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Conspiracism at the Atlantic

In his short story The Portrait of Mr W.H. (1889), Oscar Wilde depicts a quest to identify the mysterious dedicatee, known only as Mr W.H, of Shakespeare’s sonnets. On purely internal evidence, his protagonists “prove” that it must have been an enchanting boy actor called Willie Hughes. The conceit, clearly deriving from Wilde’s own sexual interests, is compellingly written and completely fictitious.

Last weekend the Atlantic magazine published a long article that I initially assumed must be a similarly imaginative parody of misplaced literary ingenuity. The piece, titled “Was Shakespeare a Woman?”, suggests that the works attributed to William Shakespeare of Stratford may have been written by a woman. The author, Elizabeth Winkler, maintains: “Doubts about whether William Shakespeare … really wrote the works attributed to him are almost as old as the writings themselves.”

She accuses what she calls orthodox Shakespeare scholars of “a dogmatism of their own” on the issue, whereby “even to dabble in authorship questions is considered a sign of bad faith, a blinkered failure to countenance genius in a glover’s son.” Armed with this tendentious premise, along with the less contentious one that Shakespeare depicts female characters with unrivalled sympathy and insight, Winkler spins a hypothesis that Emilia Bassano, born in London in 1569 to Venetian immigrants, is a viable candidate for the true author.

Even as I read Winkler’s piece, I expected a denouement that it was all a piece of fiction, analogous to the enjoyable 2009 caper St Trinian’s 2: The Legend of Fritton’s Gold, which ends with buried treasure under the Globe Theatre and the discovery of Shakespeare’s true identity. It never came. The article was presented as a serious contribution to a debate in which Winkler has made a potentially historic discovery.

In British newspapers, there is a longstanding technique of obscuring a paucity of evidence in support of a preposterous thesis by posing it as a question. It’s been dubbed by the political commentator John Rentoul “Questions to Which the Answer is No” (QTWAIN). Winkler’s article employs the stratagem liberally. “Was Shakespeare’s name useful camouflage, allowing [Bassano] to publish what she otherwise couldn’t?” “Could Bassano have contributed [to literature] even more widely and directly?” In a moment of self-knowledge, Winkler asks: “Was I getting carried away, reinventing Shakespeare in the image of our age?” Yet she immediately supplies not the correct answer but yet another QTWAIN: “Or was I seeing past gendered assumptions to the woman who—like Shakespeare’s heroines—had fashioned herself a clever disguise?”

Feminist readings of Shakespeare have enriched literary criticism and scholarship in, among other areas, reconsidering genre distinctions and examining the effects of patriarchal structures on relations between the sexes. There is no decorous way of saying that Winkler’s article, by contrast, is a farrago that should never have been conceived, pitched, commissioned or published. Winkler credulously retails a series of purported mysteries about Shakespeare’s authorship that are no mystery at all, and repeats claims derived from Shakespeare denialists that any capable scholar would have been able to correct. She places particular stress on the work of a “meticulous scholar” Diana Price, who claims: “Writers in Elizabethan and Jacobean England left behind records of their professional activities. Shakespeare left behind documentation of his professional activities, but none is literary… He is the only alleged [emphasis added] writer of any consequence from the time period who left behind no personal evidence of his career as a professional writer.”

Price is neither meticulous nor a scholar (she designates herself “an independent scholar,” which should have caused Winkler greater wariness). As Alan Nelson of Berkeley University has put it, Price knows how to put a sentence together but she doesn’t know how to put an argument together.

We in fact have unimpeachable evidence of Shakespeare’s activities as a writer, far more than we do for, say, his fellow-dramatists John Webster or Cyril Tourneur, but by a series of rhetorical sleights-of-hand Price rules it all inadmissible. To give a single but weighty example: Shakespeare’s fellow actors John Heminge and Henry Condell assembled the First Folio of Shakespeare’s works, published in 1623, with Shakespeare’s name on the title page and his engraved image in the frontispiece, and with a laudatory poem by Ben Jonson referring to the author as “Sweet Swan of Avon.” Price dismisses this as evidence of authorship because it’s posthumous, coming seven years after Shakespeare’s death, even though the planning and publishing of the book must have taken years, and Heminge, Condell and Jonson all knew Shakespeare personally. This isn’t scholarship but sophistry.

From her repetition of “zombie facts” (empirical claims that scholars have long refuted but keep getting cited by denialists) like this, I assumed that Winkler was not conversant with the way that Shakespeare scholars (real ones, I mean) respond to them. There isn’t a huge literature refuting the denialists, for the same reason that evolutionary biologists typically spend none of their limited time and resources dispensing with pseudoscientific claims of creationism. But there’s quite enough.

I rate highly a book by Scott McCrea titled The Case for Shakespeare: The End of the Authorship Question (2005) and James Shapiro has written a definitive cultural and historical study of the anti-Shakespeare conspiracy theorists, Contested Will: Who Wrote Shakespeare? (2010). These should have been sufficient to demonstrate to Winkler that the denialists are a historically recent phenomenon, dating from the mid-nineteenth century, and that their fantasies are historically bounded. The notion that a commoner lacking a university education could have written the greatest literary works in the language offended the Victorian sense of propriety and order; hence the search for an alternative author (in the first instance, it was surmised to be Francis Bacon) took root. In around 170 years of this endeavour, not a single piece of documentary evidence has connected any of the supposed authorship candidates—of whom the main ones are Bacon, Christopher Marlowe, the Earl of Oxford and the Earl of Derby—to the works of Shakespeare. (I should disclose that Shapiro is a friend, and I’ve gained over many years from his insights and advice concerning Shakespeare.)

Yet it turns out that I was mistaken in thinking that Winkler was guilty of mere inattention and incuriosity. In the storm of social media comment over the past few days, one post stands out. Diana Henderson of MIT, whose scholarly expertise includes Shakespeare, early modern poetry and drama, and gender studies, wrote on Twitter: “[Winkler] contacted me almost a year ago, & although I gave lengthy email replies, doesn’t acknowledge the fact that many of us who are most interested in women writers & know their dramatic as well as poetic works find this fanciful. EW seeking only to find what she wanted.”

In short, Winkler did seek expert advice and she elected to ignore it. She says she also omitted to quote some interlocutors on the “other side,” yet that defence merely compounds the problem with her article. A journalist dealing with a technical issue is duty-bound to check their work against the state of scholarship. In her numerous social media posts, Winkler has “respectfully” pointed out that I am not a literary scholar, and this is true. But on the subjects I write about, I’m confident that my work will withstand the scrutiny of experts, as I’ve made sure to consult them in print and in person. This is a minimal requirement of responsible journalism.

And on the purported Shakespeare authorship question, there is no scholarly debate. There is a fascinating area of inquiry concerning Shakespeare’s collaborations with other dramatists both early and late in his career, but this is far removed from the fantasy that some romantic figure used a jobbing actor from Stratford as a frontman for works of literary genius. There are a mere handful of academics who give this stuff even the time of day, let alone credence, and Winkler has misrepresented the state of scholarship by insinuating that they are one side in a scholarly dispute.

To give an analogy: scholars of linguistics vigorously dispute whether language is the realisation of an innate human faculty or whether it is an outcome of general-purpose learning mechanisms. I’ve written a non-technical book on language, which refers in passing to this question. I have a lot of sympathy for the first of those positions (which is associated especially with Noam Chomsky and Steven Pinker) but it’s far from universally held and the results of research programmes into it have been limited. That’s a real debate. The purported Shakespeare authorship question, by contrast, is more like the issue of climate change: there are a tiny number of fringe figures in academia ranged against the overwhelming scholarly consensus, and it’s irresponsible for any journalist to depict it otherwise.

As Winkler has backed herself into defending her article, she has repeatedly linked to material that does not even have the veneer of scholarship. One example is a page on the website of the grandiloquently named Shakespeare Authorship Research Centre at Concordia University in Portland, Oregon. This is one of the very few outposts of Shakespeare denialism in academia. Its site no longer appears to advertise this offer, but a few years ago you could buy from the Centre the title of “life-scholar” for $10,000. Alternatively, you could have bought the title associate research scholar for a more modest $125 plus a passport photograph. (Information from the e-book Shakespeare Bites Back by Stanley Wells and Paul Edmondson of the Shakespeare Birthplace Trust, 2011.)

On the Concordia page that Winkler links to is a reading list of denialist works whose authors include Diana Price, plus Richard Paul Roe (a retired attorney from Pasadena, now deceased), Richard Malim (a retired solicitor from Bristol), and one John Michell. Michell, who died in 2009, was also the author of The Flying Saucer Vision (1967), which revealed a complex system of ley lines that serve as landing markers for extra-terrestrial spacecraft, and The View Over Atlantis (1969), which—as you might expect—uncovers the existence of a prehistoric race of superbeings.

Winkler is a young literary journalist who writes fluently. She has in the past few days, since her article was published, made the mistake of doubling down on her claims rather than acknowledging that her entire venture was misconceived. It’s a natural human reaction but still a mistake and I hope she’ll acknowledge it and then go on to success in her branch of journalism.

For the Atlantic, a venerable journal whose founders included Ralph Waldo Emerson and Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, the conundrum is greater. Alongside Winkler’s article online is a link to a cover story the magazine published in 1991 on the supposed Shakespeare authorship debate. It reads: “In 1991, the Atlantic commissioned two pieces from admittedly partisan authors, Irving Matus and Tom Bethell, to examine and debate the argument.”

Indeed, I recall reading it at the time. Matus, who died a few years ago, really did justify the term “independent scholar” by writing two books on Shakespeare based on exhaustive documentary research that added to the sum of knowledge. Bethell remains a longstanding Shakespeare denialist whose more recent work includes a book (titled Questioning Einstein: Is Relativity Necessary?) in which he claims to have refuted Einstein. He is also the author of Darwin’s House of Cards, whose thesis—about the work of another giant figure in scientific discovery—I need hardly describe to you. For good measure, he’s written several articles praising AIDS denialists.

The Atlantic may think that the anti-Shakespeare campaigners offer an entertaining diversion. Its editors certainly failed to pick up the failings of Winkler’s research, yet I believe the issue is a lot more serious than that. These are dark times for liberal values of critical inquiry, reason and science. The magazine has given vent to an entirely worthless conspiracy theory without checking its provenance or veracity. As its editors know well, conspiracy theories have an ineluctable tendency to expand their horizons.

Roger Stritmatter of Coppin State University, who “earned” the first PhD in the United States for a thesis explicitly arguing that the Earl of Oxford was the true Shakespeare, is a member of a group called Scholars for 9/11 Truth and Justice. He declares: “We are told that WTC buildings 1, 2 and 7 ‘collapsed’ due to jet plane impact and fire, that the Bush administration could not ‘imagine’ such a scenario, and that it is only a ‘coincidence’ that plans were already underway long before 9-11 for the invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq. The evidence against this official account of 9-11 is overwhelming.”

In his fine book that I’ve cited, McCrea’s concluding chapter is headed “All Conspiracy Theories Are Alike.” It’s an acute observation. He states: “Denial of Shakespeare follows exactly the same flawed reasoning as Holocaust denial, though obviously it lacks the same moral dimension.” Shakespeare denialists may find this an outrageous and even inflammatory analogy, but they should consider it carefully. One of the main authors in recent years in support of the argument that the Earl of Oxford was the true Shakespeare was the syndicated columnist Joseph Sobran. His principal Oxfordian work is called Alias Shakespeare (1997). He ended his days as an apologist for Nazi Germany, addressing a Holocaust denial conference.

Another recently deceased Oxfordian, Paul Streitz (who argued that Oxford was not only Shakespeare but also the lover and illegitimate son of Elizabeth I), was an anti-Muslim demagogue. The main recent advocate of Christopher Marlowe as Shakespeare was the late Sam Blumenfeld, an indefatigable propagandist for the far-right conspiracist group the John Birch Society, which famously accused President Eisenhower of being a Communist agent.

Enough. I know that Winkler and the Atlantic have revulsion for such bigotry and irrationalism. That’s why they ought to say something. Winkler has got into this fiasco over her head and I hope will learn from the experience. The Atlantic meanwhile has no other course consistent with its mission and history than to retract the fruits of her inquiries.


Oliver Kamm is a columnist and leader writer at the Times. You can follow him on Twitter @OliverKamm


  1. What is happening to the standards in journalism? The Washington Post used a strikingly similar methodology, including appeals to “independent scholars” and conspiracy theories, to support the equally unscholarly hypothesis that Jesus never existed.

    • E. Olson says

      What happened to journalism standards? Well instead of a search for and reporting of truth, the mainstream media has become the propaganda arm of Leftist politics, but this isn’t a new development.

      Since the Left believes that patriarchy, sexism, and discrimination against women have kept women from achieving the greatness they deserve, it makes perfect sense to publish a poorly researched and biased opinion article posing as a serious journalistic work that proposes that Shakespeare was a front for a woman author who hasn’t gotten the credit she deserves, because it supports the desired narrative. The Left also believes that Christianity is an evil man-made mechanism for keeping women, homosexuals, and non-believers down, so why not publish a fictional story posing as news that suggests the basis of the whole religion is fiction – it certainly fits the desired narrative. Trump is a fascist Putin puppet – print it…

      • ShwarmaSucks says

        Mediocre, gassed up women and liberals happened. Lets just keep it real.

      • They seek capital-T Truth, which is defined in advance of any research or investigation and just so happens to line up perfectly with their political prejudices.
        Facts are now tools of the Patriarchy, to be ignored when inconvenient.

    • I’m not trying to annoy you but I once read that the only written evidence for the existence of Jesus was in the Bible itself. This is odd, given that the Romans liked to document pretty much everything and Jesus was allegedly such a thorn in their side. You would imagine that there would be at least one non-Biblical reference to Jesus somewhere. Or maybe there is and what I read was completely wrong. I’d be happy if you could point me to that reference.

      • David Pittelli says

        There is about as much evidence as one might expect for an itinerant preacher with perhaps a few hundred loosely associated followers at that time and place. Most of it is indeed by followers of Jesus, as other Jews and Romans would have little interest (or connection, apart from Pilate approving the execution request of Jewish leaders).

        Flavius Josephus (a Jew in Rome) mentioned Jesus (and his brother James and John the Baptist) briefly in his “Antiquities of the Jews.” As did Tacitus (a Roman Senator). And of course there are also the Gnostic gospels which didn’t get into the Bible.

        • “Flavius Josephus (a Jew in Rome) mentioned Jesus …”

          Widely regarded as a later forgery, and in any case not written until 60 years after the supposed life of Jesus.

          “As did Tacitus …”

          Written about 90 years after the supposed life of Jesus (and again its authenticity is questioned).

          So, no, the actual evidence for a historical Jesus is not that good. There is nothing, for example, that even claims to be written by someone who had actually met him.

          • Andrew Roddy says

            The best evidence for Shakespeare is in the texts. We get a very vivid picture of the inferiority of an extraordinary theatrical imagination. It more than compensates for the paucity of biographical information. We know exactly who he was in a way that an avalanche of documentary evidence could not even approach.

          • Eric Liskey says

            Only part of Josephus’ reference to Jesus was forged, an embellishment added to his original reference, which was a fairly bland mention generally regarded as authentic.

          • @Eric: Apologists hope that there was an “original bland mention”, and try t=o reconstruct it, but there is no evidence that there actually was, it is wishful thinking.

          • The “Testimonium Flavianum” (“TF”) found in the historian Josephus’ Antiquities was once widely regarded as a forgery. In recent years, the community of biblical scholars has grown very narrow in outlook and uniform in religious orthodoxy, and so the TF has again become accepted as authentic in part. However, a persuasive case has been made that the TF was fabricated out of whole cloth by the4th century historian Eusebius, based on: 1) the TF’s variance with Josephus’ vocabulary and syntax; 2) the TF’s uncanny similarity to Eusebius’ vocabulary and syntax and certain extended passages; 3) the lack of mention of the TF by earlier patristic writers citing Antiquities; 4) the first, very convenient use of the TF being by Eusebius.

            NB: It is fitting this came up in a discussion of the Shakespeare authorship question. For, just as research into the history of the New Testament been left not in the hands of historians, but rather theologians, research into the history of the works of Shakespeare has not been undertaken by historians, but instead monopolized by literary scholars with no training in historical methodology. And in both cases, the non-historians approach the subject with deep-seated a priori biases.

          • wake says

            well paul wrote a lot and claims to have met both jesus’s brother james, peter, and others

          • @Wake: Paul does not say “Jesus’s brother”, he says “Brother of the Lord”, and Christians often use “brother”, “sister” or “father” for unrelated Christians, and a few sentences earlier Paul used the very same Greek word for “brothers” where everyone agrees that he meant fellow Christians.

          • Stephanie says

            I saw a documentary once about a recently discovered tomb thought to have belonged to Jesus’s family. The combination of names and the latinized form of Miriam was deemed to be sufficiently rare to suggest it belonged to that family. I’m not sure though, haven’t heard much about it since.

          • @Stephanie: Everyone knows that the “Jesus tomb” was a fake.

          • Another sad mythicist conspiracists. No, competent scholars don’t question whether or not Josephus or Tacitus mentioned Jesus. The only person who doesn’t think so is Richard Carrier, and Carrier is both a failed scholar and all his work on the subject has been refuted.



            That Josephus and Tacitus wrote a few decades later is really unimportant. Both authors mention events that predate the life of Jesus (sometimes by decades), but oddly mythicists have never questioned those sections. Isn’t that odd?

            “There is nothing, for example, that even claims to be written by someone who had actually met him.”

            But there is something written by someone who claims to have known Jesus family (i.e. Paul). You’d think that if Jesus didn’t exist, his family would have known about it.

            And besides, what was the motivation for inventing Jesus anyways? That seems really absurd, actually. Carrier’s conspiracy is that there was a pre-Christian angelic figure named Jesus that got historicized, but more competent scholars have pointed out that Carrier’s only reference for this figure (Philo of Alexandria) has been misrepresented by … Carrier himself.

          • @Scientific Christian: No, Paul does not claim to have met Jesus’s family, he makes one references to a person James as “Brother of the Lord”, which could be a religious title, especially as a few sentences earlier he uses the same Greek word for “brother” in a sentence where everyone agrees it means only “fellow Christian”. And yes, plenty doubt the short references in Josephus and Tacitus, and yes the fact that they are 60 years later does matter since it means that, even if they are original, they are second-hand reports and not from personal knowledge.

          • Paul certainly does make that claim. The idea that “brother of the Lord” is some sort of spiritual title can’t be sustained past mythicist conspiracizing, since in the same passage, Paul distinguishes James “the brother of the Lord” from Peter, implying Peter … isn’t a brother of the Lord. Which makes the title clearly familial.

            No serious scholarly doubt exists in reference to the Josephus and Tacitus reports, and the 60 year gap is not actually that important. As previously explained, no one seems to be so oddly critical of the accuracy of the comments of Josephus and Tacitus when they refer to events over 60 years before their time that isn’t about Jesus. Odd? And being a second-hand report is equally unimportant. The vast majority of ancient histories are second-hand. But here again, the skepticism of mythicists seems to be rather missing when discussing these second-hand ancient histories that aren’t about Jesus.

            Perhaps we can compare the evidence for Jesus to other, similar 1st century Jews. What about Akiva ben Yosef, Hillel, or other Jewish sages? Turns out there’s no comparison. These figures are all mentioned at earliest, decades later in second-hand, third-hand reports. But mythicists aren’t very skeptical of these. That’s odd. The evidence for Jesus vastly exceeds all of theirs combined, which settles the question of historicity.

          • @Scientific Christian: So if I distinguish the “Holy Father” from another Christian, that means he is my biological father? And plenty of scholars doubt the Josephus reference. And if they doesn’t doubt other items in Josephus it’s simply because they’re not topics being discussed. If they were, historians would look for corroborating accounts.

          • Umm, no. Scholars don’t “doubt” the Josephus reference. There are two times Josephus refers to Jesus. One of them is considered partially interpolated and partially authentic, the author is just considered authentic.

            “And if they doesn’t doubt other items in Josephus it’s simply because they’re not topics being discussed. If they were, historians would look for corroborating accounts.”

            No, sadly, they just don’t question it. And you can forget about those “corroborating accounts” – they don’t exist. Josephus is the primary and only source for almost everything about Herod the Great from as early as 50 BC (over a century before he wrote). And yet no historian or mythicist has ever suggested that it’s all unreliable fiction.

            “So if I distinguish the “Holy Father” from another Christian”

            I’ve never seen the word “Christian” used to contrast “Pope”. But I can smell these Carrerian apologetics from a mile away. Realizing an awkward hole in his theory, Carrier explains away this contrast by saying that we have a regular Christian, a “brother of the Lord” being contrasted with Peter, a much higher ranked Christian or “apostle”.

            The reason why this fails is obvious. The word “apostle” is actually the one that means “regular Christian” in Paul. And Peter is not higher ranked than James. As Galatians 2 shows, James and Peter are both what Paul calls “super apostles” (alongside John). Which means that this isn’t analogous to a “regular Christian vs Pope” type contrast at all. This is a contrast between a Christian/apostle and a familial brother. Carrier’s contrivances and loopholes are all shredded right here.


          • @Scientific Christian: Historians always doubt single uncorroborated sources; other parts of Josephus are just not the topic being discussed. As for what Paul meant, whether “apostle meant regular Christian”, etc, we really don’t know, so your certainty is misplaced.

          • @Scientific Christian: And if I distinguish “Brother Michael” (a monk) from another Christian who is not a monk, that means that Michael must be my biological brother?

        • timoneill007 says

          “Historians always doubt single uncorroborated sources”

          Nonsense. Given that when it comes to ancient history “single uncorroborated sources” are often all we have, no historian could simply reject them out of hand or the whole enterprise of ancient history would become impossible. Historians place more weight on things that are attested by multiple points of evidence, but given that the existence of Jesus IS that is hardly a problem here. Every source we have, Christian or otherwise, says Christianity was founded by a man called Jesus. There are zero sources that propose or even hint at any other point of origin. That’s why Jesus Mythicism is a tangle of suppositions and contrivances that almost no scholar on earth finds convincing.

          ” other parts of Josephus are just not the topic being discussed”

          The fact remains that if we applied your rule of rejecting “single uncorroborated sources” we’d have to throw out most of Josephus and about 80% of all ancient sources, which is patently absurd. Online Mythicists consistently rely on these made up evidential criteria which are used by no historians and are used just to artificially rule clear, unremarkable evidence for a historical Jesus out of court for ridiculous reasons.

          “As for what Paul meant, whether “apostle meant regular Christian”, etc, we really don’t know”

          “Apostle” didn’t mean “regular Christian” to Paul. Careful analysis of his use of the word “apostle” shows it meant “someone who went out and preached the message”, from the Greek ἀπόστολος (apóstolos, “one sent forth”). And the term “brother/s OF the Lord” can’t have the meaning Carrier tries to contrive for it, for the reasons I give in the article “Scientific Christian” linked to above. An article which you clearly didn’t bother to read. Try reading it – you’ll see why pretty much no-one who actually understands the material takes any of Carrier’s stuff seriously. Then you may need to ask yourself why only online fanboys think that unemployed blogger is worth paying any attention to.

      • “This is odd, given that the Romans liked to document pretty much everything and Jesus was allegedly such a thorn in their side.”

        This isn’t odd at all. The Romans didn’t document everything. In fact, surviving Roman records are only some sort of vast abundance in popular imagination. At best, a decent proportion of the major events and even fewer minor events are understood that took place in the center of the empire. Of course, when you start to look at far off provinces like Judea, documentation instantly becomes incredibly scarce. There was only a single historian in the entire first century in the Roman province of Judea, and that was Josephus. And Josephus mentioned Jesus.

        And Jesus wasn’t “allegedly such a thorn in their side” – even according to the Bible. That’s plain fantasy. Jesus was quickly arrested and executed in a single night in a rather hurried event.

        “You would imagine that there would be at least one non-Biblical reference to Jesus somewhere.”

        Josephus and Tacitus. But even if you don’t like those because they’re a few decades late, or like to dabble in mythicist conspiracies that neither author really mentioned Jesus and that this was all a Christian sham, this is still irrelevant because non-biblical references aren’t needed. What’s wrong with a biblical reference? The Bible isn’t one source, it’s a combination of the earliest sources that were produced by the earliest Christians. Many of them are independent of each other. Paul knew Jesus own family. You’d think if Jesus didn’t exist, his family would have known about it.

      • Doug F says

        So are you arguing that because there is not a lot of documentation around a peasant in the center of a tiny group of followers over 2000 years ago that this is proof that he did not exist? I mean any documentation given the backdrop seems impressive.

        I am not religious, but this sounds like an answer looking for an argument.

      • Fabio says

        The part you are wrong is when you say Romans documented everything. That’s hardly the case. There is no Roman record of an execution of anyone in Judea during Roman rule, even though it was something habitual.

  2. Fionn says

    I don’t doubt that the authorship question has been effectively settled in mainstream academia, but this article resorted to a bit too much guilt-by-association for my liking. Individuals who have questioned Shakespeare’s authorship also believe other things we find ridiculous or abhorrent, but the same can be said of literally any belief.

    • Fuzzy Headed Mang says

      Good point, Fionn, although if there’s a pattern of conspiracy beliefs, as in Alex Jones, it’s a different story.

    • y81 says

      I agree. Shakespeare denialism is a silly, historically indefensible theory, but the fact that a few of its adherents were racists is irrelevant. Heisenberg worked for the Nazis, but that doesn’t refute his physics. Harry Blackmun, Sandra O’Connor, and Antonin Scalia were also reportedly Shakespeare denialists, but that isn’t relevant to their jurisprudence, nor is their jurisprudence relevant to the merits of the Shakespearean authorship question.

      • Harland says

        It is most definitely not OK to quote Heisenberg. Or anyone else who praised the Nazis. You got a table with a Nazi and 10 people talking to her, you got a table with 11 Nazis.

      • Roger Stritmatter, PhD says

        Y81, you write: “I agree. Shakespeare denialism is a silly, historically indefensible theory.”

        Perhaps your belief explains why you are writing under a pseudonym and changing the subject after your put down. You are ignorant of this topic. Please read something before commenting again. You can find Justice Stevens University of Pennsylvania Law Review article on the topic here: https://shakespeareoxfordfellowship.org/tag/justice-john-paul-stevens/

        • Peter from Oz says

          There’s no evidence that Shakepeare went to school, owned a book or knew anthing. Bu there’s also no evidence that he didn’t do any of these things. The fact is that it really doesn’t matter whether SHakepeare wrote the plays or not. What matters is the work. It is apparent that if anyone else did write the works, then he meant them to be presented to the world as the works of ”Shakepeare”. If he wanted that to be the case, then why bother trying to disturb his wishes?

          • Jack B. Nimble says

            @Peter from Oz

            You make a good point. Seems clear to me that ‘authorship’ meant something very different in Shakespeare’s time than it does today. That could explain why Shakespeare’s printed work appeared mostly in pirated editions or else posthumously. The modern concept of copyright only appeared in England in 1710.

            Is it conspiracist to suggest that Shakespeare worked in an informal environment where actors, producers and playwrights shared ideas and even authorship among themselves, and that Shakespeare’s name appears on the folios in part because he had the most money or most business sense?

            See also: https://www.theguardian.com/culture/2016/oct/23/christopher-marlowe-credited-as-one-of-shakespeares-co-writers

          • … there’s also no evidence that he didn’t do any of these things.

            It can certainly be ruled out that William Shakspere of Stratford became fluent in Latin, Greek, French and Italian, jousted, practiced falconry, played tennis, attended law school, mastered botany, medicine, and astronomy, became intimate with court manners and intrigue, carried the Queen’s canopy, wrote the Sonnets when he was past 40 years of age, traveled to Paris, Wittenberg, Denmark, or acquired intimate knowledge of the geography and customs of Italy.

          • Jack B. Nimble says

            Hey @Matt–

            Do you think that those skills, languages and knowledge of the presumed playwright support the multi-author theory? Or just one supremely-talented playwright, who may not have been W. Shakespeare?

        • Headlight says

          “Shakespeare denialism is a silly, historically indefensible theory.”

          What part of this suggests ignorance?

          I agree with the point that it’s the quality of the argument that matters, rather than the other associations of the believers in the theory. But Professor Stritmatter is a strong believer in credentialism and researching the background of anyone who disagrees with him. He’s convinced that his PhD should obligate anyone without one to defer to his superior knowledge of the subject.

          Interestingly, Professor Stritmatter’s new book on the poems of Edward de Vere (his candidate for an alternative Shakespeare) has just come out through Amazon’s self-publishing arm. He tried to identify parallels between de Vere’s published poetry (and some attributed to others that the professor believes were actually written by de Vere) and the works of Shakespeare, particularly phrases that were otherwise rare. To determine rare phrases, he constructed search strings through the Early English Books Online (EEBO) database.

          Unfortunately, he seems to have screwed it up. He claims, for instance, that Oxford and Shakespeare “are the only two to use” the phrase “stricken deer” in the period 1473-1623. Yet Robert Greene wrote during that period: “The Deare being strooken, though neuer so déep, féedeth on the hearb Dictamnum [dittany of Crete], and forthwith is healed.”? Turns out that many writers used the phrase (with various alternative spellings or synonyms, like “hart” for “deer”). So here the claim that this was unique to Oxford and Shakespeare is just false — it’s actually ubiquitous, a commonplace. This lack of attention seems to have been a common problem with the method used by Professor Stritmatter.

          All this is an attempt to manufacture evidence to support the claim that Oxford wrote Shakespeare’s works. But Oxford’s writing cannot be reconciled with Shakespeare’s no matter how Professor Stritmatter tries. Oxford spoke — and wrote — with a pronounced Essex accent, that affected his orthography and the words he rhymed in poetry. Shakespeare’s works do not reflect that. It’s more likely that Emilia Bassano wrote Shakespeare’s works than Oxford — though both have zero chance of having been the true author.

    • Andrew Mcguiness says

      Agreed. Deal with the merits of the arguments, not with other ideas the authors have argued for.

    • FH says

      I disagree. This isn’t guilt by association, it’s pointing out a theme. Crank conspiracy theorists believe in crank conspiracy theories and it’s never just one. There’s a particular way of thinking that connects holocaust deniers, moonlanding hoaxers, flat earthers, 9/11 truthers, pizzagaters, antivaxxers, Shakespeare truthers and so on. The latter is one of the more harmless ones but it’s still always born of the conspiracy theorist’s own prejudice and bigotry (be it the original snobby “a man without formal education couldn’t have written this” or the now more fashionable “a white English man couldn’t have written all these great female and Jewish characters”) which they will justify with fallacious reasoning and flimsy or fabricated evidence. It’s worth pointing out the company you keep if you advance a theory like that, if only to make it easier to spot the commonalities. The same cannot be said of just any belief. While you will find some cranks among the adherents of any belief or ideology, it’s the way of thinking that lies at the foundation of all these theories that literally defines what a crank is.

      • meerkat says

        The main commonality is laziness. It takes at least a decade of continuous hard work to become an expert on anything. Is there a single conspiracy theory which you can’t fully comprehend with a long weekend’s worth of internet scouring? I haven’t seen it yet.

    • You’ll find that Stratfordians readily employ ad hominem rather than address legitimate challenges to their positions. They are not even above puerile mockery of the surname of J. Thomas Looney, the first author to identify the Earl of Oxford as the the true author.

  3. C Young says

    All conspiracy theories are the same. The Patriarchy is a giant conspiracy in contemporary feminism. It is blessed with a magical ability to cover its tracks. Thus, the very absence of evidence that Shakespeare was a woman can actually serve to confirm the thesis.
    This example is extreme in its brazeness, but this anti-logic is quite common.

  4. Jan de Jong says

    When the author saw fit to throw ‘climate change’ in I quit.

    • TarsTarkas says

      At least he didn’t throw in the usual snide remark about the current POTUS.

      But referring to the above portion of the thread, just because he believes that AGW is not only real but without total internationalization of all economic output we are doomed doomed doomed shouldn’t play a significant part whether or not his refutation of this cuckoo-for-cocoa puffs conspiracy theory regarding Shakespeare is valid or not.

    • Sean says

      Same here. There are numerous non-fringe academics who dispute the mainstream stuff on climate change. Some have worked for NASA, MIT, and even the IPCC.

  5. Fuzzy Headed Mang says

    Apparently, Beethoven was black, and the ancient Egyptians invented the airplane, 911 was a false flag operation, etc. Conspiracy theories are paradoxes. They divide people, yet also give a sense of security to true believers. The real truth is out there, they say, Trouble is, the hypothesis is always taken as gospel before there’s any concrete evidence, and even when there’s plenty of evidence against it. The contrary evidence is seen as part of the conspiracy. You can’t win discussing anything with a true believer.

    • Harland says

      Remember when they used to claim Columbus was black? Needless to say that’s been abandoned.

  6. Shorebilly says

    The hypothesis of the “Shakespeare Deniers” is flawed from the outset. One has only to look at transcendent geniuses in other fields to see how vanishingly rare is that level of talent. There have been many musical geniuses, but only one Mozart. There have been many writers of true genius, but only one Shakespeare. (And only one Cervantes, both of whom appeared at the same time; coincidence? I think not. Hmmm.) Why is it not just dismissed but not even considered that an individual could posses such transcendent linguistic facility? Peter Schaffer’s Amadeus has Salieri describe Mozart’s music as “the Voice of God.” Perhaps Mozart wasn’t the only one God touched.

    Another possibility is that Winkler’s article is an attempt to save Shakespeare from the Destroyers. As a Dead White European Male, he is on Academia’s chopping block. If he were a woman, he would, of course, be untouchable.

    Personally, I find the whole debate silly beyond measure. That the plays have become such an vital part of Western culture is a result of their uncanny knack of depicting the universal human condition. They continue to be read, studied, performed, and loved because they present us to us. I really don’t care who wrote them. But I am ever grateful that somebody did.

    • Mozart still had to be tutored by Haydn. Robert Burns was a literary genius, but what dialect did he write in, and on what subjects?

      Raw genius is necessary but not sufficient. It must be fed. The breadth and depth of knowledge in a wide range of fields displayed in the works of Shakespeare, not to mention the intimate familiarity with court dynamics, could simply not be obtained in that age by a commoner with at best six years of formal schooling.

      It matters very much who wrote the works of Shakespeare. Because once the true author is identified, the works become far more powerful and moving through the lens of his personal passions and struggles. The Shakspere of the Stratfordians — a petty, venal, conniving, heartless man — offers no such insight.

      • You miss the point entirely. As Shakespeare denialists always do. If you could make playwrights like Shakespeare out of education and breeding, there would be more than one.

        The Bard’s education and profile is that of a Bankside playwright. It matches the profile of all the other Bankside playwrights of his day. His knowledge of the courts (in all but his last history play, by which time he’d had personal experience) is inaccurate but a match for the way the court was portrayed his fellow Bankside playwrights. A courtier would have known better.

        Viewing his plays through the lens of an aristocrat who did not write them, one who only produced mediocre poetry about his personal troubles and disappointments, hs produced some of the most warped and worthless readings imaginable.

  7. Orion Buttigieg says

    “A lie will go round the world while truth is pulling its boots on.” C. H. Spurgeon
    And if it has some trendy emotional triggers all the more effective.

  8. E. Olson says

    “The purported Shakespeare authorship question, by contrast, is more like the issue of climate change: there are a tiny number of fringe figures in academia ranged against the overwhelming scholarly consensus, and it’s irresponsible for any journalist to depict it otherwise.”

    There actually are some major differences. For example, how many trillions will it cost mankind if the consensus is wrong about Shakespeare? In contrast, if the global warming “consensus” is wrong we will be regulating much of the global population to a life of poverty and darkness. Similarly, it appears that the Shakespeare “fringe” regularly gets to write mainstream media articles to promote and argue their viewpoint, but why doesn’t the same happen for climate change “skeptic fringe”? Perhaps because it isn’t so fringe (see links), or perhaps they have devastating evidence that the “consensus” is wrong or at least greatly exaggerating the dangers and/or hiding the true costs of mitigation.



    • Asenath Waite says

      @E Olson

      I think there is very strong consensus that it is occurring, but less so regarding what the consequences will be and what can or should be done about it.

      • Ray Andrews says

        @Asenath Waite

        Yes. I honestly feel that Olson and other Deniers would do better to stop resisting the fact of the consensus, or trying to convince us that they know better than PhD climatologists (who have all be swept up in a huge conspiracy), and just be up front about the fact that their real problem is not with science, but with the Alarmist agenda. The problems with the latter can be much more respectably argued.

        • Asenath Waite says

          @Ray Andrews

          Agreed. One can concede that global warming is occurring and still argue that the world is not going to end in twelve years.

    • Ray Andrews says

      @E. Olson

      Both of those links are from 2011, and many of the internal links seem to be broken. More up to date information would be welcome. Meanwhile, NASA does believe in AGW, and I trust NASA,they aren’t given to fads and they are a bastion of the capitalist/industrial paradigm. They build rockets which is hard to do if you don’t know how to keep your science straight.

      • E. Olson says

        Ray the articles date from 2011 because that was the period when there was a lot of back and forth about the supposed 97% consensus on global warming, the links are just a few examples demonstrating that there isn’t such uniform consensus on more than the basics such as CO2 is a greenhouse gas and burning fossil fuels generates it. On issues such as whether global warming or CO2 emissions are dangerous, certain, imminent, or preventable there is much, much, much less consensus.

        • Ray Andrews says

          @E. Olson

          As usual I’m not trying to ‘win’, here, and I’m always interested in the latest information, that’s all. As you say, the further we get from hard science and into agendas, the more troublesome the Warmists become. There is an extremist agenda and I don’t like it either. But prudent steps can and should be taken. AOC is a twit but the Chinese are not twits, and they lead the world in renewables (yes they are still burning coal like it’s going out of style, too). Why don’t they build nukes?

      • neoteny says

        They build rockets which is hard to do if you don’t know how to keep your science straight.

        Well, they managed to blow up Challenger real good — and NASA management put the screws on Thiokol’s management, which vetoed launch at first based on their engineers’ very strong recommendation to not launch in cold weather (because the engineers were aware of the O-ring burn-through and realized that cold will exacerbate the problem).

        A much less painful case was when some Mars probe (I think) dug a hole onto the surface because somebody was calculating some value in imperial, and the other programmer was using metric.

        NASA people are human, too. Usually pretty sharp in some engineering discipline, but prone to the usual mistakes.

    • Blue Lobster says


      Precisely. Whether or not Shakespeare authored the works attributed to him has no bearing on the health and well-being of anyone. On the other hand, how much will it cost if the AGW theory is correct but the problem is ignored? One is an issue of genuine consequence and the other is not.

      • TarsTarkas says

        Turn it around: What if the problem is addressed the way the Global Warmists want it to be but the hypothesis is incorrect? Answer: They’ll be in charge of the bulk of economic output and all the benefits derived thereof. And if you believe that they will then defy human nature from time immemorable and fairly distribute the fruits of our labor ‘to each according to their need’ you are sadly mistaken.

        I think the leaders of the AGW movement (not the followers) know that the effects of AGW is relatively minimal, that our slightly variable sun, the Milankovic cycles, black swan volcanic and undersea landslide events, have a much greater immediate and long-term effect on the climate. That’s why there’s been so much fudging of the data both on-line and off, why there was a conspiracy amongst scholars to suppress contrary climate study results (See Climategate). But it’s their vehicle to gain power and wealth, and they’re gonna ride it until it breaks down or the fuel runs out. Then they’ll find and steal another vehicle and go off on another tangent, without a bye-or-leave or an apology for the lives and livelihoods wrecked. They are the elite, and the elite must stay in charge, even if they must fix elections and votes or overturn them to do so.

      • E. Olson says

        BL – if AGW theory and most severe predictions are correct we are doomed, because we do not have the technology to replace carbon fuels and maintain decent quality of life. Even the doomsayers are unwilling to give up their jet travel to climate conferences, or their coastal real estate mansions, and if they aren’t chopping their carbon footprints and moving to higher ground why should the rest of us follow their advice?

        • Ray Andrews says

          @E. Olson

          “we do not have the technology to replace carbon fuels and maintain decent quality of life”

          But if that is true, then surely it points us in the direction of doing what is doable and maybe not getting so fanatical about the rest. Somewhere between doing nothing — and pretending that nothing needs to be done — and hysteria, there is a posture of admitting that something should be done but there is no need — nor the technology — to try to stop CO2 emissions entirely. Why not transition from coal to nuclear electricity, encourage electric cars, encourage renewables, but understand that locomotives are not going to run on lithium batteries any time soon? And that jets are going to burn kerosene probably forever.

          • E. Olson says

            Ray – if the doomsters really believed in their predictions we would be doing many of those things, but they fight against doable nuclear, they fight against doable hydro (actually want to tear down some current dams), they fight against doable but crazy expensive offshore wind (it blocks their views), they fight against doable but expensive grid expansion, they fight against fracking (which allows cleaner gas to replace dirty coal).

            And just how doable are those electric cars if there are no reliable and clean sources of electricity available to charge them? Fossil fuels that generate about two-thirds of global electricity, so electric cars mostly transfer emissions from a tailpipe to a smoke stack – and anyway it isn’t clear they actually are cleaner given the dirty batteries they use. And why do the doomsters insist on flying around the world (often on private jets) to tell us that we need to stop flying – haven’t they heard of Skype?

          • Ray Andrews says

            @E. Olson

            ” they fight against doable nuclear”

            Whoever ‘they’ might be, first we should get our facts in order, then determine the best course forward and then overcome whatever might stand in the way including ‘them’ and their hypocrisy. It seems to me that denying the problem merely cedes credibility, and thus control of the agenda, to ‘them’. It does not resist them, it empowers them. Bad strategy.

        • Name That Fallacy says

          Appeal to consequence. Saying “if this is true, we’re doomed, therefore it isn’t true” is not a rational argument.

    • Marc Domash says

      It is nonsensical to argue that measures meant to alleviate global warming will be “regulating much of the global population to a life of poverty and darkness.” The primary measure in pretty much all plans (aside from geoengineering, which is problematic) is reduction of carbon, most of it produced by the burning of fossil fuels. Given all of the other externalities of this burning (i.e., pollution), and the well known health effects of this burning, it is clear that on a per annum basis trillions in deleterious health outcomes are already extant (see https://www.latimes.com/science/sciencenow/la-sci-sn-air-pollution-alzheimers-20170131-story.html, for example). Reducing/removing the burning of fossil fuels would tremendously reduce these adverse health effects.

      Air pollution costs the global economy more than $5 trillion annually in welfare costs, with the most devastating damage occurring in the developing world, according to a new World Bank report.


      • E. Olson says

        Marc – what is nonsensical is to believe that there is any current clean technology that can effectively and economically replace fossil fuels, otherwise we would already be using it. The closest we can come is nuclear power, but most of the AGW doomsters are against it.

        Air pollution is certainly a problem in many parts of the world, but would people in those places live longer if fossil fuels disappeared? The world was fossil fuel free 250 years ago, and the average lifespan was about 30, how much is it worth to you to live another 40-50 years? How much is it worth to be able to travel around the world in a few hours, or have climate controlled homes, offices, and vehicles? How much is it worth to have seasonal foods year around? You wouldn’t have any of these things without fossil fuels, and that $5 trillion is cost trivial compared to the value that fossil fuels provide to quality of life. The following link provides an overview of an excellent book that looks at the moral case for fossil fuels.


        • Mark Domash says

          I suppose straw man arguments must be answered so I will. The claim I was answering was “if the global warming “consensus” is wrong we will be regulating much of the global population to a life of poverty and darkness.” I assert this is incorrect. You seem to be arguing that the complete elimination of fossil fuels is necessary to avert catastrophe global warming. I believe that is false. Electricity generated by solar/wind is now typically cheaper than most fossil fuel generation.
          The main impediments to using more non-carbon (and non-polluting) sources is that the infrastructure is not set up for it–here the use of incentives could speed things along considerably (incentives for balancing of the electric grid to be able to handle more variable sources, charging stations for electric vehicles, etc). Elimination of all fossil fuels is almost certainly impossible in the foreseeable future but reducing their use by 50-80% inside of 20-30 years is certainly possible (I agree nuclear power should be used as an intermediate stopgap). Obviously, a great deal more money should be devoted to fundamental research (on carbon capture in particular).

          My guess is you are reacting the incoherence and stridency of the “AGW doomsters”. They may be wrong, just as the nuclear winter prognosticators may be wrong. Why should we find out given that the results would be irreversible.

          • Stephanie says

            Since Earth has been warming since long before humans were potentially a player, the question is not whether humans are “causing” global warming. No scientist believes humans are the sole cause of current warming. The human contribution has been estimated at between 30-80%. Not much of a consensus, eh?

            The fact models consistently run hot, and the huge disagreement about the nature and magnitude of important feedbacks, means we should not be confident in any projections.

            If we want to weigh the risks of letting our economy develop natural with the costs associated with global warming, we should not assume that cutting out all carbon will mean we stay in today’s climate forever. Climate always changes. Our real choice is between the “normal” climate of downward spiralling temperatures, or the warmer climate we might be inducing.

            If we have succeeded in disturbing the planet’s equilibrium, perhaps we can prevent the glacial period that was certain to come otherwise. If you look at ice cover during recent glacial maximas, and the apparently catastrophic “great flood” that comes from deglaciation, I suspect the cost-risk analysis would suggest our best bet is to continue burning fossil fuels as quickly as we can.

          • E. Olson says

            Sorry Mark – but you are badly misinformed. The doomsters suggest we need to reduce human sources greenhouse gases by 80%, which would require the virtual elimination of carbon fuel use. This is not going to happen because the world would literally stop. The doomsters are also generally against nuclear power and grid expansion, which means they offer no solutions to replacing most of the fossil fuels.

            Research on batteries, and efficiency, and grid balancing, and Thorium nuclear, etc. should definitely be done, but we are decades if not centuries away from being able to cheaply and reliably reduce fossil fuel use. The problem is the doomsters know nothing about economics, and they know nothing about energy physics, and they their predictions of climate doom over the past 30+ years have not come true (thankfully), so they have zero credibility for asking the world to turn itself upside down.

      • Ray Andrews says


        ” Not much of a consensus, eh?”

        On the contrary, it is results like that that reassure me that I am listening to real scientists. If they were cooking up a conspiracy they’d be very likely to make themselves look entirely more sure.

        “Our real choice is between the “normal” climate of downward spiralling temperatures, or the warmer climate we might be inducing.”

        Yes. Even were the climate to be holding steady, that would be proof of AGW, since we should now be expecting a cooling phase. The sweet irony of this is that, were the Deniers to get real, they could make a very strong and quite believable case that we must keep some level of emissions to prevent the next ice age. IOW, reduction of CO2 emissions to zero would not be a good idea even if some reduction would very much be a good idea to keep Antarctica from melting, which it is most certainly doing.

        The Denialist project works by saying that because models are not perfect, we know nothing. This is comparable to saying that because forest-fire models are in their infancy, we know nothing about forest-fires and all those efforts at Paradise CA were alarmist and nothing bad really happened there. Why spend all that money trying to put out fires that we can’t even predict?

        • Stephanie says

          Ray, I don’t think conspiracy is the right word, but even in fields without direct political implications, it is very difficult to contradict the dominant paradigm: your manuscript will get railroaded in review and your funding applications will fall through. Science advances one funeral at a time. For this and other reasons I think the chance we are having a negligible impact has not been thoroughly explored. Geoscience is awful when it comes to uncertainties, they are seldom reported and never properly propagated, and climate change modelling is no exception. I suspect a dedicated statistician could tear these models apart.

          I don’t know who these “Deniers” are, but it seems to be a pretty common argument among the people who don’t buy into climate change that cold would be much worse than hot. I do agree that we need to emphasize that point much more: especially in Canada, which will literally be destroyed by glaciers if we don’t change the climate. Politicians putting the interests of a few French Polynesian islands over the interests of every single Canadian should be tantamount to treason.

          Why shouldn’t we melt Antarctica? And Greenland. And thaw Northern Canada and Siberia. These are huge landmasses rich in resources, ripe for colonization.

      • Ray Andrews says

        @E. Olson

        “The doomsters suggest we need to reduce human sources greenhouse gases by 80%”

        So let’s ignore the doomsters and come up with realistic proposals.

        ” but we are decades if not centuries away from being able to cheaply and reliably reduce fossil fuel use”

        Sorry but we have been reducing usage per capita for quite some time now already in the West. I’ll not bother digging up a graph but I’ve seen a few.

        • E. Olson says

          Ray – if we “must” reduce by 80% to avoid disaster, how will reducing by a more “reasonable” 30% help? So we drown or choke a few months sooner if the doomsters are correct? According the UN’s own models, complete global compliance with the Paris climate accord (which ain’t going to happen) would delay hitting the 2 degree calamity increase by only a few months, but cost many trillions per year.

          Not fair to switch to per capita energy use, because the doomsters only care about the aggregate which is predicted to increase for decades as the developing world develops.

      • Mark Domash says

        In reference to Olsen above (I don’t appear to have the option of replying directly below his last comment):


        Money quote:

        To keep global temperature rise to 1.5-2°C, investments in low carbon energy and energy efficiency will likely need to overtake investments in fossil fuels as early as 2025 and then grow far higher. The low carbon and energy efficiency “investment gaps” calculated by the researchers are striking. To meet countries’ NDCs, an additional US$130 billion of investment will be needed by 2030, while to achieve the 2°C target the gap is US$320 billion and for 1.5°C it is US$480 billion. These investment figures represent more than a quarter of total energy investments foreseen in the baseline scenario, and up to half in some economies such as China and India.

        This is a far cry from the “trillions” referenced by Olsen earlier. The larger point is that Olsen fails to consider empirical evidence and instead prefers his own opinion, which is seemingly independent of any research. I freely admit the above analysis may be incorrect but it is well reasoned and uses standard techniques to make its projections. What research does Olsen cite? None, merely pejoratives about “doomsters”. I hope the worst case scenarios are wrong but I’m not willing to roll those dice when the costs of alleviation are insignificant compared to world-wide economic activity (about 85 trillion a year).

        • Peter from Oz says

          ”To keep global temperature rise to 1.5-2°C, investments in low carbon energy and energy efficiency will likely need to overtake investments in fossil fuels as early as 2025 and then grow far higher.”
          All guesswork and lies. No scientist is qualified to make that conclusion.
          I really wish the alarmists would stop lying.
          They have completely effed up the Australian energy market and made power so expensive that busineses are closing down. None of the predictions of these so-called scientists have proved to be true yet, not one.
          Other, more relaiable scientists are saying that AGW is crap. But they don’t get billions from governments, because governments love the idea of AGW, as it giives them carte blanche to interefer in everything whilst having lots of lovely cnferences. jetting around the world being self-righteous gits.

          • Marc Domash says

            It would be nice to get some evidence for these claims, as it appears your definition of reliable is whoever agrees with you. The fact of the matter is that overwhelmingly, those who have studied global climate agree that AGW is real. This consensus does not make them correct but it is more likely than not that they are correct. The consequences of AGW existing and not taking actions to ameliorate it are immense; the consequences of actions taken to ameliorate AGW if AGW does not exist are actually at worst a wash, and likely a net benefit (don’t forget that the estimate for the cost of air pollution in health and environmental terms is around five trillion a year).

          • Marc Domash says

            Happy that someone is actually referencing arguments rather than raving about doomsters and other pejoratives. The article your reference is by Bjorn Lomborg,
            who, to quote Business Insider, is “”The 10 Most-Respected Global Warming Skeptics. But note that (from Wikipedia): “His issue is not with the reality of climate change, but rather with the economic and political approaches being taken (or not taken) to meet the challenges of that climate change.”

            In other words, he does believe in GW, though maybe not AGW. His training is in political science, not climatology. From Wikipedia again:

            Several of Bjørn Lomborg’s articles in newspapers such as The Wall Street Journal and The Telegraph have been checked by Climate Feedback, a worldwide network of scientists who collectively assess the credibility of influential climate change media coverage. The Climate Feedback reviewers assessed that the scientific credibility ranged between “low” and “very low”. The Climate Feedback reviewers come to the conclusion that in one case Lomborg “practices cherry-picking”,[32] in a second case he “had reached his conclusions through cherry-picking from a small subset of the evidence, misrepresenting the results of existing studies, and relying on flawed reasoning”,[33] in a third case “[his] article [is in] blatant disagreement with available scientific evidence, while the author does not offer adequate evidence to support his statements”,[34] and, in a fourth case, “The author, Bjorn Lomborg, cherry-picks this specific piece of research and uses it in support of a broad argument against the value of climate policy. He also misrepresents the Paris Agreement to downplay its potential to curb future climate change.

            So I guess my opinion is that while I’m glad to (finally) see some real evidence offered (in the form of a link), Dr. Lomborg is not a particularly credible source.
            I will reiterate–we are rolling the dice with AGW, and since the reduction of pollution alone should more than pay for amelioration efforts, why not? It is in some sense a free good (Krugman’s comment on a social welfare system–countries that have them have a much higher quality of life for their less well-off citizens and this quality and corresponding economic benefits end up not costing the country anything).

          • E. Olson says

            Marc – so I provide a link to Lomborg who is actually a warmist, but you don’t like him because some doomster group doesn’t like his analysis? If you read the link (or watch the video) Lomborg isn’t using his own figures, but the figures of the UN and other credible sources to make his claims about the ineffectiveness and high costs of the Paris agreement. And as Stephanie and scribblerg so ably point out, there are lots of uncertainties ethically questionable things going on with climate science and doomster politicians, including not mentioning the potential benefits of global warming.

    • scribblerg says

      Did my work for me, thanks E. Olson. The real problem is that most supporters of catastrophic anthropogenic global warming have literally no handle on even the basic science, forget that state of publications and actual science on the topic. Example: Both the AR5 IPCC and Gavin Schmidt (most well known global warming hysteric) have stated publicly that there is little connection between the warming we are seeing and “extreme weather events”. Do any of you “climate change” hysterics out there even know that? Have any of you bothered to read an actual IPCC report? Fyi, they’ve now redefined catastrophe as 1.5 degrees of warming whereas in the past it was 3 degrees, lol.

      Anyone here who thinks they “know” human caused global warming is problem we need to worry about, I challenge you to watch this 2018 video by Richard Lindzen, a world renowned climate scientist and expert from MIT. He’s a “denier”, lol. More published than most on climate and tenured at MIT, but he’s just a hack to the warmists. He does folks a huge favor in this video because he takes the time to educate you on the climate system first, to put all of this in perspective. Fyi, be warned – this will take you an hour. The topic is complex and doesn’t yield to soundbites and slogans.
      Here’s the vid. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=X2q9BT2LIUA&list=PLkH8RtjhzuuZy3JrrZ4UTznfNnjTkfMBH&index=5&t=0s

      Watch and then tell us why you “believe” in global warming? Fyi, the 97% consensus has debunked by other studies and many critical analyses already – you believe that, you are the “denier” of reality and truth. Not those of us who find the AGW hysterics claims laughable.

      And for a bonus round, here’s a nice precis on how desperate peddlers of the catastrophic AGW hypothesis have fraudulently changed the temp records themselves as their models don’t work. So they just change the temp data – I’m not kidding. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yqZGgaZaXig&list=PLkH8RtjhzuuZy3JrrZ4UTznfNnjTkfMBH&index=2&t=3s

      This what happens when you let ideology drive you versus reason. There is zero risk to humanity from our C02 emissions. Period. Dot. End of sentence.

      • Stephanie says

        Marc complains about the “doomster” perjorative, but constructs his whole comment on personally attacking a source rather than engaging in what was said.

        Of course, he also conveniently ignored my earlier point that comparing the cost of AGW compared to keeping current climate is fallacious, that you must compare it to the way the climate would change without humans disturbing the equilibrium. No wonder, because I’ve yet to meet someone willing to admit that they want the top three kilometres of Canada and Europe scraped to dust.

        Has anyone calculated how many hundreds of trillions of dollars it would cost to rebuild all of Europe and a good chunk of North America? Anyone put forward a plan for relocating those populations? Any quantification on the effect on the global economy?

        As for the alternative, GW will slowly flood a few coastal cities that are horribly out of date anyway, create an inland sea in Australia that increases habitable space, open up new habitable areas in northern Canada, and flood much of China. These are all fantastic things. We’ll miss Venice, but it will be a blessing to be rid of LA, and NYC will be have to go either way.

        It’s clear which option is more expensive, not just now, but down the line. Burn, baby, burn!

  9. Flat Eric says

    Seems like each generation reinvents Shakespeare denialism to suit its cultural pre-occupations. Some Victorians wanted Shakespeare to be a proper gentleman, today some would like to think him (or her) a woman. Fashion, not scholarship.

  10. Joe Cogan says

    Well done (up until the ending, which flirts a little too closely with argumentum ad hominem for comfort). The notion that there is a controversy in the scholarly community over the authorship of Shakespeare’s works is as wrong as the notion that there is a controversy in the scientific community over the reality of biological evolution. Kudos to Mr. Kamm for pointing this out, too often the mainstream press gives equal time to both positions, as if they both had equal merit.

  11. Aristodemus says

    Don’t know nearly enough about Shakespeare to have an informed opinion about the authorship question, or whether there really is one. At any rate, it’s an academic question to me. I have no emotional stake in the answer, whatever it is. It does seem reasonablly certain that Shakespeare had collaborators and editors, however, and he certainly had sources: histories from which he lifted passages verbatim, or nearly; a common and accepted practice of his time. It’s certainly interesting to speculate whom among his contemporaries influenced him, and to what extent. I read Winkler’s article and found it at least well written. Perhaps she should have framed her thesis as a fictional narrative.

    • jimhaz says

      My emotional stake is the issue of whether this was written and then published, purely for affirmative action purposes, and that the author thought she’d get away with it for those very same reasons.

  12. David Clancy says

    I believe that the actual William Shakespeare wrote the plays attributed to him (sometimes collaborating, sometimes borrowing, like his peers). And the author of this piece is clearly very knowledgeable, and a very talented writer. But I wish this article had focused more on evidence from and shortly after Shakespeare’s lifetime. Instead it dwells on things that seem obliquely relevant to me, like the nature of conspiracy theory in general, and the biographies and personalities of people who doubt that Shakespeare authored the plays. To me, a polished and cogent summation of evidence — such as that presented by people like Bates and Shapiro and Greenblatt (and Bryson in his short book) — would have been far more persuasive than the presentation here. Surely there is no worthwhile debate because of what we know about Shakespeare and his times, not because of what we know about the number and identities of advocates on each side. An evidence-based article could also have addressed some of the Atlantic author’s recent tweets as well, some of which make factual claims that appear (based on limited, lay research) doubtful. A precis of the evidence, plus a factual rebuttal of such tweeted assertions, would have been a great service to the current discussion, and to the battle against Shakespearacy Theory more generally. Perhaps a companion article by Mr. Kamm? I’d love it (and I thought that’s what was imminent, when I saw Mr. Kamm’s reference yesterday to a forthcoming article).

  13. Major1 says

    Better check with Ta Nehisi Coates. Nothing happens at the Atlantic unless he says so.

  14. Ray Andrews says

    This article disappoints me, it is shrill and personal. It seems to me that there are very real problems with the authorship question and however one comes down, these things should be discussed politely, honestly and without denunciations. I myself come down on the side of the semi-literate wool-merchant who owned no books, but I do wish the case were more clear. I’m not even going to look for Nazi sympathies on the part of those who disagree with me. I myself am drawn to the theory that S spent some time as a sailor, which would explain his constant reference to and understanding of all things maritime. “Who’s worth’s unknown, although his height be taken.” — that’s something only a sailor would write. And why so many shipwrecks? How the intimate knowledge of Italian custom? Maybe he got shipwrecked in Italy? I’d welcome a polite discussion between experts who hold opposing views on this.

    • David Clancy says

      Great and interesting comment. On the Italy issue, Bill Bryson wrote a short biography of Shakespeare in which he points to one or two significant mistakes about Italy in the plays (for example, placement of a landlocked city on the coast, or vice versa). His point being that assertions of some sort of intimacy with Italy are overblown, and need more measured assessment (what did he get right; what did he get wrong; as to the former, what sources might he have drawn on other than firsthand experience . . . )

      • Ray Andrews says

        @David Clancy

        Sure, the thing should be discussed on it’s merits, this shouldn’t be a war of religion. As you say, let’s have a scholarly discussion of what S knew and when he knew it and what he got plain wrong. For me the dozens of maritime references seem compelling tho — S seemed to reach for a maritime analogy so often and so deeply that it seems to be a gut level thing. There are agreed to be the ‘lost years’, so why not a cruise to Italy on a wandering barque? BTW, to belabor the obvious, this is in service of brushing up S so that there’s less need to find someone else writing his plays. Me, I’m quite agnostic on the whole thing.

      • Richard Paul Roe’s The Shakespeare Guide to Italy presents, play-by-play, copious evidence for the playwright’s intimate knowledge of the layout and history of Italian cities and countryside — down to the location & description of individual streets and buildings — that simply could not be acquired except through spending extended time there.

        As for the supposed mistake of placing a landlocked city on the coast, this was in fact a lampoon of two characters’ ignorance.

    • Harland says

      “I’m not even going to look for Nazi sympathies on the part of those who disagree with me.”

      Oh boy, have you been in a coma since 2016?

    • Roger Stritmatter, PhD says

      Hello Ray,

      Since I’ve been personally attacked by Oliver Kamm in what you accurately describe as a “disappointing” because of its “shrill and personal character,” I hope to have the opportunity of a civil response that will put his arguments in their place.

      The characteristics you describe are indicative of the weak foundations of Kamm’s disengenuously selective argument and its concealed dependence on notions of “academic consensus” and other forms involving authority or tradition.

      Those interested in having an open discussion about Shakespeare, which does seem to include a number of commentators here, will therefore do well to weigh Kamm’s claims with a serious dose of the proverbial “grain of salt.”

      Meanwhile am going to request the opportunity to respond show that his many derelictions of reasoning and consistent avoidance of inconvenient truths.

      Sincerely Yours

      Dr. Roger Stritmatter
      MA, PhD
      Professor of Humanities
      Coppin State University

      • Mark Johnson says

        “Meanwhile am going to request the opportunity to respond show that his many derelictions of reasoning and consistent avoidance of inconvenient truths.”

        This — from a Professor of Humanities.

  15. Robert Fisher says

    Perhaps next, we will have someone advancing the notion that it is highly unlikely four yokels from a place like Liverpool could have possibly produced such profound music. The Beatles were mere fronts for the true creator who was either an Oxford educated member of the aristocracy or, given present sensibilities, a transgender person of color. The sad thing is that there would be people who would buy into such a theory.

    • Ray Andrews says

      @Robert Fisher

      The good news is that the female Shakespeare, having written lines like: “My mistress’ eyes are nothing like the sun” was clearly a lesbian.

      In the old age black was not counted fair,
      Or if it were, it bore not beauty’s name;
      But now is black beauty’s successive heir,

      … and obviously either Black or at the very least a multiculturalist and a supporter of open borders. A SJW to be sure. And there’s all that cross-dressing … was S trans?

  16. Hmmm says

    Dear Ms. Winkler,
    We have read the essay you submitted.
    In it, you ask, “Was I getting carried away, reinventing Shakespeare in the image of our age? Or was I seeing past gendered assumptions to the woman who—like Shakespeare’s heroines—had fashioned herself a clever disguise?”
    As the answers to these questions are yes and no, respectively, will not be publishing your piece.
    Please find the manuscript enclosed.

  17. Paul Reidinger says

    Mr Kamm is aware, surely, that several of Britain’s most illustrious Shakespearean actors — including Derek Jacobi, Mark Rylance and the late John Gielgud — believe(d) that the plays were written by Edward Devere, the earl of Oxford. Since actors live and breathe the material rather than just study it in a library — since they treat it as material to be performed, not read — I am inclined to prefer their understanding to that of a pack of university professors and academics, no matter how sturdy their “consensus.” “Consensus” is a dangerous term. It is dangerous to suggest that there is no longer a debate on this or that question. It suggests that there is no more thinking to be done. It suggests orthodoxy, religion, totalitarianism. I don’t want to live in a world like that. Mr Kamm, I notice, seems to be a man of the left, and the left no longer seems to be too interested in thinking.

    Mr Kamm would do well to look into the tale of scientific consensus on dietary fat. For decades it was an unquestioned verity that dietary fat, especially animal fat, would raise your cholesterol level, and the excess cholesterol would accumulate in your blood vessels until you keeled over of heart attack or stroke. This scientific consensus has recently been revealed to be wrong and false (read “The Cholesterol Delusion” by Ernest Curtis MD) and has been carefully tip-toed away from, though without any admission of gross error. Our elites are infallible, at least in their own estimation. But “consensus,” as it becomes an assumption, pretty naturally leads to gross error. “Climate change” — a mealy-mouthed term if ever there was one — is another pertinent example. The data do not support the thesis, in fact rather the opposite, as the Climategate emails make clear. It will be darkly funny if, in the next few decades, we find ourselves in a colder world, with shorter growing seasons, more and worse storms but less precipitation, more crop failures and so on. The world is overpopulated as never before, and we are in a precarious position. We cannot afford to lose food production.

    As to Mr Kamm’s broad point, I do agree. The modern method as practiced by Elizabeth Winkler is to begin with one’s preferred conclusion and write backwards from it. This is irrational, of course, and it is also darkness itself. It is the end of the Enlightenment project.

    • I’m with you. Always trust the actors. Primarily on political judgements but if there is some serious literary scholarship under discussion too, defo go with the thesps.

    • EK says

      Have you seen the 2011 film “Anonymous”? It’s a dramatization of the Oxfordian Theory you and Kamm refer to.

      • Roger Stritmatter, PhD says

        EK — As a general rule, the most fanatically antagonistic to the Oxfordian case are among those who are also most ignorant of it. As Isabella says in Measure for Measure:

        … man, proud man,
        Drest in a little brief authority,
        Most ignorant of what he’s most assured.

        Anonymous is a flawed work, but at least it makes a sincere attempt at find the truth, which is much more than can be said of Kamm and his internet cronies.

    • Headlight says

      Certainly, Jacobi, Rylance and Gielgud are or were brilliant interpreters of Shakespeare. But actors like Kenneth Branaugh and Simon Callow, and directors like Gregory Doran of the RSC are committed to the consensus view. One can’t claim that Shakespearean actors in general hold a different opinion than the scholarly consensus.

      And it’s worth noting that attribution of written works is a scholarly discipline that requires analytical techniques that actors would have no need to use. For instance, minute comparison of the spelling variations from different quartos and the first folio provide clues to the way Shakespeare spelled in his original manuscripts; and since English spelling was not standardized, but instead was phonetic, the spelling variations and rhyming words provide clues to how Shakespeare himself spoke.

      The most important two actors’ opinions on authorship were those of John Heminges and Henry Condell. They were shareholding members of the King’s Men, the acting company that William Shakespeare of Stratford was also a founding shareholder in. Shakespeare of Stratford included bequests in his will to both men, who he called his “fellows,” to buy mourning rings to remember him by.

      Seven years later, the two men published a book called Mr. William Shakespeare’s Comedies, Histories, & Tragedies. It included a portrait of Shakespeare, and a dedicatory letter from Heminges and Condell that names their “fellow,” Shakespeare, as the author. The large, folio sized volume is commonly known as the First Folio; it includes eighteen Shakespeare plays that had never been in print before, and dedicatory poems that make reference to Shakespeare’s Stratford monument and the river Avon.

      • Roger Stritmatter, PhD says

        So, Headlight, your argument is that because some actors still cling to the “consensus view” that makes those who have actually considered and studied the Oxfordian case wrong?

        Well, let’s consider the merits of your argument. First, in making this claim you utterly abuse the concept of “consensus,” which means that everyone with an informed opinion agrees. Everyone does not agree, that is obvious.

        On your side, the argument is made that those who do not agree, who fail to fall into line with your essentially totalitarian ideal of forced consensus, are ignorant, insane, or stupid, or unqualified. For those who want to have some idea of who you are calling these things, a good place to begin is this list of famous doubters on the Doubt About Will website:


        You will reply that Mark Twain, Henry James, Freud, and the rest are not “experts.”

        Exactly. That’s the point here.

        This is test case in the limitations of the value of being an “expert,” and therefore a chapter from intellectual history.

        You argue that “it’s worth noting that attribution of written works is a scholarly discipline that requires analytical techniques that actors would have no need to use.” Those who like this sort of thing will like this sort of thing.

        But the wide-ranging discussion that has taken place at Quillete.com, based on Oliver Kamm’s vituperative missive, suggests that many readers of this website are skeptical of that kind of argument, even some of those who have been drinking the Stratfordian kool-aid for way too long.

        There is no consensus here. In fact, your initial argument devours itself. Why should anyone care what Branaugh or Callow think when they are just “actors” who, according to you, don’t know how to do analysis?

        There is no consensus here. That is obvious. So stop trying manufacture something that doesn’t exist and force it on everyone. You must make your case, if you can, on the merits. These tiresome endorsements of muddle-headed authorities in Ivy League towers are becoming musty.

        What will you say when Branaugh openly joins Tyrone Guthrie, John Gielgud, Michael York, R. Fiennes, Jeremy Irons, Keanu Reeves, James Newcomb,Tom Hanks, Kristin Linklater, Mark Rylance (to name only the most obvious), and all the other Oxfordian/post-Stratfordian actors who have studied the question enough to understand the merits?

        As for that twaddle about Heminges and Condell, you are certainly not keeping up with current research, Headlight, which might explain the expedience of your pseudonym.

        It was in 1821 that George Steevens, long regarded as the most erudite of 19th century Shakespearean editors and researchers, observed of these ingenious epistles are subscribed with the names of two men ‘wholly unused to composition’, and that though they may have produced ‘first drafts… every word of the first half of [the second] address to the reader, which is signed with the names of John Hemings and Henry Condell, was written by Ben Jonson’ (674).

        Cambridge editors Clark & Glover (1863) confirmed that ‘the Preface may have been written by some literary man in the employment of the publishers, and merely signed by the two players’ (24); Briggs (1914) added to the number of Jonsonian parallels in both letters, while Schelling (1920) opined that Jonson, ‘the greatest contemporary man of letters… the King’s poet, the Laureate, the literary dictator of his age’, composed both letters, concluding ‘of this matter there can be no question’ (quoted in Greenwood [1921], 16).

        While there may still be a question, there is no use you going around the internet misinforming your readers about the existence of the question of how or by what manner the MS copy was delivered to the Jaggard print shop. It is relevant, moreover, that the two brothers two whom the folio is dedicated, the Earls of Montgomery and Pembroke, both had close relations with two daughters of the 17th Earl of Oxford, Montgomery eventually marrying the youngest daughter, Susan Vere. This explains the desperate need to shore up the “just so” story of Hemings and Condell.

        Try brushing up on your literature searches and you may provide more constructive contributions to the debate.

    • Roger Stritmatter, PhD says

      Mr. Kamm specializes in reinforcing the worst illusions of the academic majority in many fields of study. In this article, rather than deal with the merits, as many of the more open-minded discussants here have noted, he resorts to personal attack of one kind or another. This is deeply regrettable and does a disservice to the publisher.

  18. Geofiz says

    Gee, It seems that only yesterday Shakespeare was being banned because he was an evil sexist bastard who wrote plays like “Taming of the Shrew”. Now it turns out that evil sexist bastard was a woman.

    As as Ray, points out, probably a member of the LBGTQABCDEFG community.

    Who knew? (ROTFLMAO)

    • E. Olson says

      Geofiz – best comment of the day. Indeed it be worthy of the great bard herself.

      • Geofiz says

        “Indeed it may be worthy of the great bard herself.”

        Doubtful, but thank you for the compliment. It is easy to get pissed off at all of the PC crap. I know I do. But sometimes it gets so ridiculous that you just have to laugh.

        And the good news is that the PC crowd really really really hates to be laughed at. Their ignorance is only matched by their arrogance (Grin).

  19. Hmmm says

    @Robert Fisher: Not all four, just Paul. The real Paul blew his mind out in a car — didn’t notice that the lights had changed. It’s all there in the songs (sometimes you have to play them backwards) and album covers.

  20. Hmmm says

    @Paul Reidinger — I’m not really able to square your defense of the Enlightenment with this statement: “Since actors live and breathe the material rather than just study it in a library — since they treat it as material to be performed, not read — I am inclined to prefer their understanding to that of a pack of university professors and academics, no matter how sturdy their ‘consensus.’” So some actors buy into fashionable contrarian theories about Shakespeare — that outweighs all the scholarship? If Derek Jacobi and John Gielgud feel it was really the earl of Oxford, that’s good enough for me? I have no problem with questioning the academic “consensus,” on Shakespeare or the climate or other topics — but to do so on this basis seems rather un-Enlightened.

    • Paul Reidinger says

      I think the actors have greater authority than the professors in this matter, yes. So call me unenlightened. Shakespeare, as I understand it, could scarcely sign his own name. His parents were illiterate and his children were illiterate. Yet he is the mightiest literary mind ever to walk the earth? Hmmm.

      Who could doubt, incidentally, that the standards of academic scholarship, as of journalism, have plunged since the 1960s? Is it a coincidence that (at least in the USA) the people with the grandest educations are also by far the most partisan and the most intolerant of differing views? Study after study describes this phenomenon. I would have thought that the people expensively educated at the so-called elite institutions would be the people most aware of and responsive to subtlety and multiplicity, to the realities of competing interests and virtues, to what used quaintly to be known as “the marketplace of ideas.” But no. The opposite seems to have happened, and the culprits lurk in the contempory university.

      • Roger Stritmatter, PhD says

        Paul, your skepticism will endure long after a lot of the uninformed ballyhooing on this page is ground to dust.

      • Cassandra says

        Shakespeare’s London was a very small world, compared to a city today. Literate and literary society was even smaller, the theatrical world tiny. Many of the major players ( in both senses) were related to each other. Collaboration was commonplace, again within the same small circle.

        Within this circle, what is the real, likely,possibility that one of the most famous and prosperous playwrights was a suborned illiterate who was just providing scripts written by some mysterious other literary luminary?

        Oh please.

    • JP says

      Not only that, but measure these few actors against the thousands of equally well-respected actors who find the exact opposite.

  21. codadmin says

    This just in from The Sun:


    • Asenath Waite says


      If so, are they close to finding the other time capsules with the last two books? It’s taking them forever.

  22. Hmmm says

    @Paul Reidinger — Appreciate the response. When you bring up the family’s literacy, you are at least arguing on “rational” grounds: assessing evidence, weighing likelihoods, considering the context, and so on. (I believe the Shakespeare-was-Shakespeare folks have effective responses to those claims, but that’s another topic.) Claiming that (some) actors have some kind of special connection to the truth of whether Will or the earl wrote the plays — well, there’s not much one can do with that one way or the other. Likewise sweeping claims about poor scholarship.

  23. Morgan Foster says


    “Heminge, Condell and Jonson all knew Shakespeare personally”

    Were Heminge, Conell and Jonson women themselves?

  24. Sean Leith says

    I am a sexist, I know, but whenever I see woman scholar, I add a question mark in my head. Don’t blame me for that, because I have seen so many women in academia turn out to be a fraud.

    • E. Olson says

      Sean – Actually the biggest frauds in academia are men, at least among those who are purposely y fabricating data and making up stories for fame and fortune.

      On the other hand, I suspect most female “frauds”, such as the current Shakespeare story spinner, actually believe they are telling a “greater” truth (aka feminist truth), and hence don’t believe or understand they are actually frauds.

  25. Paul Reidinger says

    @Hmmm — bad scholarship is endemic. Not long after Trump took office, I saw a historian from Yale University named Timothy Snyder appear on the PBS “Newshour” to assure us that the situation in the USA was akin to that of 1930s Germany. What an irresponsible idiot, I thought. When I was an undergraduate, circa 1980, Yale had one of the most distinguished history departments in the world and plenty of luminous names. Clearly that was long ago. I switched off the set. I have known plenty of university professors over the years. One of them, a man now in his 70s, told me in 2007 that he could no longer ask his graduate students (at UC Berkeley, an “elite” institution) to do the reading he himself had done in the 1960s. They simply couldn’t do it, he said. That is decline. Nonetheless, those students of his went on to earn their degrees and take their positions in the academy, or perhaps the media. You might see my claim as “sweeping,” but I see it as validated just about every day, as professors take to the telly to say one dumb thing after another under the pretense of giving “expert” comment.

    I do not claim that the actors I named have some “special connection to the truth” about Shakespeare. I said only that because they have inhabited the plays in a way university professors do not and cannot, I am inclined to give greater weight to their sense of the work. There are, by several orders of magnitude, fewer great Shakespearean actors in the world than there are university professors of English, as I’m sure you would agree. So the raw numbers are bound to look lopsided.

    Literary hoaxes are by no means unusual, as the JT Leroy caper showed. I had a small hand in that story, and in the course of events it occurred to me how hard it is actually to prove that somebody wrote something. Are writers observed in the act of writing? Almost never. Handwritten manuscripts would carry weight in this regard, but they are now largely a thing of the past. Shakespeare’s palsied signature strikes me as the work of a man unfamiliar and uncomfortable with a pen in his hand. So far as I know, there is not the merest scrap of physical evidence to connect him with any of the literary and dramaturgical work attributed to him. Some years ago an academic named Greenblatt published a Shakespeare “biography,” “Will in the World,” that was essentially a flight of fancy. “He might have,” “Imagine that” — this is the sort of thing Harvard professors of English get up to these days. Include me out, as Yogi Berra once said.

    • E. Olson says

      Paul – I think history is perhaps the academic discipline that has made the furthest shift from the political Right to Left over the past 60 years. The old guys who had lived through the Great Depression, fought in WWII against Nazis, and Korea against Commies, but retired en-mass in the 1970s to 1990s to be replaced by ideologues with backgrounds as draft-dodgers, anti-growth protesters, etc. who had never known real hardship or challenge.

      Science is supposed to be about letting the observed facts take you to the truth, but much “scholarship” today is about letting the Leftist narrative du jour guide ideologue decisions on which facts to include, and how facts should be interpreted, so that the desired “truth” is attained.

      • Andrew Roddy says

        I agree that actors can have a unique insight into the texts. There are actors who feel that the plays have such an intimate command of the magic of theatrical possibility that they could only have been written by a follow actor. The only candidate for authorship that I am aware of with known acting credentials is William Shakespeare. I have a theatrical background myself and these intuitions work for me but what I find more compelling is the fact that the early printers chose to proudly ornament their editions with the name of William Shakespeare.

      • Paul Reidinger says

        Yes, I absolutely agree. And you can throw journalism in there with the ruins of scholarship. It would be hard to overstate the scale of the disaster that was the 1960s.

    • Timothy Snyder is a respected historian, and for good reason. His “Bloodlands” is a masterpiece and should be required reading in every college (if not HS) in the nation.

      When he makes forays into current events he is a ham-fisted ideologue.

  26. Niels Hede Pedersen says

    “Required text: A. F. Schulte’s Shakespeare: Was he four women?” Woody Allen.

  27. Peter from Oz says

    ”Feminist readings of Shakespeare have enriched literary criticism and scholarship in, among other areas, reconsidering genre distinctions and examining the effects of patriarchal structures on relations between the sexes. ”
    WHat a load of bollocks that is. You can’t have a feminist reading of anything. You have a human reading. Anyone who comes at a work with an inbuilt politcal bias is not going to understand that work.

    • Nakatomi Plaza says

      Let me guess: you don’t have an “inbuilt political bias” about anything, but people you don’t like necessarily do? Quillette readers are the only people in the world who can be objective, apparently. It’s a regular miracle of unbiased clarity around here.

      And of course a feminist reading is possible. What a foolish thing to write.

      • Peter from Oz says

        I didn’t say that I don’t have no political bias. But then I don’t approach a work of art declaring that I am going to read it according to that bias. I approach it trying to understand it and enjoy it.

        A feminist reading is not a reading, it is a ”reading into”. The feminist comes at the work with preconceived ideas and then reads those ideas into the work.

  28. Sydney says

    Of course Atlantic was ridiculous to publish the piece. But I don’t expect anything today out of these once-excellent publications. They’ve all gone to hell in a hand basket. However, it’s not new or limited to Shakespeare. The gay community has been claiming ‘ownership’ of loads of dead famous people for several decades.

    More worrisome are far-left members of the US Congress who are weaving tales and revising world history to suit their current agendas. Rachida Tlaib tweeted an entire imagined yarn the other day about Palestinians in order to advance her anti-Israel agenda, and Nancy Pelosi and other Democrats went right along with it. This is dangerous in a way that the Was-Shakespeare-A-Woman debate isn’t.

  29. CA says

    I thought everyone knew that William Shakespeare didn’t write all those plays; just a guy who ran around calling himself William Shakespeare.

  30. mitchellporter says

    Some years ago I was introduced to the idea that “stylometric” analysis shows that Marlowe wrote Shakespeare by Ron Maimon. Stylometry encompasses various quantitative studies of writing style. Maimon is a physicist, best known on various Q&A sites as a defender of string theory, an exponent of iconoclastic ideas like abiotic oil and cold fusion, and a guy who always ends up getting a long-term ban after protesting heavy-handed moderation. He does fit the pattern alleged at the end of Kamm’s piece, that anti-Stratfordians will likely embrace other strange and unpopular views too.

    So after reading this essay, I was interested to discover a 2016 article at “The Guardian”, “Christopher Marlowe credited as one of Shakespeare’s co-writers”. According to a collection published by Oxford University Press, “as many as 17 plays [are believed to] contain writing by other people, sometimes several hands”, with Marlowe prominently among them. (Just to be clear, the usual Marlovian theory is that Marlowe’s death at a young age was faked, owing to aristocratic politics, and that he went into exile and continued writing plays, which were distributed as the work of Shakespeare.)

    It was a surprise to me to learn that anti-Stratfordian stylometric analysis is now that mainstream, but in this altered context in which Shakespeare’s plays seem like Hollywood scripts, worked over by a number of people. Kamm obliquely refers to this in his article: “There is a fascinating area of inquiry concerning Shakespeare’s collaborations with other dramatists both early and late in his career”.

    Incidentally, in Kamm’s concluding list of the whimsies of various anti-Stratfordians, the Marlovian is one Sam Blumenfeld, whose sin is to have written for the John Birch Society. Quillette readers sympathetic to the “conspiracy theory” that there is such a thing as cultural Marxism (i.e. a Gramscian march through the institutions like media and the universities and schools) should look him up, it seems he wrote a book on the subject.

    • Andrew Roddy says

      Did you ever watch the second series of a tv show you enjoyed and find yourself disappointed? You might then discover that the showrunner from series 1 was no longer involved – hence the poor storylines and inconsistencies. Anyway, whatever about authorial collaboration, the plays credited to William Shakespeare feel like they are driven by a singular and unique theatrical vision.

      They also have a well-deserved reputation for being consistently pretty damn good.

      There is certain mystery surrounding the death of Kit Marlowe. Indeed it’s a conspiracy theorist’s dream. The account of his death given by the coroner at the time is certainly open to question, given the character of the witnesses, but it did tend to convince me that he was, in fact, dead.

  31. Sasha says

    Elizabeth Winkler lives in “Platos cave” like the majority of the weird left today.

  32. ga gamba says

    Clearly the compromise to this is to declare Shakespeare trans.

  33. jimhaz says

    i would have been much more sympathetic to Winkler’s article if the main premise had been “underhand brokery”.

  34. Jochen Schmidt says

    By the way, James Joyce was a woman, too! Yes, “Dubliners”, “Ulysses” und “Finnegans Wake” all have been written by a woman!

    Don’t get me wrong: Joyce was not a trans-man or so. No, his wife did write all these masterworks! How did I find out? QTWAIN, of course!

    This should not come as a surprise – after all, even the great Homer was a women!

  35. Barney Doran says

    Two publications I used to very much admire, The Atlantic and The New Yorker, have gone completely over the social justice, left wing edge. So very sad.

  36. Morgan Foster says

    “The Atlantic may think that the anti-Shakespeare campaigners offer an entertaining diversion. Its editors certainly failed to pick up the failings of Winkler’s research …”

    Cost-cutting at major publications often falls upon the quality and quantity of its editors. The Atlantic is not alone in this.

    (And when I write “editors” I don’t mean writers who are styled editors on the masthead. I mean people who actually edit.)

  37. Skip Towne says

    This is par for the course when it comes to acts of ‘glossing over’ staff deficiencies at The Atlantic, where, e.g., David Frum, Senior Editor, apparently published virulently homophobic newspaper opinion pieces in his early career in Canada, essentially morphing his position on ‘a$$es of evil’ to ‘axis’ in warp time.

  38. markbul says

    ” Winkler has got into this fiasco over her head and I hope will learn from the experience.”

    So after telling us how she committed journalistic fraud, now she’s just a confused little girl? Is it the femininsm part that shields her from the good swift kick she’d get if she were a man?

  39. Geofiz says

    Several years ago, a woman on NPR was claiming the Einstein’s’ Theory of Relativity was actually the work of his first wife. Yeah right. Shakespeare was the J.J. Abrams of his day. He was very famous while alive and led a very public life. He was married to Anne Hathaway and had three children by her. The baptism of the kids was recorded in the Stratford Parish Church. Those documents are available today. He became quite wealthy and bought the second largest house in Stratford. A portrait painted of him during his life by John Taylor hangs in the National Portrait Gallery in London. I am pretty sure someone would have noticed if he was a woman.

    There is a curious sort of desperation in the claims of people like Winkler. They are so troubled by the fact that there are very few women who have a major place in history, so they feel the need to invent an alternative universe. Well-off women in historical times were running households. That is the way things were.

    What is tragic about women like Winkler is that they see no value in this. They give no credit to the importance of the job of raising children. They see raising children as a casual hobby in which women should find no meaning. they look down upon women who sacrifice their careers to devote more time to their children. Although I have been highly successful in my career, my greatest and most satisfying achievement was, along with my wife who did most of the work, raising two children to become successful adults.

    I don’t know what Winkler will say on her deathbed. But I know it will not be: “Gee, I wish I wrote more articles for the Atlantic”. I suspect that there won’t anyone there for her to say anything to.

    And according to Gov. Northam (Mr. Blackface) If you don’t like your baby you can kill it

    • Victoria says

      “A portrait painted of him during his life by John Taylor hangs in the National Portrait Gallery in London.”

      This is not substantiated and the NG only says it “probably” is Shakespeare.

      There is an unsigned portrait depicting an unnamed person from that era. It bears a resemblance to the First Folio image of Shakespeare. There is a note written a century after Shakespeare’s death, claiming that the portrait depicts Shakespeare and naming an artist. Said artist has no other known paintings and no other documentary evidence supporting their existence. The note may have misnamed a famous actor, who is attested, Joseph Taylor.

      Finally no one, not even these feminists, doubt that William Shakespeare of Stratford-upon-Avon lived, and was an actor, rather the issue is did he actually write the works which bear his name, a legitimate question given the absence of drafts and other documentary evidence which would be conclusive.

      My point is if you are going to scoff at and psychoanalyze other people, make sure you can accurately articulate basic facts, which as this example (and I could go after the issues with your other statements) shows you cannot do. That’s fine. We’re fallible, but don’t denigrate others for engaging in harmless speculation.

      • Geofiz says

        Actually there is one surviving Shakespeare manuscript in his own handwriting. See livescience.com


        There is also his handwritten will. Feel free to compare the handwriting


        But I recognize that evidence will never convince a conspiracy theorist. We can’t prove Homer wrote the Iliad and we can’t prove Aristophanes wrote Lysistrata. And Aristophanes wrote a lot about women. Was he a she?

        • Geofiz says

          There is also the Shakespeare funerary monument in Stratford, which was likely constructed very shortly after his death. The Shakespeare bust in the memorial looks very similar to the Taylor portrait.

        • Geofiz says

          How about the engraving of Shakespeare created by Droeshout and published shortly after his death in 1923. Both this engraving and the Funerary Monument which date before 1623 are definitely accepted as portraying Shakespeare. Shakespeare died in 1616.

      • Geofiz says

        The London Portrait Galley does not say the portrait is”probably” Shakespeare.

        Here is what they say on their website:

        “The identity of the sitter in the Chandos portrait is difficult to prove with absolute certainty. However, the portrait has a long history as an acclaimed image of Shakespeare and was once owned by Shakespeare’s godson, Sir William Davenant. Other evidence, particularly on the emergence of author portraiture in the late 1590s and the 1600s, is suggestive, but the identity is likely to remain unproven. Shakespeare’s image is instantly recognisable and readily appropriated throughout the world, from books and banknotes to pub signs, but do we know what he really looked like? The answer to that question is reasonably straightforward, because two images produced shortly after his death must have been seen and approved by friends and family. The Stratfordupon-Avon memorial bust was installed after 1620 and the 1623 engraving of Shakespeare by Martin Droeshout was almost certainly based on an earlier portrait, indicating that Shakespeare would have had his portrait painted during his lifetime.”


        There is a difference between probably and “remains unproven” Evolution remains “unproven” but it is a lot more that probably true.

      • You try to claim that my descriptor of “probably” and the National Gallery’s “difficult to prove with absolute certainty” are materially different. That’s a tendentious issue of semantics. You made an absolute claim and your own source says that is not supported.

        The claim that William Davenant was Shakespeare’s godson is not firmly established, so the National Gallery is wrong to assert that claim.

        “one surviving Shakespeare manuscript in his own handwriting”

        False. That play is another author’s work. It is not a manuscript of a play or verse which was published with William Shakespeare ostensibly as the author.

        Those three folio pages have six(!) different unnamed writers, one of whom is said to be Shakespeare. No historical record of the pages exists until the 18th century.

        The handwriting on the signature on the will does not match the folio pages “Hand D” in my opinion. The scrawled, unpracticed look of his known signatures is part of why I entertain doubts.

        Otherwise the question of authorship and the historical existence of William Shakespeare of Stratford-upon-Avon are separate.

        It is priceless irony that you invoke Homer, a legendary figure,* when trying to sneer at me as “conspiracy theorist” for merely entertaining the possibility of Shakespeare the actor being a front for another writer.


        • Geofiz says

          1) The most important part of a museum curator’s job is to establish the genealogy of the works in his or her institution. One would assume that the curators at the London Portrait Gallery are pretty good at it. What is your evidence for refuting them and what are your academic qualifications in this field?

          2) The manuscript in Shakespeare’s handwriting is on display at the Folger Shakespeare Library. The folio is on loan from the British library. Obviously, scholars from both institutions believe that this is Shakespeare’s handwriting. You proclaim that it is a phony. However, your ONLY evidence is his signature. How many people do you know whose signature is an accurate rendition of their handwriting? Mine is certainly not.

          3) Shakespeare’s family was likely middle class, His father was a prosperous leather merchant who achieved some prominence in local government before he got in trouble with the authorities for lending money with interest (usury) which was illegal at the time. Shakespeare was pulled out of school at age 13. While not college educated, he was far from illiterate as some have suggested

          4) As regards Homer, the only thing that survives is the stories. The accuracy of the only ancient biography of Homer “The Life of Homer” is highly suspect. Many believe it to be historical fiction. We know that the stories have been around for a long time because Aristotle discussed them (That is assuming you believe that Aristotle was a real person). But that is about it. So, some say Homer did not exist. Well, someone wrote these stories. The most common revisionist theory is that the Iliad and the Odyssey were written by different authors because they are stylistically different. But many other authors have written stylistically different pieces. Poe wrote both prose and poetry. They are stylistically different. In fact, one could argue, although I would not, that The Raven is stylistically different from Poe’s other poems, such as Annabel Lee. The problem with the Homer discussion is that it is all complete and total speculation as no real evidence exists for any of the various hypotheses.

          5) In your other post to me you state when referring to the point that a commoner could write the works of Shakespeare:

          It’s not quite the Blank Slate in full, but more akin to the American Dream ideal of hard work and imagination overcoming all obstacles. Reality doesn’t work like that, especially with academic knowledge.

          There are numerous examples throughout history of self-taught geniuses. Thomas Edison had very little formal schooling and was on his own at age 15. Abraham Lincoln, likely had less than twelve months of formal schooling and never attended college. His “humble beginnings” story has been a staple of American politics. George Green was one of the most famous mathematicians. His entire formal education consisted of one year of school. He started working as a baker at age five. George Boole (Boolean logic) only had a primary school education. Frederick Douglass was a slave. I could cite many more examples. Genius is not always a function of class and education

          • The burden of proof is on you to show what evidence demonstrates that William Davenant was Shakespeare’s godson. You introduced that claim via the National Gallery, yet try to demand I prove a negative, and further resort to an appeal to authority.
            You conspicuously fail to address my actual point, namely that the manuscript in question is not from a work attributed to William Shakespeare, but another writer’s play. You don’t even seem willing to acknowledge that the manuscript in question has handwriting from six individuals. If you won’t even look at the evidence, it just proves my initial concern, namely that you have no business psychoanalyzing others.

            My “ONLY evidence is his signature” because his signature is the only writing we know of with William of Stratford as the named author. If we had a draft of Hamlet or Sonnet No. 29, then we’d have an authorship-handwriting pairing.

            We have no primary information on Shakespeare’s education. Your claim about him leaving school at age 13 has no basis in any document.

            His father signed with a mark. One of his two daughters signed with a mark, so they were not a family of deep literacy in any case.

            We know that Greek was not taught in grammar schools of the era, so that element of his knowledge (along with many other things) had to come from somewhere. This contrasts with Marlowe and Johnson, whose education is clearly attested.

            Shakespeare’s will, by the way, is notably absent of any mention of his unpublished writing.

            “That is assuming you believe that Aristotle was a real person.” This is just petty and when combined with your evasion of my argument (point 2) shows again that you’re not arguing in good faith. You ultimately concede “it is all complete and total speculation as no real evidence exists for any of the various hypotheses” so my point is made.
            Note how every example you cite of self-taught genius is from the industrial era, centuries after Shakespeare. You thus ignore the explosion of printed information and the general ideals of the Enlightenment in the 18th Century, which fundamentally change being an autodidact. None of the people you mention had a creative output in writing. Invention, mathematics, and rhetorical skills in non-fiction are not the same.

          • Geofiz says

            1) Authors with limited education
            Mark Twain -Quit school at age 12
            Charles Dickens – Quit school at age 15
            Virginia Woolf – Homeschooled
            Joseph Conrad HS equivalent only
            Ernest Hemingway HS only
            Jane Austen – Boarding School – High School equivalent
            Walt Whitman – Quit school at age 11
            Edgar Allen Poe -College dropout. Actually kicked out of West Point
            Edna Ferber – College dropout
            Joseph Conrad – Primary School only

            This is just a list I prepared in five minutes off the top of my head. I am sure I could make it much longer

            2) Although we do not have Shakespeare’s report cards ,most scholars assume that he attended school at Stratford-upon-Avon



            He was 13 when his father went and lost his portion as the Town Bailiff. Shakespeare would likely have quit school at that time.

            3) The printing press was invented in 1492, The are simply not that many pre-enlightenment, post Roman empire authors whose work has survived. Chaucer studied law, Milton was also well educated But I don’t think we know much of anything about Dante’s education. Same with Langland. Part of the issue was that work by writers who were not part of the aristocracy or who had aristocratic patrons was unlikely to survive

            4) Have you done original research in climate science? (I have and yes AGW is real). I am a scientist, not a Shakespeare scholar. So I rely on the expertise of Shakespeare scholars and museum curators who have done the research. I expect that you do the same when it comes to climate science. Even in my own field, I “refer to authority.” All scientists build on the work of others.

            Like climate skeptics, yours is a minority opinion. If this is your specialty, most of your colleagues disagree with you.

          • Geofiz says

            Typo correction:

            He was 13 when his father lost his position as the Town Bailiff. Shakespeare would likely have quit school at that time.

  40. John Balfour says

    “Feminist readings of Shakespeare have enriched literary criticism and scholarship in, among other areas, reconsidering genre distinctions and examining the effects of patriarchal structures on relations between the sexes.”

    Why is Winkler’s take on Shakespeare not as valid as any other feminist reading, then? Does her reading not align with tenet of “examining the effects of patriarchal structures or relations between the sexes” of the ideology? Indeed, would it not be a kind of cause celebre for feminists that the sex of one of the greatest writers in history be questioned?

    • Geofiz says

      Because it is fiction!!! IT IS NOT TRUE!!!!! iT IS MADE UP!!! What about not being true do you not understand?????

      But that being said, it probably is as valid as any other feminist reading (LOL)

  41. Remember, the Atlantic is the publication that had to withdraw its offer to conservative/libertarian writer Kevin D. Williamson because its leftist writers rose up in rebellion and threatened to strike. When you create a closed ideological bubble at a publication, this is the kind of groupthink garbage you get.

  42. Jim Gorman says

    To make the claim that Shakespeare was a woman because only a woman could write the women characters as depicted leaves much of the argument undone. If men can’t write women’s characters, can women write great men’s characters? You must somehow prove that the men characters in Shakespeare are poorly done so could have been written by a woman or that women can write both great men’s and women’s characters while men can only write convincing men characters.

    • David Clancy says

      Great point. Also, doesn’t he write Kings very well? And commoners? And clowns? And magicians (Prospero)? And supernatural creatures (Puck, Caliban)?

      I suppose the Atlantic writer would say “Shakespeare” writes women better than all of these — more sympathetically, more insightfully. But that is way too subjective a proposition to prove, much less powerfully enough to support an otherwise evidence-free case that the plays were written by a woman.

      Among other things, one would need to overcome various potential arguments that Shakespeare treats men “better” than women. “Hamlet is a more fully formed character than Ophelia, for example, who is so helplessly in love and dies offstage”; “Lady Macbeth is so unsympathetic and wooden a character,” etc. One could go on and on, back and forth, with inherently subjective assertions like this, with 30-plus plays for raw material.

      I wish that the Kamm article had addressed this point. Seems like there was lots of on-the-merits material like this that would have formed an important evidentiary/logical response to the Atlantic article. Maybe one is coming from Mr. Kamm or someone else.

    • Barney Doran says

      Sorry, Jim, great point but you are disqualified because, I guess, you are a male. Thinking doesn’t matter, Jim, only agreeing with them and S’ingTFU. Get with the program.

  43. SK says

    Well done. Winkler seems to have wandered into a field where laymen (possibly including the editors of The Atlantic) think, “Hey, no one really knows, so why not speculate? It’ll be fun!” Not quite realizing that an anvil’s worth of actual scholarship was ready to fall on their heads.

  44. Has the species reached the limits of its biological boundaries of intelligence?

    We were in the Age of Poe, now we enter the Age of Faux Poe.

  45. Victoria says

    Who cares if the Atlantic published an alternative theory on Shakespeare’s authorship? Although the author most likely was Shakespeare of Stratford-upon-Avon, I have to admit that the evidence is not as ‘how dare you even question this’ solid as some would have you believe.

    Yet I’m amazed at the personal venom this debate inspires, mostly from people who defend the traditional account.

    I mean I get New Atheist-types rationalists being critical of religion, because it is associated with repeated and demonstrable harms, serious ones at that. Getting into a tizzy because people believe in ESP, alternative JFK assassination theories, or Shakespeare being someone else, is baffling, totally misplaced energy.

    In fact conspiracy theories probably overall encourage critical thinking and weighing evidence, even if a given theory is wrong. I’ll not freak out if my daughter gets interested in such things as she gets older.

    *There are two, irreconcilable official U.S. government conclusions on JFK, the later being the House Select Committee on Assassinations findings.

    • Geofiz says

      In the greater scheme of things this hardly ranks with “911 was an inside job” or the Holocaust never happened”. It doesn’t even rank with “the moon landings were faked”. The most popular “Shakespeare conspiracy theory is that Francis Bacon wrote the plays. Apparently, there are “coded ciphers” within the plays that point to his authorship. The rationale is that a “commoner” like Shakespeare could not have possibly had the knowledge to write such great works of art.

      However, I think that this whole discussion regarding Winkler is emblematic of two larger issues pushed by the radical feminist crowd:

      1) Many feminists are disturbed by the lack of prominent women in history. If I asked you to name two famous women scientists, you would likely say “Madame Curie, then have to head to Google for the second name.

      2) The identity politics crowd is opposed to the idea that men should be able write about women and believe that they cannot do a good job of writing about women. This is, in part, the basis of Winkler’s hypothesis.

      There is a troubling movement among the identity politics crowd to try to change history to fit their worldview (ex. slavery was a western invention; Palestinians welcomed Jewish refugees, etc.) and to silo artistic expression within specific ethnic/gender groups (white male writers should not write about those of a different sex, color, or sexual identity). The first is quite ridiculous and the second is scary. Great literary works involving both men and women have been written by both men and women. Art has always been an avenue for social commentary. To censor art in the name of political correctness is to destroy it.

      “The atmosphere of orthodoxy is always damaging to prose, and above all it is completely ruinous to the novel, the most anarchical of all forms of literature:” George Orwell

      “He who controls the past controls the future:” George Orwell

      • “The rationale is that a ‘commoner’ like Shakespeare could not have possibly had the knowledge to write such great works of art.”

        Time and again that’s what it all boils down to.

        We need to preserve the narrative of a small town lad with a modest education becoming one of the greatest writers in our language.

        It’s not quite the Blank Slate in full, but more akin to the American Dream ideal of hard work and imagination overcoming all obstacles. Reality doesn’t work like that, especially with academic knowledge.

        Thus when “conspiracy theorists” come with otherwise good-faith attempts to use documentary evidence and reason to question the traditional authorship account, they must be dismissed and disparaged on a personal level because they threaten not a mere historical claim, but an ideal.

    • Asenath Waite says


      Could we just do away with Darwin altogether? Evolutionary biology is so often contradictory to the Narrative.

      • Nox says

        Darwin or Darwinette, we could do away with whatever will please you.

  46. By maligning the character of certain authorship doubters (“anti-muslim demagogue”, “far-right conspiracist”), Kamm attempts to undermine the credibility of all. Would Kamm like to take a swing at the reputations of Mark Twain, Charlie Chaplin, Henry James, Sigmund Freud, Walt Whitman, and several Supreme Court Justices?

    Kamm not only grossly distorts Diana Price’s arguments, he dares to compare her scholarly and exhaustively researched Shakespeare’s Unauthorized Biography with Alan Nelson’s tendentious polemics and James’ Shapiro’s slippery Gish Gallop.


    We in fact have unimpeachable evidence of Shakespeare’s activities as a writer … but by a series of rhetorical sleights-of-hand Price rules it all inadmissible.

    This is laughable. For 25 of Shakespeare’s contemporaries, Price presents a table of ten evidentiary categories as defined by several third-party historians. For 16 contemporaries, evidence in found most categories; none have evidence found in less than three. In contrast, no evidence for William Shakspere of Stratford as an author is found in any of the categories.


    … “zombie facts” (empirical claims that scholars have long refuted but keep getting cited by denialists)

    In actuality, it is the Stratfordians who continue to trot out the same lame arguments that have been thoroughly debunked.
    cf. https://doubtaboutwill.org/pdfs/sbt_rebuttal.pdf

    The true ‘denialists’ here are the Stratfordians. Wed to their cult of a raw genius rising up from hoi polloi to pwn the nobles, they defend it with vicious ad hominem attack on ‘heretics’ and recitation of a dogma built upon circular reasoning and a string of ad hoc explanations. If their case is so solid, and that of the doubters’ so flimsy, why are they so afraid?

    • Dave Clancy says

      Shapiro’s book Contested Will concludes with a chapter reciting extensive evidence supporting the proposition that William Shakespeare of Stratford wrote the plays (of course with collaboration in some instances, as was common at the time). Among that evidence is a diary reporting a conversation with Ben Jonson, in which Jonson talks about Shakespeare and his writing style, as well as a diary of Jonson himself, discussing skills and faults of Shakespeare as a writer. There’s much, much more in the chapter in question.

      A useful exercise would be for you (or someone like-minded) to write an article acknowledging and addressing each of those items of evidence. For each: What is it (describe it completely); How is it reconciled with the idea that Shakespeare was not a writer, just a “player”? (E.g., do you contend it is forged? Irrelevant?)

      Such an article would be useful (an organized discussion of actual items of evidence) and also honest — in the sense that it would by its nature acknowledge the many individual items of evidence supporting the conventional view. The Atlantic article takes a different approach — amidst a lot of elegant irrelevance (the author’s feelings about the issue), it broadly characterizes the pro-Shakespeare evidence, rather than addressing it completely and specifically. Your comment is worse, saying “No evidence exists for Wiliam Shaksper as author in any of the (Price) categories.” Have you read the chapter I am referring to in Shapiro? You may have some take on this evidence — e.g., that Jonson and others (even Shakespeare’s colleagues who printed the plays under his name?) were deceived or deceptive — but to talk as if such evidence does not exist is dishonest.

      I am a layperson on this topic. But it’s within the ken of any layperson to (1) read about/see evidence for Shakespeare as an author, and (2) react with entirely rational negativity to arguments ignoring or denying that evidence, rather than candidly acknowledging it and meaningfully addressing it.

    • Mark Johnson says


      How did Price miss all of the records which refer to the AUTHOR Shakespeare as Mr./Master/M. William Shakespeare, Gentleman — many of which were created during Will Shakespeare of Stratford’s lifetime. The only William Shakespeare at the time and in that place who merited being referred to as Mr. and Gentleman was one William Shakespeare of Stratford, by way of the grant of a coat of arms to his father. Interestingly, all of these references, employing the honorific and status signifier applicable to someone denominated a Gentleman, occur after the grant of the coat of arms to his father and none are generated before that date.

      Could you please explain how these references to the author Shakespeare do not qualify as evidence in support of the attribution of the works to Mr. William Shakespeare, gentleman, from Stratford?

      In addition, you might want to look at Ms. Price’s own “Criteria” for the gathering and analysis of historical data [published online]. Specifically, she has totally bungled the definition of what qualifies as contemporary evidence, and her “posthumous evidence” exclusionary rule is entirely ahistorical.

      • 1) per sound historical methodology, posthumous evidence is decidedly inferior to contemporary. You’ll need to be more specific about where you believe Price “bungled” in her approach; as someone with a degree in History, I don’t see it;

        2) All the references you allude to are to “Shakespeare” — or more frequently and tellingly, “Shake-Speare.” — asserted as a pseudonym. There are zero references to, or records of, William Shakspere of Stratford as an author. (Further, there is evidence that the man couldn’t even write his own name.) Please refute the carefully constructed and copiously documented argument that “Shake-speare” is a pseudonym.

  47. Tony says

    With regards to the nonsense that human activity can change weather/climate to the point that we are all doomed. This is a good place to start:


    The problem is that climate change gets lumped in with something humans can reduce which is pollution. The massive increase in the human population inevitably causes significant amounts of waste. Air quality in most cities is terrible mainly due to diesel fumes, high density housing with all the associated emissions from daily living and the human and animal waste dumped into rivers and streams (directly and without treatment in most developing countries).

    Pollution and waste can be managed much better with the subsequent results being something that can be measured and therefore adjusted and amended until the desired outcome is achieved, or thereabouts. We can then judge if our actions have made the local environment better or worse.

    The fact that C02 is present in such miniscule amounts in our atmosphere and that reducing it by a predetermined % will save the planet is bordering on insanity. The main greenhouse gas is water vapour, it provides us with a wonderful climate and allows us to flourish, the big angry red and yellow thing in the sky called the sun decides what our temperature will be and nothing humans do will make a blind bit of difference to the ongoing temperature of planet earth.

    Let’s use our brains and technology to fix what we can and leave the impossible well alone. As is mentioned in the link I posted, regarding the earth, trust it, it’s being doing this for 4.5 billion years!

  48. scribblerg says

    This is a great example of how Leftists propagandists promote “the big lie”. First you have to offer a plausible narrative – not a good argument. Then you add in a politically correct subtext. And then pretend you are just offering a “different POV”, and after all, if you are a leftist, you’ve internalized the idea of being “subversive” as innately good.

    An idea like this will always attract subversive hacks. What’s sad is that they get an audience at all. What’s outrageous is that The Atlantic would publish such tripe, legitimizing a non-controversy. Which is subversive in an of itself.

    Disinformation and propaganda games are a way of life in Leftist intellectual circles now. Subversion is a way of life and nothing is off limits. This is what a depraved, broken culture looks like.

    Try to get how messed up The Atlantic is in publishing this. There was a time, 20 years ago, when I subscribed to The Atlantic. I was conservative then too, but about 50% of the magazine was legit intellectual and artistic inquiry and expression. And I didn’t mind the soft leftism as I was interested in hearing the other side and The Atlantic is one of the ways I’d try and do that.

    Today? It’s unreadable agitprop and hackery cover to cover. Nonstop. Just their “LGBTQAIP” – fyi, who in the fuck IDs as that who isn’t a raving radical loon? – coverage was so biased and so radical, it soaked the entire publication with intersectional bullshit as the underlying editorial POV.

    Do Leftists want to preserve anything? What is it they want to build? I literally have no idea – all they seem to do is destroy our culture and society nonstop, on every level.

    • Roger Stritmatter, PhD says

      What makes you think all Oxfordians are leftists? I can tell you, that is a false assumption. Many have been and still are politically conservative. Others are not. And some are “liberal” on some questions and conservative on others.

      These are labels. Let’s not use them without better care. The entire discussion lacks sufficient detailed knowledge of the basis for the controversy. An Ignorant readership suits Stratfordians just fine, whether they call themselves “liberal” (as most would) or “conservative” (as some certainly would).

    • scribblerg, you’re clearly making assumption about the Shakespeare authorship debate from gross ignorance of the arguments.

      A good place to start to better inform yourself of the robustness of the anti-Stratfordian position is to watch the documentary, Last Will and Testament:


      It offers the added bonus of getting to see Roger’s handsome mug.

  49. Do you think that those skills, languages and knowledge of the presumed playwright support the multi-author theory? Or just one supremely-talented playwright, who may not have been W. Shakespeare?

    The latter — a unique genius who had the fortune to receive a first-class education, but who also had the misfortune to suffer great pain and loss in his life, which to our great fortune, inspired him to encapsulate in his works a profound understanding of the human condition.

  50. ‘As its editors know well, conspiracy theories have an ineluctable tendency to expand their horizons.’

    This whole thing is HILARIOUS. Seriously. Clickbait gibberish from The frantic-antic Atlantic raised to the level of academic refutation. It’s clear that Ms. Winkler, a rich American who ‘completed an M.A. in English literature at Stanford University in 2013’ (from her website, as I just looked up) is an American white monied revisionist feminist fantasist of the type who have been popping up to repudiate all white male Western art as ‘sexist’ and ‘racist’ and whatever over the last few years. Ho and indeed hum.

    This gutbusty comedy, to me, is all related to one thing: JEALOUSY. I mean, what use is a Master’s degree in literature in the modern world, except for to write shite aboot yer elders an dbetters? Master’s degrees are often just conspicuous consumption anyway, a way of showing how much money you have. So Ms. Winkler (any relation to Henry?) has (I am laughing here) ‘studied’ literature which, to somebody who really wants to write, is like studying how to breathe or fuck or fart. Like all her young generation of wannabe-writers. she is left with no real way of making a mark artistically in a post-words world. So she takes a jealous stab at trying to dethrone a male historical writer (whose work means nothing to me, I admit) who made history.

    I must admit, I LOVE all this. Seriously. Attack the Western literary canon by all means, ladies and minorities and whoever: it’s as meaningless, quaint, anachronistic (mental) institution. Topple it. kids, and let’s see what ‘sensitivity reader’-driven crap you can replace it with. Sure as Hell can’t be any less interesting than Shakespeare. By the way, Ms. Winkler (I know for a fact you’re reading this, dahlink, your ego won’t let you ignore it)(let’s go for a drink the next time you’re in Scotland)(laughing as ever), you know the ONLY way to experience Wilhemina in real life, far from conspiracy theory ivory towers? Here you go (see below).

    Bloody Americans! What a lot of hilarious shite.

    Genuinely still laughing. 🙂


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