This book marks the latest salvo in a long-running war between the Stratford-based Shakespeare Birthplace Trust, under the auspices of which it is being published, and the American-based Shakespeare Authorship Coalition, which has published another book of the same title but precisely the opposite point of view under the editorship of myself and John M Shahan. Here is the background to the quarrel.
Five years ago the Shakespeare Authorship Coalition initiated an online petition entitled ‘Declaration of Reasonable Doubt about the Identity of William Shakespeare’. Several thousand people signed it, including actors Jeremy Irons, Mark Rylance, Derek Jacobi and Michael York, and the well-known US Supreme Court judge John Paul Stevens. The intention of the declaration was to shift the focus of the authorship debate away from alternative candidates and on to the likelihood or unlikelihood of the traditional attribution being correct. Its effect was immediate and not unlike that of poking a large stick into the bowels of a hornets’