Clarifications and changes to the
Declaration of Reasonable Doubt
It has been over nine years since we first issued the Declaration of Reasonable Doubt About the Identity of William Shakespeare in April of 2007, and then held a signing ceremony in the U.K. on September 8, 2007. A great deal has happened in those nine years, and we have learned many things that we did not know then. We have paid close attention to comments on the Declaration and have carefully considered criticisms of it. There are a few things we would like to clarify, and we have made two changes to the list of Past Doubters. But most of what we have learned has not only confirmed our original doubts, but led us to conclude that it is virtually certain that Mr. Shakspere of Stratford was not the author of the works of William Shakespeare. The following is a list of the few changes and clarifications we would like to make in response to feedback.
The Declaration is sometimes described as a petition; no, it is exactly what its title says it is — a declaration. A petition recognizes the authority of someone to decide an issue and asks them to decide it in a given way. Our declaration is addressed not to any authoritative body, but, rather, “To Shakespeare lovers everywhere, as well as to those who are encountering him for the first time.” We addressed it to the public, and students.
In 2015, we made two changes to the list of twenty Past Doubters shown in the Declaration text on our site: Charles Dickens and Leslie Howard were removed because evidence for their doubter status was uncertain. In their stead, we've substituted Sir George Greenwood, MP, author of a dozen books about the authorship, and Hugh Trevor-Roper, Professor of History at Oxford University, who also wrote eloquently on the issue.
Some say (e.g., on Wikipedia) that we are “arguing from authority” in calling attention to famous doubters. No, we've never suggested that anyone should doubt Shakespeare's identity just because someone else has. We're merely calling attention to the fact that many credible people have been and are authorship doubters, contrary to the false stereotype of doubters promoted by Stratfordians to discredit us and suppress the issue. This is necessary to get people to take the issue seriously enough to take the time to look into it themselves. The document is mainly about the key evidence and arguments on both sides as an introduction to the issue.
Next we quote, and then clarify, three points in the Declaration:
“Mr. Shakspere's name was never hyphenated in other contexts, such as his business dealings in Stratford.”
This is correct as it relates to Shakspere's lifetime, and in Stratford, but there is one posthumous exception. The name is hyphenated once when it presumably refers to William of Stratford as an actor, not as a writer, in one of two cast lists in Ben Jonson's collected Works, published in 1616, sometime after Shakspere died. It is odd that Jonson spelled the name differently in two cast lists printed together in his book, and very odd that he did not mention the passing of Shakspere earlier that year if he was the author William Shakespeare. Stratfordians cannot explain why the author's name was frequently hyphenated, while Shakspere's was not. We think the hyphenated name suggests it was a pseudonym, as was the case with other hyphenated names.
“Shakespeare, the author, wrote no commendatory verse, and nobody addressed any to him while he lived.”
The first part of this sentence is correct. Shakespeare, the author, wrote no commendatory verses to anyone. People did write commendatory verses to the author, but none suggested that he was Shakspere of Stratford until long after he died. We should have said that nobody addressed any verse specifically to Mr. Shakspere while he lived apart from the unproven assumption that his name was “Shakespeare” and he was the author. The lack of open exchanges of commendatory verse suggests a hidden author, not one openly collaborating with other writers, as Stratfordians claim.
“The orthodox see nothing unusual in the lack of documentation for Mr. Shakspere's ostensible career, but he is the only presumed writer of his time for whom there is no contemporary evidence of a writing career.”
This is based on the “Chart of Literary Paper Trails” in the book Shakespeare's Unorthodox Biography, by Diana Price. Only if one assumes that one or more of several references to the author “Shakespeare” refers to William of Stratford could it be said that there is any contemporary evidence of a writing career for him. No reference specifically identifies Shakspere as the author. No one seemed to know the author personally. Shakspere himself never used the name “Shakespeare” in his life. The name he did use is not on the works. The orthodox say we know more about him than other writers. True, but what we know undercuts his case. They say there are “gaps” in the record, but with regard to his literary career, the record is all one huge gap. It is beyond dispute that Shakspere is an extreme outlier in the lack of documentation for his alleged career. Using contemporary writers as a control group, the sort of evidence we find for them we don't find for him. Shakspere is the only alleged writer of the period for whom one must rely entirely on posthumous evidence to make a case that he was a professional writer, as even Stanley Wells of the Birthplace Trust now admits.
Other than these few changes and clarifications, we stand by the original Declaration of Reasonable Doubt. The clarifications are minor and the points are important. We are pleased to have a chance to reiterate them. The Declaration stands as strong as ever, and the new evidence and arguments confirm that we had it right. We have requested, but not yet seen, a detailed rebuttal and a definitive statement of the case for Shakspere.