A two-hour look into William Shakespeare’s “unorthodox” biography took place at the Canadian Stage Company’s Berkeley Street Theatre on April 24th from 4 to 6 p.m. The event, produced by Professor Don Rubin and sponsored by the Shakespeare Authorship Coalition and the Shakespeare Oxford Fellowship (SOF), was free and open to the public. Advance publicity included an article in Hamilton’s Spectator newspaper about ten days before, which profiled the host of the event, Chris Pannell, who edits the SOF journal, The Oxfordian.
The keynote speaker for the event was American scholar Diana Price, author of the critically-acclaimed volume Shakespeare’s Unorthodox Biography with the sub-title: New Evidence of An Authorship Problem. This book was originally published in 2001 by Greenwood Press and re-released in 2012 with significant additions. It was her first time lecturing in Canada. Price introduced many of the key problems in Shakespeare authorship studies and put forward some solutions she has found in her study of literary paper trails for 24 Elizabethan writers. She noted the complete absence of similar evidence to show Shakspere of Stratford was a professional writer.
Price agrees that William Shakspere was certainly a real person; he can be verified as a canny businessman, a land speculator, and he undeniably was involved with theatre and the acting profession. She also allowed that he could well have been paid to be a front-man for another, possibly a member of the nobility who wished to hide his connection to the Shakespeare canon. Her focus on comparing the evidence of literary activity for both well-known and obscure Elizabethan writers was compelling. In the Q&A session which concluded the event, several in the audience reported they had found themselves moving into the ‘doubter’ camp. Her presentation seemed to catch many in the audience by surprise.
Price’s presentation was preceded by Keir Cutler, who drew on his various comedic works on the Shakespeare Authorship Question, many of which ask: How come those of us who studied theatre in high school and university were not told that there even was an authorship question? Cutler’s presentation was well-received too, as he referred to the manner in which discussion of the authorship problem is belittled and its adherents derided not only in established, major newspapers, but who are pursued online and via social media like Facebook as well. He cited an instance of one of his friends being censured by a well-known Toronto theatre critic, for even mentioning this event on his social media feed, where many could see it. Included in Cutler’s talk were selections from his publication The Shakespeare Authorship Question: A Crackpot’s View. A dramatic version of this essay is scheduled for this summer’s Toronto Fringe Festival. Cutler made plain that being called a ‘crackpot,’ among other insults, has merely strengthened his resolve to continue addressing the question of the authorship.
Audience members were encouraged to investigate the SAQ on their own and to sign the Declaration of Reasonable Doubt once they had satisfied themselves on the points made by Price and Cutler.[posted April 28, 2016]
Update May 1, 2016: A 36-minute video of Diana Price and Keir Cutler at this event is now available on YouTube.