On the first of September there appeared in The Stage magazine an announcement from the Shakespeare Birthplace Trust that it was launching a campaign "to debunk the conspiracy theories surrounding the authorship of Shakespeare's works." It was of course timed to be up and running before the release of Roland Emmerich's film Anonymous on 28 October.
The campaign began that day with a new website, 60 Minutes with Shakespeare, featuring an impressive collection of actors, writers and scholars, whose photographs and credentials are laid out before us on the home page. "Was Shakespeare a Fraud?" it asks, "Sixty questions, sixty scholars, sixty seconds each." To find out just what question each of them was asked and to hear an audio recording of their answer you must "sign up" with your name and email address. It is then also possible to obtain a transcript of the response in each case.
This hurdle makes it fairly clear that the main intent is for the majority of people not to bother with the actual details on offer, but to be so impressed with the array of "experts" - all (except Roland Emmerich) apparently on the side of the Shakespeare Birthplace Trust in this matter - that they will simply assume not only that these people must be right, but that those who suggest that Shakespeare was a "fraud" must be wrong.
That the Birthplace Trust has gone so public in this way, however, gives those who doubt the Shakespeare authorship an unprecedented opportunity to respond. Within a week, therefore, the Shakespeare Authorship Coalition began in relative secrecy to coordinate a response by representatives of most of the main authorship organizations, including the International Marlowe-Shakespeare Society, giving a definitive rebuttal for each of the "60 Minutes." We have provided responses for the items (by Antony Sher and Charles Nicholl) specifically attacking the Marlovian theory, and have had the opportunity to make comments on everything else that's been submitted, most of which have been acted upon.
The result of this collaboration is a report entitled Exposing an Industry in Denial, the purpose of which is to present those rebuttals, and to challenge the Shakespeare Birthplace Trust to write a single definitive declaration of the reasons why they claim that there is no room for doubt about the identity of the author of the plays and poems of William Shakespeare.
Given the differences between the beliefs of the various organizations taking part, it was inevitable that not all members of the group would be able to go along with everything written by the others, but in the event such differences are really quite surprisingly few. There is indeed far more in it to be praised than to be pardoned, and we heartily commend it to everyone's attention. It can be found here.
© The International Marlowe-Shakespeare Society, 2011
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