Spurred by the Wall Street Journal article about Justice John Paul Steven’s anti-Stratfordianism, professional skeptic and publisher of Skeptic magazine, Michael Shermer, inveighs against the evils of authorship heresy in the August 2009 Scientific American. I’ve never understood Shermer’s staunch stance against authorship agnosticism. I would have thought that a skeptic might wonder how a man who couldn’t write managed to pen all those plays, or how the man from Stratford knew so much about science, math, astronomy, languages, law, mythology, and myriad books and authors. I thought a skeptic might be skeptical. But no, Shermer’s only concern is his hatred of conspiracy theorists. But what if there were no conspiracy? What if history just got it wrong when someone decided the playwright was this guy from Stratford? Would Shermer become an Oxfordian?
I doubt it. I don’t have much confidence in the intellectual acuity of the guy who said in his Scientific American essay:
Some anti-Stratfordians question Shakespeare’s existence, but the number of references to him from his own time could only be accounted for by a playwright of that name (unless de Vere used Shakespeare as a nom de plume, for which there is zero evidence).
And although Shakespeare’s skeptics note that there are no manuscripts, receipts, diaries or letters from him, they neglect to mention that we have none of these for Marlowe, either.
Maybe we don’t have a manuscript from Kit Marlowe, but we do have letters by people who knew him that refer him as a writer. And the skeptic neglects to mention all the Elizabethan authors for whom we do have manuscripts: Ben Jonson, Thomas Nash, Gabriel Harvey, George Peele, Anthony Mundy, Thomas Middleton, and others.