As a Shakespeare scholar and dramaturg, I am always dismayed by the elitist and uninformed arguments of the “Anti-Stratfordians,” all of which are basically just conspiracy theories. Yet the temptation to tackle the authorship question has proved irresistible for many nonacademics, including Supreme Court justices.
In November 1987, a mock trial to consider the Shakespeare authorship question took place at American University in Washington, D.C., with justices John Paul Stevens, Harry Blackmun, and William J. Brennan Jr. presiding. I was privileged to serve as Justice Brennan’s “clerk” — I had met him during the 1986-87 term when my husband, Mark Haddad, was one of his law clerks. Justice Brennan knew that I was working at the Folger Shakespeare Library while I finished my Ph.D. dissertation in Renaissance Studies for Yale University, so when he agreed to serve on the trial, he asked me for assistance with preparation.
I provided copies of the most influential writings on both sides of the debate and, about a week later, sat down with him to discuss the materials. I had anticipated that our conversation might take a while, but in fact, after greeting me warmly, Justice Brennan got straight to the point. “Miranda,” he said, “I never like to judge a case before hearing oral argument, but I have to say, I don’t think these Oxfordians have a leg to stand on.”
The verdict was unanimous. All three justices ruled in favor of William Shakespeare, the man from Stratford, as the author of the plays.