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

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Did Shaxper Write Shakespeare?

by Arthur E. Briggs

BACONIANS HAVE A STAKE in the Shakespeare controversy. For more than two hundred years they have been collecting evidence that William Shaxper of Stratford did not write "Shakespeare".

About 1892 began the procession of Earls--Oxford, Derby and Rutland-- "the nobility cult"--as rivals of Bacon. Mr. Bentley has excellently stated the case, but without acknowledgment of credit to the Baconians who made the case, against Shaxper. Also Mr. Bentley argued well that lawyers are professionally most competent to weigh such matters of evidence.

Mr. Clary, in behalf of the "Shaxperolaters" questions Mr. Bentley's point of the superior qualifications of lawyers for literary criticism. He overlooks the distinguished role of lawyers in literature. To mention only three of the many, British juridic magistrates, Henry Fielding and Sir Walter Scott, created the novel. One was a dramatist and the other was a famous poet also. Yet more renowned than either is Sir Francis Bacon who established English literary prose. If also Bacon wrote Shakespeare, what greater name in literature than his?

Mr. Clary's advocacy of Shaxperolatry partakes of its notorious inaccuracy in matters of fact. The evidence rests largely on the preface to the First Folio ( 1623), purporting to be written by Hemminge and Condell but composed in the style of Ben Jonson1 who at the time was literary assistant to Francis Bacon. This is the principal document.

____________________
1
.W. W. Greg, "THE SHAKESPEARE FIRST FOLIO" ( 1955). 18-21, 26.

-93-

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