The Shakespeare Claimants: A Critical Survey of the Four Principle Theories concerning the Authorship of the Shakespearean Plays

The Shakespeare Claimants: A Critical Survey of the Four Principle Theories concerning the Authorship of the Shakespearean Plays

The Shakespeare Claimants: A Critical Survey of the Four Principle Theories concerning the Authorship of the Shakespearean Plays

The Shakespeare Claimants: A Critical Survey of the Four Principle Theories concerning the Authorship of the Shakespearean Plays

Excerpt

The Great Shakespeare Controversy, like History and Science, is a subject that goes on expanding. New generations of theorists are constantly putting forward new claimants for the authorship of the immortal plays, and orthodox scholars are constantly discovering new details about the life and background of the Stratford actor, which they beat into weapons to repel the new invaders or use to make fresh raids into the domains of the older schools of thought. There will therefore always be room for a new book that surveys the controversy historically, especially if it can introduce a little novelty into its presentation of the facts.

It has been my business for many years to lecture on Shakespeare to senior forms in schools and to adults in W.E.A. classes, and naturally from time to time I have been asked questions about the rival claimants to the authorship, followed by the inevitable one -- what book would I recommend the questioners to read in order to get a general idea of the subject. This has never been easy to answer. The way in which the orthodox case has been presented is exceedingly diffuse. Sometimes it has consisted of a chapter or two in a biography of Shakespeare, sometimes it has been a special study of one type of argument, such as the Friedmans' work on the cryptograms, and sometimes a counter-attack on one particular school of thought, while of course there are numerous papers dealing with individual arguments.

Special studies, however, while of the greatest value to the expert, are of little use to the occasional student and the general reader, who want a bird's-eye view of the problem as a whole, and also the details of the theorist's main arguments and of the orthodox reply to them. And works of this sort are very rare. I know only of two, and neither of them is very suitable for the purpose I have in view. The first merely gives a summary of the main arguments of the theorists without the orthodox reply to . . .

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