If imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, then Paul Edmondson and I, co-editors of Shakespeare Beyond Doubt, should feel flattered by this book. Its title simply adds a question mark to ours. Its jacket design clones ours. It uses a similar typeface. Over seventy of its pages contain a response – which has been freely available on the internet since November 2011 – to the online campaign ‘60 Minutes with Shakespeare’, masterminded by Paul Edmondson of the Shakespeare Birthplace Trust. And, like our book, Shakespeare Beyond Doubt? is made up of essays by a number of different contributors, all singing from the same song sheet. The burden of their song is that the plays generally attributed to William Shakespeare of Stratford-upon-Avon were actually the work of an unidentified genius writing under a pseudonym that fooled all (or almost all) his contemporaries; and that all the publishers, printers and fellow writers who mention him, not to speak of his colleagues in the theatre world, connived in this fraud, many of them to the extent even of obligingly using a hyphen in spelling his name, in a kind of code that is only now being broken.
John Shahan’s opening salvo, ‘General introduction and Challenge to the Shakespeare Birthplace Trust’, starts with a misstatement repeated elsewhere in the book. He claims that our book is published by the Shakespeare Birthplace Trust. It is not. It is published by Cambridge University Press. Paul Edmondson is an employee of