And do as adversaries do in law,
Strike mightily, but eat and drink as friends.
Lawyers and judges, and the best of them, have been attracted to "The Controversy." Such a one was the late
Richard Bentley. After graduating from Yale University and Northwestern University, he was a captain of infantry in
WWI and a Navy captain in WWII. He began the practice of law in Chicago in 1922 and, among other professional
honors, he became President of the Chicago Bar Association. He was a member of the Board of Editors of the
American Bar Association Journal beginning in 1946.
In 1959 he contributed an article to the ABA Journal [@], The Lawyer's Magazine. It is so succinct and so eruditely
persuasive that I have requested permission to reprint most of it, and have been given kindly leave to do so by that
journal. The reader will notice that Mr. Bentley is not necessarily convinced that "Bacon done it," but he is certain that
Who Was "William Shake-Speare"?
By Richard Bentley
Three and a half centuries, more or less, have rolled by since the Bard of Avon "shuffled off this mortal coil." Since
then Shakespeare has become big business in Stratford, with vested interests worth millions a year in tourist trade.
He has become a "sacred cow." To question his authorship is considered "bad form," like eating peas with your knife
or even spitting on the rug. If you question it you are branded by Shakespeare scholars as either a knave or a fool, or
The scholars help us to understand Shakespearean language, to appreciate the content and structure of the writings
and to learn the literary sources upon which the author drew. These are primarily literary questions and strictly
within the sphere of scholars. But the question of the identity of the author is not purely a literary question; it is also
a question of evidence. It is, therefore, properly within the province of lawyers to inquire as to the authorship and to
judge of the competence and validity of the evidence.
The known facts are few. The first real biography of Shakespeare was published ninety-three years after his death
and covered four pages. This and subsequent biographies are based largely upon inferences from the works and
upon assumptions and guesswork. There is admittedly no direct proof of the authorship. We can arrive only at the
most probable solution upon the preponderance of the evidence. And we should not reject a new conclusion merely
because it may be different from an old one, long accepted.
Consider by analogy the classic belief that Richard III was an unmitigated villain. The Shakespeare play so portrays
him. But research very recently has shown this reputation probably was undeserved and was politically inspired by
his enemies of the House of Lancaster who doctored the evidence.
The Piltdown man was accepted as authentic for fifty years until it was proved, and later admitted, to be a hoax.
Historians now know Betsy Ross did not design our flag, but tourists still pay admission to her house in
Philadelphia to see the "Birthplace of Old Glory."
Let us, therefore, summarize the only contemporaneously recorded and substantiated facts, carefully reviewed and
checked. Let us consider the question of the authorship of the Shakespeare works de novo in the light of what is now
known, in order to reach our own individual solutions of the greatest literary "whodunit" of all time.
In what follows it seems appropriate to refer to the Stratford man as Shaksper, the name he himself used, and to
refer to the author by the published name, Shakespeare. The problem is simply stated: Was Shakespeare the same
man as Shaksper, and if not, who was he?
A William Shaksper (not Shakespeare) was baptized April 26, 1564, in Stratford, a town of 1,600, a squalid and "a
bookless neighborhood." Like most of the inhabitants his parents were illiterate. Nothing whatever is known of him
until he was 18, when a license was issued for his marriage to Anne Whateley of Temple Grafton. The next day a
bond was filed for his marriage to Anne Hathwey (sic) of Shottery. No marriage to either Anne is recorded, but a
daughter was baptized barely six months later, and two years later, twins.
By 1597, at 33, he had mysteriously become wealthy and contracted to buy perhaps the most pretentious residence
in Stratford. In the earliest biography it is reported he received a large payment, the modern equivalent [in 1959] of
some $20,000 from the Earl of Southampton to help him purchase some property, but no quid pro quo nor date is
The rest of the records in Stratford show activity in the grain and malt business, transactions in real estate and
litigated matters in which he was usually the plaintiff, once suing for less than two pounds. He was godfather to an
alderman's son. The only contemporary record of any conversation of his was about his proposed enclosure of
common pasture-lands, to deprive the poor of their rights. The town of Stratford successfully opposed this.
He signed his will in three places in March, 1616, and died a month later. His will left to his wife his "second best
bed with the furniture," and disposed in detail of various articles such as a sword, a bowl, jewelry, plate,etc. It
mentioned no interest in a theater, no writings, no books, nor any literary property whatever.
No public mention was made of his death. His son-in-law wrote in his diary, "My father-in-law died on Thursday."
These are all the known facts about his life in Stratford.
Records in London show that in 1612 he signed a deposition in a lawsuit between two men whom the court found
to be low characters, with one of whom he had been a lodger in 1604. He and two others bought a house in London
and he signed a deed and a mortgage. Two years later there was a lawsuit about the title. The three signatures just
referred to and the three on his will are the only signatures ever known to have existed. All are written in a scrawled,
unformed hand, all are spelled differently, but none is spelled "Shakespeare."
London records show him as a legatee of a small bequest, that he was put under a peace bond in 1596, and was a
tax defaulter that year and the next.
These are all the known facts about Shaksper of Stratford. The name William Shakespeare does appear as an actor
in 1598, 1603 and 1604, with no reference to any part he played. Nowhere apart from the works themselves was a
Shaksper or Shakespeare referred to during his lifetime either as a playwright or a poet.
There is an anecdote, probably apocryphal, in the diary of a barrister of the Middle Temple in an entry for March
13, 1601. This tells that during a performance of Richard III, one of the audience became so enamored of the actor
"Burbidge" (Burbadge), that she arranged for him to come to see her that night. It says, "Shakespeare overhearing
their conclusion went before, was in tertained, and at his game ere Burbidge came." When Burbadge arrived,
Shakespeare sent him word that "William the Conqueror was before Rich. the 3." This Shakespeare is not identified
There is a doubtful record, of a William Shakespeare, unidentified, as receiving thirty-four shillings for work on a
Nothing whatever is known of the last years of Shaksper's life. The parish register in Stratford records the burial of
"Will. Shaksper(e), gent."on April 25, 1616. . .
The above are all the established facts about the Stratford man who is considered the greatest literary mind of all
time. In the words of Hamlet, "The rest is silence."
No contemporary historian mentions either Shaksper or Shakespeare. One antiquarian published in 1656 an
engraving of a monument in the Stratford church with a bust of Shaksper. It showed a sad-eyed man with a
drooping mustache and bald head holding a sack of grain in his lap. In 1747 this bust was replaced with the bust
seen in the church today. In the new bust the face was wholly changed to look somewhat like the portrait in the First
Folio, a pen was shown in his hand and a writing tablet on a tasseled cushion replaced the grain-sack.
We find no external evidence to identify William Shaksper of Stratford, or Shakespeare the actor, as an author.
What of the works themselves?
Two poems, Venus and Adonis and The Rape of Lucrece , were published in 1593 and 1594 bearing the name
"William Shake-Speare." This name had never previously been published anywhere. It appeared at the end of
unauthorized dedications to Henry Wriothesley, the Earl of Southampton. The first referred to the work as "the first
heir of my invention." Of the thirty-six plays attributed to Shakespeare,published in the First Folio of1623, seven
years after the death of Shaksper, only fifteen, all quartos, were published during his lifetime. Of these only nine
bore the name Shakespeare as the author, the other six being published anonymously. Only three plays published in
that name during his lifetime were ever registered for copyright purposes. Some plays were produced and pirated
Between 1595 and 1611 eight other plays were published also in quarto form, some by the same publishers, with
authorship attributed to Shakespeare. Seven of these eight are rejected by Shakespeare scholars as not having been
written by him. The eighth is considered doubtful. The scholars thus accept as authentic six quarto plays never
attributed to Shakespeare during his lifetime and reject as spurious seven quarto plays which were published under
his name or initials. Clearly then they reject title-page evidence as the test of authenticity. Their test is comparison
with other works they consider authentic. However, there is extant no manuscript nor any literature whatsoever
proved to be Shakespeare's. There exists, therefore, no true basis for any such comparison, and this test of
authenticity is necessarily a "boot-strap" operation, a syllogism with no major premise.
In 1599, a book of miscellaneous verse, much of which is rejected by Shakespeare scholars (called the Passionate
Pilgrim ), was published under the Shakespeare name. In 1609 SHAKE-SPEARES SONNETS Never before Imprinted
appeared containing 154 sonnets and also a poem which scholars reject as not by Shakespeare. The sonnets were
dedicated to "Mr. W. H." It is generally thought by scholars that these are the reversed initials of Henry Wriothesley,
the man to whom Venus and Adonis and The Rape of Lucrece were dedicated. The sonnets are regarded by scholars
as autobiographical. They refer frequently to a fair youth and to a dark lady. The Earl of Southampton, who was nine
years younger than Shaksper, is thought to be the fair youth. There is no agreement as to the identity of the dark
lady, for whom apparently the author had a hopelessly passionate attachment, in spite of her faithlessness to him.
The sonnets indicate the author's devotion to the fair youth. They suggest some scandal about him and that a turn of
fortune bars the author from public honor. They express, however, a conviction that the lines will live and give
immortality to the person about whom they are written.
There are a few references to the works in contemporary writings. During Shaksper's entire life, however, not one
of his contemporaries ever referred to him personally as a writer. The only references to Shakespeare were to
writings with which that name was connected, and none referred otherwise personally to a writer of that name. Thus
neither in the writings themselves nor in their authorship is there anything whatsoever which identifies the Stratford
man with the author of any of the works or identifies the two different names, Shaksper and Shakespeare, with each
The negative evidence is significant. There is no record that Shaksper ever attended school; none that he ever wrote
anything. There are no early writings reflecting the development of his skill. Yet he was in his thirtieth year when the
first publication appeared, with the literary style fully developed. Then after prolific publication of deathless
writings the flow suddenly stopped and he spent his last years in utter obscurity. If he wrote the Shakespeare works,
he did so without being paid; and he let them be pirated freely during his lifetime, although this same man was
consistently penurious, frequently suing debtors for small sums. Though twenty of the thirty-six plays were
unpublished when he died, his will which makes detailed disposition of his belongings, was silent as to any books.
It does not appear this man ever traveled abroad or could have become familiar with Latin, Greek or foreign
languages. Yet the author's works show familiarity with foreign countries and languages, familiarity with Latin,
especially Ovid; and he coined thousands of English words of Latin and Greek derivation. He had a vocabulary of
15,000 words, almost twice as many as the 8,000 words in the vocabulary of John Milton, the scholar.
Shaksper of Stratford did not frequent court circles so as to become closely familiar with court life and manners,
chivalry, tournaments, falconry and sports of the nobility. If he was the author of the works, we cannot account for
his intimate knowledge of these things and of the law; nor can we understand how one of his consistently
materialistic interests could soar to the heights of sublime imagery found in the poetry.
The Shakespeare scholars say that this is all accounted for by his genius. The argument seems to run like this:
Shakespeare for centuries has been regarded as the author of the works. The author of the works was a man of
superlative genius. Therefore Shakespeare was a man of superlative genius, and for that reason must have been the
author of the works. That is to say, the greater the ignorance and lack of preparation, the greater the genius, and
hence the greater the likelihood that Shaksper was the author. This of course is nonsense. Macaulay said of Dryden:
"Genius will not furnish a poet with a vocabulary; it will not teach what word exactly corresponds with his idea and
will most surely convey it to others. Information and experience are necessary for strengthening the imagination."
Ben Jonson wrote, "a good poet's made, as well as born." One would expect scholars as well as lawyers to be
among the first to recognize the necessity of education, training and preparation.
Shaksper lived unknown as a literary man, and died unnoticed. There was not even sufficient interest in him for
anyone to have inquired about him of any of his children or of his grand-daughter, nor to write even a four page
biography about him until almost a hundred years after his death. Ralph Waldo Emerson said, "I cannot marry the
works to the life." Charles Dickens said, "The life of William Shakespeare is a fine mystery, and I tremble every day
lest something should turn up." Others who are said to have doubted the authorship include persons of distinction
in many fields: Nathaniel Hawthorne, Lord Palmerston, Walt Whitman, Sir George Greenwood, Mark Twain, Prince
Bismarck, Oliver Wendell Holmes, Sigmund Freud, John Bright, Henry James, Lord Brighton, Lord Penzance and
John Greenleaf Whittier.
It is noteworthy that (in 1769) within twenty-five years after the memorial bust in the Stratford church was changed
to represent a literary man instead of a grain-dealer, the first book appeared seriously questioning the
Shakespearean authorship [@].
The presence of legal allusions and the similarity of certain passages to writings of perhaps the greatest legal
scholar and philosopher of the day prompted claims that Francis Bacon was the author.
The facts of Bacon's life are well known. He was born three years before Shaksper (1561) and died ten years after
him (1626). Bacon was educated at Cambridge University (1574-6). He then went to Paris in the suite of the English
Ambassador. After his return he studied law and was admitted to the Bar at the age of 21 years. He became a
Bencher at Gray's Inn. He supported the Essex rebellion and was given a substantial estate by Essex, but shortly
afterward acted as Queen's Counsel in prosecuting him.
[Bacon had supported Essex but was not aware that he planned an armed rebellion. He deserted him after he
marched through London with 200 soldiers carrying weapons. It should be added here that Bacon very rarely
practiced law. He was elected to Parliament in 1584 and served almost continuously until about 1615. There were
many lapses of time between the sessions, and the duties of a member were light. At one period he received a
small income from Queeen Elizabeth, but it is not known how he supported himself otherwise. Except for one
small volume of his essays, he published nothing under his own name until 1605, The Advancement of Learning .]
Bacon came into royal favor with James I. He was knighted almost at once, became Solicitor General (in 1607),
Attorney General (in 1613), Lord Keeper of the Great Seal (in 1617) and then (in 1618) Lord Chancellor. Within four
years, however, he confessed to a charge of bribery and was imprisoned; but was released after a few days.
Thereafter he devoted himself to literature, writing on jurisprudence, science and philosophy. His education, his
breadth of learning, knowledge of law, familiarity with Court circles both abroad and in England, and his unusual
literary ability made him the natural choice of those who were convinced the Shakespeare works must have been
written by someone possessed of these advantages, and not by Shaksper of Stratford, who apparently had none of
The first book claiming Bacon as the author received comparatively little notice. But in 1848, the contention was
renewed [@]. A number of books appeared. Delia Bacon, an American girl, went to Stratford and, sitting up all
night alone in the church, became convinced that Bacon was the author. She published a book The Philosophy of
Shakespeare's Plays Unfolded (1857), for which Nathaniel Hawthorne wrote the introduction. Since then hundreds
of books have been written on the subject. The best known include a work by Ignatius Donnelly (called The Great
Cryptogram --1887) and another (The Bi-Literal Cypher of Francis Bacon --1900) by Mrs. E. W. Gallup. These
contend that cryptograms or ciphers in the works amount to concealed signatures of Francis Bacon, who himself
had written a work on cryptography. But these ciphers either tend to cancel out each other or are so broad as to
demonstrate that almost any works were written by Bacon [@]. An Oxford scholar told me he once saw one of
these ciphers applied to Milton's Paradise Lost and it showed that Bacon was its author. By analogy, in the 46th
Psalm the 46th word from the beginning is "shake" and the 46th word from the end is "spear," but this hardly
proves that Shakespeare wrote that psalm!
In 1916 one George Fabyan, of Geneva, Illinois, ingeniously succeeded in inducing the Circuit Court of Cook
County to uphold the Baconian theory. He had William N. Selig, a film producer of Shakespeare plays, file a
collusive suit to enjoin Fabyan from publishing material "tending to prove" that Bacon wrote Shakespeare. The
Court, in an opinion by Judge Richard S. Tuthill, found that Bacon was the author of the works erroneously
attributed to Shakespeare, and awarded Fabyan $5,000 damages for restraint of publication that Bacon was the
true author. The Baconians hailed this decision. The executive committee of the court, however, later issued a
statement that the question of authorship of the Shakespeare writings was not properly before the court [@].
It is asserted that Bacon's authorship has been accepted by a number of eminent persons, including our own
Supreme Court Justice, Oliver Wendell Holmes, and Lord Penzance [@], distinguished English jurist. But many of
the claims are so extravagant, particularly the ciphers and cryptograms, as to incur ridicule. This in turn has had
the effect of discrediting all serious efforts to question the authorship of the Shakespeare Works.
In 1903 Henry James said:
"I am. . .haunted by the conviction that the divine William is the biggest and most successful fraud ever practiced
on a patient world. The more I turn him round and round the more he so affects me. . .I can only express my
general sense by saying I find it almost as impossible to conceive that Bacon wrote the plays as to conceive that the
man from Stratford, as we know the man from Stratford, did."
[Bentley shows the following table of lifetimes]:
|<- Publication of the Plays ->| 1560 1570 1580 1590| 1600 1610 1620 | 1626
|+|+++++++++|+++++++++|+++++++++|+++++++++|+++++++++|+++++++++|+++++| The Reign of Queen Elizabeth I (1558-1603)
|+|+++++++++|+++++++++|+++++++++|+++++++++|++| Edward De Vere, Earl of Oxford (1550-1604)
<-|+++++++++|+++++++++|+++++++++|+++++++++|+++| Christopher Marlowe (1564-1593) |+++++|+++++++++|+++++++++|++| William Shaksper, of
Stratford (1564-1616) |+++++|+++++++++|+++++++++|+++++++++|+++++++++|+++++| Francis Bacon (1561-1626)
The 1623 edition of the First Folio contained twenty new plays. At that time Shakespeare had been dead for seven
years, Edward De Vere for nineteen and Christopher Marlowe for thirty. Only Francis Bacon survived the 1623
This is hardly enough to credit the authorship to Bacon, but it casts some suspicion upon the prospects of the
other three leading contenders.
[Here Richard Bentley concludes his remarks about Bacon, and I will omit his comments concerning any possible
attribution of the Works to Marlowe or Edward De Vere; arguments in favor of their authorship are about to
become moot. Bentley's article provoked a "torrent of letters" to the ABA Journal, many written by staunch
Stratfordians. So, in the November 1959 issue, he replied to his detractors in a story entitled "Elizabethan
Whodunit: Supplementary Notes." In that he explained that his original essay was severely condensed from a long
manuscript (later to become a book) and in his reply he elaborated on his original theme. It will be condensed as
First we should agree if we can upon what sources of facts we can accept. The records as given in Sir Edmund K.
Chambers' William Shakespeare: A study of Facts and Problems, published in 1930. . .seem to be acceptable to
most Stratfordians. Those records of the facts themselves (not necessarily the conclusions drawn from them) are
accordingly accepted for the purpose of these supplementary notes.
. . .The fundamental question simply stated is whether or not Shaksper and Shakespeare were the same man. Since
the Stratfordians believe the man of Stratford and the author were the same man, they dislike this distinction,
prefer to eliminate it, and with it to eliminate the fundamental question at issue.
All will agree that the name of the Stratford man was spelled in many different ways. In the Baptismal entry it is
spelled "Shaksper" (with either a final "e" or the customary flourish following the Gothic letter "r"). In the entry of
Nov. 27, 1582 of his license to marry Anne Whateley of Temple Grafton, the name is spelled "Shaxper," and in the
Nov. 28, 1582 record of the marriage bond for his marriage to Anne Hathwey of Shottery it is spelled
"Shagsper(e)." The burial record spells it "Shaksper(e)." In the body of the will, the scrivener spelled the name
"Shackspeare." The letter from Abraham Sturley to Richard Quinej (usually written "Quiney") asked him to
procure a loan from "Mr. Wm. Shak."
There are six signatures, the only ones ever known to have existed, all written in a shaky hand, some with blots
and with some letters illegible. The earliest, on the deposition in the case of Belot v. Montjoy (1612), was spelled
"Willn Shaks(blotted)p"; that on the conveyance (1613) was spelled "W(blotted)illiam Shakspe" (with a short
flourish over the "e"); that on the mortgage (1613) was spelled "Wm Shakspr" (with what might have been
intended as a small "a" over the "r"). The signatures on each of the three pages of the will (1616) are spelled
respectively, "Willia(blotted)m Shakspere," "Willm (with a short flourish over the "m") Shakspere," and "William
Shaksper" with either a final "e" or a flourish after the "r." Some read this last signature as "Shakspeare" but
Chambers quotes an expert, Sir E. M. Thompson, to the effect that the last signature originally ended with a
contraction, and that the last three letters were added later [@]. An imaginative and resourceful
Stratfordian--needless to say, not a lawyer--has suggested that the testator spelled his signature in different ways
so as to make sure there could be no doubt about the identity of the testator!
Obviously Elizabethan spelling was diverse. However, it was phonetic, and "any spelling that fairly represented
the sound of a word. . .was considered as correct as any other" [@ 546]. Every one of the thirty odd spellings in the
Stratford records of Christenings, marriages and burials of members of the family, with the one exception of the
registration of Susanna's Christening, spelled the name in such a way as to require its pronunciation with a short
"a" in the first syllable. These Stratford spellings, with the one exception noted, are quite inconsistent with the
spelling and pronunciation of the published name of the author of the works. Sir Edmund K. Chambers collected
eighty-three variations in the spelling of the name in England (whether or not related to the Stratford man), the
large majority of which phonetically require the short "a." Not one of these eighty-three variations hyphenated the
two syllables into the artificial looking name Shake-Speare, as the author's name originally appeared in the first
published poems, in the sonnets and in a number of the quarto plays.
In the original article it was stated that Shaksper's parents were illiterate. The Stratfordian reply is that although his
father, John Shaksper, always signed official and other papers with a mark, he might have been able to write his
name. There is no evidence that he ever did so. They also reply that he held office as alderman, deputy
chamberlain and bailiff (mayor) of Stratford, was a man of substance, and so might not have been illiterate.
However, J. O. Halliwell-Phillips, the orthodox Shakespearean scholar, is authority for the positive statement that
neither John Shaksper nor his colleagues in office could even write their names. Not more than one third of the
aldermen and burgesses of Stratford during the latter half of the sixteenth century could write their names [@ 1221]
An application was made for a grant of arms to John Shaksper, but the records about it are contradictory. There is
no definite record that the grant ever issued, and William Dethick, "Garter principal King of Arms," who it is
thought may have issued it in 1596 was later charged with accepting bribes for making grants of arms to "base
persons" who were not entitled to them. . .As for John Shaksper's being a man of substance, although he
apparently had some little business success earlier, he had a prison record, was convicted of having a pile of
manure in front of his house, and in 1592 was recorded as one of nine persons in Stratford who ". . .coom not to
churche for feare of process for debtte" [@ vol 1, p 15].
William Beeston, the actor, is reported to have said of Shaksper, "if invited to writ, he was in paine" [@ vol 2, p
252]. His six known signatures appear to bear out this statement. But it is said that the appearance of a shaky,
"scrawled and unformed" handwriting, as of one unaccustomed to holding a pen and "in paine" when he wrote, is
due to his having written "in the old English script." There are, however, plenty of examples of that script
available, including the three pages of the will itself. Shaksper's six signatures, all spelled differently and none
spelled Shakespeare, compare unfavorably with almost every example we have seen. Many other examples of this
script are beautifully written.
In answer to the statement "there is no indication that Shaksper ever attended school," Mr. Hauser's article agrees,
but says "There is no reason to believe John Shakespeare did not send William to the school" in Stratford. This
double negative statement seems hardly convincing as to Shaksper's schooling. Sir Edmund Chambers says that
there was a grammar school in Stratford, that its actual curriculum is unknown, but that it was probably based
upon that of other contemporary schools. These generally required an entrant to be able to read and write Latin
and English. But we are given no suggestion as to how one of William Shaksper's background, or lack of it, could
possibly have met such entrance requirements.
Orthodox scholars seem to take curiously inconsistent views of Shaksper's education and training. Questioners ask
how one of his background and necessarily limited schooling, if any, (no one claims he could have had more than a
few years of it, at the most) could have produced works exhibiting such familiarity with the classics, with foreign
countries and languages, with Court life, with the law, etc. The reply is first that he cribbed some of his material
from such sources as Holinshed's Chronicles, that he made many errors such as giving a sea-coast to Bohemia
which they say was natural in view of his limited advantages, and that he showed little erudition. Then in almost
the same breath they say that the grammar school at Stratford, which they simply assume he attended for a few
years, gave him an excellent education. They appear to consider that sufficient to have enabled him to write the
world's greatest literature, comprehending the widest range of contemporary human knowledge and thought.
Stratfordians also take a third position, attributing the distinction of the writings entirely to genius, and saying that
no education was necessary for one having such native talents. The weakness of this argument was pointed out in
the original article. . .
We have yet to see any reasonable explanation as to how this man of Stratford, without exceptional education and
background, no matter how great his genius, could possibly have mastered a vocabulary of 15,000 (some say
17,000 or even 20,000) words, by far the largest and most extraordinary ever possessed, and the most tellingly
used by any writer of English literature. . .Chambers honestly sums up the problem of Shaksper's education,
training and the first twenty-eight or thirty years of his life. He states: ". . .after all the careful scrutiny of clues and
all the patient balancing of possibilities, the last word for a self-respecting scholarship can only be that of
nescience." [something beyond natural explanation which the mind is incapable of understanding.]
The familiarity of the law [@] exhibited by the author of the Shakespeare works has always interested scholars and
lawyers alike. In fact the author's proficiency in the law was so clearly apparent that it presented a problem to
orthodox Stratfordians. It was they who sought to reconcile it with Shaksper's authorship by evolving the theory
that he was at one time an attorney's clerk, although there is not a scintilla of evidence to support that. Lord
Campbell wrote his views on the subject about one hundred years ago. These were expressed in a letter to John
Payne Collier, the Shakespeare scholar, critic and literary historian who, as librarian to the Duke of Devonshire,
had access to rare collections of early English literature and was implicated in a number of forgeries of
Shakespearean evidence including a forgery of Shakespeare's signature. Lord Campbell characterized the author's
"legal acquirements" as "a deep technical knowledge of the law" and as exhibiting an "easy familiarity with some of
the most abstruse proceedings in English jurisprudence." Since it seemed impossible to reconcile this with what is
known of Shaksper of Stratford, doubt as to the authorship was confirmed. To the rescue came Charles C. Allen, a
Boston lawyer, who wrote a chapter entitled Bad Law in Shakespeare [@], contending that Shakespeare made
many errors in his legal allusions. To this replied Sir George Greenwood, English barrister and scholar and expert
in Elizabethan law. In a small book, Shakespeare's Law, (1920) Sir George showed with conclusiveness that the
"bad law" is in Allen's book and not in the Shakespeare works.