02 May 2013

Multiple authors of "Shakespearean" works?

For the birthday anniversary of the Stratford man, a Guardian columnist detailed one variation on the authorship controversy - that the corpus is the work of several authors.
The Shakespeare Birthplace Trust – the guardian of Shakespeare's global image – will publish a book of some 20 academic essays that sets out to prove definitively that Shakespeare wrote the plays and poems attributed to him. Shakespeare Beyond Doubt marks a radical development in the Shakespeare Authorship Question, for it is the first time that the "establishment" has felt the need to acknowledge its existence and importance.

In the past, they have dismissed this question as only of interest to fantasists.. This is the first time that the subject is being taken seriously as "an intriguing cultural phenomenon". Why are they so worried?..

One reason is the publication in paperback of Shakespeare's Unorthodox Biography by American scholar, Diana Price, in which she analyses every piece of evidence in existence concerning Shakespeare and concludes that the case for Shakespeare writing all of the works attributed to him is quite weak. As with my own research, Price does not argue for an alternative author but rather shows how the case for Shakespeare is built on mis-readings, mythologising and, often wilful deception...

A number of plays that appeared in the first collected works (the First Folio, printed in 1623, seven years after Shakespeare's death) have been shown to be works of more than one writer. I would argue that many more than this are collaborations and that some of the plays in that collection were not written by Shakespeare. For example, one record attributes Romeo and Juliet to Samuel Daniel, a contemporary of Shakespeare; Hamlet was being performed on stage 10 years before Shakespeare is supposed to have written it. These are just two of many such examples...

I receive hate mail on a regular basis and have been advised to "drop it now" if I wish to get published ever again. Yet I do not argue for an alternative author and do not suggest that any other individual wrote the plays and poems. I simply do not believe that Shakespeare wrote all of the plays and poems attributed to him and evidence seems to suggest I am right.
More details (and many comments) at The Guardian.


  1. I would love to sit down with Mr Leahy and ask precisely what evidence would suffice to convince him that the plays were written by one Will Shakespeare? Is there any hypothetical, conceivable, imaginable evidence which would be sufficient?

  2. I thought "computational stylistics", a branch of computer science in which a "literary fingerprint" can be determined for an author had been used to show that Shakespeare's plays had most likely been written by single author -at least according to the authors of the book "Shakespeare, Computers, and the Mystery of Authorship"

  3. What's the big deal? If some modern writers can come up with dozens of novels, each of which contain thousands more words than Shakespeare's plays, all of which can be read or performed in less than three hours, and if Charles Dickens, as just one example of old, could write 20 novels, some of which are very long and might take days to read, as well as numerous short stories and poetry, as well as some non-fiction works, then why do these modern scholars come up with these notions that The Bard could not have written his 38 comparatively shortish works? And even the people responsible for the wiki page about him tell us that 11 of these were written in collaboration with others.

    Re Hamlet, they tell us "Shakespeare based Hamlet on the legend of Amleth, preserved by 13th-century chronicler Saxo Grammaticus in his Gesta Danorum as subsequently retold by 16th-century scholar Fran├žois de Belleforest." So, if this legend was suddenly known to the playwrights of the time, isn't it possible that another playwright wrote a version of it, using the name Hamlet, before Shakespeare wrote his own version also using that name? Filmmakers nowadays commonly do remakes of earlier movies but with new scripts.

    No one says the new version was made by the maker of the original film, do they? Shakespeare could simply have written his own version of the Hamlet story, knowing that it might be a popular one for which people would buy tickets, and this turned out to be the case.


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