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on 27 June 2013
This will be the first of several reviews I will post over the next few weeks of this book. This review comments only on the essays by Professor Nelson and Dr. Edmondson, and should be regarded more a preliminary comment than a completed review.

The essays included in this volume by Professor Nelson and the Dr. Reverend Edmondson read as if written for a not-very-bright third-grader who had yet to be told by his older brother that some people have legitimately questioned the identity of Shakespeare. Their methodology might perhaps best be compared to the modern critic of Simon and Garfunkle's "Homeward bound" who concluded that the line "my love lies silently waiting for me" was evidence of that the folk duo must have held the politically incorrect view that women should be seen but not heard. This, at any rate, is an apt summary of the procedure employed by Dr. Nelson in his chapter on the Earl of Oxford. Rarely have so many swerves in the road yielded such a harvest of irrelevant viewings of unimpressive intellectual scenery or provoked quite so many irritating reminders of the cost of the volume that contains it - not merely in dollars and pounds but also in the "expense of spirit" and "waste of shame" that went into producing it.

For there is no doubt much good sense here if it can be found out in such an unwholesome packaging as that given the volume by the Reverend Edmondson, who starts by assuring us - as if this had anything to do with anything beyond the reverend's own over-great sense of self-importance,that "Shakespeare has enemies" who want to "kill" Shakespeare, and it is surely a pity that those comprising the fine assemblage of academic knowledge and skill gathered in this book should each and every one be constrained to march in step with such anti-intellectual dogmas, whether those of the editors or Professor Nelson's own. Of the latter it must be noted that the editors presumably rely with an implicit if undeserved confidence in his critical acumen, at least assuming we define the term "critical acumen" in relation to its presumed fiduciary concomitant to pursue the truth even when it contradicts the un-examined and untested beliefs of the investigator, let alone a powerful majority, with as much need to placate as to be placated.

For these reasons alone, and in consideration of the preposterous title, and not counting many more reasons(and in greater detail) to follow, I cannot recommend this book and instead suggest Shakespeare Beyond Doubt? -- Exposing an Industry in Denial
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on 11 October 2013
For many years a weak literary criticism has granted orthodox Shaksperianism carte blanche to deal in suppressio veri (with consequent suggestio falsi), but heritical apposition, under the aegis of John M. Shahan (founder and chairman and CEO of the Shakespeare Authorship Coalition), has arisen in the USA, and become a force, laying down a cohesive challenge which before was piecemeal in its activity and influence. Othodoxy believes that Shakspere (of Stratford) and Shakespeare are the same person, enabling it to extrapolate facts from the Shakespeare canon which it gratuitously attaches to the Stratfordian ignoramus: Shakespeare was very well educated, therefore the Extrapolators assert that Shakspere had an education at Stratford Grammar School equal to Oxbridge, when, in fact, he could not produce a signature. Shakespeare was learned in the law (attested by many jurists), therefore Shakspere probably became a lawyer's clerk, or picked up - such his genius - legal usage from a litigious father (who signed his name with an X). Similarly, he (Shakspere of Stratford) picked up from pub-talk a knowledge of European topography. Languages he learnt while holding hosses outside the theatres; and medicine he learned from the howling of his sick siblings. Hunting, coursing, falconry were, of course, natural: he was a countryman was he not? The cost of falcons and horses, like the cost of his necessary books, was no problem. He was a businessman and rich; but how he found the time for country sports with all that acting and writing and reading, in Latin and the modern laguages, together with his legal studies (regaled by pere Shaxper) and pub-talk (his lugs atuned - amid the sloshing of ale - to the braggart pilgrimages of swilling explorers), is a mystery. Such moonshine (with relentless addtions) has been the staple of these orthodox palterers for some two hundred years. Their adversaries have now become organized, blasting orthodoxy's status quo and demanding evidence for its moonshine assertions. I speak as one somewhat detached from the controversy, for I am the author of a book - Let Shakspere Die!, published in 2008 by Dorrance, Philadelphia - incontestably proving that Roger Manners, 5th Earl of Rutland was the real author of the canon falsely ascribed to the Stratfordian. Privately published, it got under the radar; but is selling just now at £42, so some shrewdies are aware of its importance. I am hoping to (digitally) publish a second book in 2014. But I did not pen this appreciation to promote my book, but to congratulate John Shahan and Alexander Waugh and their many excellent debunking contributors to their book, Shakespeare Beyond Doubt? The same title, but note the significant Question Mark! Well done all.
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on 16 May 2013
This book is an important contribution to the literature on the Authorship Question: indeed it aims to answer that question once and for all, to demolish the debate. Those people who have reasonable doubts that William Shakspere from Stratford wrote the works of Shakespeare are branded `deniers' and `anti-Shakespearians'. The last word of the Introduction shows this book aims to end this `heresy' (xiv).

The chapters by different scholars offer a rich mix and some are excellent while others do not shed any useful light. Particularly powerful is chapter 10 What does textual evidence reveal about the author? by Mardock & Rasmussen. They show that Shakespeare knew how to craft plays with many characters to be playable by small companies by doubling parts. Therefore, they say, he must have been a man of the theatre, an actor who knew his actors. There is ample evidence offered to show the bard collaborated throughout his writing with other writers and this is offered by Jowett in chapter 8, Shakespeare as Collaborator, as proof positive that the man from Stratford must have been the writer. Neither of these, however, actually is proof. It is evidence and the book offers the best evidence that can be gathered that William from Stratford was the bard. However what the authors do in their attacks on `amateurs', scholars who are not employed in major academic institutions, is fail to see that science does not only rely on experts. Amateurs are vital in many sciences both historically and to this day, as when amateur astronomers spot asteroids and comets before the professionals. The Authorship Question is a series of hypotheses in answer to a genuine Authorship Problem. This problem did not start solely in the 19th Century as the academics in this book suggest but began in Shakespeare's lifetime. In 1597 and 1598 Joseph Hall published Satires (Virgidemarium) in which he cryptically referred to the author of Shakespeare's works by the name `Labeo' which some have interpreted as pointing to Bacon. In 1598 John Marston also called Shakespeare `Labeo' (in both Metamorphosis of Pygmalion's Image and Certain Satires book 1). Thus from the 16th Century the identity of Shakespeare has been questioned.
Wells dismisses evidence that does not fit the Stratfordian orthodoxy. William Dugdale's 1653 drawing of the Stratford monument, showing a very different man, with no quill and his hands on a bag of grain (we know William hoarded grain in a famine) is dismissed as inaccurate but it was reproduced uncorrected as late as 1730 (Michell, 2000, 89). Science proceeds by hypotheses which are examined and disproven. I agree that Bacon, Oxford and Marlowe are certainly not the hidden author of the plays. However to suggest that the many candidates proposed, by their sheer number, invalidate the whole Authorship Question, is not scientific. Kubus in Chapter 5, The Unusual Suspects, asserts that, "all these nominations are equally invalid: none has a greater claim than any of the others. Mathematically, each time an additional candidate is suggested, the probability decreases that any given name is the true author." (50) I agree that wild guesses will not answer the Authorship Question. However to rubbish all is to miss what is a genuine discovery and Kubus is downright dishonest in his report of the case for Henry Neville. He seems not to have read the evidence that is pouring out in his favour: real documentary evidence of manuscripts, letters, notebooks. He gives a very brief, dismissive report of James' work on the Sonnets Dedication and does not report other work by Leyland and Goding which corroborates, using a different method, James' groundbreaking discovery (see: [...]
The authors of these chapters do admit that many of their views are in fact beliefs: Rutter acknowledges there is no evidence that William went to school: she states, "I believe" William was a grammar school boy (135). Her insistence that the grammar school education was entirely sufficient to explain all Shakespeare's learning is asserted as a fact when it is now clear that Shakespeare could read Italian, French, Spanish and Greek. These were not on the curriculum at Stratford.
Wells provides a comprehensive survey of the references to Shakespeare to 1642. He claims all these refer to William from Stratford. In this he is not distinguishing those which refer definitely to William and those which refer to the writer. He was identified as an actor. Wells does acknowledge that none of the references to William Shakespeare in his lifetime "explicitly and incontrovertibly identifies him with Stratford-upon-Avon." (81). Strangely he does not mention the Northumberland Manuscript, dated to 1596-7, which was the earliest document to identify William Shakespeare as the author of the plays Richard II and III. The manuscript was owned by Henry Neville (Casson, 2012).
The very fact that the bard was so secretive about his identity (unlike Jonson) is evidence that there is a legitimate Authorship Question. This book, the authors admit, will not be the last word.

Casson, J. (2012) The Northumberland Manuscript Revisited, paper published on website: [...]

Michell, J. (2000) Who Wrote Shakespeare? London, Thames and Hudson

Pointon, A.J. (2011) The Man who was Never Shakespeare, Tunbridge Wells, Parapress
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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 19 May 2013
These poor deluded fools just can't separate fact from fantasy. They are clinging on to a dwindling thread and one day (the sooner it comes the better), their propaganda will be exposed. We will then hopefully be able to move the debate on authorship forward in a reasoned and logical manner based on actual evidence and not continued myth, here say, supposition and plain fantasy. Another pathetic effort I'm afraid.
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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 1 January 2017
This has to be the most biased book written on any topic and from an academic press as well ,they should hang their heads in shame.Why on earth Professors Wells and Bate would have their names attached God only knows ,I expected it of Professor Nelson after his totally one sided attack on Edward De Vere in what was meant to be his academic treatise on the topic.Surely open and balanced is what academic debates are supposed to be about or have we entered a new form of academia?
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on 14 July 2013
The essays in this book undermining the Oxford theory are good, although he is an easy target. The case for Shakespeare is much more problematical, and more dubious than they realize. An essay on Shakespeare's use of Warwickshire words and dialects does not take into account that the supposed Warwickshire words might have been much more widespread at the time, and contracted with the growth of London. There were no dialect dictionaries until much later. Would S. really use words in his plays that almost no one in the audience could understand? The essay claiming that the author must have been an actor: Ben Jonson, Christopher Marlowe, Beaumont & Fletcher et al weren't actors, so presumably they couldn't have written the plays attributed to them. That no one at the time thought that William Shakespeare was a pseudonym- Rev. Thomas Vicars did, in a work published in 1629. There are many, many other points to be made. Above all, the life of William Shakespeare does not mesh with the accepted chronology of his plays, and cannot explain it, especially the great break in his writing around 1601. You should be looking for an authorship candidate whose life can be meshed in and has clear explanatory powers.
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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 28 November 2013
A subject i have always been fascinated by, even though i have never 'picked a side' as it were. I found the book very informative, intelligently written, as one would expect from such an eminent historian as Professor Wells. By using professional, academic historians from around the world, one finds oneself been drawn into the 'cause' regardless of personal conviction or beliefs, this is a book that will help get the conversation flowing at a private dinner party or in the staff room of any college and university. This is one book i'm glad to have purchased.
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