Doubt thou the star? (1 of 2)

October 6, 2011

The argument that William Shakespeare was not the prime author of the plays attributed to him has absolutely no basis in historical fact. No documents from the period provide any evidence of an alternative author, and there is no documentary evidence of a conspiracy to conceal the true author of the plays ("Will's quill or not Will's quill...", 29 September).

Proponents of alternative candidates for authorship disregard conventional methods of enquiry and debate by adopting an extremely sceptical position in relation to the many documents and contemporary references that attribute the plays to Shakespeare and then concocting elaborate and unsubstantiated fantasies about who might have written them.

They call into question and insult the work of thousands of scholars who have patiently assembled the documentary record for Shakespeare's life and times and helped us to understand the context for his works. They undermine thousands of teachers who labour to educate the public about who Shakespeare was and how his plays relate to his time. They also unfairly taint the work of scholars who have studied the authors with whom Shakespeare is known to have collaborated.

Coming up with alternative candidates for the authorship of the plays is a parlour game for conspiracy theorists and fantasists: it has no place in serious academic debate.

Stuart Hampton-Reeves, chair, British Shakespeare Association

Peter J. Smith, Gabriel Egan, Ben Spiller, Ramona Wray, James Stredder, Paul Edmondson, Erin Sullivan, Stanley Wells (trustees and associates of the BSA)

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