Authorship Candidates

Hello,

I’m aware that some of you are finding it frustrating that we are asking you not to advance (or even discuss) the cases for individual authorship candidates, only to focus on the case for and against the generally accepted author of the works (who I don’t regard as a ‘candidate’ but rather the incumbent).

So this is just to explain, as clearly as possible, why.

The authorship question is, on the whole – as you can see from certain responses on the discussion forum – derided by mainstream opinion. It is not generally accepted as a valid question in academia. Academic journals and conferences explicitly bar papers and articles intended to address it.

Advancing the cases for individual candidates has no relevance in academia until the question itself comes to be regarded as a valid topic for discussion. Indeed, it is a distraction, because orthodox adherents, rather than addressing the reasons for the question’s existence (i.e. the case for Shakspere) will simply tear down individual cases, strand by strand, saying there is no hard evidence for them. They are right. We should not be surprised by this, given four hundred years of a single narrative being dominant. What is surprising – and the point that needs to be explored - is the dearth of hard evidence for the incumbent. The focus needs to be on the first part of the question – ‘Did William Shakspere write the works attributed to him?’ – until reasonable doubt has been established and the question is granted a degree of academic respectability. (And I say that with the acknowledgement that this might never happen.)

But until (and unless) that happens, most scholars will not risk their reputations and careers by getting involved, and research resources (funding and expertise) of the kind needed to advance the second part of the question (‘If not, who did?’) will not be available. I am aware of a number of scholars who are very interested in this area and have spoken to me privately about it, but would not dare to risk their reputations in going public.

If you wonder whether the dangers are real, consider that my Head of Department has already had to defend me and this course in a reply to Professor Sir Stanley Wells, who (prompted by most vociferous voices on this forum) wrote to say that I was bringing Goldsmiths into disrepute. Fortunately, as the Warden of Goldsmiths, Pat Loughrey (our Vice-Chancellor equivalent) said in relation to something else very recently: “I believe that mutual respect for differing positions on a complex subject is an essential component of Goldsmiths’ ethos.”

Imagine if it were not taboo; if funding for extensive archival research were available; if those with expertise could get involved in it; if papers could be published in respected peer-reviewed journals. Who knows what might be found?

In the meantime, be aware that the very existence of multiple candidates is used as an argument against the validity of the question. In addition, there is strong urging from certain mainstream thinkers that non-Stratfordians should slug it out between themselves. A short paper I was sent by a Stratfordian only last week contains the sentence “Debates among advocates of the up to 87 alternative candidates would discredit each one of them and leave Shakespeare the last author standing.” You and I know this tactic as ‘Divide and conquer’.

As I replied to that scholar, who was challenging me to debate a leading Oxfordian, from my perspective, “this would be a move of rank presumption. I see the SAQ as two questions: 1) Did the man from Stratford write the works attributed to him? and 2) if not, who did? Until we can establish that point 1 is a valid question there's very little point moving on to point 2. It would be like booking the honeymoon when you haven't even asked your intended to marry you.”

Those who are interested in the cases for various candidates should check out the Shakespearean Authorship Trust website, linked from the main course resources, for brief outlines. If you have the funds, the book My Shakespeare (eerpublishing.com) is well worth reading, as it advances cases for the main candidates (and group theory) in some depth. Besides that, Google is your friend.

All the best,

Dr B