was written by a player, just what on earth is behind their reasoning? What other poet of the time wrote parts to truly challenge the boys and men who played women's roles? Since noblemen or gentlemen especially considered women second class citizens, why would one waste his time writing fully realized women's roles? And when did Marlowe ever do that? Zenocrate in Tamburlaine is one of his few known female roles, and the arc of her story is about her repression. His most famous female character, Helen of Troy, is mute! Actors who have worked with the plays should know better. 

    Thank you, Sandra.

    It is odd that so many actors have come to buy into the idea that an actor couldn't have written these plays.

    Those who have explained their thinking, like Mark Rylance, tend to emphasize the idea of art as autobiography. They draw on their own lives while imaginatively preparing a role, and so, the logic goes, the writer too must have been drawing on direct life experiences. (Who qualifies to have written Lear under this rule is anybody's guess.)

    That idea that art is autobiographical, or even that all art is autobiographical, is actually pretty late. That was not a presumption anyone was working on in the 16th or 17th centuries, and the writers those centuries looked to as heroes weren't autobiographical. (The Aeneid isn't the story of Virgil. Oh, no.) Similarly, the idea of actors drawing upon their life experiences is an artifact of 20th-century acting training. That wasn't part of the training before Stanislavsky.



    I was invited in November by my country's Shakespeare Committee to deliver a lecture, based on my results in the authorship-question. According to their response (after two weeks) their conclusion was that what I'd told and shown was of extreme interest, and there after the lecture was intense email-traffic among the members. In this sense I dare say that although my results are not bullet-proof, but strong enough to arouse the attention of renowned Shakespeare-believer scholars. Their strongest argument was not against my train of thoughts itself. But they say that the works and the sonnets especially cannot be regarded as some kind of description of real events. But again, they found it very interesting, and logical in itself. Now one of the most renowned Shakespeare-scholar is examining my results, as he expressed his wish to see all my production - after preliminary insight.

    Thank you for your attention.

    We Oxfordians in America could not be more pleased that Nauruans have so thoroughly endorsed your lectures. It is not at all a concern that the decline of guano exports may have had your country grasping for anything which might generate revenue and skewed enthusiasm for your research to the upside. We are giving serious thought to your hotel proposal and will be sending a delegation. Is your airstrip now functional and are there any B&B's? Which reminds me, when you say "bullet proof", should we bring flak jackets? How does Nauru Oxfordian Hotel sound?


    J. T. Looney, Paris, Texas.

    Thank you for your kind answer. As to your guano-consumption per capita, alas I can't contribute, please feed yourself from some other source. I hope that I've not misunderstood your kind reply.

    Alas you did mine, but no wonder: the authorship-question has got ideas not so easy to grasp. Thank you again fro your precious time.

    I see you are a gentleman as well as a scholar. I would like to grasp your ideas so please visit me on your next trip to Texas. But be advised there is no land bridge between our two great countries so please do not try to travel here on your train of thoughts.


    I remain, respectfully,

    Joe Tom Looney, Paris, Texas.


    "No one in the 16th, 17th, or 18th centuries expressed any doubts"

    How on earth can you state that as a fact? Did someone do a survey of all the backrooms, bars and bedrooms between 1616 and 1816? And has someone come up with a time machine to ask old "honest Ben" if "On Poet Ape" (1616) referred to Shakespeare or not? 

    "No one in the 16th, 17th, or 18th centuries expressed any doubts"

    That statement would never be made by an honest scholar. At least a recent twitter from Stanley Wells pulled back from calling it a verified fact.

    Does your time machine tell you what was meant in 1728 in An Essay Against Too Much Reading, where Shakespeare is described as "no Scholar, no Grammarian, no Historian, and in all probability cou'd not write English"?

    Or what Louis Riccoboni meant in Reflexions historiques et critiquest sur les differents Theatres de l'Europe, where Shakespeare is referred to as a professional thief:"Ayant consume son patrimoine, il entreprit le metier de voleur (having used up his heritage, he undertook the profession of a thief.)"?

    Thank you for demonstrating that classic sophomore logical fallacy, demanding proof of a negative. Let me rephrase: there are no recorded expressions of doubt. There is no evidence that anyone expressed any doubts during those centuries (and no, your little examples don't count. I'll get to those).

    Your response is to ask me to prove that no one secretly or privately doubted in bedrooms or barrooms. That is impossible to prove not because my case is weak but because, as logicians long ago established, it is impossible to prove a negative proposition. You cannot prove, for example, that you are not being followed by ninjas. That you see no evidence of the ninjas might simply mean the ninjas are good at their jobs. But in fact, no ninja would bother.

    If you want to argue that there is a Bigfoot, you have a problem, because there is no sign of Bigfoot's existence. Using your playbook, you might demand that the Bigfoot deniers prove that there is NOT a Bigfoot: "How on earth can you state that as a fact? Did someone do a survey of every acre of woodland in the Pacific Northwest?" But that is not really an argument for Bigfoot's existence. It's just an admission that you need an introductory course on logic.

    I am not obliged to search for your non-existent evidence to your satisfaction. You must produce your own evidence for others' inspection.

    Now, to the two examples you put forward: why did you stop the Riccoboni quotation before the end of the sentence? Riccoboni is not talking about Shakespeare as a "voleur" in is artistic life; he's repeating the old 18th-century story about young Will Shakespeare poaching deer in Warwickshire.

    The full sentence translates as, "Having exhausted his patrimonie, he was forced to take up the trade of a thief, and doubtless the fear of receiving punishment obliged him to leave his Province and go to London where he became a playwright [or actor; Riccoboni uses "Comedian" for both, but later describes Shakespeare as having been an actor for some time before becoming a "Comedian."].

    That full sentence seems rather different from what you said, doesn't it?

    As for Concanon's Essay Against Too Much Reading, a comic diatribe urging that writers be less learned and pay less attention to academic rules and models ... Concanon is certainly not claiming that Shakespeare is not the author of the works. Far from it. Rather, he is trading in the stereotypical 18th-century idea that Shakespeare was not a learned playwright and that Shakespeare's plays are not especially learned or correct.

    This idea, which got started late in Shakespeare's own lifetime and gained real steam throughout the so-called long 18th century, always poses Shakespeare as a natural untutored genius, compared to the correct and learned but less intuitive Jonson. The Essay Against Too Much Reading describes Shakespeare exactly this way:

    "Then with his natural flowing Wit, he [i.e. Shakespeare] work'd it [his dramatic material] into all Shapes and Forms, as his beautiful Thoughts directed." You see, Shakespeare is imagined as the primary creator here.

    And this was a bad example for you to bring up, because it highlights the fact that the standard 17th- and 18th-century view of Shakespeare's plays was that they were unlearned. Not just the writer; the works themselves. Read your friend Riccoboni, for example, on how barbarous and gauche plays like Hamlet and Othello are.

    One of the core arguments of the "anti-Stratfordians" is that William Shakespeare was not educated enough to produce his works. But provincial grammar school boy William Shakespeare's works were widely considered less learned than those of grammar-school-dropout Ben Jonson. Shakespeare's works were not seen as exceptionally learned until --- wait for it -- the 19th century.

    The Shakespeare-name itself was ridiculed no later than - would you guess? In 1623, in the First Folio. This is part of my discoveries, I mentioned above. Stay tuned.

    The most  important question, one that's been ignored for years here at dagblog, is who is the real author of "Doctor Cleveland's" blogs. His myriad blogs on totally unrelated topics boggles the imagination. No one person can have expertise on so many subjects from the medical knowledge displayed in his ebola and vaccination blogs, the deep understanding he displayed of the Scottish independence movement, his knowledge about Shakespearean England  etc.

    Serious scholars of "Cleveland's" work have pointed to the picture he identifies himself with. A building stretching to the sky, that perhaps symbolizes a group of authors from various disciplines each writing on their specific area of expertise. Each posting under the pseudonym Doctor Cleveland.

    Others have suggested the skyscraper reaching to the heavens meerly shows the egomania of a single author.  A symbol of his supposed god like power to pull the wool over so many people's eyes.

    Whatever the answer scholars will long puzzle over the true identity of the author of such a massive contribution to the blog-nation.

    There's no way he's not of noble upbringing.

    Dude, have you met me?


    Well it's cold here in southern Arizona, yesterday the high was 39. We're not used to that here. I'm stuck indoors huddling near my wood stove and bored.

    You're so naïve. You really think "Doctor Cleveland" is a single author? I suggest the clues are right in front of us: "Doctor Cleveland" is actually written by all of the citizens of Cleveland.

    Oh jeez, Wolraich do we really have to tolerate children posting in such an important serious discussion? Can't we get this troll banned?

    Do you realize how many of the citizens of Cleveland are so stupid they voted for republicans? Clearly they couldn't be Doctor Cleveland. Do your research. And you're missing the most obvious clue, Doctor. The nomenclature is a clipping of Doctors of Cleveland. Only those with a doctorate could possibly have the knowledge to write such erudite blogs.

    Hey! Watch it with that "voted for Republicans" stuff! Have you seen Cuyahoga County's vote totals?

    I mean, there's no reason to get insulting.

    I've been trying to comment on this post since yesterday. I registered but haven't received an e-mail. Are you able to check this for me? Thanks a lot. Bruce

    Koo-cooka-chew  (sp?)

    Heads up, DoubleA--nice interview on npr with Simon  Rich (unprotected...) about his new collection of stories.


    Oh goodie, a playmate for the "it's all inter-related" game. Next up:

    Yoko Ono: 'John Was The Shakespeare Of Our Age'

    It often amazes me what some people will waste time on to prove a point. I read an article a couple of decades ago that attempted to prove Shakespeare wrote the King James bible. There was a list of reasons, all of them circumstantial at best. As if a couple dozen weak arguments adds up to one good argument. I tossed aside in disgust when the author found some psalm where someone said, he will shake his spear at you, or something like that. That's supposed to be a clue, Shakespeare's signature on the bible.

    But if Shakespeare did write the King James bible it could have relevance to this discussion. It could be he directly addressed the authorship question when he banned bacon. Bacon being the person most often suggested as the real author.

    Could it be that god was actually ok with eating bacon? Did Shakespeare add this to the King James bible as a dig to those suggesting Bacon not Shakespeare wrote the plays? There's just no way we can ever know.

    And yet some people dedicate much of their lives to these nonsense theories. It's terribly sad.


    All kidding aside, it is terribly sad. I met a dude a few months ago at a local shindig and his response to every topic was some conspiracy theory. Think of the hours reading bullshit to the point that it was memorized sufficiently to fluently discuss it as length. Think of what could have been accomplished with those hours if they weren't spent memorizing bullshit. What a waste of a short human life.

    Absolutely. It's a terrible waste.

    "Doctor Cleveland"  has tried to lay a trail of red herrings, but I smell a rat.  His blogs are clearly written by Bigfoot.  And that should be proof enough of Bigfoot's existence!

    "Doctor Cleveland" is clearly "Doctor Manhattan."  His "posts" are nothing more than the manipulation of matter and energy at the subatomic level.

    Just looking for someone who looks like this:


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