Exposing an Industry in Denial:
Authorship doubters respond to “60 Minutes with Shakespeare,”
Issued by the Shakespeare Birthplace Trust on September 1, 2011
II. Rebuttals to “60 Minutes with Shakespeare”
Question 14: If Shakespeare is a fraud, what about the historical
[AJ Leon, Senior Digital Advisor to The Shakespeare Birthplace Trust,
replies for the SBT]
What I cannot understand is the way people who say he didn’t write the
work have to ignore all the evidence that shows he did.
Let’s get this story straight.
We aren’t talking about a belief that can be interpreted differently
depending on our point of view. The evidence for William Shakespeare
of Stratford-upon-Avon is not circumstantial. It is factual and
Sure, we don’t have personal letters or diary entries, but that’s not
all that unusual for people of that period.
At least fourteen other writers mentioned him by name as a playwright
and poet and discussed his work. Printers and publishers worked with
him. Seven of his plays were co-authored for God’s sake. Readers,
actors, and theatre audiences were part of the living and breathing
testimony of thousands of people. On his death he was memorialized as
a writer, and his reputation grew.
To claim that Shakespeare of Stratford didn’t write the plays is no
less than to deny history and slap the greatest writer the world has
ever known in the face.
First, yes, many people do say that “he did not write the works;” but
what we all agree on is that there’s “reasonable doubt,” so it is a
legitimate question for people to pursue. The SBT should stop trying
to stigmatize and suppress a legitimate historical question.
Second, we do not “ignore” evidence that suggests he did. For example,
the Declaration of Reasonable Doubt outlines “four main reasons to
identify Mr. Shakspere … with the author William Shakespeare.” It says
they seem to amount to a prima facie case for him. But it explains why
each of the four is problematic, and then outlines some reasons why
“We Say the Evidence Does Not Fit.” What we can’t understand is why
Leon ignores it.
Third, it is extremely unusual that we have not a single letter in Mr.
Shakspere’s hand. If AJ Leon thinks otherwise, he is the one who is
ignoring the evidence. He should read Shakespeare’s Unorthodox
Biography, by Diana Price (esp. “Literary Paper Trails”).
Fourth, the fourteen other writers who, “mentioned him by name as a
playwright and poet and discussed his work,” never associate him with
Stratford, and never indicate that they knew or met him personally.
Fifth, no document shows that the author worked directly with printers
and publishers. He may have, but this says nothing about who he was.
If such people keep the identities of pseudonymous authors and ghost-
writers secret today, why wouldn’t they have then?
Sixth, it is not certain that any of the plays was co-authored; but
even if some were, it’s not certain that the collaborators knew the
author personally, or knew his true identity. Plays can be started and
completed by different authors working independently. They can be
written by one and revised by another, or completed, but revised
posthumously. Any of these could easily account for several jarring
inconsistencies in certain plays. It’s also hard to distinguish
collaboration from an author revising his own early works. The more
scholars claim collaboration, the harder it is to explain the absence
of letters, or other documentation of the alleged collaboration,
especially with a man in Stratford.
Seventh, there’s no “living and breathing testimony of thousands of
Eighth, on his death the Stratford man was not “memorialized as a
writer,” although many poets and playwrights of the time were,
sometimes within days of their deaths. Francis Beaumont, for example,
died three months after Shakspere, received many tributes and was
interred in Westminster Abbey. No tributes exist for Shakespeare.
Ninth, we have as much respect for the author Shakespeare, whoever he
was, as anyone. It is disgraceful that AJ Leon uses, and the SBT
condones, such inflammatory language.
Tenth, Leon has misrepresented the issue, the evidence, our positions
and our motives—all-too-typical of Stratfordians; if the evidence is
so clear, why the need for such tactics?
— Richard Joyrich, M.D., President, Shakespeare Oxford Society
— John M. Shahan, Chairman and CEO, Shakespeare Authorship Coalition