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Home :: Archive :: 1994 :: October ::
Shakespeare Electronic Conference, Vol. 5, No. 0869.  Sunday, 30 October 1994.
From:           David Evett <R0870@TAONODE.BITNET>
Date:           Friday, 28 Oct 1994 16:28 ET
Subject:        Authorship
The proposal that downgrading the claims of people not named William
Shakespeare (in some spelling or other) to authorship of the Shakespearean
canon does not tell us anything about Shaksper of Stratford-upon-Avon is more
than a little specious.  Reasonable inference is the cornerstone of modern
science--nobody has ever seen an electron, laid a radar gun on a receding
astral body, gained immediate ocular proof that gene x actually occupies
position n on the DNA strands inside human cells.  The principle operates in
textual studies, too. A good-sized body of positive evidence (title-pages,
contemporary allusions) supports the reasonable inference that the author of
these plays was named William Shakespeare.  A somewhat smaller body of positive
evidence supports the inference that a man of that name was a sharer in the
Chamberlain's/King's Men. A still smaller body of evidence (including some from
later in the 17th century) supports the inference that this player was the son
of John Shakespeare of Stratford-upon-Avon.  For three centuries, thousands
upon thousands of scholars and readers have accepted the reasonable inference
that John Shakespeare's son Will wrote those plays.  Persons wishing to disable
this inference must either supply conflicting positive evidence (there is none)
or construct a more reasonable inference.  If evidence from comparative
stylistics contradicts such alternative inferences as that the plays were the
work of Edward de Vere, the truth-claims of the prior inference are at least
reasserted, perhaps even strengthened--in science, the more different tests a
hypothesis survives the more substantial it is held to be.
Dave Evett
p.s.  By the way, unless we can ascertain that William Shakespeare of Stratford
wrote some <other> material which we can nevertheless confidently a scribe to
his hand, we can never prove by stylistic analysis that he did not write the
plays because we can only compare their texts with themselves.

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