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Famous Shakespeare Authorship Skeptics

Doubts about Shaksper of Stratford’s claim to the Shakespeare canon have been around for centuries. Among the many political, literary, cultural and intellectual figures who have recorded their thoughts about the authorship question are:

 charlie-chaplin-cocktail1Charlie Chaplin

“In the work of the greatest geniuses, humble beginnings will reveal themselves somewhere but one cannot trace the slightest sign of them in Shakespeare… Whoever wrote [Shakespeare] had an aristocratic attitude.”

Mark_Twain_by_AF_BradleySamuel Clemens (Mark Twain)

“We are The Reasoning Race, and when we find a vague file of chipmunk tracks stringing through the dust of Stratford village, we know by our reasoning powers that Hercules has been along there. I feel that our fetish is safe for three centuries yet.”

EmersonRalph Waldo Emerson

“The Egyptian verdict of the Shakespeare Societies comes to mind, that he was a jovial actor and manager. I cannot marry this fact to his verse.”

FreudSigmund Freud

“I no longer believe that… the actor from Stratford was the author of the works that have been ascribed to him. Since reading Shakespeare Identified by J. Thomas Looney, I am almost convinced that the assumed name conceals the personality of Edward de Vere, Earl of Oxford… The man of Stratford seems to have nothing at all to justify his claim, whereas Oxford has almost everything.”

D-JacSir Derek Jacobi

“Where did this Shakespeare come from? Where did all that knowledge and eloquence and truth come from? ... I believe Edward de Vere and not William Shakespeare [of Stratford] wrote Richard II and, in fact, all the plays attributed to the man from Stratford.”

95h42/huch/2014/13Henry James

“I am… haunted by the conviction that the divine William is the biggest and most successful fraud ever practiced on a patient world.”

Malcolm-xMalcolm X

“Another hot debate I remember I was in had to do with the identity of Shakespeare... The King James translation of the Bible is considered the greatest piece of literature in English… They say that from 1604 to 1611, King James got poets to translate, to write the Bible. Well, if Shakespeare existed, he was then the top poet around. But Shakespeare is nowhere reported connected with the Bible. If he existed, why didn’t King James use him?”

Anne_Rice-bwAnne Rice

"I'm falling in love with this idea that the real Shakespeare was Edward de Vere, the Earl of Oxford . . . It is astonishing what the Edward de Vere camp has turned up in the way of research to explain all kinds of mysteries of the plays and the life of the so-called Shakespeare.  Very, very interesting stuff."

Orson_Welles_PubDomOrson Welles

“I think Oxford wrote Shakespeare. If you don’t agree, there are some awfully funny coincidences to explain away…”

Whitman2Walt Whitman

“Conceiv’d out of the fullest heat and pulse of European feudalism, personifying in unparallel’d ways the medieval aristocracy, its towering spirit of ruthless and gigantic caste, its own peculiar air and arrogance (no mere imitation) one of the wolfish earls so plenteous in the plays themselves, or some born descendent and knower, might seem to be the true author of those amazing works… I am firm against Shaksper. I mean the Avon man, the actor.”

WilliamsRobin Williams

“You think about William Shakespeare, you think a man basically with a second grade education wrote some of the greatest poetry of all times? I think maybe not.”

Robin Williams: "I think maybe not"

John Hurt and Jim Jarmusch talk Shakespeare mystery

Mark Rylance on the importance of knowing the author

In addition, the following distinguished men and women have also either rejected or seriously doubted the Stratford attribution:

  • Hamilton Basso (novelist, reviewed 5 Stratfordian biographies in The New Yorker 4/18/50)
  • Prof. Louis P. Benezet (Dartmouth)
  • Richard Bentley (President, Chicago Bar Association, and Editor of The American Bar Association Journal)
  • Tom Bethell (syndicated columnist)
  • Supreme Court Justice Harry A. Blackmun
  • John Bright (Lord Rector of University of Glasgow)
  • John Buchan (novelist, historian & Chancellor of Edinburgh University)
  • Otto von Bismarck
  • Charles Champlin (Arts Editor of The Los Angeles Times)
  • Charles DeGaulle
  • Benjamin Disraeli
  • Senator Paul Douglas (also a Chicago University Professor)
  • Daphne DuMaurier
  • Cyrus Durgin (drama critic, The Boston Globe)
  • Prof. William Y. Elliott (Harvard)
  • Clifton Fadiman
  • Prof. Bronson Feldman (Temple University)
  • Daniel Frohman (famed producer of plays & theater historian)
  • W.H. Furness (literary scholar and father of the editor of the Variorum)
  • John Galsworthy
  • Sir John Gielgud
  • Prof. Louis J. Halle (Ecole de Hautes Etudes)
  • Leslie Howard
  • James Joyce
  • Helen Keller
  • Kevin Kelly (drama critic, The Boston Globe)
  • David Lloyd Kreeger
  • Lewis Lapham (Editor, Harper’s)
  • Prof. Abel LeFranc (College de France; one of 40 members of Academie des Inscription et Belles Lettres)
  • Prof. W. Barton Leach (Harvard Law)
  • Clare Booth Luce
  • David McCullough
  • Amb. Paul H. Nitze
  • Lord Palmerston
  • Maxwell Perkins (eminent literary editor)
  • Prof. William Lyons Phelps (Yale)
  • Supreme Court Justice Lewis F. Powell, Jr.
  • Canon Gerald H. Rendall (Litt D.)
  • Mark Rylance (actor and Founding Artistic Director of the Globe)
  • Dr. Peter Sammartino (Founder & First President, Farleigh Dickinson University)
  • Lincoln Schuster (of Simon & Schuster)
  • Joseph Sobran (syndicated columnist)
  • Muriel Spark
  • Supreme Court Justice John Paul Stevens
  • Day Thorpe (Literary editor, Washington Star)
  • Philip Weld (Publisher, International N.Y. Herald Tribune)
  • John Greenleaf Whittier

Among those who have expressed either some doubt, or at least “wonderment”, about the Stratford attribution are:

  • Prof. Crane Brinton (Harvard)
  • Samuel Taylor Coleridge
  • Tyronne Guthrie
  • Thomas Hardy
  • Dr. Oliver Wendell Holmes
  • Prof. Sidney Hook (S.Y.U.)
  • James Russell Lowell
  • Prof. Hugh Trevor-Roper (Oxford University)
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