Sunday, July 17, 2011

Shakespeare Evidence Review - Introduction

Shakespeare Evidence Reviewed

On this series of posts I want to review the evidence that's been put forth as being sufficient to claim that William Shakspere of Stratford wrote the Shake-Speare plays and poetry, some even claiming it as proof. I expect to show that not one piece of this evidence can be considered as strong evidence and certainly that none of it can overcome the barrier of the alternate theory of authorship. Then at some point I'll start posting material regarding the idea of Bacon's hiding his authorship.

To start, here is how one alternate author (not a Baconian) described the identity issue: "The reason the identity of Shakespeare is shrouded in mystery may very well be that it was planned that way. We should label this plan a deliberate, premeditated strategem rather than a deliberate hoax, for while the author is in part playing a joke on his audience, the secret of authorship was planned for any number of good and sufficient motives. For such a deliberate, deep-laid deception to have been successful for a period of close to four hundred years would argue that only a few individuals were entrusted with the secret".
Shake-Speare: The Mystery by George Elliott Sweet, 1956.

Returning to Nigel Cockburn's 1998 book The Bacon-Shakespeare Question, he has this to say about evidence criteria:

"There are also about a score of references in Shakspere's lifetime to Shakespeare or William Shakespeare, and without the "Mr.", in praise of his work. These individually throw no light on whether the makers of the references believed Shake-Speare to be (William) Shakspere or merely a pen name for someone else. It is likely that many or most of them believed him (Shake-Speare the author) to be Shakspere (of Stratford). But if a literary work is published under the name of a real person, or under a name close enough to be taken for that of a real person, one assumes him to be its author unless one has reason to know otherwise. Though Stratfordians are loth to concede this, a reference to Shakespeare is worthless individually as evidence of Shakspere's authorship unless it satisfies three conditions.

First, it must identify Shakspere with Shake-Speare in one way or another. Secondly, its maker must have been likely to know if Shakspere was not Shake-Speare. Thirdly, he must have been likely to reveal that fact in the reference under consideration.

This third condition must be added because someone likely to know the truth might still identify Shakspere with  Shake-Speare because he wished to protect the secret. In my view not one of the references satisfies all three conditions. And the same applies to the few further references to Shakespeare by name in the years following Shakspere's death.

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