Justices Stevens and O’Connor sign Declaration of Reasonable Doubt

Shakespeare Authorship Coalition Chairman John Shahan reported from Claremont, California today:

The Shakespeare Authorship Coalition announced today that U.S. Supreme Court Justices John Paul Stevens and Sandra Day O’Connor (retired) have added their names to a growing list of prominent signatories to the Declaration of Reasonable Doubt About the Identity of William Shakespeare .  At least three other U.S. Supreme Court Justices – Harry A. Blackmun, Lewis F. Powell, Jr., and Antonin Scalia – have also expressed doubts about the identity of   the author “Shakespeare,” but Stevens and O’Connor are the first to sign the Declaration of Reasonable Doubt.

The Declaration was first issued on April 14, 2007, in same-day signing ceremonies at the Geffen Playhouse in Los Angeles and at Concordia University in Portland, Oregon. Five months later, on September 8, 2007, actors Sir Derek Jacobi and Mark Rylance, founding Artistic Director of Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre in London, took the lead in promulgating the Declaration in the U.K. in a signing ceremonyat the Chichester Festival Theatre in Chichester, West Sussex.

Over 1,660 people have now signed the Declaration. Nearly 80% are college graduates, and 595 have advanced degrees – 347 master’s degrees and 248 doctoral degrees. A total of 295 are current or former college or university faculty members . Of these, the largest number were in English literature (62, 21%), followed by those in theatre arts (35), the arts (24), natural sciences (23), math, engineering and computers (20), other humanities (20), medicine and health care (19), education (16), social sciences (17), history (13), management (12), law (11), psychology (9), and library science (6). With the addition of Justices Stevens and O’Connor, nineteen names now appear on the separate list of notable signatories on the SAC website.

The Declaration is neutral about the true identity of the author. Rather than seeking to resolve the long-standing controversy outright, it aims to legitimize the issue by calling attention to the many reasons for doubt about the Stratford man’s authorship.

Not one play, not one poem, not one letter in his own hand has ever been found. This is remarkable for such a prolific writer. His six surviving signatures, each spelled differently, are all poorly-executed, suggesting he had difficulty signing his own name. His detailed will contains no Shakespearean turn of phrase and mentions no books, manuscripts or literary effects of any kind. Nothing about it suggests a man with a cultivated mind — no writing materials or furniture, no art works or musical instruments. Nor did he leave any bequest for education — not to the Stratford grammar school, or even to educate his own grandchildren.

Many people in Stratford and London who knew the Stratford man seem not to have associated him with the poet-playwright; and when he died in 1616, no one seemed to notice. Not until seven years after he died did anyone suggest he was the author. Orthodox scholars tend to assume that all references to “Shakespeare” mean the Stratford man, but this is never made explicit during his lifetime. Contemporary comments are mostly about the works. Nobody seems to have known the author personally. Certainly there is no evidence that the Stratford man ever claimed to have written the works, contrary to what people assume.

“The subject of Shakespeare’s identity is fascinating to students, but the great majority of orthodox Shakespeare scholars deny that it has any legitimacy, and many actively seek to suppress the question in academia,” Shahan said.  “But with increasing numbers of prominent signatories like Justices Stevens and O’Connor, this may become difficult.”

The SAC is a private, non-profit charity founded to advocate for recognition of the legitimacy of the Authorship Controversy. The Declaration of Reasonable Doubt can be read and signed online at the website of the SAC at: www.doubtaboutwill.org

Contact person: SAC Chairman John Shahan at: sac@doubtaboutwill.org

Signatory Recruitment

The addition of two U.S. Supreme Court Justices provides an opportunity to leverage our signatory recruitment going forward. There is safety in numbers, and people like to be in good company. Combined with our other notable signatories, we are now in a position to tell prospective signatories that they will be in very good company indeed. Please take advantage of this opportunity by trying to recruit at least one additional signatory prior to our next update on April 18, 2010. A draft signatory recruitment letter inviting people to join some of our more prominent notables in signing the Declaration is available for use on our Downloads page . The draft letter is in MS Word, so you can modify it however you like. The Declaration’s success depends on networking, i.e, on you. Every signatory counts, and will help us achieve our goal of legitimizing the Authorship Question in academia by April 23, 2016.

Thanks very much for your support.

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