This is an invitation for you to join our free webinar called ‘Proving Shakespeare’ which takes place on Friday 26 April at 6.30pm (British Time). It’s been kindly sponsored by Cambridge University Press and the occasion for it is the publication of a new book, the cover of which illustrates this blog. I’ll be chairing a discussion for an hour with Stanley Wells and we are delighted to be joined by our special guest, Ros Barber, author of The Marlowe Papers: A Novel in Verse. If you sign up you’ll be able to listen to the webinar live and submit questions during the discussion. You can sign up by clicking here.
Did Shakespeare write Shakespeare, and why should we care? In October 2011 The Shakespeare Birthplace Trust started its Shakespeare Authorship Campaign. Our catalyst was the film Anonymous, but the Shakespeare authorship discussion crops up in and around the five Shakespeare Houses we care for and among students who attend the courses at The Shakespeare Centre. But our campaign was also prompted by the fact that at least two universities are running courses which promote doubt about Shakespeare’s authorship (Brunel and Concordia University, Portland, Oregon). One of our intended outcomes was always a collection of essays by international contributors about the Shakespeare authorship discussion. Shakespeare Beyond Doubt: Evidence, Argument, Controversy is published in the middle of next month and is bound to ruffle a few feathers.
There are three sections. The first is ‘Sceptics’. There you will find essays on the most popular alternative nominees for the authorship, namely Sir Francis Bacon, Christopher Marlowe, and Edward de Vere, the Earl of Oxford. These have been produced by world experts on those three subjects (Alan Stewart, Charles Nicholl, and Alan Nelson), all of whom set out authoritatively to demonstrate how none of those nominees could have written, or indeed were capable of having written, the works of Shakespeare. The ‘unreadable’ work of Delia Bacon is re-appraised by Graham Holderness and Matt Kubus has contributed a piece about the many other ‘unusual suspects’ who have been nominated over the years.
Section two, ‘Shakespeare as Author’, presents the evidence for Shakespeare and includes an essay which considers how we construct early modern biographies by Andrew Hadfield and an overview of all the allusions to Shakespeare up to 1642 by Stanley Wells. John Jowett shows how we know Shakespeare collaborated (thereby making a nonsense of any ‘cover-up’ story), and Mac Jackson shows what we can learn from stylometric tests for different authorial hands. James Mardock and Eric Rasmussen look at what the textual evidence of the printed works tells us about their author, and Dave Kathman finds Warwickshire writ large across Shakespeare’s work. Carol Rutter demonstrates that the whole of Shakespeare was written by someone who attended grammar school but who did not need to have attended university, and Barbara Everett shows how absurd it is to read the works as truthful windows onto Shakespeare’s own life.
The third and final section, ‘A Cultural Phenomenon: Did Shakespeare Write Shakespeare?’, includes articles by Kate McLuskie on conspiracy theories, by Andrew Murphy on the clash between professional academics and amateurs with regard to Delia Bacon, and by Paul Franssen on how the authorship discussion has been treated in works of fiction. Stuart Hampton-Reeves critiques the anti-Shakespearian ‘Declaration of Reasonable Doubt’ and Douglas Lanier critiques the film Anonymous. My contribution is a piece about the so-called ‘Shakespeare Establishment’ and the authorship discussion. The volume closes with an ‘Afterword’ by James Shapiro and ‘Further Reading’ by Hardy Cook.
I hope you can make the webinar. Please register by clicking here. In the meantime you might like to find out more about the Shakespeare authorship discussion by reading a free e-book called Shakespeare Bites Back, or by logging on to 60 Minutes With Shakespeare.
In the meantime, a big ‘thank you’ to Cambridge University Press for making this webinar possible!