For nearly 200 years, people have questioned Shakespeare’s identity. While this debate is often dismissed by scholars as “just a conspiracy theory,” documented facts related to the Bard from Stratford are meagre, allowing speculation to continue. Michael Dudley, Librarian for History and Theatre and Film, has long been interested in this topic, and recently turned that interest into a book.
In The Shakespeare Authorship Question and Philosophy: Knowledge, Rhetoric, Identity, Dudley looks into the debate and argues that it warrants a place in the academy.
In the late 1980s, after Dudley completed his Bachelor of Fine Arts in Theatre (Acting), he discovered the book The Mysterious William Shakespeare: The Myth and the Reality by Charlton Ogburn Jr. This sparked his interest in Shakespeare’s identity and began his quest to learn more about the Bard. Dudley became a committed “Oxfordian,” believing that the true author of the Shakespeare works was actually Edward de Vere, 17th Earl of Oxford. He began writing about the subject in earnest in 2013, with a series of articles and chapters that became the foundations of his book.
Dudley believes there is much more to be learned and discussed when it comes to the conventional Shakespeare biography and the scholarship based upon it. He feels it is important for the substance of claims made by authorship skeptics to be heard and seriously considered.
“It is a matter of academic freedom that doubt about the traditional attribution of the works to the Stratford businessman William Shakespeare be welcomed in the academy as would any other field of inquiry,” says Dudley.
There will be a virtual Facebook live event launch on Thursday, November 30, at 6 p.m. CST, co-hosted by Don’t Quill the Messenger podcaster Steven Sabel. To hear the podcast visit The Shakespeare Authorship Question and Philosophy: Knowledge, Rhetoric, Identity.
Michael Dudley is also the author of numerous articles which have appeared in publications such as American Libraries, Brief Chronicles and The Oxfordian, as well as in the edited collection Teaching and Learning Practices for Academic Freedom (2020).