The last seven chapters of Shakespeare Beyond Doubt were a bit of a letdown due to their lack of substance so I’ll just run through them quickly. And if it’s substance you’re looking for in this debate then there are several books mentioned near the end that provide much food for thought.
Chapter 13 ‘Shakespeare tells lies” contains no evidence to address. But the author did want to look down from her position of assumed authority and make a point of saying that people like Walt Whitman and Justice Scalia were “snobs” for questioning what most take for granted.
Chapter 14 “‘This palpable device’: Authorship and conspiracy in Shakespeare’s life” also offers no evidence or serious argument to address. The author merely offers her opinion that to think that any alternative to Stratfordian theory must be less logical, just because.
Chapter 15 “Amateurs and professionals: Regendering Bacon” also offers no evidence or serious arguments to address. The author does make an attempt to psychoanalyze Delia Bacon for whatever that’s worth. He thinks the idea of anonymous writing is silly and that anyone in Shakespeare’s time could freely say and write anything they wanted without concern of the consequences. He’s also of the opinion that the only reason there are thousands of Shakespeare enthusiasts with Ph.D.s and Master’s that question the authorship is because most of those specializing in the area don’t question the authorship. So add him to the numerous ‘specialists’ that don’t have an educated opinion on the topic and don’t think they need to since they don’t think anyone should question what an orthodox academic says.
Chapter 16 “Fictional treatments of Shakespeare’s authorship” also offers no evidence or serious arguments to address. One thing the author does though is point out how some anti-Stratfordians in the past have belittled the man from Stratford from his ‘presumed’ lack of education and refinement. He seems to think that this is the predominant attitude of all anti-Stratfordians. Actually, this is not the case in the least, in my opinion. In the many years I’ve been reading on the topic, I’d say it’s very unusual, especially in the modern literature, to find much of any of that attitude, though there is some of it. Even in most of the authorship literature from nearly a hundred years ago I hardly ever found that attitude. Most of the writing has always dealt with the evidence itself. In fact, I’d say there is much more snobbish belittlement of other authorship candidates by the Stratfordians than there has been by the anti-Strats toward who we think of as the businessman/actor. The doubters have always been far more interested in gathering facts and evidence in their pursuit of greater clarity on the authorship question. Merely expressing some unsupported uneducated opinion has never been the approach of the serious researchers. That fictional treatments of the topic have often done this is a totally different matter since the intent then may be to try and stir up questioning and reexamination of the status quo. They are kind of a check on those fictional treatments that idealize and glorify the same man.
Chapter 17 discusses The ‘Declaration of Reasonable Doubt’. Unlike most Stratfordians this author thinks his peers should stop slandering the opposition. He admits that there is sincere doubt about the authorship, that the skeptics are not cranks, that they are not ill-informed. Rather, he says they’re intelligent, friendly, witty, and brave. It’s just that he feels that, regardless of the evidence, that he and other Stratfordians are smarter or more rational or something of that sort. He says that the skeptics believe the true author must have had a university education and that this is central to their case. Apparently, he’s read very little of the doubter’s arguments since they put little stress on a university education. The emphasis is that nothing known about William of Stratford fits what we see in the authorship of Shakespeare’s works. There are several means the true author could have acquired his knowledge and sophisticated literary skills, but a university education isn’t central to these, though it would help in some areas like his legal knowledge, his use of Cambridge jargon, access to an environment intellectuals and that’s conducive to poetry, playwriting and players, for example. But it’s not a central argument.
The author spends much ink arguing that his side of the debate has more ‘authority’ than the other side. What he doesn’t do is try and argue that his side has more or better facts and arguments than the other side. It’s long been taken for granted that there’s an orthodox, mainstream, group of academics with a dominant belief that the man from Stratford was the author Shake-Speare. What is also the case, and has long been recognized by most thinking people, is that the majority are not always correct in what they believe. He says “Let’s be reasonable” and rise above the rhetoric, and proceeds to label doubters as ‘anti-Shakespearians’ as if the Stratfordian skeptics don’t care to read Shakespeare, when in truth, we absolutely LOVE the Shakespeare works. Like most Stratfordians I’ve read, he shows no evidence of seeking out any of the doubter books written in the last 100 years. If he would at least read a few and then write more about facts and arguments, and less about ‘authority’, then we could have a more satisfactory exchange of ideas.
We recommend Shakespeare Beyond Doubt? Exposing an industry in Denial, edited by John Shahan and Alexander Waugh; The Man who was never Shakespeare, by A.J. Pointon; Shakespeare’s Unorthodox Biography, by Diana Price; The Shakespeare Guide to Italy, by Richard Paul Roe; and The Shakespeare Authorship Question: A Crackpot’s View, by Keir Cutler, Ph.D.
Oh, and Chapter 18 discusses the movie Anonymous and lastly Chapter 19 reviewed the Shakespeare Birthplace Trust’s strategy to suppress investigation into and discussion about the authorship question. The author tries to convince readers that if there were any new insights or evidence on the authorship questions, then it would be the orthodox academicians that would discover it, and no one else.
Really? Was it they that discovered all the exact use of legal terms and understanding in the works? Or the medical knowledge? Or on technical sea terminology? Or how about knowledge about Italy? Here, is where the mainstream Shakespeare scholars are shown to look especially bad in the doubter Shakespeare Beyond Doubt? book. In the doubter book on the chapter ‘Keeping Shakespeare out of Italy’ it’s shown how the standard academic scholarship, amid much excellent research, has still often been too presumptuous about many facts about the Italian references than to actually go to Italy and seek out any evidence there connecting real places and people to that in the Shakespeare plays. They had merely kept repeating what an early scholar thought about these references. And since the original scholar was so very wrong then all the subsequent scholars that copied him were in error. This doubter author, Alexander Waugh, after reviewing the history of the evidence, wrote: “My intention is simply to provide an introduction to the poor standard of scholarship among “professional academics” and to encourage them, where possible, toward a less emotional and more rigorous reaction to the many outstanding questions. They need to answer, for instance, how Shakespeare came to know about the churches of Florence, Padua and Verona, about the streets of Venice, the distances between unmapped Italian sites, Venetian customs, Italian monasteries and country estates, and the navigable canals and river routs of northern Italy?”
Clearly, the world needs independent researchers in the complex world of Shakespearean understanding since the mainstream academics are either too narrow-minded in their groupthink indoctrination or unable to risk their careers going down a path that challenges unquestioned theory and where they have less chance of being published, purely on grounds of prejudice. The Shakespeare Birthplace Trust and the majority of academics in this field seem to see this issue as a threat to their commercial dominance when they should be concerned about and valuing historical truth, whatever that may be, as part of the treasured heritage of human civilization and culture.
Thus ends our tournament of authorship jousts. Some of the matches were good tests though overall it was more one-sided than I expected. Not that I’m biased. Actually, the doubter book was much better than even I was expecting. I’ve read quite a bit from both sides but not nearly everything. And there was quite a lot in the Shakespeare Beyond Doubt? version edited by Shahan and Waugh that I was unfamiliar with. It may one day be recognized as one of the most important books ever published about Shakespeare.