THREE RECENT DEBATES/MOCK TRIALS ON THE SHAKESPEARE AUTHORSHIP QUESTION

BOSTON BAR ASSOCIATION
MOCK TRIAL TO DETERMINE THE GENUINE AUTHORSHIP OF WILLIAM SHAKESPEARE'S WRITINGS. (Click here for the full transcript.)
November12, 1993

On the evening of November 12, 1993 in Faneuil Hall, Boston, a mock trial was held to determine the true authorship of the Shakespearean body of work. Although a mock trial, the judge was a real federal judge, the witnesses were expert witnesses, and counsel were experienced senior trial lawyers.

The fourteen-member jury was composed of school headmasters, library directors, lawyers, academics, judges, a journalist and a psychiatrist.

The jury found for the Earl of Oxford, four ballots; for William Shakespeare, ten ballots.


"UNCOVERING SHAKESPEARE: AN UPDATE"
A COMPLETE TRANSCRIPTION OF THE INTERACTIVE SEMINAR
broadcast by
GTE Visnet to colleges September 17, 1992.
(RealAudio excerpts follow).

Moderator:
William F. Buckley, Jr.

Participants:
Charles Vere, the Earl of Burford, trustee of the
   Shakespeare Authorship Trust.
Tom Bethell, whose 1991 Atlantic Monthly article fueled
   the authorship controversy -Bethell taking the Oxfordian
   point of view.
Professor Gary Taylor, Chairman of the English
   Department of Brandeis, co-editor of the Complete
   Works for Oxford University.
Dr. Warren Hope, author of The Shakespeare
   Controversy (1992),an historical survey of the authorship
   question.
Rebecca Flynn, coordinator of the Shakespeare Birthplace
   Trust in Stratford-Upon-Avon and lecturer there
   for academic seminars and classes on Shakespeare's
   life and times.
Felicia Londre, lecturer on the Shakespeare authorship
   question; editor and author of seven books on the theater.

"On Conspiracy and the Documentary Evidence"

Audio no longer available

  • RealAudio Excerpt #1
  • RealAudio Excerpt #2
  • Transcript of excerpts

    (Professor Taylor argues that Oxford's authorship rests on the shaky notion of a widespread conspiracy. He also notes the lack of documentary evidence saying the Earl of Oxford wrote the plays. Interjections by Bethell, Buckley and rebuttal by Charles Vere on the conspiracy issue.)


    "Regarding the works which appeared after de Vere's death"

  • RealAudio Excerpt #3
  • Transcript of excerpt

    (The Earl of Oxford died in 1604, before a number of the plays were thought to have been written. How to explain this? Argument and counter-arguments by Professor Taylor, Tom Bethell and Charles Vere.)


    "The Monument at Stratford"

  • RealAudio Excerpt #4
  • Transcript of excerpt

    (Bethell poses the Oxfordian question: was the monument changed to reflect an artistic figure? However, playing devil's advocate, he challenges Charles Vere to explain why the Earl of Oxford's family would want to bother to put up such a monument in the first place.)


    MOOT COURT HEARING ON SHAKESPEARE AUTHORSHIP "WILLIAM SHAKESPEARE OR EDWARD DE VERE?"

    SEPTEMBER 25, 1987 (A summary follows).

    Sponsored by The American University before an audience of approximately one thousand people.

    Law professor Peter Jaszi represented the Earl of Oxford.

    Law professsor James Boyle advocated on behalf of the man from Stratford.

    The judges were Supreme Court Justices Harry Blackmun, William Brennan, and John Paul Stevens.

    * A SUMMARY OF THE HEARING:

    The debate was conducted as an appellate-court hearing. Each professor wrote legal briefs.However, absent any lower-court finding in such hearings, acting Chief Justice Brennan said that the burden of proof would be on the Oxford side since it was challenging long-estabished tradition.

    Counsel Peter Jaszi -- Argued Shakespeare's works were full of references and allusions indicating a highly-educated, man probably of noble birth. In contrast, there was little evidence Shakspere of Stratford had the education or life experience that would allow him to develop the literary qualities required to compose the plays. Counsel also listed links between the Earl of Oxford's life and the plays, in particular the plot of "Hamlet."

    Counsel James Boyle -- Argued that the several theories explaining why the Earl of Oxford would want to conceal his authorship were "internally contradictory and collapsible." He argued that although there is disagreement about the dating of the plays, there is consensus that at least one dates after 1604, the year of the Earl of Oxford's death. Counsel acknowledged the "most troublesome aspect of the case" was the unlettered, simple background of the man from Stratford. But, he said, there is "reasonable assumption" - though no direct proof - that Shakspere attended the grammar school at Stratford-upon-Avon, an "excellent school" with faculty educated at Oxford. He also cited the example of Ben Jonson's grammar school education. Coupled with the man from Stratford's ability to query from books and his own imagination such an education was sufficient to ground him in the specialized knowledge evidenced in the works.

    Summing up, counsel claimed he proved that the three questions he had posed at the beginning could all be answered favorable to the man from Stratford: There is no evidence that Edward de Vere would write the works under a pseudonym; there are ample records to demonstrate that the man from Stratford is the author; and that his backgound, likely education and records left behind do not contradict the idea that he was the author of the plays.

    Rebuttals:

    Jaszi: Counsel contrasted the known quality schooling Ben Jonson received with the mystery of what the man from Stratford acquired at his grammar school, if indeed he even attended the school. Also, how can one explain why Shakspere left no literary material and so many other Elizabethan playwrights left so much? There also was the mysterious lack of recognition during Shakspere's life and at his death: no obituaries, no public mourning, no eulogies.

    Boyle: Counsel theorized that the origins of the debate over the authorship of William Shakespeare's plays came from a quite natural urge to want to have a clearer knowledge of one of mankind's greatest authors.

    * THE DECISION OF THE COURT:

    Opinion of Justices Brennan, Blackmun, and Stevens.

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