It’s great to see an article on this fascinating topic in PAW — Dr. Waugaman is a highly accomplished scholar in this field. What’s discouraging though is seeing in the comments (as is so often the case) the tired tropes that so often accompany any online discussion of the authorship question. If one actually engages in open inquiry and reads the literature instead of dismissing it outright, these counterarguments immediately dissolve:

- Nobody at the time doubted Shakespeare wrote the works. Not true - numerous contemporary sources referred cryptically to the author of the plays and poems years before Shakespeare of Stratford was linked to them (however tenuously) in the First Folio (see Wildenthal, B. H. [2019].  Early Shakespeare Authorship Doubts.  Zindabad Press. )

- Oxford died in 1604 and couldn’t have written the plays. Not so, the dating of Shakespeare’s plays has always been highly conjectural, to shoehorn them into the lifespan of the Man from Stratford. An open inquiry into the sources used in plays shows they all predate 1604. (See Gilvary, K. [2010] Dating Shakespeare’s plays : a critical review of the evidence. )

What’s perhaps most tired and dismaying is the “what does it matter?” argument, which we would never say about any other individual of historical and cultural consequence, and certainly shouldn’t about the most foundational figure in English literature. 

It’s long past time for the academy to acknowledge that this is a subject of genuine (and profound!) historic and scholarly interest, and treat it as such, rather than pejoratively dismissing it, which is contrary to sound scholarly practice. For more, see my own chapter, Dudley, M. Q. (2020). With Swinish Phrase Soiling Their Addition: Epistemic Injustice, Academic Freedom, and the Shakespeare Authorship Question. In Teaching and Learning Practices for Academic Freedom. Emerald Publishing Limited.

Michael Q. Dudley
Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada