Sunday, March 15, 2015

Book Note: Shakespeare Beyond Doubt Puts the Authorship Question to Rest

Edmondson, Paul, and Stanley Wells, eds. Shakespeare Beyond Doubt: Evidence, Argument, Controversy. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2013.

Shakespeare Beyond Doubt might have been a rehashing of the fully-convincing arguments put forward in favor of Shakespeare's authorship of the plays attributed to Shakespeare. Instead, it's a genuinely interesting, thoroughly scholarly account both of the state of the authorship question since Delia Bacon's 1857 The Philosophy of the Plays of Shakspere [sic] Unfolded and of the increasing evidence in favor of Shakespeare's authorship.

The first several essays debunk the common claimants to the authorship, essentially showing, one after the other, why Bacon didn't write the works of Shakespeare, why Marlowe didn't write the works of Shakespeare, why Oxford didn't write the works of Shakespeare, and why no one else wrote the works of Shakespeare.

The next section of the book asserts—in convincing, reasonable, and readable prose—why Shakespeare wrote the plays. Here, I was particularly struck by Stanley Wells' "Allusions to Shakespeare to 1642," in which he piles up text after text that connect Shakespeare to the works written by Shakespeare both during his lifetime and during the years immediately after his death.

The final section thinks carefully about the nature of the authorship question—why it persists, what kinds of stories are told about authorship, and how the doubters have grown skeptical about the nature of historical evidence. There's also a scholarly analysis of Anonymous (for my own take on the film, see this post) and how it failed to achieve its Oxfordian goals.

I expected a rehashing of old arguments—I considered that it might be a shame that these scholars were having to devote time to something that is so self-evident—but I got an intriguing new look at old arguments and quite a bit of good new material that helps to enlarge my appreciation for Shakespeare—both the man and the works.

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1 comment:

tubapapa said...

Sounds like a winner. I've put it on call.

Bardfilm is normally written as one word, though it can also be found under a search for "Bard Film Blog." Bardfilm is a Shakespeare blog (admittedly, one of many Shakespeare blogs), and it is dedicated to commentary on films (Shakespeare movies, The Shakespeare Movie, Shakespeare on television, Shakespeare at the cinema), plays, and other matter related to Shakespeare (allusions to Shakespeare in pop culture, quotes from Shakespeare in popular culture, quotations that come from Shakespeare, et cetera).

Unless otherwise indicated, quotations from Shakespeare's works are from the following edition:
Shakespeare, William. The Riverside Shakespeare. 2nd ed. Gen. ed. G. Blakemore Evans. Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1997.
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