Was William Shakespeare a Sockpuppet?

I’m sitting in a hotel lounge in a town in the West Midlands of England, and I’ve just done one of my favorite things: seen a play written by William Shakespeare. It was a hot ticket; David Tennant, famous for having incarnated Doctor Who on TV for 6 years, played the venal Richard II, who pays for his conceit and falls from his throne.[1]

While the audience for Shakespeare’s plays is generally diverse, tonight’s crowd has a bit more tattoos and brightly-colored hair than usual. As my girlfriend and I eat a late dessert, people at the tables around us are discussing the play. Some of the younger spectators – mostly female – are delighted that they got David Tennant to sign their programs at the stage door. Some older people discuss the staging. And, in the corner, someone says, “But you know, Shakespeare didn’t write this play.”

David tennant
David Tennant as Richard II. Photo by Kwame Lestrade

I’m in Stratford-upon-Avon, where Shakespeare was born, and the hotel is across the street from the Royal Shakespeare Theatre, the home of the Royal Shakespeare Company (RSC). Ask any of the actors in this play, and they’ll most likely shrug off the suggestion that Shakespeare didn’t write this play, or any of the 37 others attributed to him. But for nearly 200 years, people have been trying to prove otherwise.

“He was the author, thou the instrument.” Henry VI Part III

Scholars have long known that Shakespeare didn’t write all of the plays himself; he collaborated with other authors on some of them. John Fletcher, for example, probably co-wrote Henry VII and The Two Noble Kinsmen with Will. Other authors contributed to different plays, such as Titus Andronicus, Measure for Measure, Timon of Athens, and even Macbeth. And there are others: a volume just published under the auspices of the RSC (Amazon.com) collects “collaborative plays,” ones that Shakespeare co-authored with fellow playwrights, which are not currently part of the canon, increasing the list of plays that bear Shakespeare’s name.

But the “Shakespeare authorship question” is not about plays where the bard of Stratford co-authored, contributed a scene or two, or performed the task of the script doctor. It’s about trying to prove that Shakespeare could not have written any of the plays or poems that have been published under his name. That some average guy from a sleepy little town, three days’ ride from London, could not have transcended the art of the theater.

What is it about Shakespeare that makes his works so well-loved, yet his identity doubted? Why does an actor of David Tennant’s stature return to the RSC to play the role of a forgotten English king in one of Shakespeare’s lesser dramas? For some people, there comes a time when you get Shakespeare, when you appreciate the subtlety of the stories and the beauty of his language. For others, his plays are just hard-to-understand 400-year old bores. But Shakespeare managed to wed story and text in a way that no other playwright of his time was able to, and the greatness of these works ensured that his reputation would live on.

Birthplace
Shakespeare’s birthplace in Stratford-Upon-Avon.

Conspiracy theories about Shakespeare’s identity have been around for a long time. The main crux of the anti-Stratfordian argument, as it is called, is this: Shakespeare was not educated enough to have written the plays. He was not an aristocrat, and only those at the pinnacle of society could have known the inner workings of the court. He never traveled to the places that figure in the plays, wasn’t a lawyer (some of the plays mention legal issues), had no experience with falconry or tennis (both mentioned in the plays), and, basically, was a commoner. The thought is that Shakespeare was a sockpuppet; his name was used to obscure the hand behind the plays, that of a man who couldn’t admit his authorship for political reasons.

“I will fight with him upon this theme, Until my eyelids will no longer wag.” Hamlet

I met with the doyen of Shakespeare scholars, Stanley Wells, to discuss this question.[2] Professor Wells, together with Paul Edmondson, his collaborator at the Shakespeare Birthplace Trust, recently published a free ebook, called Shakespeare Bites Back[3], to counter these arguments. He was moved to do this for two main reasons:

“Because the conspiracy theorists are vocal and getting a lot of publicity, partly through the film Anonymous… [and] because it’s spread to the academy. There are two universities now — one in America, one in England — where you can do courses in authorship.”

Stanley wells
Professor Stanley Wells. Photo Shakespere Birthplace Trust.

Anonymous (IMDB) tells the story of Edward de Vere, the 17th Earl of Oxford, one of some 77 candidates for Shakespeare’s ghost writer. (“It’s a bad film, very complicated, a silly story,” said Wells.) Others include Sir Francis Bacon, the playwright Christopher Marlowe, or even a group of writers, the Elizabethan equivalent of the writers’ room, where today’s TV series are scripted. Even Queen Elizabeth I has been suggested as a potential author of the plays. The names have changed over the centuries, but there has been a long-standing tradition of trying to find possible authors for Shakespeare.

Professor Wells questions why people get involved in these theories. “What is it in their psychology that makes them question received truth?” he asks. “It’s an interesting psychological phenomenon. It’s not one to which I have any easy answer.”

But much of the explanation is based on an elitist attitude that a commoner couldn’t have written such great works of art. Anti-Stratfordians claim that Shakespeare wasn’t educated enough to write anything, let alone Hamlet, and that, coming from the “backwater” of Stratford-Upon-Avon, he couldn’t have had the knowledge required to create such intricate works.

“In some cases it’s snobbery,” Professor Wells said, “which is often based on ignorance of the sort of education that you would get in a grammar school in England. Of course we can’t prove that Shakespeare went to the grammar school, because we can’t prove that anybody went to the grammar school… Snobbery, then, is partly behind it, [the idea] that it must have been an aristocrat.”

The lack of records and documentary evidence is one of the main arguments used to bolster the idea that Shakespeare didn’t write the plays. Only a handful of documents in his hand exist, and naysayers point to the fact that he spelled his name differently at different times, though English spelling was not normalized at the time. But there are more than enough contemporary mentions of Shakespeare as the author of specific plays and poems, to show that he was well known; that “Shakespeare” as a brand was familiar.

“Do you doubt that?” Hamlet

Questions about Shakespeare’s authorship of the plays go back to the early 19th century. This was a time when the status of the author was rising, and when textual criticism had shown that Homer didn’t write The Iliad and The Odyssey, and that the Bible was written not by a single hand, but by a diverse group of people over several centuries. The Romantic concept of the author also led to the idea that an author’s works must reflect his life and experience. William Wordsworth said, regarding the sonnets, that “Shakespeare expresses his own feelings in his own person.”

An 1805 lecture by Joseph Corton Cowell sums this up. Cowell said, “there is nothing in the writings of Shakespeare that does not argue the long and early training of the schoolman, the traveller, and the associate of the great and learned.” Later skeptics would repeat this idea, choosing a specific favorite as candidate for authorship of the plays, riffing on the idea that, as James Shapiro says in his book Contested Will[4], “Shakespeare could only write about what he had felt or done rather than heard about, read about, borrowed from other writers or imagined.”

Shapiro points out that, “We’ve inherited many ideas about writing that emerged in the eighteenth century, especially an interest in literature as both an expression and an exploration of the self” As we are more interested in artists’ lives, we try and fit their work into their experience.

1024px-Shakespeare_Droeshout_1623.jpg
Even this engraving of Shakespeare, included in the First Folio edition of his plays, has fueled conspiracy theories. From https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Droeshout_portrait

If you take this idea at face value, you could say that Shakespeare could only have written about murder – as he did in many plays, such as Hamlet, Macbeth and Richard II – if he had committed the foul deed himself. And that he could only have written about Titus Andronicus killing and cooking two of Tamora’s sons in meat pies if he, himself, had such culinary experience.

Over time, leading candidates for Shakespeare’s place in history have changed, as some have been sufficiently debunked, and others have fallen out of fashion. Elaborate theories have been constructed based on secret codes, acrostics, and even forgeries, and, more recently, the internet has renewed the ability for anyone to argue this issue. Self-published books abound, championing one potential replacement or another.

In Shakespeare Bites Back, Stanley Wells and Paul Edmondson point out that, “At the last count 77 individuals had been named. The fact that there are so many of them should be enough in itself to topple the whole house of cards. Every additional name added to the list only serves to demonstrate the absurdity of the entire enterprise. All of these nominations are equally invalid; none has a greater claim than any of the others.”

“Tell truth, and shame the devil.” Henry IV, Part I

But in the end, why does it matter who wrote the plays if they are great works of art? If you go to the theater and enjoy a play, does it matter who wrote it? Professor Wells told me, "It matters a great deal who wrote the plays. Partly because the plays are inevitably the product of the community in which their author was born, similar to the way in which Dickens’s are rooted in London, perhaps not to that extent. It matters because young people shouldn’t be subjected to conspiracy theories as if they were truth.

“It matters because history matters, because truth matters.”

Originally published in issue 15 of The Loop Magazine.

80 thoughts on “Was William Shakespeare a Sockpuppet?

  1. When you consider that Walt Whitman & Mark Twain were authorship doubters, those silly snob accusations go right down the drain. One must wonder, why does Prof. Wells attack the doubters personally? I thought real scholars engaged in debating facts, not ad hominem attacks.

    Another question – when Wells occasionally does debate the facts, why does he ignore recent authorship related scholarship and only attacks the weakest arguments? Is he even qualified to discuss the authorship question when he clearly relies on out-of-date materials?

    Frankly, it’s shocking that Wells is concerned about university (united in diversity) courses on the authorship question, and wants to censor the debate. As world renowned Elizabethan scholar Ian Donaldson wrote: “What if Shakespeare didn’t write the works attributed to him? What if these were really the writings of the Earl of Oxford? These are legitimate and provocative questions, which literary and historical scholars ignore at their own peril.” Well said professor Donaldson. Well said.

    • > When you consider that Walt Whitman & Mark Twain were authorship doubters, those silly snob accusations go right down the drain.

      Because neither one of them could have had a snobbish thought in their heads, amirite? Such statements and underlying assumptions riddle every conspiracy theory about Shakespeare. And no, nobody “wants to censor the debate”. The victimization stance is also a common hallmark of conspiracy theorists.

      Want to replace Shakespeare of Stratford with your favorite candidate? Come up with some real evidence instead of wishful wet dreams and special pleading. As long as logic, scholarship, and sanity prevail in the academy, Shakespeare will be the man from Stratford.

      • Generally speaking, I try not to acknowledge the predictable trolling in this arena, but since Tom Reedy is becoming well known as an incessant Shakespeare Authorship troll, I thought to engage on this rare occasion and respond to his latest abuses (remembering, of course that a troll is an “abusive or obnoxious user who uses shock value to promote arguments and disharmony in online communities”).

        *In order to promote his argument, Mr. Reedy desperately wants to characterize authorship doubters as “snobs”. He now appears to be accusing Mark Twain and Walt Whitman of having these same “snobbish” thoughts. On the contrary, Whitman and Twain – “poets of democracy and the common man” – were famous for putting snobs in their place. Reedy knows this of course. This is classic shock value behavior, a red herring intended to create disharmony. Because he cannot deal with the message, like Cleopatra, he attacks the messenger.

        *While lobbing more attacks, Reedy then states “And no, nobody wants to censor the debate”. The facts, however, say otherwise: In the article above, Wells is clearly aghast that there are Universities that teach the authorship question. He has let it be known that the authorship question has no place in academia, and has written that Shakesper’s authorship is “beyond doubt”. He, Reedy, and Well’s co-editor Edmondson, along with Bates, Shapiro and other leaders of the orthodox camp, regularly attempt to intimidate, minimize, cajole, and ridicule anyone that disagrees with them. Classic techniques designed to cut off dialogue and stop the debate.

        *Other behavior intended to stop honest debate is the intentional use of miss-information, in an attempt to minimize the debate – “All of these nominations are equally invalid; none has a greater claim than any of the others”, Well states of the growing list of authorship candidates, knowing full well that for over 400 years there have only been 5 or 6 major authorship candidates.

        Now, gentle readers, as an experiment – start observing how often, when discussing authorship researchers, Stratfordians question their “psychology” or “sanity”. Count up the pejorative buzz words like “ignorant” and “delusional”. And examine this statement from internet troll Tom Reedy – “As long as logic, scholarship, and sanity prevail in the academy, Shakespeare will be the man from Stratford” and this from Professor Wells, “What is it in their psychology that makes them question received truth?”

        Now ask yourself – who are the snobs again?

        • Wells should have his PhD revoked. Any university teaching their students not to “question received truth” is running a church not a school.

        • I’m so impressed with your logical, evidence-filled post without having to resort to ad hominem arguments that I’m just on the verge of converting.

          • “much of the explanation is based on an elitist attitude that a commoner couldn’t have written such great works of art.” This is just not true. It is also a cheap ad hominem. A little reading around might help you.

            http://www.shakespearefellowship.org
            https://doubtaboutwill.org/declaration

            If you can cite evidence from those sources of an “elitist attitude that a commoner couldn’t have written such great works of art” then you will have an argument. But just throwing mud like this is not an argument, and when you erase detailed criticism of the perspective you are defending from the comments on your website you only look desperate to make the mud stick without being willing to reconsider how offensive you sound.

  2. When you consider that Walt Whitman & Mark Twain were authorship doubters, those silly snob accusations go right down the drain. One must wonder, why does Prof. Wells attack the doubters personally? I thought real scholars engaged in debating facts, not ad hominem attacks.

    Another question – when Wells occasionally does debate the facts, why does he ignore recent authorship related scholarship and only attacks the weakest arguments? Is he even qualified to discuss the authorship question when he clearly relies on out-of-date materials?

    Frankly, it’s shocking that Wells is concerned about university (united in diversity) courses on the authorship question, and wants to censor the debate. As world renowned Elizabethan scholar Ian Donaldson wrote: “What if Shakespeare didn’t write the works attributed to him? What if these were really the writings of the Earl of Oxford? These are legitimate and provocative questions, which literary and historical scholars ignore at their own peril.” Well said professor Donaldson. Well said.

    • > When you consider that Walt Whitman & Mark Twain were authorship doubters, those silly snob accusations go right down the drain.

      Because neither one of them could have had a snobbish thought in their heads, amirite? Such statements and underlying assumptions riddle every conspiracy theory about Shakespeare. And no, nobody “wants to censor the debate”. The victimization stance is also a common hallmark of conspiracy theorists.

      Want to replace Shakespeare of Stratford with your favorite candidate? Come up with some real evidence instead of wishful wet dreams and special pleading. As long as logic, scholarship, and sanity prevail in the academy, Shakespeare will be the man from Stratford.

      • Generally speaking, I try not to acknowledge the predictable trolling in this arena, but since Tom Reedy is becoming well known as an incessant Shakespeare Authorship troll, I thought to engage on this rare occasion and respond to his latest abuses (remembering, of course that a troll is an “abusive or obnoxious user who uses shock value to promote arguments and disharmony in online communities”).

        *In order to promote his argument, Mr. Reedy desperately wants to characterize authorship doubters as “snobs”. He now appears to be accusing Mark Twain and Walt Whitman of having these same “snobbish” thoughts. On the contrary, Whitman and Twain – “poets of democracy and the common man” – were famous for putting snobs in their place. Reedy knows this of course. This is classic shock value behavior, a red herring intended to create disharmony. Because he cannot deal with the message, like Cleopatra, he attacks the messenger.

        *While lobbing more attacks, Reedy then states “And no, nobody wants to censor the debate”. The facts, however, say otherwise: In the article above, Wells is clearly aghast that there are Universities that teach the authorship question. He has let it be known that the authorship question has no place in academia, and has written that Shakesper’s authorship is “beyond doubt”. He, Reedy, and Well’s co-editor Edmondson, along with Bates, Shapiro and other leaders of the orthodox camp, regularly attempt to intimidate, minimize, cajole, and ridicule anyone that disagrees with them. Classic techniques designed to cut off dialogue and stop the debate.

        *Other behavior intended to stop honest debate is the intentional use of miss-information, in an attempt to minimize the debate – “All of these nominations are equally invalid; none has a greater claim than any of the others”, Well states of the growing list of authorship candidates, knowing full well that for over 400 years there have only been 5 or 6 major authorship candidates.

        Now, gentle readers, as an experiment – start observing how often, when discussing authorship researchers, Stratfordians question their “psychology” or “sanity”. Count up the pejorative buzz words like “ignorant” and “delusional”. And examine this statement from internet troll Tom Reedy – “As long as logic, scholarship, and sanity prevail in the academy, Shakespeare will be the man from Stratford” and this from Professor Wells, “What is it in their psychology that makes them question received truth?”

        Now ask yourself – who are the snobs again?

        • Wells should have his PhD revoked. Any university teaching their students not to “question received truth” is running a church not a school.

        • I’m so impressed with your logical, evidence-filled post without having to resort to ad hominem arguments that I’m just on the verge of converting.

          • “much of the explanation is based on an elitist attitude that a commoner couldn’t have written such great works of art.” This is just not true. It is also a cheap ad hominem. A little reading around might help you.

            http://www.shakespearefellowship.org
            https://doubtaboutwill.org/declaration

            If you can cite evidence from those sources of an “elitist attitude that a commoner couldn’t have written such great works of art” then you will have an argument. But just throwing mud like this is not an argument, and when you erase detailed criticism of the perspective you are defending from the comments on your website you only look desperate to make the mud stick without being willing to reconsider how offensive you sound.

  3. Here is a lengthy rebuttal contributed by a poster whose screen name is policywonk. It summarizes the fallacies of Mr. Stanley Wells very succinctly.

    DELETED

    • I’ve deleted most of the above comment for two reasons. First, the comment is substantially longer than my article. Second, if Mr Policy Wonk wishes to comment on my article, he is free to do so; copying and pasting someone’s comment to a different article is not acceptable.

      As an aside, I find it a symptom of some underlying syndrome the way that anti-Stratfordians feel they must spew out thousands and thousands of words replying to any suggestions that Shakespeare is, indeed, the one who wrote the plays. I’ve seen this in the past, going back to my days reading a Usenet newsgroup about Shakespeare, which was rendered useless by these diatribes. I’m open to discussion, but only if the person commenting is addressing what I said in my article, and does so in a somewhat restrained manner. No need to go off on so many tangents.

  4. Here is a lengthy rebuttal contributed by a poster whose screen name is policywonk. It summarizes the fallacies of Mr. Stanley Wells very succinctly.

    DELETED

    • I’ve deleted most of the above comment for two reasons. First, the comment is substantially longer than my article. Second, if Mr Policy Wonk wishes to comment on my article, he is free to do so; copying and pasting someone’s comment to a different article is not acceptable.

      As an aside, I find it a symptom of some underlying syndrome the way that anti-Stratfordians feel they must spew out thousands and thousands of words replying to any suggestions that Shakespeare is, indeed, the one who wrote the plays. I’ve seen this in the past, going back to my days reading a Usenet newsgroup about Shakespeare, which was rendered useless by these diatribes. I’m open to discussion, but only if the person commenting is addressing what I said in my article, and does so in a somewhat restrained manner. No need to go off on so many tangents.

  5. “I’ve deleted most of the above comment for two reasons. First, the comment is substantially longer than my article.”

    Gosh, do you think you can get any more brazen? You ought to be ashamed of yourself, sir. Is that succinct enough for you?

    • Ashamed, because someone posted a several thousand word comment that they didn’t even write, and I deleted it? Nope, not at all.

        • No, I deleted it because it was copied and pasted from some other web site, and wasn’t a reply to my post.

          • It was dreary, wasn’t it? I found myself losing the will to live after three or four paragraphs the first time it appeared on Amazon.

            Anyway, welcome to the Honour Roll of people who have been called ‘ignorant’ by Oxfordian of the Year 2013 (Ooty aka Snooty-Ooty).

            • Here’s a link to the comments in question in case anyone reading this wants to know why it had to be deleted, and why Mr. Leadbetter, who has now apparently come in from the SBT cold, must condemn it as “dreary.” I suppose that if your point of view is that the SBT crowd can do no wrong, the essay must indeed be depressing: http://www.amazon.com/review/R1ZQOBX8C1CGD4/ref=cm_cr_dp_title?ie=UTF8&ASIN=B00I9ENJQ6&nodeID=133140011&store=digital-text

              The review by “Policy Wonk,” titled “Awful book, but a must read; but first read this so you see the flaws,” points up Mr. McElhearn’s inadequate grasp on essential elements of the debate, offering many numerous substantive criticisms of the most recent book of the man presented in this blog entry as God’s gift to the Shakespeare establishment, Birthplace Trust CEO emeritus Wells.

              One may note, among other virtues, that the review specifically encourages readers to read the Wells volume before drawing conclusions. By contrast, Mr. McElhearn finds it expedient to promote puffery that depends on the reader’s continued ignorance of the character of the discussion as specified by Policy Wonk among many others. Mike Leadbetter’s “argument by adjective” will not be effective for readers who actually read both Policy Wonk’s critique and the hackneyed, tired, over-pinkish cliches of Wells’ book.

        • > because you had no answers to it.

          These arguments have been answered many times to the satisfaction of 99.9% of people. Had they not been, Oxford would have been accepted as Shakespeare long ago, but for some reason the knowledgeable scholar–whom you insult and call ignorant–continue to accept William Shakespeare as the author because that’s what all the evidence supports.

          It is clear is that your standards of evidence are radically different than the rest of the world and that no amount of argument or evidence will convince you otherwise in your belief that Oxford was the true Shakespeare. Until you come up with some real evidence of the type that is accepted by the rest of the scholarly community, you and your coterie of a few hundred true believers will continue to be marginalized in the academic community. That’s the reality of the situation, which you obviously dislike, but it isn’t going to change no matter how much condescending snark you post around the internet. This sort of thing is just one more insignificant drop in the multitudinous seas of the internet; yours just happens to be a bit shriller than most because of the obvious desperation which you so vainly project on the outside world.

        • And even Stephan Morrer agrees that the post should have been knocked down–they were copied from a review of a book. Is this what Oxfordians mean by scholastic integrity?

          • This review by policywonk was posted because I thought it was well written and addressed the issues clearly. I can see now that its length may have been inappropriate for this forum, though I have seen longer responses on other discussions.

            Nevertheless, this review was in the public domain, the post was properly attributed to the correct author, and it is disingenuous on your part to raise issues of integrity. When my integrity is out, I will be the first to acknowledge it.

            The truth is that the issues raised have not been responded to except for the flippant remark that they have already been answered many times in the past..

            No sir, they have not been answered, only sniped at.

            • While you’re looking up the word ‘succinct’, you might want to do a little research on public domain also.

              And yes, they have been responded to, and very well, ever since the idea was first floated in the mid-10th century. Great rebuttals can be found in Andrew Lang’s 1912 Shakespeare, Bacon and the Great Unknown (since most Oxfordian arguments are just recycled Baconian arguments), The Poacher from Stratford (1958), by Frank Wadsworth, Shakespeare and His Betters (1958), by Reginald Churchill, and Irvin Matus’ Shakespeare, In Fact (1994), just to name a few That you don’t or can’t understand the arguments and refuse to deal with them is your problem, not theirs, nor is it necessary that every scholar drop their work and immediately deal with your specious arguments. .

            • Yes, Howard, your post did clearly address the issues, not to mention that you also clearly marked it as not being by you.

              Mr. McElhearn apparently misunderstands the definition of plagiarism, which is the unacknowledged presentation of someone else’s words as your own (something you clearly didn’t do). Just as troubling, he seems unable to understand the meaning of the old adage that the shin bone’s connected to the kneebone.

              Of course it was related to the article, which is a piece of puffery for Stanley Wells and the Birthplace trust, the author of the book which Policy Wonk reviewed. If I were to criticize your initial post I would say that adding a bit more context, to show how and why Policy Wonk’s remarks were and are relevant, might have been useful. But then, of course, your post would have been even longer, and would in accordance with he Mr. McElhearn’s policies have deleted it anyway, and probably much sooner than it was.

  6. “I’ve deleted most of the above comment for two reasons. First, the comment is substantially longer than my article.”

    Gosh, do you think you can get any more brazen? You ought to be ashamed of yourself, sir. Is that succinct enough for you?

    • Ashamed, because someone posted a several thousand word comment that they didn’t even write, and I deleted it? Nope, not at all.

        • No, I deleted it because it was copied and pasted from some other web site, and wasn’t a reply to my post.

          • It was dreary, wasn’t it? I found myself losing the will to live after three or four paragraphs the first time it appeared on Amazon.

            Anyway, welcome to the Honour Roll of people who have been called ‘ignorant’ by Oxfordian of the Year 2013 (Ooty aka Snooty-Ooty).

            • Here’s a link to the comments in question in case anyone reading this wants to know why it had to be deleted, and why Mr. Leadbetter, who has now apparently come in from the SBT cold, must condemn it as “dreary.” I suppose that if your point of view is that the SBT crowd can do no wrong, the essay must indeed be depressing: http://www.amazon.com/review/R1ZQOBX8C1CGD4/ref=cm_cr_dp_title?ie=UTF8&ASIN=B00I9ENJQ6&nodeID=133140011&store=digital-text

              The review by “Policy Wonk,” titled “Awful book, but a must read; but first read this so you see the flaws,” points up Mr. McElhearn’s inadequate grasp on essential elements of the debate, offering many numerous substantive criticisms of the most recent book of the man presented in this blog entry as God’s gift to the Shakespeare establishment, Birthplace Trust CEO emeritus Wells.

              One may note, among other virtues, that the review specifically encourages readers to read the Wells volume before drawing conclusions. By contrast, Mr. McElhearn finds it expedient to promote puffery that depends on the reader’s continued ignorance of the character of the discussion as specified by Policy Wonk among many others. Mike Leadbetter’s “argument by adjective” will not be effective for readers who actually read both Policy Wonk’s critique and the hackneyed, tired, over-pinkish cliches of Wells’ book.

        • > because you had no answers to it.

          These arguments have been answered many times to the satisfaction of 99.9% of people. Had they not been, Oxford would have been accepted as Shakespeare long ago, but for some reason the knowledgeable scholar–whom you insult and call ignorant–continue to accept William Shakespeare as the author because that’s what all the evidence supports.

          It is clear is that your standards of evidence are radically different than the rest of the world and that no amount of argument or evidence will convince you otherwise in your belief that Oxford was the true Shakespeare. Until you come up with some real evidence of the type that is accepted by the rest of the scholarly community, you and your coterie of a few hundred true believers will continue to be marginalized in the academic community. That’s the reality of the situation, which you obviously dislike, but it isn’t going to change no matter how much condescending snark you post around the internet. This sort of thing is just one more insignificant drop in the multitudinous seas of the internet; yours just happens to be a bit shriller than most because of the obvious desperation which you so vainly project on the outside world.

        • And even Stephan Morrer agrees that the post should have been knocked down–they were copied from a review of a book. Is this what Oxfordians mean by scholastic integrity?

          • This review by policywonk was posted because I thought it was well written and addressed the issues clearly. I can see now that its length may have been inappropriate for this forum, though I have seen longer responses on other discussions.

            Nevertheless, this review was in the public domain, the post was properly attributed to the correct author, and it is disingenuous on your part to raise issues of integrity. When my integrity is out, I will be the first to acknowledge it.

            The truth is that the issues raised have not been responded to except for the flippant remark that they have already been answered many times in the past..

            No sir, they have not been answered, only sniped at.

            • While you’re looking up the word ‘succinct’, you might want to do a little research on public domain also.

              And yes, they have been responded to, and very well, ever since the idea was first floated in the mid-10th century. Great rebuttals can be found in Andrew Lang’s 1912 Shakespeare, Bacon and the Great Unknown (since most Oxfordian arguments are just recycled Baconian arguments), The Poacher from Stratford (1958), by Frank Wadsworth, Shakespeare and His Betters (1958), by Reginald Churchill, and Irvin Matus’ Shakespeare, In Fact (1994), just to name a few That you don’t or can’t understand the arguments and refuse to deal with them is your problem, not theirs, nor is it necessary that every scholar drop their work and immediately deal with your specious arguments. .

            • Yes, Howard, your post did clearly address the issues, not to mention that you also clearly marked it as not being by you.

              Mr. McElhearn apparently misunderstands the definition of plagiarism, which is the unacknowledged presentation of someone else’s words as your own (something you clearly didn’t do). Just as troubling, he seems unable to understand the meaning of the old adage that the shin bone’s connected to the kneebone.

              Of course it was related to the article, which is a piece of puffery for Stanley Wells and the Birthplace trust, the author of the book which Policy Wonk reviewed. If I were to criticize your initial post I would say that adding a bit more context, to show how and why Policy Wonk’s remarks were and are relevant, might have been useful. But then, of course, your post would have been even longer, and would in accordance with he Mr. McElhearn’s policies have deleted it anyway, and probably much sooner than it was.

  7. Mis-characterizing doubters as “deniers,” or “snobs” etc., deliberate ad hominems, are the refuge of those who don’t know or want to face opposing views of people who simply want a clearer, more rational answer to the question, “Who was Shakespeare?” in the face of evidence that there are other versions of the narrative. Shakespeare is Shakespeare? But who was he? Dr. Wells and others consistently distort the Oxfordian position with digressions of their own, by denigrating a few vulnerable doubters as over-generally representative of the whole, and by ignoring legitimate 20th and 21st century peer-reviewed scholarship in mainstream journals and the ample case that doubt began in the 16th Century. What can be doubted is a very sketchy biographical record including no record of an education and no verifiable manuscript connection, choice ambiguity and selective interpretation and historicism with regard to the First Folio provenance as well as the traditional suppression of the compelling and well-documented biographies of de Vere, less biased than Nelson. Any academic or person of any common sense should immediately recognize that saying something is “beyond doubt” means that there must actually be room for doubt or the author of such a title would not feel threatened by something enough to be absolutist. Everyone should have the freedom to explore this question without being told that Shakespeare lore cannot be questioned, and that there is room for a reasonable declaration of doubt about Shakespeare. If readers Google those last two phrases, they will see that.

    • The last two sentences above I meant to read: Everyone should have the freedom to explore this question without being told that Shakespeare lore cannot be questioned, There is room for a reasonable declaration of doubt about Shakespeare. If readers Google those last three phrases, they will see that.

    • Oxies, as you can probably tell, are most upset at Professor Wells’ tone, now less willing to engage, more assertive in his contradiction, more categorical in his dismissal of Oxfordian theory.

      The Professor’s change in tone and the heightened offence taken by Oxfordians are both results of same fact.

      Nothing is more powerless than an idea whose time has elapsed.

      Time is now up for Oxfordianism.

      Principally responsible, despite the sterling efforts of Prof Wells and his cohorts, is the damage inflicted on history, literature and common sense that was required to make a coherent narrative out of Oxfordian theory and get it up on screen. The film Anonymous and the excoriating reaction to it, one of hilarity and disbelief, has cooked the Oxfordian goose. Open ridicule is non-survivable, as Baconians discovered when people who actually understood ciphers attacked their cipher theories with a flame-thrower leaving just a few charred remains.

      So the SBT needn’t have worried and now, their best tactic would be to ignore the ‘debate’ entirely and watch it disappear.

      Join us in the Last Rites at oxfraud.com.

    • Well put, Shelphi. Stratfordian apologists like our author, Mr. Reedy, et alia seem to be addicted to ad hominems, straw men, and other logical fallacies. This suggests an underlying inability, or unwillingness, to grasp the real character of the debate and a strong need to defend established authority, even when than authority has repeatedly been shown to be based on an incomplete or inadequate grasp of relevant facts.

      • This…

        http://oxfraud.com/100-Dyer-consequences

        … mostly in psi’s own words, perfectly illustrates an “underlying inability, or unwillingness, to grasp the real character of the debate and a strong need to defend [renegade fantasy], even when tha[t fantasy] has repeatedly been shown to be based on an incomplete or inadequate grasp of relevant facts.”

        Obviously finding a pseudonym useful these days.

  8. Mis-characterizing doubters as “deniers,” or “snobs” etc., deliberate ad hominems, are the refuge of those who don’t know or want to face opposing views of people who simply want a clearer, more rational answer to the question, “Who was Shakespeare?” in the face of evidence that there are other versions of the narrative. Shakespeare is Shakespeare? But who was he? Dr. Wells and others consistently distort the Oxfordian position with digressions of their own, by denigrating a few vulnerable doubters as over-generally representative of the whole, and by ignoring legitimate 20th and 21st century peer-reviewed scholarship in mainstream journals and the ample case that doubt began in the 16th Century. What can be doubted is a very sketchy biographical record including no record of an education and no verifiable manuscript connection, choice ambiguity and selective interpretation and historicism with regard to the First Folio provenance as well as the traditional suppression of the compelling and well-documented biographies of de Vere, less biased than Nelson. Any academic or person of any common sense should immediately recognize that saying something is “beyond doubt” means that there must actually be room for doubt or the author of such a title would not feel threatened by something enough to be absolutist. Everyone should have the freedom to explore this question without being told that Shakespeare lore cannot be questioned, and that there is room for a reasonable declaration of doubt about Shakespeare. If readers Google those last two phrases, they will see that.

    • The last two sentences above I meant to read: Everyone should have the freedom to explore this question without being told that Shakespeare lore cannot be questioned, There is room for a reasonable declaration of doubt about Shakespeare. If readers Google those last three phrases, they will see that.

    • Oxies, as you can probably tell, are most upset at Professor Wells’ tone, now less willing to engage, more assertive in his contradiction, more categorical in his dismissal of Oxfordian theory.

      The Professor’s change in tone and the heightened offence taken by Oxfordians are both results of same fact.

      Nothing is more powerless than an idea whose time has elapsed.

      Time is now up for Oxfordianism.

      Principally responsible, despite the sterling efforts of Prof Wells and his cohorts, is the damage inflicted on history, literature and common sense that was required to make a coherent narrative out of Oxfordian theory and get it up on screen. The film Anonymous and the excoriating reaction to it, one of hilarity and disbelief, has cooked the Oxfordian goose. Open ridicule is non-survivable, as Baconians discovered when people who actually understood ciphers attacked their cipher theories with a flame-thrower leaving just a few charred remains.

      So the SBT needn’t have worried and now, their best tactic would be to ignore the ‘debate’ entirely and watch it disappear.

      Join us in the Last Rites at oxfraud.com.

    • Well put, Shelphi. Stratfordian apologists like our author, Mr. Reedy, et alia seem to be addicted to ad hominems, straw men, and other logical fallacies. This suggests an underlying inability, or unwillingness, to grasp the real character of the debate and a strong need to defend established authority, even when than authority has repeatedly been shown to be based on an incomplete or inadequate grasp of relevant facts.

      • This…

        http://oxfraud.com/100-Dyer-consequences

        … mostly in psi’s own words, perfectly illustrates an “underlying inability, or unwillingness, to grasp the real character of the debate and a strong need to defend [renegade fantasy], even when tha[t fantasy] has repeatedly been shown to be based on an incomplete or inadequate grasp of relevant facts.”

        Obviously finding a pseudonym useful these days.

  9. The Authorship Question is in the ridicule phase because its opponents would rather sling mud than provide better evidence for the gaping holes that have been found in their story. They keep forgetting that Anonymous was a fictional Hollywood film much like “Shakespeare in Love” whose star is on the cover of *Shakespeare Beyond Doubt.*

    Lots of good ideas over time have been made fun of and then been found to be better than “the received truth.” An argument is certainly not done just because one side is getting tired. It’s their story that is tired. There is a ‘simple[r] truth mis’called.’

    • The SAQ has been in the ridicule phase since it was first proposed. See Thomas Carlyle’s reaction when Delia Bacon explained her theory to him. And no, you’re not Galileo. For one thing, he was vindicated a few decades after his death. The SAC has been fringe for 160 years, and will remain so because there is no evidence as the term is generally understood by scientists and scholars.

      • “And no, you’re not Galileo.” Hmm…where is that coming from, Tom? Sounds like a talking point I hear it so often from you and your gang.

        “The SAC has been fringe for 160 years, and will remain so because there is no evidence as the term is generally understood by scientists and scholars.”

        Sure thing. Not an iota, not a scintilla, not even a scruple or a jot or a title of evidence, right? Is that your position, really? Get a life.

        Or, alternatively, maybe you could comment on this proposal to require paid Wikipedia editors to disclose their funding sources:

        http://meta.wikimedia.org/wiki/Terms_of_use/Paid_contributions_amendment

        • This is getting off-topic. If you want to argue about something that’s not in my article, please do it somewhere else.

          • You cannot get Oxfordians off the topic of how everyone who challenges their nonsense is an agent provocateur, paid by the Stratford-upon-Avon tourist industry.

            If psi has some evidence, let him present it instead of insulting those who ask for it.

          • It’s just getting around to the actual topic. Keep up with your reading and you may yet get it.

  10. The Authorship Question is in the ridicule phase because its opponents would rather sling mud than provide better evidence for the gaping holes that have been found in their story. They keep forgetting that Anonymous was a fictional Hollywood film much like “Shakespeare in Love” whose star is on the cover of *Shakespeare Beyond Doubt.*

    Lots of good ideas over time have been made fun of and then been found to be better than “the received truth.” An argument is certainly not done just because one side is getting tired. It’s their story that is tired. There is a ‘simple[r] truth mis’called.’

    • The SAQ has been in the ridicule phase since it was first proposed. See Thomas Carlyle’s reaction when Delia Bacon explained her theory to him. And no, you’re not Galileo. For one thing, he was vindicated a few decades after his death. The SAC has been fringe for 160 years, and will remain so because there is no evidence as the term is generally understood by scientists and scholars.

      • “And no, you’re not Galileo.” Hmm…where is that coming from, Tom? Sounds like a talking point I hear it so often from you and your gang.

        “The SAC has been fringe for 160 years, and will remain so because there is no evidence as the term is generally understood by scientists and scholars.”

        Sure thing. Not an iota, not a scintilla, not even a scruple or a jot or a title of evidence, right? Is that your position, really? Get a life.

        Or, alternatively, maybe you could comment on this proposal to require paid Wikipedia editors to disclose their funding sources:

        http://meta.wikimedia.org/wiki/Terms_of_use/Paid_contributions_amendment

        • This is getting off-topic. If you want to argue about something that’s not in my article, please do it somewhere else.

          • You cannot get Oxfordians off the topic of how everyone who challenges their nonsense is an agent provocateur, paid by the Stratford-upon-Avon tourist industry.

            If psi has some evidence, let him present it instead of insulting those who ask for it.

          • It’s just getting around to the actual topic. Keep up with your reading and you may yet get it.

  11. Shoot I was going to say that the next sockpuppet would say there was no evidence. There it went.

  12. Shoot I was going to say that the next sockpuppet would say there was no evidence. There it went.

  13. Replying to a comment above; the comments only nest 5 levels.

    “Mr. McElhearn apparently misunderstands the definition of plagiarism, which is the unacknowledged presentation of someone else’s words as your own (something you clearly didn’t do). Just as troubling, he seems unable to understand the meaning of the old adage that the shin bone’s connected to the kneebone. ”

    Acknowledgement does not absolve you from plagiarism. Suggesting that it does shows that you don’t understand very much about that concept.

  14. Replying to a comment above; the comments only nest 5 levels.

    “Mr. McElhearn apparently misunderstands the definition of plagiarism, which is the unacknowledged presentation of someone else’s words as your own (something you clearly didn’t do). Just as troubling, he seems unable to understand the meaning of the old adage that the shin bone’s connected to the kneebone. ”

    Acknowledgement does not absolve you from plagiarism. Suggesting that it does shows that you don’t understand very much about that concept.

Comments are closed.