The debate about Shakespeare’s authorship had a great British moment in November 1988 which adds some flavor to your most interesting piece. Excerpting from a chapter in a coming memoir:
Imagine the pomp and ceremony of three gowned and bewigged British High Court Judges (the equivalent to U.S. Supreme Court Justices) taking their seats on a raised dais in the historic Inns of Court, where in 1594 and 1602, Shakespeare’s Comedy of Errors and Twelfth Night had been performed. They were there to listen for a full day of arguments from four of Britain’s top barristers and to rule in a mock trial to determine if William Shakespeare or Edward de Vere, 17th Earl of Oxford was the real author of the plays attributed to Shakespeare.
The arguments were stunning, filled with historical knowledge and legal cunning, the product of four of the best legal minds in England, enjoying themselves as they could only do on the odd occasion in court.
Sir Sydney Kentridge, a close friend and outstanding jurist, had invited me to sit among nearly 300 scholars, academics, and literature buffs for whom this was a very rare treat. It was indeed and happily raised more than 27,000 pounds as a benefit for the Globe Theater, in which American actor Sam Wannamaker was the moving force, and I was privileged to be a director. The Globe was scheduled to open in London in 1992. It did and has thrived ever since.
Over the midday lunch, Sir Sydney laughingly told us how lucky he was that when the four barristers had pulled straws to see which side they would be on, he had gotten Shakespeare. A life-long Shakespeare lover, he had still spent more than two full days preparing his case, but he acknowledged with his impish smile, “If I always had clients this likely to win, life would indeed be easy.”
The judges ruled in favor of the Bard and The New York Times agreed with the law Lords, headlining its story, “Bard on Trial Again, And Again He Wins.”