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Shakespeare Authorship Debate

This article was published on Monday 6 June 2011

Shakespeare Authorship Debate from The English-Speaking Union on Vimeo.

On Monday 6 June, the ESU hosted the Shakespeare Authorship Debate, with director Roland Emmerich.

The debate also featured Professor Stanley Wells CBE, Professor Michael Dobson, Rev Dr Paul Edmondson, Charles Beauclerk, and Doctor William Leahy. The chairman for the evening was James Probert.

 The ESU hosted the event in conjunction with Sony Pictures, the ESU and the Shakespeare Birthplace Trust to coincide with the release of multi-award-winning director Emmerich's latest film, Anonymous.

Inspired by the upcoming release of Emmerich’s new film Anonymous, starring Derek Jacobi, Vanessa Redgrave and Rhys Ifans, the two panels debated whether Shakespeare really was the author that most people believe him to have been.

To a packed room, the eminent panellists argued, under the motion 'This House Believes that William Shakespeare of Stratford-Upon-Avon wrote the plays and poems attributed to him'conspiracy, signatures, the role of Hamlet as autobiography, and whether Shakespeare was in fact an uneducated commoner.

At one stage, Dr William Leahy branded Shakespeare "an opportunist", and claimed had stolen the works and passed them off as his own. Paul Edmondson, Head of Learning and Research at the Shakespeare Birthplace Trust, rebutted that " this evening we have been entertained by a post-modern cocktail of historical fact, and historical fiction."

The questions from the floor were no less heated with guests, some of whom had travelled across the Atlantic for the evening, getting stuck in to a discussion that chairman James Probert said "has been going on for long before we arrived here tonight and will continue long after this evening ends."

While a vote indicated a resounding win for the proposition, the conversations being had as the audience left Dartmouth House indicated that there was far more to discuss, and that the question of the authorship of Shakespeare's plays is far from resolved.