“Just a mere glance at [his] pathetic efforts to sign his name (illiterate scrawls) should forever eliminate Shakspere from further consideration in this question — he could not write.”
“Academics err in failing to acknowledge the mystery surrounding 'Shake-speare's' identity … They would do both liberal education and the works of 'Shake-speare' a distinguished service by opening the question to the judgment of their students, and others outside the academic realm.”— Letter to Max Weismann, Director, Center for the Study of The Great Ideas, November 7, 1997
Mortimer J. Adler (1902 – 2001) — University of Chicago philosophy professor, prolific author. Adler was series editor of the Great Books of the Western World, co-founder of the Center for the Study of The Great Ideas, and a long-time Chairman of the Board of Editors of the Encyclopedia Britannica. He sought to bring philosophy to the masses, and some of his books were bestsellers. His seminar on “Six Great Ideas” became a popular PBS television series, hosted by Bill Moyers. His “Syntopicon: An Index to The Great Ideas” is a valuable tool for many academic researchers.
“The [doubters] have presented a very strong — almost fully convincing — case for their point of view. The debate continues and it is well it does. We need this enlightenment in these otherwise somewhat dismal days. If I had to rule on the evidence presented, it would be in favor of the [doubters].”— Letter to Charlton Ogburn, following a moot court trial of the authorship of the works, in which Blackmun participated, at American University in Washington, D.C., in 1987. His letter is quoted in the prefatory matter to Ogburn's Mysterious William Shakespeare (Second Edition, 1992, vi).
Harry A. Blackmun (1908 – 1999) — Associate Justice of the United States Supreme Court from 1970 to 1994. A lifelong Republican, he was appointed to the court by Richard M. Nixon. He is best known as the author of the majority opinion in the Roe v. Wade decision on abortion.
“In the work of the greatest geniuses, humble beginnings will reveal themselves somewhere, but one cannot trace the slightest sign of them in Shakespeare … I am not concerned with who wrote the works of Shakespeare … but I can hardly think it was the Stratford boy. Whoever wrote them had an aristocratic attitude.”— My Autobiography, 364
Charles “Charlie” Chaplin (1889 – 1977) — Charles Spencer Chaplin, Jr., was one of the most creative, famous and influential personalities of the silent film era. Among the finest mimes and clowns ever, he acted in, directed, scripted, produced and, later in life, even scored his own films.
According to his son, Professor Ward E.Y. Elliott, Professor William Y. Elliott did not accept the traditional attribution. He was a co-founder and trustee of a major authorship organization.
William Y. Elliott (1896 – 1979) — Harvard government professor, counselor to six presidents. A Roosevelt braintruster, his contributions to victory in WW II were such that Truman gave him the flag that flew over the Capitol on VJ Day. An advisor to presidents through Nixon on national security matters, among his protégés at Harvard were Henry Kissinger and Pierre Elliott Trudeau. A Rhodes Scholar and noted poet, he studied at Vanderbilt University, Oxford and the Sorbonne.
“As long as the question is of talent and mental power, the world of men has not his [the author's] equal to show. But when the question is, to life and its materials and its auxiliaries, how does he profit me? What does it signify? … The Egyptian verdict of the Shakespeare Societies comes to mind; that he was a jovial actor and manager. I can not marry this fact to his verse. Other admirable men have led lives in some sort of keeping with their thought; but this man, in wide contrast. Had he been less, had he reached only the common measure of great authors, of Bacon, Milton, Tasso, Cervantes, we might leave the fact in the twilight of human fate: but that this man of men, he who gave to the science of mind a new and larger subject than had ever existed, and planted the standard of humanity some furlongs forward into Chaos,—that he should not be wise for himself;—it must even go into the world's history that the best poet led an obscure and profane life, using his genius for the public amusement.”— Representative Men (1850) Works, 4:218[Some have questioned whether Emerson was expressing doubt about Shakspere's authorship here. It is possible that he was not, even though he clearly gives reasons why one might do so. The fact that he later encouraged and helped Delia Bacon shows that he had “doubts” by then. Staunch Stratfordian James Shapiro, for example, writes that “Emerson, while reconciled to the seeming paradox that was Shakespeare (above), was nonetheless willing to entertain a theory that helped resolve it.” — Contested Will: Who Wrote Shakespeare?, 99-100.]
Ralph Waldo Emerson (1803 – 1882) — American essayist, poet, and original formulator of the philosophy of Transcendentalism. A Harvard-educated Unitarian minister, his “Collected Essays: First (1841) Series and Second (1844) Series,” is considered one of the greatest books of all time.
“Count me a convert… This [book's] powerful argument should persuade many rationale beings, who, well acquainted with the plays, have no vested interest in preserving a rickety tradition.”— The Mysterious William Shakespeare (Second Edition, 1992), Charlton Ogburn, front jacket.
Clifton Fadiman (1904 – 1999) — Noted intellectual, author, radio and television personality, oft-quoted wit. A Columbia University graduate, he became chief editor at Simon & Shuster, later head of The New Yorker's book review section, and later a judge for the Book of the Month Club.
“I no longer believe that William Shakespeare the actor from Stratford was the author of the works that have been ascribed to him.”— Autobiographical Study (1927), 130“It is undeniably painful to all of us that even now we do not know who was the author of the Comedies, Tragedies and Sonnets of Shakespeare, whether it was in fact the untutored son of the provincial citizen of Stratford, who attained a modest position as an actor in London … ”— Speech accepting the Goethe Prize, 1930. Quoted in Shakespeare's Lives (1970) 609.
Sigmund Freud (1856 – 1939) — Viennese psychotherapist, commonly referred to as “the father of psychoanalysis.” His work popularized concepts such as the unconscious, defense mechanisms and Freudian slips, and it has greatly influenced literature, film, literary criticism, philosophy, etc.
Described J.T. Looney's “Shakespeare” Identified as “the best detective story” he had ever read.— Quoted in Shakespeare's Lives, Schoenbaum (1970) 602, in a chapter on authorship doubters.“The affair purported to prove that William Shakespeare was really [an alternative authorship candidate].”— Soames, a character in Galsworthy's The White Monkey (1924), recalling a book he happened to read (probably Looney's) that mentioned Soames's mother's maiden name: Golding.
John Galsworthy (1867 – 1933) — English novelist and playwright, winner of the Nobel Prize for literature in 1932. He is best known for The Forsyte Saga and its sequels. The Forsyte Saga was filmed for MGM in 1949, and adapted for TV by the BBC in 1967, and by Granada in 2002.
In 1996, while serving as president of the World Shakespeare Congress, Gielgud signed a petition (along with more than 400 others), which reads as follows:
“We, the undersigned, petition the Shakespeare Association of America, in light of ongoing research, to engage actively in a comprehensive, objective and sustained investigation of the authorship of the Shakespeare Canon …”
Sir John Gielgud (1904 – 2000) — English theatre and film actor, widely viewed as one of the greatest British actors in history. He starred and directed in many Royal Shakespeare Company productions at Stratford-upon-Avon, often performing the roles of the great characters brilliantly.
“It is quite true that around the name of 'Shakespeare' there has grown up a mountainous mass of literature—of criticism, of illustration, of theory, of conjecture, of dogmatism, of assertion, of allusions, real or supposed, etc., etc.—which is perfectly appalling in its extent and variety; but notwithstanding that the whole world has been ransacked for evidence, and notwithstanding that lives have been devoted to the subject and an incredible amount of labour bestowed upon it, we find it as true today as it was when the late J. R. Green published his History of the English People  that 'of hardly any great poet do we know so little.'”— From the Forward to his book Ben Jonson and Shakespeare, 1921
Sir George Greenwood (1850 – 1928) was a British lawyer, politician (MP), cricketer, animal welfare reformer and leading advocate for the Shakespeare authorship question. He wrote twelve books and numerous articles on the authorship issue, and engaged in a series of public debates with Sir Sidney Lee, the leading Shakespeare biographer of his generation. The most effective anti-Stratfordian of his time, Greenwood never endorsed an alternative author, remaining agnostic, while steadfastly maintaining that the traditional view was indefensible.
“But what if it turns out, as it just possibly might, that William Shakespeare of Stratford was not the author of the plays ascribed to him? There is a theory, advanced by reputable scholars, seriously and, in my opinion, plausibly, that Shakespeare merely lent his name as a cover for the literary activities of another person … If, by some terrible chance, this theory should be proved, then straightaway Stratford's tourist status would dwindle.”— New York Times Magazine, April 22, 1962, 60-1
(Sir William) Tyrone Guthrie (1900 – 1971) — Tony Award-winning British theatre director who established Canada's Stratford Festival, and the Guthrie Theater in Minneapolis, Minnesota. Stage director Sir Peter Hall wrote that “Guthrie was a towering figure in every sense. He showed how to run a company and administer a theatre … he was a brilliant and at times great director.”
“I am 'sort of' haunted by the conviction that the divine William is the biggest and most successful fraud ever practiced on a patient world.”— Letters of Henry James
Henry James (1843 – 1916) — American-born author, literary critic, and major figure in trans-Atlantic literature. He became a British subject later in life. He wrote 22 novels, 112 tales, several plays and essays, and often contributed to The Nation, Atlantic Monthly, Harper's and Scribner's.
“We [William, and likely Henry] went to Stratford for the first time. The absolute extermination and obliteration of every record of Shakespeare save a few sordid material details, and the general suggestion of narrowness and niggardliness which ancient Stratford makes, taken in comparison with the way in which the spiritual quantity 'Shakespeare' has mingled into the soul of the world, was most uncanny, and I feel ready to believe in almost any mythical story of the authorship. In fact a visit to Stratford now seems to me the strongest appeal a Baconian can make.”— In a letter to Charles Eliot Norton, May 2, 1902
William James (1842 – 1910) — Pioneering American psychologist and philosopher, brother of Henry James. He spent his entire career at Harvard, establishing its department of psychology, and writing seminal works on religious experience, mysticism and the philosophy of pragmatism.
“I believe the considerations favoring the [alternative author] hypothesis … are overwhelming. … It's fashionable today to declare 'the death of the author;' the author's life and experience count for naught. Any consideration of the author's intention or meaning is rejected. Rejected, too, is any thought that the author was communicating something important to the spectator or the reader. For those afflicted by this fashionable myopia, who Shakespeare was, how he lived and what he was trying to tell us are irrelevant. But fashions come and go, and I am told there are signs that the negation of authorial intention in academic literary criticism has peaked.”— From the Foreword to Shakespeare: Who Was He? By Richard Whalen (1994)
Paul H. Nitze (1907 – 2004) — High-ranking U.S. government official who helped shape Cold War defense policy through numerous presidential administrations; co-founder of the School of Advanced International Studies at Johns Hopkins University. Among his positions were Director of Policy Planning for the State Department, Secretary of the Navy, Deputy Secretary of Defense, Member of U.S. delegation to Strategic Arms Limitation Talks, Assistant Secretary of Defense for international affairs, Special Adviser to the President and Secretary of State on Arms Control.
“Viscount Palmerston, the great British statesman, used to say that he rejoiced to have lived to see three things—the re-integration of Italy, the unveiling of the mystery of China and Japan, and the explosion of the Shakespeare illusions.” — Diary of the Right Hon. Mount-Stewart E. Grant.— Quoted in Shakespeare's Lives, Schoenbaum (1970) 553, in a chapter on authorship doubters.
Lord Palmerston — Henry John Temple, Third Viscount Palmerston (1784 – 1865) — British statesman who twice served as prime minister of the U. K. during the mid-nineteenth century. He is best remembered for directing Britain's foreign policy while it was near the height of its power.
“I have never thought that the man of Stratford-on-Avon wrote the plays of Shakespeare. I know of no admissible evidence that he ever left England or was educated in the normal sense of the term. One must wonder, for example, how he could have written The Merchant of Venice.”— Letter to Charlton Ogburn, following a moot court trial of the authorship of Shakespeare's works at American University in Washington, D.C., in 1987. Powell's letter is quoted in the prefatory matter to Ogburn's The Mysterious William Shakespeare (Second Edition, 1992, vi).
Lewis F. Powell, Jr. (1907 – 1998) — Associate Justice of the United States Supreme Court from 1972 to 1987. Like Blackmun, he was a lifelong Republican nominated by Richard Nixon. He was regarded as a judicial moderate, and as a master of compromise and consensus-building.
“The available evidence that the plays and poems were the work of William Shakespeare of Stratford is weak and unconvincing … not a shred of solid evidence connects the man with the works during his lifetime…. and the posthumous association of them, in the First Folio and in the Stratford Tomb, is inconclusive since there are legitimate questions concerning the motivation and production of the Folio and the original form of the Tomb. There are many suspicions legitimately adhering to all the later statements associating the man with the works, including the statements of Ben Jonson. Altogether, I consider the evidence of association to be slender, weak and implausible. There is not a single testimony which could not easily be re-interpreted if solid evidence were to turn up that the works were written by another man…”— Letter to Charlton Ogburn, Jr., 21 February, 1981
Hugh R. Trevor-Roper, Baron Dacre of Glanton (1914 – 2003), was an English scholar and historian of early modern Britain and Nazi Germany and Regius Professor of Modern History at Oxford University. Trevor-Roper was a conversationalist, polemicist and essayist on a wide range of historical topics, particularly England in the 16th and 17th centuries and Nazi Germany. He established a reputation for succinctly defining historical controversies.
“So far as anybody actually knows and can prove, Shakespeare of Stratford-on-Avon never wrote a play in his life.” … “Shall I set down the rest of the Conjectures which constitute the giant Biography of William Shakespeare? It would strain the Unabridged Dictionary to hold them. He is a Brontosaur: nine bones and six hundred barrels of plaster of Paris.”
“Isn't it odd, when you think of it, that you may list all of the celebrated Englishmen, Irishmen, Scotchmen … clear back to the first Tudors — a list of five hundred names, shall we say? — and you can … learn the particulars of the lives of every one of them. Every one of them except one — the most famous, the most renowned — by far the most illustrious of them all — Shakespeare!”— “Is Shakespeare Dead?” My Autobiography (1909). (The entire book is a sweeping rejection of Stratford's Mr. Shakspere as the author.)
Mark Twain (1835 – 1910) — Pen name of Samuel Langhorne Clemens, the famous American writer, humorist, satirist, lecturer. He is best known for Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, and The Adventures of Tom Sawyer. William Faulkner called Twain “the father of American Literature.”
“I think [an alternative candidate] wrote Shakespeare. If you don't, there are some awfully funny coincidences to explain away.”— Persona Grata, Cecil Beaton and Kenneth Tynan (1953) 98[Welles subsequently changed his view and accepted the traditional attribution, but the quote given here correctly shows that he was an authorship doubter at least at that point in his life.]
Orson Welles (1915 – 1985) — American radio, theater and film producer, director and actor. Only the third person to receive the American Film Institute's Life Time Achievement Award, he directed and starred in highly acclaimed productions of several of Shakespeare's greatest plays.
“I am firm against Shaksper — I mean the Avon man, the actor.”— With Walt Whitman, Traubel“Conceived out of the fullest heat and pulse of European feudalism — personifying in unparall'd ways the medieval aristocracy, its towering spirit of ruthless and gigantic cast, its own peculiar air and arrogance (no mere imitation) — only one of the 'wolfish earls' so plenteous in the plays themselves, or some born descendent and knower, might seem to be the true author of those amazing works — works in some respects greater than anything else in recorded history.”— “November Boughs”
Walt Whitman (1819 – 1892) — American Romantic poet, essayist, journalist and humanist. He is most famous for his Leaves of Grass, which Emerson praised in a letter to the poet, saying “I greet you at the beginning of a great career,” and for his poems mourning the death of Lincoln.
Removed from Past Doubters list
Charles Dickens was removed in February of 2015, because it is not clear from the quote, seen in context, that he was expressing doubt about the authorship rather than just a reason why one might doubt, but without doubting himself. He never expressed doubts elsewhere.“It is a great comfort, to my way of thinking, that so little is known concerning the poet. The life of Shakespeare is a fine mystery and I tremble every day lest something turn up.”— Complete Writings 37:206
Charles Dickens (1812 – 1870) — Foremost novelist of the Victorian era, and widely regarded as one of the greatest writers in the English language. He achieved massive worldwide popularity, and his popularity is still such that none of his novels and short stories has ever gone out of print.
Leslie Howard was removed in February of 2015, because the only place he expressed doubt is in the film role described. It is an inference that he was expressing his own view, and this is debatable.In Pimpernel Smith — the 1941 propaganda film that Howard conceived, produced, directed and starred in as the lead character, Professor Horatio Smith — Howard, playing the Smith character, repeatedly expounds on the authorship issue. First, he says “I've been reading a book that proves conclusively that Shakespeare wasn't really Shakespeare at all; he was [an alternative candidate].” Later in the same scene he says, “[the alternative candidate] was a very bright Elizabethan light, but this book will tell you he was a good deal more than that.” In a later scene he holds up a skull, then quotes from Hamlet's famous speech, “Alas, poor Yorick … though she paints her face an inch thick it will come to this.” Turning to the character addressed, he says, “[The alternative candidate] wrote that.”
Leslie Howard (1893 – 1943) — English stage and film actor and Academy Award nominee. Best known internationally as Ashley Wilkes in Gone with the Wind, he also starred as Professor Higgins in Pygmalion, and appeared in The Petrified Forest, Intermezzo, and Romeo and Juliet. His co-stars included Humphrey Bogart, Bette Davis, Laurence Olivier, and Olivia de Haviland. Howard was killed during the war, before he could elaborate on the views expressed in his film.