I was introduced to the Shakespeare authorship question for the first time in a high school literature class. I admit now that I didn’t give the argument much thought. My English teacher didn’t sound entirely convinced, either. I also never did put much stock in the Cult of Personality. I wanted to read “Othello,” not debate who wrote “Othello.” I left that question to those with more government or institutional funding. But as I pursued my life in books, the tittering never stopped. Did Shakespeare really write Shakespeare?
Then we have the movie Anonymous, which I thick effectively put a feather in the cap of the controversy with a splashy trailer soundtracked by Radiohead with plenty of suggestions of sex and violence and intrigue. The Anti-Stradfordians had arrived in the public presence, helmed by such luminous stars as Derek Jacobi.
In a new book edited by Stanley Wells and Paul Edmondson, Shakespeare Beyond Doubt, a group of international Shakespeare experts tackles the authorship question head on. Not only that, they try and figure out why it was ever a problem to begin with.
What is it about Shakespeare and his 37 plays and 154 sonnets and epic poems that made us doubt that one man could possibly write them all? Sure, his singular body of work with some inconsistencies of style. “Much Ado About Nothing” cannot hold a candle to “Hamlet,” and “Coriolanus” is a bizarre work that seems to spring from no where. But a a real genius, in a lifetime of writing, is capable of a few missteps and also more than capable of an evolving style that would appear unrecognizable from their juvenilia.
No matter what side of the controversy you are on, there is plenty to sink your teeth into in this exciting new title.