It was not until the middle years of the nineteenth century, so far as we can tell, that anyone seriously doubted that the man from Stratford-upon-Avon called William Shakespeare had written the plays that for the past two and a half centuries had passed without question under his name. In the early 1850s, however, a private scholar from Connecticut named Delia Bacon began to develop an alternative view. She believed that the plays had been composed not by Shakespeare but by a syndicate of writers headed probably by Francis Bacon, whom she later came to think of as her distant ancestor.
The Old Believers
Shakespeare Beyond Doubt: Evidence, Argument, Controversy
edited by Paul Edmondson and Stanley Wells
Cambridge University Press, $35.95 pb, 298 pp, 9781107603288
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Ian Donaldson is an Honorary Professorial Fellow in the School of Culture and Communication at the University of Melbourne. He is General Editor of The Cambridge Edition of the Works of Ben Jonson (2012), and author of Ben Jonson: A Life (2011). He was the Oxford theatre reviewer for The Guardian (London) for a decade.
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