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on 8 January 2016
It was actually this book that made me a firm anti-stratfordian. It offers no contemporary evidence whatsoever and Stanley Wells admits as much:

" Price writes that ‘Shakespeare is the only alleged writer of consequence from the time period for whom he [we?] must rely on posthumous evidence’ to prove that Shakespeare the writer was the man from Stratford.’ So far as documentary evidence goes this is true " - Stanley Wells

A large portion of the book is dedicated to the theory of 'group authorship' because the idea that Shakspere of Stratford wrote the works by himself is so completely unbelievable - so much for Shakespeare 'beyond doubt.'
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on 28 May 2013
In conjunction with James Shapiro's `Contested Will,' the ruthlessly lucid 'Shakespeare Beyond Doubt' has shifted the parameters of the authorship debate in significantly productive ways. Without these two books, we could go on niggling about signatures, fantastical feathers, the number of River Avons in Britain, graceful swans versus cannibalistic swans, John Shakespeare's trade versus Oxford's glove fetishism, inverted snobs versus right- way -up snobs, the sweet muses of Stratford upon Avon versus those of Stratford near Hackney, round and round in circles for all eternity. Or at least until the first piece of solid, undeniable evidence for alternative authorship is finally revealed.

We have now left behind these entertaining disputes and have entered a more unforgiving arena where all points proffered require predication on the basis of some tough questions. What is good historical evidence and what is dodgy historical evidence? How do you argue with the evidence of stylometrics? What is the difference between literature and autobiography? How does the human imagination work? How did a candidate who died in 1604 manage to collaborate with others in plays written after that date? How do we distinguish between logical and illogical speculation? What exactly is the relationship between the premise, `This man was a moneylender,' and the conclusion, `Therefore he could not have been a playwright'?

Two essays in the book shine a very specific floodlight into the arena which will be particularly unsettling for the anti-Shakespearians. They are Stuart Hampton Reeves' scrutiny of the signatories on `The Declaration of Reasonable Doubt' and Andrew Murphy's immaculately argued and highly sympathetic study of Delia Bacon which ultimately substantiates Gary Taylor's proposition that,' The theory that Shakespeare did not write Shakespeare's plays continues to appeal to amateurs, precisely because it has been utterly rejected by professionals.'

Not all professionals of course `utterly reject' authors other than Shakespeare. However, the relatively new insistence that a central issue in the authorship debate should be an examination of the historical , cultural and psychological causes of doubt and denial, makes it rather awkward for the dissident professionals to participate in this strand of the debate with any degree of academic objectivity.

I share the hope of Stanley Wells and Paul Edmondson that school and university students will never be encouraged to regard doubt about Shakespeare as being in any way legitimate. But I am comforted by the thought that if the worst happens, `Shakespeare Beyond Doubt' will be the elephant in the room that won't go away.
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on 17 July 2013
Illuminating, thought provoking and very well sourced "Shakespeare Beyond Doubt" sets a landmark in the field of one of the greatest wars in literary history. Did Shakespeare write Shakespeare? The ambitious goal of Prof Stanley Wells and John Edmondson is to offer a conclusive answer to an offensivo take that comes from the Eighteenth Century. The book includes multi-discplinary analyses on the subject by reputed authors, particular chapters devoted to those more mentioned candidates as would-be authors, like Marlowe, De Vere and Bacon, and a priceless account of the most hillarious attemps to prove the eventual fake, through cryptograms or Da Vinci Code style anecdotes. The book represents the Shakesperian view, Stratford based, and it will sure become a source for those who want to find an answer to Anonymous. Along with James Shapiro Contested Will, is a formal argumentation for a contention that went beyond time.
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on 29 August 2013
The book consists of three parts. In "Sceptics", the authors take a close look at the roots of anti-Shakespeareanism which started in 1856 when an American lady named Delia Bacon became determined to prove Shakespeare was, in fact, Francis Bacon. Like bubonic plague, the idea infected many others and today there are over 70 candidates promoted for a post they will never get. Among other prominent candidates are Marlowe, Edward de Vere - 17th Earl of Oxford, and Elizabeth I.

Mathematically, each time an additional candidate is suggested, the probability decreases that any given name is the true author. -- Matt Kubus

In "Shakespeare as Author", the scholars expand on interesting topics like extant allusions to Shakespeare to 1642, Shakespeare's collaboration with other playwrights, his schooling. The chapter by David Kathman on Shakespeare's Warwickshire connections and the Warwickshire words in his plays is especially noteworthy.

In general, anti-Shakespearians' depictions of sixteenth-century Stratford-upon-Avon and Warwickshire are rooted in distortions, driven by an irrational hatred of William Shakespeare of Stratford and all he represents. Those who would deny Shakespeare's authorship and disparage his home town must turn a blind eye to a mountain of evidence showing that Stratford's leading residents, including Shakespeare's closest friends there, were educated and cultured by just about any standard. -- David Kathman

MacDonald P. Jackson shows how stylometric analysis of Shakespeare's texture proves the collaborative nature of the works. Anti-Shakespeareans, instead, automatically deny this evidence by favouring a proposition that a single author with a better formal education penned the canon.

In the final part of the book, "A Cultural Phenomenon: Did Shakespeare Write Shakespeare?", the scholars ruminate on the cultural, political, fictional treatments of Shakespeare's authorship. Stuart Hampton-Reeves looks at the bombastically named Declaration of Reasonable Doubt which invites signatures from people doubting Shakespeare's authorship. The website triumphantly lists the merely 470 people of "academic status" - whereas ironically, it is usually the academia which is under anti-Shakespeareans' attack for supposedly deifying Shakespeare. The statistics Hampton-Reeves presents only go to show how few are the academics out there interested in promoting anti-Shakespeareanism in formal education.

The book ends with a logical and conclusive Afterword by James Shapiro. The selected reading list provided by Hardy M. Cook and the Notes speak about the highly professional level of the essays in Shakespeare Beyond Doubt.

Among other Shakespeareans, Paul Edmondson's intelligent and organised regular responses to anti-Shakespearean (ad)ventures are particularly rewarding. I have repeatedly used the term anti-Shakespearean, and not anti-Stratfordian, throughout the review. The former is a more precise term which Edmondson has put into current use. As Edmondson similarly observes, to consider the playwright's roots as unworthy of his creations is to deny Shakespeare himself.

Shakespeare Beyond Doubt shows, once more, that the fickle authorship controversy still exists not because there is no evidence that Shakespeare was Shakespeare but because anti-Shakespeareans refuse to acknowledge it and prefer the creative route of constructing an imaginary and speculative truth. History does not work like that. It is not a Hollywood movie.

Those who fail to be able, for snobbish or other 'ignorant' reasons, to locate the genius of the work in Shakespeare of Stratford, have failed to do what the editors of the First Folio in their prefatory epistle demanded: which is, that we should 'Read him.' -- Barbara Everett

For full review, see HuffPost UK Culture Blog.
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on 21 August 2013
Winston Churchill called a fanatic "someone who won't change their mind and won't change the subject"

This book does something it never should have had to do in the first place; proves, beyond any reasonable doubt, that William Shakespeare the man from Stratford-upon-Avon wrote, performed in and was publicly acknowledged as the author of those plays attributed to him.

There is no evidence to suggest otherwise. Observe: A murder weapon with finger prints found at the scene of the crime is evidence. An object found nearby which matches the coroner's description of what might have been used is circumstantial evidence. An object found on the other side of town which KIND of looks like what MIGHT have been used but can't be because it was only made AFTER the murder happened is completely insignificant.

Poor Oxfordians. Churchill would definitely have called you fanatics.
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on 9 July 2013
It really is sad that a book such as this has to be written, while conspiracy theories will always be sexy the truth really is much more impressive. Unfortunately only those who already can see the truth will enjoy the essays anybody who truly believes Shakespeare is another author doesn't care about the truth and is unlikely to be swayed.
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on 14 May 2013
If the distinguished contributors to Shakespeare Beyond Doubt hope their book will place the traditional author of Shakespeare's canon where the title claims and settle the Shakespeare authorship question for once and for all, they are likely to be disappointed. In the hands of twenty-one eminent Shakespeare scholars, the case for William Shakespeare of Stratford sounds plausible enough, and will reassure the already convinced as well as those who would like to be. But anyone versed in the primary material of the authorship question will emerge essentially unsatisfied. Although a well-written, accessible and interesting read, it is riddled with the common misunderstandings that characterise this 'dialogue of the deaf' and contains factual errors that suggest certain contributors haven't done their homework. Nevertheless it is full of fascinating information for initiate and expert alike, and (with the exception of Paul Edmondson's final chapter), reasonable in tone.

Though Shakespeare Beyond Doubt aims to "bring fresh perspectives to an intriguing cultural phenomenon", it is in many ways a reprise of James Shapiro's Contested Will, side-stepping recent scholarly work on the authorship question to focus extensively on examining the 'pathology' and psychology of Shakespeare sceptics - with one chapter probing the backgrounds of notable and academic signatories to the Declaration of Reasonable Doubt, and two chapters devoted to examining the biography of the founder of the authorship question, Delia Bacon. As with Shapiro's book, there is an unacknowledged irony in arguing for a powerful relationship between a writer's life experiences and the themes of their writing in the case of Delia Bacon - "even as Bacon is writing about Ralegh and his milieu, she is also effectively writing about herself and her own situation" - but arguing against such a connection for the author of the Shakespeare canon. The author we know as Shakespeare returned repeatedly to themes of slander, false accusation, exile, loss of name and reputation, and resurrection (thirty-three characters in eighteen Shakespeare plays are wrongly thought to be dead). That he used his imagination in the process is not in doubt (Barbara Everett's chapter, 'Shakespeare Tells Lies', appears to say nothing more than 'the author of these works was a writer of dramatic fiction'). But what is the logical basis for insisting on an autobiographical undercurrent in Delia Bacon's non-fiction while denying it (as many orthodox scholars do) in Shakespeare's sonnets?

Though the belated entry of orthodox academics into this 156-year-old controversy is a welcome development, there are two major problems with Shakespeare Beyond Doubt. One is a blatant attempt to win the debate through semantics. Throughout the book, the editors Stanley Wells and Paul Edmondson decree that those who don't agree with them be described not with the well-established term 'anti-Stratfordian', but with the hackle-raising 'anti-Shakespearean'. Their justification is that "to deny Shakespeare of Stratford's connection to the work attributed to him is to deny the essence of, in part, what made that work possible ... Shakespeare was formed by both Stratford-upon-Avon and London." Yet the contested connection between Shakespeare of Stratford and the work attributed to him *is* the authorship question. Were it supported by incontestable evidence (rather than such fragile evidential scraps as the disputed Hand D in Thomas More) there would be no need for their book. The term 'anti-Shakespeareans' is also fundamentally inaccurate: the person Ben Jonson referred to in the First Folio as 'the AUTHOR William Shakespeare' is esteemed as highly by those who question his identity as by those who don't.

But the most significant failing of Shakespeare Beyond Doubt is that it attempts to support the orthodox position using evidence the sceptics do not contest - that there was an author widely known as 'William Shakespeare' - while failing to address recent scholarship. The most glaring omission is Diana Price's 2001 Shakespeare's Unorthodox Biography: New Evidence of an Authorship Problem, the first book on the authorship question to be published by an academic press. The single mention of it is buried (inaccurately) in a list of "other studies advocating Oxford" on page 247. For the second academic book on the subject to pretend that the first doesn't exist is disingenuous and unscholarly, and suggests orthodox scholars cannot answer Price's arguments. Richard Paul Roe's 2011 The Shakespeare Guide to Italy: Retracing the Bard's Unknown Travels, the culmination of twenty years' research which persuasively demonstrates Shakespeare's first-hand knowledge of Milan, Verona, Mantua, Venice, Padua, Lombardy, Florence, Pisa, and Sicily is also notable by its absence, as is Rosalind Barber's 2010 non-Stratfordian essay published in the peer-reviewed Routledge journal Rethinking History.

Throughout the volume, and despite significant developments in non-Stratfordian research in the last decade, only arguments advanced prior to 1960 are acknowledged. Paul Edmondson claims that those he perceives as his "antagonists" ignore evidence, yet himself presides over a volume of essays that demolishes straw men while skilfully eliding the more challenging work of contemporary researchers. Weighing this approach against the accepted principles of academic argument, one must ask whether Shakespeare Beyond Doubt is genuinely a work of scholarship, or simply a skilful piece of propaganda.
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on 4 June 2013
I was not a Stratfordian sceptic to begin with, but any who are must surely feel that this collection of work puts forward a compelling & conclusive argument for the Straford man. The difference between the arguments herein and the anti- Stratfordian argument is that this book is based on facts, not theories.

Some contributions to the collection are a little dry & can be skipped without losing anything.
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on 19 May 2013
I am thoroughly fed up with the conspiracy theories surrounding Shakespeare's authorship. This book firmly refutes all the nonsense that has been written on the subject. We should be proud of Shakespeare and the authors agree with me.
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on 10 May 2013
The title is a bit tendentious, playing into the hands of the antiStratfordians; and in places some of the contributions have a bit of the same tone (which unfortunately characterises much of the authorship debate generally), Overall, however, this is an excellent introduction to the latest researches and themes, and it does demonstrate how threadbare and short of proper historical evidence the case is for anyone else having written 'Shakespeare' — and I'm not Stratfordian or antiStratfordian, but really interested in the serious scholarship.
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