Chapter 6 (Cont.)
Chambers tells us that Shaksper's father died in September, 1601 and that Sir John Mennis was born in Kent,
March 1, 1599, little over two and one-half years earlier. Sir George Greenwood characterized this account as the ".
. .sweetly unsophisticated impression of the innocent little toddler, who at the age of two and one-half traveled
with his nurse from Kent to Stratford for the purpose of interviewing Shaksper's father!"
... It cannot be seriously contended, and Chambers himself does not appear to believe, that the contents of
Appendix C constitute valid evidence ...
It has been shown that during the lifetime of Shaksper of Stratford, there was not one recorded word, nor any
allusion to the writer nor to the actor nor to the Stratford man which identifies the writer with either of the others.
Not until seven years after the Stratford man's death did any allusion appear to identify the author with the
Stratford man, nor was there any recorded fact which would connect the Stratford man with the Shakespeare
works. The First Folio appeared in 1623. Here, posthumously by seven years, appeared the first words which
conceivably might purport to attribute authorship to the Stratford man. It is this posthumous publication which
contains what the Stratfordians call the "documentary proof" that the man of Stratford was the author. Sir Edmund
K. Chambers includes in his Appendix B--"Contemporary Allusions" the dedicatory epistles and the
commendatory verses which appeared in the First Folio, as well as some other subsequent allusions by Basse,
Taylor, Richardson, Walkley, Salisbury, Milton, Davenant and Benson, the last of which appeared in 1640. The
other allusions dated after 1616 and prior to the Folio add nothing to enlighten us about the identity of the author.
If the First Folio were eliminated, there would be no evidence whatever even remotely purporting to connect
Shaksper, the man of Stratford, with Shakespeare, the author. The First Folio is crucial to the Stratfordian case and
must be carefully scrutinized.
This volume contains thirty-six plays. One of them is not included in the "catalog" or index, and one play is
rejected by Shakespeare scholars as not having been written by him. The page numbering is confused in places.
The title page of the Folio is headed "MR. WILLIAM SHAKESPEARES COMEDIES, HISTORIES, & TRAGEDIES.
Published according to the true Originall Copies." Immediately beneath the title, and occupying more than half of
the title-page is the grotesque Droeshout engraving, made by a youth not more than twenty years old, and not
done from life.
Chambers includes this portrait in his Appendix C--"The Shakespeare Mythos" (the dubious evidence). Careful
examination of the drawing reveals a line down the edge of the face by the left ear, suspiciously like an indication
of a mask. The face is as expressionless as a mask. The left and right sides of the doublet appear to be deliberately
drawn so as not to match, and the right side looks as if it might be the back of the left side turned around. The
body might be that of a dummy, "a mere stuft suit" (in the words of Ben Jonson in Every Man Out of His Humour
). We suggest that the open-minded reader carefully examine the drawing and then ask himself whether or not it
could be a fictitious portrait.
Next follows the dedicatory epistle "To the most Noble and Incomparable Paire of Brethren," William, Earl of
Pembroke and Philip, Earl of Montgomery. In sycophantic tones the epistle states that the works are "trifles," but
that since their lordships thought well of them and of the author, the writers of the epistle have seen fit to bring
out the works after the death of the author, as a service to their worthy friend and fellow, Shakespeare, and
humbly to offer them to their lordship's patronage. The writers say they are rash in their undertaking to bring out
the book and are fearful of its success. Part of the epistle, dealing with the eminence of the Earls and the
humbleness of the presenters, is couched in language which appears to be a paraphrase of Pliny's dedication to
the Emperor Vespasian of his Natural History. The epistle closes with "Your Lordshippes most bounden, / IOHN
HEMINGE / HENRY CONDELL."
On the following page appears over the same names the epistle "To the great Variety of Readers." This opens with
an exhortation to buy the book. It refers to the plays as having been successfully produced. It states that the
writers of the epistle have collected and published them, cured of the defects which had previously appeared in
"diverse stolne, and surreptitious copies, maimed, and deformed by the frauds and stealthes of iniurious
imposters," and that they now appear "cur'd and perfect of their limbes; and all the rest, absolute in their
numbers: as the author (unnamed and unidentified) conceived them." They say of him "His mind and hand went
together: And what he thought, he vttered with that easinesse, that wee have scarse received from him a blot in
Next follow Ben Jonson's verses under the caption "To the memory of my beloved, The AUTHOR MR. WILLIAM
SHAKESPEARE: AND what he hath left us." These verses are extravagantly laudatory of Shakespeare. They refer
to him as "a monument without a tomb." Without otherwise identifying Shakespeare the verses apostrophize the
"Sweet Swan of Avon."
On the following page is a laudatory sonnet over the name Hugh Holland (who was a traveler and poet of
Cambridge). This in no way identifies the author. Then follows the "Catalina" or index with the defects mentioned
above. Next appears the poem over the name "L. Digges" (a translator of Oxford) which says the works will live
when "Time dissolves thy Stratford Moniment." Then eight laudatory but unidentifying lines appear over the
initials I.M., thought by Chambers to be James Mabbe.
The final prefatory page is headed "The Workes of William Shake-speare, containing all his Comedies, Histories,
and Tragedies: Truely set forth, according to their first ORIGINALL." Then follows a list of "The Names of the
Principall Actors in all These Playes" with the name William Shakespeare heading the list and preceding those of
Richard Burbadge (sic) and the other leading actors of the day.
On the subsequent pages appear the plays. Although the prefatory epistle states they are cured of the defects
which previously appeared, as published they perpetuate many earlier errors and are full of patent mistakes in
language, in grammar and in orthography which have baffled scholars and given rise to extended controversy
over suggested corrections and emendations.
In the colophon appear the words "Printed at the Charges of W. Iaggard, Ed. Blount, I. Smithweeke, and W.
This then is the First Folio which, published seven years after the death of Shaksper, the man of Stratford, contains
the first bit of evidence which might identify him with Shakespeare, the author. The posthumous evidence in the
First Folio is the keystone of the Stratfordian case.
The will of Shaksper has been previously referred to herein, and also more at length in my original article. The will
contains bequests "to my ffellowes John Hemynge Richard Burbage & Henry Cundell xxvjs viijd A peece to buy
them Ringes." These bequests are part of what is called the principal "documentary proof" of the Stratfordian
authorship. The fact that 26 shillings and 8 pence were left to each of these three, who were actors, and were
referred to as fellows, of itself would not tend to establish anything more than that the testator had been a fellow
actor. By themselves, these bequests have no bearing upon the question of the authorship of the works. It is only
in relation to the First Folio that they could have any relevance to that question. Richard Burbage died in 1619 and
had no connection with the First Folio except that his name appears in the list of actors. The names of the other
two legatees have been variously spelled Hemynges, Heming, Hemings, Heminge, Cundell, Condel, Cundaile,
Condell, etc. Chambers adopts Heminges as the spelling of the former's name. Heminge and Condell are the
spellings used in the First Folio, and are used herein for convenience.
Chambers in his Appendix B gives two allusions to a Shakespeare as an actor, in 1603 and 1604, in association with
Burbage, Heminge, Condell, Augustine Phillips, and others. (In 1605 he and Condell were legatees under Phillips'
will.) These are the only references to this name as an actor recorded before 1616, the year of the Stratford man's
death. There are two other subsequent references to a Shakespeare as an actor with Burbage, Heminge, Condell
and Phillips. Both of these, however, were in the First Folio of Ben Jonson's works, which was not published until
1616, the year Shaksper died. They show the name of William Shakespeare as having been that of an actor in 1598
in Jonson's Every Man in His Humour, and in 1603 in Sejanus.
Mr. Clary's article states that the three legatees were members of the Lord Chamberlain's Men and that the official
records show that William Shakespeare was a member of their company. The Lord Chamberlain's books do show
an entry of payment to William Kempe, William Shakespeare and Richard Burbage as "seruants to the Lord
Chamberleyne" for performances before the Queen on December 26 and 28, 1594. But this "official record" which
is offered as "documentary proof" is open to grave question. Sir Thomas Heneage was Treasurer of the Chamber
from 1569 to 1582 and later Vice Chamberlain from 1588 until his death in 1595. After his death, a shortage was
found in his accounts. The Queen wrote a stern demand to his widow, who succeeded him as Treasurer, that she
either explain the shortage or make good the amount of it. It was after this demand and several years after the
purported date, that the entry of the payment was made. It also appears in the same books that, contrary to the
statement in the entry in question, it was the Admiral's and not the Chamberlain's company that played before the
Queen on December 26; and Henslowe's diary shows that the Lord Chamberlains's company played The Siege of
London at his theater on that date. Furthermore, the records of Gray's Inn show that on December 28, the Lord
Chamberlain's company played The Comedy of Errors at Gray's Inn and not at Court before the Queen. Chambers
notes these discrepancies in dates. Thus there is ample ground for questioning the genuineness of this "official
Elsewhere in Appendix B there are many references to the legatees or some of them as actors in various plays.
These indicate specific roles played by them. But there is no other reference to Shakespeare as an actor until the
Shakespeare First Folio appeared in 1623. Nowhere is there any indication of any role assigned to him. In the First
Folio list of the leading actors who are said to have taken part in the plays, the fact that the name of Shakespeare
leads all the rest gives it a prominence utterly unwarranted by any other record.
Burbage was by far the best known, and was a leading actor of the day. Little else is known of the other two
legatees, Heminge and Condell. The former is named in the 1613 deed and mortgage with the Stratford man,
whose name is signed to these two documents as "William Shakspe" and "Wm Shakspr," respectively. These
documents related to the Blackfriars Gate-House. Burbage, Heminge and Condell, as well as Shakespeare and
others are named in the answer of Heminge and Condell in the case of Witter v. Heminge and Condell in the
Court of Requests in 1619 as having had interests a score of years earlier in the Globe and Blackfriars. Chambers
tells us that Heminge stuttered by 1613 and dropped out by 1620. There is an account that Heminge became a
grocer and died in 1630; and that Condell became a publican and died in 1623. The testimony of Heminge and
Condell appearing in the First Folio is discussed below.
It is necessary to take special note of the fact that the bequests to Heminge, Burbage and Condell in Shaksper's
will were not in the body of the will as it was originally written. They are in an interlineation, added some time
later, no one knows when, not even whether it was before or after the death of the testator. Chambers points out
other "odd features" in the will. According to Chambers, the will was found by Joseph Greene in 1747. That the
will, as we know it, may have been tampered with is also suggested by the statement of Sir E. M. Thompson, the
expert, who, as stated above, is cited by Chambers as thinking that the last signature on the will does not appear
as it was originally written.
Hugh Holland, Leonard Digges, and James Mabbe, whose verses in the First Folio eulogize the author of the
works, were closely associated with Ben Jonson in school or in literary work. Of these, Jonson was, of course, by
far the best known. It is upon Jonson's testimony, particularly his two poems in the First Folio, that the
Stratfordians place the greatest reliance. As for identification of the author, Digges' reference to "Thy Stratford
Moniment," is perhaps the strongest evidence for the Stratfordian case; but it is certainly not definitive. Jonson's
testimony is curiously vague.
William Drummond reported of Jonson: "His Censure of the English Poets was this. . .That Shakesperr wanted
Drummond also quoted Jonson as ridiculing the author with the words: "Sheakspear in a play brought in a
number of men saying they had suffered Shipwrack in Bohemia, wher ther is no Sea neer by some 100 miles."
Jonson apparently did not know that Bohemia did have a sea-coast in the thirteenth century.
In Timber: or, Discoveries Made upon Men and Matters, Jonson said that: ". . .the Players have often mentioned it
as an honour to Shakespeare, that in his writing, (whatsoever he penn'd) hee never blotted out a line. My answer
hath beene, would he had blotted a thousand." And then he explained that although this was thought a malevolent
speech, "I lov'd the man, and doe honour his memory (on this side idolatry) as much as any."
Elsewhere, in Rowe's Life of Shakespeare, it is said: "Sir John Suckling, who was a profess'd admirer of
Shakespeare, had undertaken his Defence against Ben Jonson with some warmth. . .Ben frequently reproaching
him with want of Learning, and Ignorance of the Antients. . ."
In John Dryden's Essay on Dramatique Poetry of the Last Age appears the following passage: "In reading some
bombast speeches of Macbeth, which are not to be understood, he [Ben Jonson] used to say it was horrour."
Drummond, in 1619, said of Jonson: "He is a great lover and praiser of himself, a contemnor and Scorner of others,
given rather to loose a friend than a jest, jealous of every word and action of those about him (especially after
drink), which is one of the elements in which he liveth, a dissembler of ill parts which raigne in him, a bragger of
some good that he wanteth. . .vindicative, but if he be well answered, at himself for any religion being versed in
In 1620 Jonson made a list of the distinguished persons he had known. It contained no mention of Shaksper or
Shakespeare. Then within three years the First Folio was published containing his unrestrained praise of "The Soul
of the Age," "Star of Poets," etc.
Jonson's principal testimony upon which the Stratfordians rely is that contained in the lines in the First Folio. The
first of these relating to the portrait have already been briefly discussed. They do not identify the author in any
way. The only other testimony of Jonson's which could relate to the question of the authorship is contained in his
extravagantly laudatory poem about Shakespeare, in whose name the works were published. It consists simply in
the apostrophe to the "Sweet Swan of Avon." (This may be a significant metaphor, since a swan is believed to have
no voice except at its death.) [Another reference by Jonson is to the author as a "monument without a tomb," thus
implying that he was still living when the 1623 Folio was published.] But do those words allude to Shaksper, the
man of Stratford? There are three rivers in England named Avon. Their combined length is 235 miles. Certainly the
Stratford man was not the only person associated with any of these rivers. For instance, the Earl of Oxford
(whether or not he wrote the works) owned three estates on the Upper Avon, the one which flows through
Stratford. His estate, Bilton on Avon, was a few miles distant from Stratford, on the other side of the forest of
Arden. If the phrase was intended to refer to Lord Oxford it would be just as apt.
That Jonson was a prime factor in the publication of the First Folio can hardly be questioned. Steevens suggested
that Jonson wrote part of the epistle to the readers and revised the rest. Chambers favors this view. All of those
who appear as authors of the prefatory material in the First Folio were close associates of Jonson's. The recorded
facts show that the Earl of Pembroke, who in 1615 became Lord Chamberlain, raised Jonson's stipend in 1616 from
20 pounds a year (which Jonson mentioned to Drummond) to 100 marks. In 1621, when Jonson was financially
hard pressed, and the First Folio was being prepared for publication, the Earl of Pembroke further increased
Jonson's stipend to 200 pounds, or about $8,000 in our  money. The Folio was dedicated to the Earl of
Pembroke and to his brother, the Earl of Montgomery. The Oxfordians call attention to the fact that the latter was
Lord Oxford's son-in-law. They and the others who doubt the Stratfordian authorship point out the weaknesses
and even the suspicious character of what is offered as Jonson's testimony, as well as its quite possible financial
It is in truth difficult to know how to evaluate the testimony of such an equivocal and self-contradictory witness as
Jonson. In any event, his praise of Shakespeare does not identify the man, and at the very best Jonson's testimony
is vague and indefinite. It is a slender reed to support so weighty a matter as the authorship of the Shakespeare
So much reliance is placed by Stratfordians upon what is called the "documentary evidence" in the First Folio, that
it is frequently cited as the answer to all doubts about the authorship. Doubters are told that this First Folio settles
every question. But does it?
The first question it fails to answer is why this volume, published seven years after the death of Shaksper of
Stratford, should be the very first evidentiary link between him and the Shakespeare works. But there are several
Canon G. H. Rendall in Ben Jonson and the First Folio Edition of Shakespeare's Plays wrote as follows:
"Financially the Folio implied expenditure on a large scale, in addition to the heavy costs of actual printing,
production and distribution; these alone were far beyond the means at the command of William Jaggard, who at
this stage of his career was in no position to embark capital in so large a venture. From 1612 onwards, when
Jaggard himself was stricken with blindness, the firm declined in productive energy and enterprise, and from 1617
to 1621 were further embarrassed by bad debts and law suits. . .In 1621 printing of the Folio had already been put
in hand, and Jaggard himself died before its issue in 1623."
William Jaggard was succeeded by his son Isaac in 1623 and the Folio appears as printed by Isaac Jaggard and Ed.
Blount, who had already printed some of the quarto plays. In the Colophon William Jaggard's name is given as
one of the printers, indicating that the printing was already in hand when William died.
As for the purported sponsors of the Folio, John Heminge and Henry Condell, those who attested the authenticity
of the plays published in the Folio and represented themselves as being the speculative backers of it, Canon
"As a business proposition the published price is 22 shillings for an issue of (say) 500 copies [as estimated by Dr.
Samuel Johnson], even if realised in full, must have resulted in a deficit, far beyond the resources of the avowed
editors, Heminge and Condell."
Quite obviously, the financing of the Folio must have come from the outside. And what printer, even if he were
not blind, would in such straitened circumstances as Jaggard's be likely to be too inquisitive about the authorship
or to ask too many questions of those who brought him a substantial piece of business with its financing already
The dedicatory epistle addressed to the Earls of Pembroke and Montgomery is in substantial part an apparent
paraphrase of the dedication of Pliny's Natural History [It is worth mentioning that Francis Bacon also wrote a
"Natural History" (Sylva Sylvarum ) and finished it two years before his death in 1626]. This indicates classical
learning far beyond that which could be expected of two ordinary actors such as Heminge and Condell. It adds to
the suspicion that their names were used, probably because they had some association with the man of Stratford.
The view, concurred in by Chambers, that Ben Jonson was the actual writer of at least part of the epistle, merely
using the names of Heminge and Condell, is credible because of Jonson's own familiarity with the classics which
he often paraded, as when he spoke disparagingly of Shakespeare's learning.
The suspicious appearance of the Droeshout portrait and of Ben Jonson's verses relating to it has already been
The close association between Ben Jonson and the others who appear as authors of the prefatory epistles and
poems is another circumstance to be considered in connection with the contention that a subsidy was paid to
Jonson to undertake the actual promotion of the publication.
Jonson's various other equivocal statements about Shakespeare as an author, his own failure to provide any real
identification of the author of the contents of the First Folio, and the large payments to him at a time when he was
financially embarrassed, add to the suspicion.
The listing of the name of William Shakespeare on the list of "The Principall actors in all of these Playes," ahead of
the names of those who were otherwise well known as leading actors of the day, is at variance with every other
record and seems to have no reasonable warrant in good faith.
In the prefatory epistles to which the names of Heminge and Condell are subscribed (probably by Jonson) it is
stated that they were friends of the author, Shakespeare. This statement is the only link with the suspiciously
interlined bequest in the will of Shaksper of Stratford.
The statement over the names of Heminge and Condell asserts that they collected the works "according to the true
originall copies" and that they cured them of the defects which appeared in the "stolne and surreptitious" copies.
Manifestly this is untrue, since the First Folio is full of obvious errors and defects.
The statement also asserts that they scarcely received a blot in the author's papers. Chambers' comment is "What
one does not find is the absence of `blots' for which Heminges and Condell especially lauded Shakespeare." The
gist of the purported statement of Heminge and Condell is that the author wrote with such facility that he made
few corrections and scarcely blotted a word. Can this truly be a reference to the man of Stratford, in whose six
painfully scrawled signatures there are no less than three blots?
When we contemplate the probability that the financing of the publication was provided from the outside, the
concern expressed by Heminge and Condell as to the financial success of the venture sounds hollow indeed.
The letters over the names of Heminge and Condell contain so many patent misstatements that it is difficult to
believe they were made in good faith inadvertently, and not deliberately intended to deceive. The Stratfordians
place much reliance upon this testimony. But the statements themselves, if indeed Heminge and Condell really
made them, contain no direct identification of the author whose works they purport to have collected, corrected,
published and sponsored.
Thus even the First Folio, containing as it does the principal evidence for the Stratfordian authorship, is itself
subject to persistently haunting doubts. The Stratfordians either dismiss or ignore them, and accept the First Folio
as settling all questions about the authorship. To others, however, the Stratfordian authorship appears factually
unsupported at best, and moreover seems an utterly incredible paradox--a phenomenon contravening human
experience. To them the unlikelihood of the Stratfordian authorship, the absence of other evidence and the doubts
about the First Folio quite naturally suggest clues to a deliberate masquerade.
These supplementary notes will, it is hoped, make clearer the basis for the doubts about the Stratfordian
authorship. They at least expand the "all-too-condensed" summation of the external evidence in the case of
William Shaksper of Stratford as given in the original article. . .
With all these in mind perhaps you, ladies and gentlemen of the jury, will wish again to retire and consider further
your verdict. It is for you to answer the two questions put to you at the outset: Was Shakespeare the same man as
Shaksper, and if not, who was he? Was the author William Shaksper; Francis Bacon; Christopher Marlowe;
Edward de Vere, Earl of Oxford; or someone else?
In arriving at your own individual answers to these questions, each one of you will be solving for yourself the
most baffling, and what is indeed, "the greatest literary whodunit of all time."
Thus ends Richard Bentley's summary of the "Great Controversy." He was not the first able trial lawyer who
weighed the positive evidence in this case and found most of it, favoring the authorship of William Shakespeare,
to be inadmissible. The negative evidence showing the incompetence of this supposed writer is exceptionally
persuasive. To the contrary, the Works betray the unmistakable signs of an attorney's practiced hand. To me,
experienced lawyers like Bentley, those who must evaluate dispassionately the proofs before they are presented
to a court and who have a sharpened cynicism toward the kind of evidence that can, at best, be considered as
speculative, are the most practical judges of a hard case like this. Yet the real judges, whose opinions have again
and again become final without hope of appeal, are the schoolmasters. They are accustomed to speak with
conclusive authority to their students whom, upon graduation and happy relief from such literary quarrels, must
carry the scars of scholastic dogmatism forever after. Those outside the classrooms, those with opinions
unpopular to the teachers within them, are easy victims for classification as amateurs or hobbyists, or even cranks
if they should obtrude unwelcome doubts concerning their Most Worshipful Bard.
Richard Grant White, an American Shakespeare critic, described the Bard's home at Stratford as "hardly equal to a
rustic cottage, almost a hovel, poverty stricken, squalid, kennel-like." The town itself he portrayed as "A dirty
village. . .the streets foul with offal, mud, muck-heaps and reeking stable refuse." J. O. Halliwell-Phillips wrote
that the birthplace was "in the vicinity of middens, fetid watercourses, mud walls and piggeries." David Garrick
described the place as, "the most dirty, unseemly, ill-paved, wretched looking town in all Britain."
But the managers of the Shakespeare Birthplace Trust seem to view these reports as matters to be disregarded,
and to call attention to them a sign of prejudice and intolerance. A new publication, The Shakespeare Handbook,
(G. K. Hall, 1987) written by a "team of leading international scholars under the editorship of Levi Fox" revives the
Shakespeare legends. They buy, for example, the Thomas Plume tale referred to by Bentley, that Shakespeare was
a glover's son. Levi Fox has been the director of the Shakespeare Birthplace Trust at Stratford-upon-Avon since
1945. The "Birth-place" is visited by a more than a million tourists each year. Obviously, this editor may entertain
some bias in favor of orthodoxy and enduring revenue. A passage must be quoted:
"It is important the emphasize this: One of the curiosities of Shake speareana is that peculiar popular myth, now at
last disappearing, that Shakespeare was not, so to speak, Shakespeare, but someone else altogether, such as Bacon
or the Earl of Oxford. This has been a curiously tenacious myth which still, from time to time, is put forward with
much enthusiasm, but little scholarship. This strange notion was nourished by the conviction that Stratford in the
16th century was a dirty and insignificant huddle of squalid dwellings. The argument, in part, ran that the
extraordinary knowledge shown by Shakespeare could only have come from someone socially elevated--in
London and at court, preferably. Thus was snobbery wedded, as always, to ignorance."
Poor Shakespeare--set upon by snobs of little scholarship!
Richard Bentley was Editor-in-Chief of the American Bar Association Journal from 1961 until his death in 1970. His
essays, including those quoted above, were published by the A.B.A. Journal as part of a book entitled