Friday, March 28, 2014

Who Wrote as "William Shakespeare"? - the Authorship Controversy

About sixteen years ago, I participated in a fundraiser for our (then) local theater organization, in the form of a mock jury trial centered on the question: Who Wrote the Plays Attributed to William Shakespeare? The trial was couched as a hypothetical lawsuit between the Mayor and citizens of Stratford-on-Avon, the birthplace of the man we call William Shakespeare (1564-1616; also known as "Shakspere", "Shaxpere", "Shagspere", and numerous other 16th and 17th-century variants), and the City of Castle Hedingham, the birthplace of the 17th Earl of Oxford, Edward de Vere (1550-1604), whom many regard as the true author of all the works in the Shakespeare canon.

As the attorney for the plaintiffs from Stratford, I had the job of discrediting the case our opponents made for de Vere. One aspect made that task much lighter. Since de Vere unquestionably died in June 1604, his supporters needed to explain how he managed to write all the plays (23 out of the total of 37!) that appeared in print (or were first mentioned) after that date (including King Lear, Macbeth, Antony and Cleopatra, Coriolanus, The Winter's Tale, and The Tempest).

Actors from the theater company portrayed William Shakespeare of Stratford, Ben Jonson, the 17th Earl of Oxford, and the "Dark Lady" of the Sonnets, who were each called as witnesses by the respective sides, and cross-examined according to their evidence. In addition, one expert witness testified for each side.

The two juries (one preselected from the notable lights of the community, and the other drawn by lot from the audience that night) retired separately to their deliberations following the trial, but they both returned the same verdict: William Shakespeare of Stratford was indeed the author of the canon, and not de Vere. Given the date of de Vere's death, and the completely pedestrian nature of the poetry that survives under his name, I was not surprised by the verdicts. I left the event that night convinced that the Stratford Shakespeare had prevailed on his own merits, and not just due to clever lawyering.

Lately, however, I was required to revisit the question of authorship, and to update my results in light of the plethora of new candidates put forward as the true authors of the Shakespearean canon. Oxford's case, while still pressed vigorously by his supporters, appears to have waned in influence; ever-new candidates, such as the Earl of Neville and even Queen Elizabeth herself, are pushed forward in preference to Oxford, who is now seen in many other anti-Stratford camps as passé.

But do the new candidates for the authorship of the canon fare any better than Edward de Vere? They do not, and in this post it is my purpose to explain why Shakespeare, the man of Stratford, retains -- and is fully entitled to -- the pride of authorship in his own works.

The problem with every proposal of an alternative to the Stratford Shakespeare is that they are all based on the same criteria: matching the candidate to references, allusions and inferred standards of education and experience drawn from the Collected Works. Because the Works are so universal and all-embracing, so is the list of candidates which may be fashioned by a close reading of their content.  Indeed, the more the candidates multiply, the more they prove the point that the criteria for selecting them are too subjective and open-ended.

The real Shakespeare must have been well-educated? Then de Vere, Bacon, Marlowe, Jonson, Neville, and even the Countess of Southampton will each fit the bill. (Meanwhile, we have Ben Jonson's own testimony that Shakespeare of Stratford was not as learned in Latin and Greek as Jonson was, but that he still knew Latin, and a little Greek -- so he was educated according to his time.)

The real Shakespeare must have spent time on the ground in Italy? Again, de Vere, Neville, Bacon  and a host of other English aristocrats will qualify. (As for Shakespeare of Stratford, we have evidence that he was an intimate acquaintance of the Italian tutor in the Earl of Southampton's household, John Florio, and could have acquired much of his knowledge of Italy and things Italian there.)

The real Shakespeare must have been intimately familiar with the law? That lets in Bacon, William Stanley, the 5th Earl of Derby, and a goodly number of other noblemen who were squires at their county seats. (We also today have evidence that Shakespeare of Stratford served as a law clerk, and wrote his name in several law books that have come down to us, one of which is in the Folger Library. It's also how he would have acquired a greater than elementary-school proficiency in Latin.)

The real Shakespeare knew hawking and falconry? Once more, so did most English nobles of the day -- and Shakespeare (the deer-hunter) of Stratford could have picked up the terminology easily from Southampton, who was his earliest patron.

When it comes to tracing parallels between the content of the Collected Works and the individual life of any given candidate, however, the gates open wide. From Edward de Vere to Fulke Greville, the individual incidents which afford comparison are infinite in range and variety -- and with 37+ plays and 154 sonnets to interpret, one can never run short of material. Needless to say, there are many parallels with Shakespeare's own life, and with events that he (but not, e.g., de Vere) lived through, as detailed here.

The problem with all the authorship proposals, therefore, is not just that the absence of evidence is treated as evidence of absence (i.e., the lack of evidence about Shakespeare of Stratford means that he had nothing to do with the Collected Works); but the presence of particular evidence is taken as evidence of a particular presence (i.e., that somebody else more "suited" must have written them). Logical inference is piled upon inference until the result is sheer speculation. What is worse, blatant conjecture is treated as the equivalent of "it-must-be-so" fact, when no facts are at hand.

The lack of historical facts about Shakespeare is not a fault of his milieu, or the consequence of a tremendous conspiracy that would have had to reach to the highest levels, and have continued from 1593 all the way to 1623 and beyond, i.e., for more than thirty years, and through a complete change of government. The motives that have to be invented for such an extensive authorship conspiracy far surpass, in degrees of convolution, the explanations for why Stratford's Shakespeare indeed could have been the author of all those magnificent works. It is far less remarkable to observe a few simple factors in mitigation of why Shakespeare was not more celebrated in his own time:

1. We have documentation proving that Shakespeare of Stratford was both an actor and an investor -- for more than twenty years -- in the theaters where his acting company performed. During this time, he made a significant fortune -- not from an actor's salary, or from simply owning a piece of some theaters, but from the revenues of plays performed in those theaters -- most of which were attributed (in contemporaneous quartos and other sources, as well as in the later First Folio) to his authorship. The popularity of plays written by "Shakespeare" during those 20+ years is simply undeniable, and accounts for the fortune that he earned as a major shareholder in the venues where they were performed.

2. The plays themselves, however, were not in Elizabethan law regarded as the intellectual property of the playwright, but rather of the person who registered them with the authorities when they were printed. And from the registers we have from that time, that person was, most often, either the publisher, or the one responsible for staging the plays in the theater, i.e., the head of the acting company (who also was usually a significant owner in the theater). This person does not ever appear to have been Shakespeare. To repeat, because the point is crucial: The author William Shakespeare never appears to have registered (i.e., claimed ownership of) any of his own plays. (And that fact accounts for the entire absence of their mention in his last will and testament.)

3. Many Shakespeare scholars attribute the numerous "bad" quarto editions of the individual plays  which were printed during this time period to "rogue actors and producers" who tried to reconstruct the plays (as we know them from the authoritative First Folio) from their imperfect memory. But a much more reasonable hypothesis, when the texts of the quartos are compared to the eventual Folio versions, is that they were the records of the versions as their author had (up to that point) written them -- i.e., that he was constantly revising and improving them as he went along, and that it was only after his death that his fellow actors gathered the final versions from those who had registered them, or who otherwise held the rights to them, and published them as the First Folio.

4. The fact that the First Folio took seven years to produce, after Shakespeare's death, is again not a fault of his fellow actors and producers. They faced an enormous task of gathering and obtaining the rights to all of the 37 texts -- while they continued, no doubt, to earn their living by acting in and staging some of the plays -- and the fact that they persevered against considerable odds is testimony to their devotion to their colleague, and not to their careless neglect of his fame and reputation. Indeed, during this process, one of the printers of the First Folio collaborated with another to rush into print an edition of ten of the plays, based on previous quarto editions to which he held the license (the so-called "False Folio"). That was just three years after Shakespeare died, and it took another four for William Jaggard and Edward Blount to obtain the rights to the remaining 27 of his plays.

5. Meanwhile, without the plays yet being published for posterity, Shakespeare's own town of Stratford saw to it that he was buried most prominently in the local church, with a fitting monument (and inscription) celebrating his achievements. Most of his fellow citizens were probably little aware of the actual extent of those achievements, and had never seen any of his plays: the inscription on the monument celebrates his fame as though won in a distant land, and in a manner not fully understood, but nevertheless great, indeed, and worthy of commemoration. This is exactly the sort of memorial one would expect from the burghers of Stratford who could appreciate that their native son had done great things, without being conversant with any of the particulars.

In other words, take the First Folio's and Stratford's own testimonies at their word: William Shakespeare of Stratford wrote the works of Shakespeare. They were his contemporaries, and their testimonies are accordingly entitled to the most weight. All else is speculation and conjecture, centuries after the fact: it may agree in some points with the historical record, but it is never wholly consistent with just a single viewpoint, as are the First Folio and the Stratford monument. Instead, all of the collective, present-day speculation about authorship is consistent, in one way or another, with anything and everything -- and thus (to use Shakespeare's own idiom) amounts to a protest that proves too much.



  1. Come, come curmudgeon, you can do better than that.

    " ... Here I would let slip
    (If I had any in me) scholarship,
    And from all learning keep these lines as clear
    as Shakespeare's best are, which our heirs shall hear
    Preachers apt to their auditors to show
    how far sometimes a mortal man may go
    by the dim light of Nature."

    At least give some links to let the contrary view speak for itself.

  2. From which we may know, OldCrusader, that Francis Beaumont, at least, did not write the works of Shakespeare.

    There are further links aplenty to the literature both pro- and anti-Stratford in the links I supplied in the post -- just follow them, and you will see what I mean. I would point to this as the major "pro" site, and you could do worse than start here or here for the opposite view.

  3. Since there are no manuscripts, dating of Shakespeare's plays is pure conjecture. Dates of publication or dates of performance do not tell us anything about the date of composition. While there are many contemporary references to the author known as Shakespeare, the truth is that no one during his lifetime ever identified Shakespeare as being the man from Stratford-on-Avon. In fact, no one during his lifetime ever claimed to have met the man. All he left were six barely readable signatures, no letters, manuscripts, correspondence either to or from, no diaries, no anecdotes. There is no evidence at all the man
    from Stratford ever wrote anything of a literary nature.

  4. Howard Schumann, thank you for commenting here. Your statements mirror many of the contemporary assertions of the anti-Stratfordians, but they are demonstrably incorrect:

    1. Manuscripts -- unless they were themselves dated by the author -- ordinarily give no clue as to dates. In Shakespeare's world, the dates that count are the dates of publication of a play's earliest quarto version; or the dates on which they were cleared for performance by the Master of Revels, as shown in the official licensing records; or the dates shown of the performances, as kept by theater managers such as Philip Henslowe; or the dates of published works in which the plays are mentioned as having already been performed, such as Francis Meres's Palladis Tamia. So it is incorrect to claim that we cannot date the plays: we can date some, but not all (such as the ones published for the first time -- as far as we know -- in the First Folio in 1623).

    2. The date of composition of a play has to be before its date of first performance. In the case of Henry VIII, for instance, we know that it was a "new" play, first performed in 1613. Its unique style of compacting syntax belongs to the late Shakespeare, as in the plays specifically written for Blackfriars from 1610 onwards.

    3. Likewise, the date of a play's composition can be established from the contemporary events referred to in it, such as to the Protestant revolt in the Netherlands in Comedy of Errors (1591); to the Spanish Armada in King John (1596); to the unseasonable summers of 1594–96 in A Midsummer Night's Dream; to Essex's campaign in Ireland in Henry V (1599); to the theatrical quarrels in Hamlet (1601); to the ideal monarch, King James in Macbeth (1606); to the grain riots of 1607 in Coriolanus (1608); and to pamphlets of 1610 describing Virginia in The Tempest (1611). All of these are temporal beacons that help to date the plays, and establish an order in which they had to have been composed.

    1. Mr Haley,

      Regarding the impressive over-confidence expressed in the belief that the "pamphlets of 1610 describing Virginia" establish a date for the Tempest, may one point out the following?

      1) It has been nearly a hundred years since any scholar of significance has seen in "pamphlets of 1610" a source for The Tempest. The belief that Sylvester Jourdain's *Discovery of Bermuda* (or any other pamphlet published in or around 1610) was a *Tempest* source was largely discarded by the early 20th century as a result of the resounding critiques of this theory published by Karl Elze and Joseph Hunter, among others.

      2) The alternative theory, to which you so imprecisely refer, is that the manuscript of William Strachey's *True Reportory,* although not published until 1625, was Shakespeare's source, has indeed enjoyed great popularity in subsequent decades, even though it posed a problem which your tardy endorsement of the "pamphlets" does not involve: how Shakespeare obtained access to a manuscript not published until more than a decade after the earliest surviving records of *Tempest* performances;

      3) The notion that the new world imagery and language of the *Tempest* derives from the Strachey manuscript has now been completely exploded as the fictitious wishful thinking of a scholarly tradition that failed over several generations to subject its own assumptions to even a minimal level of self-critical examination.

      Your remarks about other plays, similarly, betray a over confidence in traditional views that is not warranted by the known evidence. However, given the heavy dependence (historically speaking) of orthodox academicians on *The Tempest* as the critical linchpin in the argument used to reject considering the merits of the de Vere attribution, it is noteworthy that this tradition, including apologists like yourself, continues to peddle this sort of claptrap about it, even though clear evidence to the contrary has been in print or available on the internet for almost eight years.

    2. Doc Stritmatter, thank you for gracing this post with your comments. However, in urging that I was "imprecisely refer[ring]" to Strachey's "True Reportory" of 1625, which some (but not I) argue appeared in a preliminary form earlier, you set up a straw man. While not exclusively relying upon Jourdain's "Discovery" pamphlet published in October 1610 (which reads, as you yourself say in your book, "like a Jacobean version of a modern travel brochure"), I was also referring to the account of Virginia and of the 1609 shipwreck published in the November 1610 pamphlet "True Declaration." I make no claim that Strachey published in 1610 anything that Shakespeare saw or read, largely for the reasons you set out in your book.

      Mine is a much more modest claim -- that there are in The Tempest echoes of the events of 1609, as reflected in the two 1610 pamphlets, that were much discussed in London at the time, and that Shakespeare could thus well have drawn upon for his inspirations in that play. Moreover, The Tempest contains Shakespeare's first masque -- a form which had not yet begun in the Jacobean court at the time of de Vere's death. So your argument disposing of Strachey as a source for The Tempest does little to respond to the other internal evidence which supports a later date for its completion in the form we now have it.

      Regarding your final paragraph: I do not rely just upon the Tempest dating to refute the claims of the de Vere proponents, as I tried to make clear -- there are also the references in Macbeth and Coriolanus. But my main argument for refutation comes from the evidence that Hand D is the same hand that wrote the Stratford last will and testament -- expert graphological evidence which I have seen no Shakespeare scholar of today (yourself included) seriously engage. If the Stratford Shakespeare indeed was also the man behind Hand D, then the whole case for "other" Shakespeares -- not just de Vere, but all 90+ of them -- is severely, if not fatally, weakened. And I stand by my statement that for anyone today, in the face of the evidence assembled by Charles Hamilton, to assert that Shakespeare dictated his entire will to Collins or his law clerk (neither of whom wrote in the Elizabethan secretary hand of the will) is, indeed, "claptrap."

  5. (Continuing previous comment)

    4. "... no one during his lifetime ever identified Shakespeare as being the man from Stratford-on-Avon." This is stated misleadingly. In fact, the great English historian and chronicler William Campden, who as Clarenceux King of Arms had processed Shakespeare of Stratford's request for a coat of arms in 1596 and again in 1599 -- and thus knew full well "the man from Stratford" -- also named William Shakespeare as on of England's greatest playwrights in his edition of Remaines Concerning Britaine in 1605. Ben Jonson, who knew Shakespeare intimately, specifically identified Shakespeare with Stratford in his eulogy to him published in the First Folio. But the point is that no one in London cared that Shakespeare was from the rural backwater of Stratford -- what was far more important was that he spent all his time writing plays in London.

    5. " one during his lifetime ever claimed to have met the man." Again, not true: George Buc, Master of the Revels (who thus licensed Shakespeare's plays for performance), made a notation on a quarto edition of an obscure play of the response Shakespeare had given to him when Buc queried Shakespeare about its author; Ben Jonson left extensive notes at his death about his observations from spending time with him; Richard Burbage acted in numerous productions with him, and was specifically remembered in Shakespeare-of-Stratford's will, etc., etc.

    6. Shakespeare left a number of manuscripts in his own hand, according to experts on his handwriting who wrote in the first half of the 20th century -- a portion of a collaborative play, Sir Thomas More; various legal documents; portions of another play (the full text of which is now lost), Cardenio, and his holographic will. Current scholars ignore the particulars of Elizabethan handwriting and conclude from their own inspection that these manuscripts are written by different persons, but no one making that claim today is an expert in Elizabethan handwriting.

    1. Regarding George Buc, he certainly knew who the real author was, and as part of the Court theater operation, knew that he had to protect him. Camden's patrons were the Cecils, who were largely responsible for eliminating any evidence connecting Oxford to Shakespeare because of the parody of court figures in the plays.

    2. Because William Campden knew William Shaksper from Stratford in his application for a coat of arms and also praised the playwright William Shakespeare does not connect the two.
      Further, you bring up Ben Jonson and the First Folio where I specifically stated that no one "during his lifetime" connected William of Stratford with the great author Shakespeare.

    3. You Stratfordians refuse to see the Occam in the razor. The few references of Shakespeare you site do not measure up to his vast popularity and the common sense analysis. No mention in any diary of a lunch date with the great playwright or any such mention, in a well-documented era. This is the equivalent of looking through today's time and seeing nothing on TMZ's records about Justin Bieber.

    4. No, Howard Schumann, you ask too much of so distinguished an antiquary such as William Camden. He would have had absolutely no motivation for confounding Shakespeare of Stratford with the playwright. For one thing, he spelled the name "Shakespeare" (not "Shaksper") in both references; and for another, the coat-of-arms application has the notation on it by the Garter King of Arms (Camden's superior at the College): "Shakespeare the Player" (emphasis added).

      Moreover, Francis Meres in my earlier link lists both "William Shakespeare" and "The Earl of Oxford" as among the best of current playwrights (the latter only for "comedy"; but Shakespeare three times -- for "comedy", "tragedy" and "poetry") -- so he obviously knew they were different people. Also, if by then Oxford was hiding behind a nom de plume, why was he also publishing comedies under his own name?

    5. Jeffrey Rowe and Ben Jonson -- there are such notes in Ben Jonson's papers -- published after his (and Shakespeare's) death, to be sure, but contemporaneous to when the encounters occurred. Also, see the full list of what we know of the notices taken of Shakespeare by his contemporaries on pages 429-559 of the ebook you can download at this site. The sheer quantity might come as a shock to you -- be warned.

    6. The notices of the contemporaries are of his writing, not of who he was. Obviously, if he chose to publish under the name William Shakespeare, in 1593, his contemporaries who were all financed by him (Oxford) would have gone along with the game. You simply need to spend some time reading about Oxford. Then, when you read a play like Timon of Athens, you would see what true art really is. Not the stuff made up for the stage, but the real thoughts of a real man, who wanted to express himself honestly, but couldn't.

  6. None of the so-called manuscripts are verifiable. Even Stanley Wells, of the SBT will tell you that. The only handwriting samples available are the signatures and they are not enough to verify other samples. This author is promulgating misinformation and doing exactly what he accuses other scholars of who disagree with his second-hand knowledge for which all of the sources are speculative and not based on forensics.

  7. "None of the so-called manuscripts [is] verifiable." Not according to the latest scholarship, Shelly Maycock -- your citation to Stanley Wells is from the last century, and much has occurred since then. For example, "Hand D" in the Sir Thomas More manuscript has recently been authenticated by an expert as Shakespeare's, and I find no reputable scholar anywhere today claiming to have proof to the contrary. It is all a matter of specialized graphology, and the early 20th-century experts I cited in my earlier comment (who were certainly forensic, and not speculative, in their analysis) are being corroborated today, not refuted. For a recent summary of the scholarship in Hand D, see this 2013 article. From the same article, it would appear that proof of a further sample of Shakespeare's penmanship in the manuscript of Edward III is going to be next.

  8. They have not done actual forensic analysis (which is the scientific field of "specialized graphology") and cannot. It's just more of the same referring to the same secondary authorities over and over. If they do not have a full control sample with more of his handwriting, which they do not, they cannot verify that any manuscript is his. I have read the articles, thanks.

    1. "If they do not have a full control sample ... ' But they do -- you simply arbitrarily exclude it from your database. The control sample is Shakespeare's three-page, holographic will, admittedly written when he was old and sick. And when that sample is compared forensically with with Hand D, the graphology experts as long ago as 1923 concurred that both were by the same person. And since the will itself states "By me, William Shakespeare", the conclusion is inescapable.

      But I agree -- if you arbitrarily decide that your entire database consists of just six (or even fewer) signatures, then you have made it impossible for you to reach any conclusion other than the one you state, because six signatures do not a sufficient sample make.

    2. BTW, you can buy a reprint of the 1923 study done by five respected experts and see the forensical analyses they did for yourself. They have never been refuted forensically; just ignored, or judged "mistaken" on purely subjective grounds.

  9. No, that contention about Hand D was from Wells' recent blog of 2012. He also recently tweeted it on Twitter. He said the case is circumstantial. I admire his honesty on that point.

  10. Please give a link or reference to the forensic analysis scholarship that proves that the will is in his own handwriting and also that it correlates with Hand D. Just because people agree on a claim does not make it proved.

    1. The best analysis of the will I can link you to on the Web is this chapter in the book on the Cardenio manuscript by graphologist Charles Hamilton. The reproduction in Google books not only lets you see all the samples on which Hamilton based his conclusion, but also shows how Shakespeare's hand grew weaker in the course of writing the will, probably due to his having suffered a stroke.

      Hamilton's forensic analysis of the Hand D as also being Shakespeare's may be found in his In Search of Shakespeare, at pages 105-15 -- unfortunately not available for Web viewing.

  11. I know that was the position Wells took in his 1986 edition of Shakespeare, but I also saw that he published in 2013 Shakespeare Beyond Doubt (with Paul Edmondson) -- and in the essay on "Shakespeare as Collaborator" by John Jowett in that collection, the statement is made (p. 93) that:

    "From the point of view of Shakespeare study, the most consequential finding is that the hand otherwise known simply as 'Hand D' is Shakespeare. The evidence is complex, but finally compelling...."

    I searched "Blogging Shakespeare", but could not find any discussion of the issue by Prof. Wells -- perhaps you could provide a link?

    1. Every analysis of Shakespeare's will from both orthodox and non-orthodox sources indicate that the will was dictated to a clerk and that Shaksper signed it with three shaky signatures.

    2. Howard, please follow the link above to the Charles Hamilton book, and look at the actual evidence before your eyes, instead of just repeating Oxfordian claptrap.

  12. Sorry, but moar orthodox scholars won't touch Hamilton with a ten foot pole. That does not resemble forensic paleography. Talk about clap-trap. I am not repeating anything but your own side's refutations of your points. And I am sticking to my own clap-trap point. No control, no identification.

    1. Shelly, I cited you to a 1923 work that supported Hamilton's findings about Hand D long before he ever came to them, to a scholarly paper in 2013 that affirms his findings, and to a book published by your own authority Stanley Wells that also does the same. I'm sorry that you choose to rely on the opinions about Hamilton that came out in reaction to his thesis about Cardenio, but his scholarship on Hand D remains on firm ground that more and more are recently coming to recognize. No one but Hamilton has done a forensic analysis of the will in recent times (such as comparing the writing to that of Francis Collins), and so we shall have to agree to disagree. For you, the will is no database at all, except for its distorted signatures; for me, it is holographic in its entirety. Time will tell which one of us is right.

      Thank you for engaging in such a direct manner.

  13. For those who come later to this thread, I add an explanatory comment. Charles Hamilton (whose book I cited above, on the discovered manuscript of a previously lost play that Shakespeare scholars know as Cardenio [from a story in Cervantes' Don Quixote]) is in disrepute among orthodox Shakespeare scholars for advancing the theory that (a) the manuscript matches the other examples we have of Shakespeare's own hand, and (b) it is in fact the long-lost urtext of Cardenio, a play on which we know Shakespeare collaborated with John Fletcher after S's retirement, but whose text has been lost to us.

    The latter contention is weak, because the version published by Hamilton does not match the plot in Don Quixote, but resembles what we know of another play produced (and registered) at the exact same time, called The Second Maiden's Tragedy. Shakespeare scholars are open to discovering a text of Cardenio, because they have evidence of Shakespeare's collaboration with Fletcher on such a play, but they have nothing (besides Hamilton's graphological analysis) to link Shakespeare to the second play.

    Consequently, Hamilton's graphological findings have been studiously ignored, in the process of throwing out the baby with the bathwater.

    But as I tried to argue above, Charles Hamilton is no amateur, but was (until his death in 1996) one of the world's most respected forensic document examiners -- he testified in court as an expert hundreds of times, and was instrumental in disproving the authenticity of the so-called "Hitler Diaries" and many other famous fakes that you can read about in his book.

    So you may dismiss Charles Hamilton as an authority on the Shakespeare opus, but you ignore him at your peril when it comes to his examination of the documents and manuscripts thought to have been authored by Shakespeare in his own hand. Shelly Maycock (above), for example, claims that what Hamilton reported about Shakespeare's will "does not resemble forensic paleography". Well, that is a trick expression, because "paleography" is the special study of handwriting from previous ages, and Charles Hamilton is, strictly speaking, most qualified as a forensic documents examiner, and not as a paleographer. But to learn how to read a hand written in the Elizabethan secretary style is no novel task for an experienced graphologist.

    Thus, what Shelly Maycock was asking for was a true forensic paleographer, i.e., an expert in Elizabethan handwriting who has testified and proved his or her credentials in the rough-and-tumble of a courtroom under cross-examination. Needless to say, there is no such person alive today -- indeed, some are noting that since the death in 1929 of the last such acknowledged expert, Sir Edward Maunde Thompson, there has not been another since.

    But those who, like Shelly Maycock and Howard Schumann above, dismiss on other and non-relevant grounds Charles Hamilton's findings about Shakespeare's will and the sample we have of Hand D are, I submit, deliberately blinding themselves to the evidence that Hamilton so ably lays out in the book of his that I linked earlier. To cite just one example: Hamilton takes the three (generally admitted to be genuine) signatures from each page of the will -- which are noticeably different from each other, due (as Hamilton asserts) to Shakespeare's having suffered a stroke before he could finish the document -- and reconstructs them more or less exactly from other individual letters taken from the same will, thereby proving that both the text of the will and the signatures are by the same hand, just as it attests: "By me, William Shakespeare." And that is what this trial attorney, at least, calls "forensic analysis."

  14. Mr. Haley,

    Forensic handwriting analysis is a modern science, of which there are literally dozens of capable practitioners. What professor Maycock was asking you to supply was one -- just one -- of them who will support the notion, widely promulgated on the internet by Stratford enthusiasts such as yourself -- that "hand D" is written by the same writer as the six Shakespeare "signatures."

    There is a very simple reason why none of them will do so. They are all professionally trained to understand the that reliability of a conclusion in such a matter is substantially effected by sample size. In this case you have six sets of eight letters, all of them occurring in the same combinations. That is not a sufficient sample size to draw a reliable conclusion, which is why Stratfordians depend on ancillary evidence such as spelling, to try to establish that hand D is in the penmanship of Mr. Shakspere (as he spelled his own name) of Stratford.

    True, as Diana Price has shown in her book(, this it is an unfortunate circumstance that so little handwriting survives from a man who is allegedly the greatest writer in the history of the English language, but like the Oxfordians, you constrained to deal honestly with the evidence available to you; inflating it to try to make a pig's ear into a silk purse will not commend your cause to the unsatisfied.

    Anyone who, like your vaunted Mr. Hamilton, whose credentials within the forensic handwriting community are a joke, would claim to establish such an identification could easily, if he tried, prove that the writer had also written any one of a few dozen other early modern documents written in a reasonably typical secretary hand, if he gave the exercise half a chance. This is called cross validation - you may wish to add that concept to your vocabulary and consider its implications.

    You appear to have great confidence in your own beliefs and in the pseudo-science of Mr. Hamilton, who is not taken seriously even by 95% of your fellow Stratfordians. Having frequently gone through the exercise you describe Good luck with that. If any of your readers want to know what the authorship is all about, they may wish to visit:

    Best Regards,

    Doc Stritmatter

  15. Doc Stritmatter, how interesting that you, along with "95% of [my] fellow Stratfordians", should engage in putting down the forensic reputation of a court-tested expert such as Mr. Hamilton on the basis of no evidence whatsoever other than that his conclusions run counter to the orthodoxy established beginning with Malone. I should have thought that you, of all persons, might be a little more sensitive to such pejorative dismissals.

    My point in response to Prof. Maycock remains: if you arbitrarily decide a priori that only the six signatures must be genuine, you are preventing yourself from ever having a sufficient sample to verify any claim about Stratford's handwriting. So your assumption ensures it can never be assailed.