Shakespeare Cross-Examination: A Compilation of Articles First Appearing in the American Bar Association Journal

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The Shakespearean Controversy: A Stratfordian Rejoinder

by John N. Hauser

THE THRUST OF the articles1 by two distinguished lawyers, Richard Bentley and Charlton Ogburn, is that William Shakespeare of Stratford-on- Avon did not and could not have written the works traditionally attributed to him. Particular emphasis is placed on the legal terminology contained in the plays and sonnets and it is argued that since Shakespeare was not a lawyer he could not have been the "real author". Mr. Ogburn's candidate as the real author is Edward de Vere, the seventeenth Earl of Oxford,2 who was trained in the law. Mr. Bentley seems partial to the Earl of Oxford, although he summarizes arguments for two other candidates.3

The controversy over who wrote Shakespeare's plays and sonnets has been going on for a long time and there have been many pretenders, each with a loyal and ingenious body of adherents (including a good many lawyers).4

Some of the candidates have been Oxford, Bacon, Essex, Raleigh, Burton, Derby, Rutland, Marlowe and even Queen Elizabeth.5

The controversy is a fascinating one

____________________
1
Richard Bentley. Elizabethan Whodunit: Who Was "William Shake-Speare"? page 1, supra: Charlton Ogburn. A Mystery Solved: True Identity of Shakespeare, page 17. supra.
2
Mr. Ogburn and his wife have written a 1.297-page book expounding the thesis that Oxford was the real author. Dorothy and Charlton 0gburn. THIS STAR OF ENGLAND ( New York, 1952).
3
Mr. Bentley purports to give an account of Shakespeare of Stratford's life, based on "only contemporaneously recorded and substantiated facts, carefully reviewed and checked". Being a good advocate, Mr. Bentley weaves a great deal of his argument into the statement of facts. To the extent space permits, I will deal with some of these "facts", infra.
4
Recent and recommended summaries of the controversy are R. C. Churchill, SHAKESPEARE AND HIS BETTER ( Indiana, 1959), and Frank Wadsworth, THE POACHER FROM STRATFORD ( University of California, 1958). Both writers favor the view that Shakespeare of Stratford was the real author.
5
See G. E. Sweet. SHAKE-SPEARE THE MYSTERY ( Stanford, 1956). Erie Stanley Gardner contributes a foreword.

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