Declaration of Reasonable Doubt

The Declaration of Reasonable Doubt is an Internet signing petition which seeks to enlist broad public support for the Shakespeare authorship question to be accepted as a legitimate field of academic inquiry. The petition was presented to William Leahy of Brunel University by the actors Sir Derek Jacobi and Mark Rylance on 8 September 2007 in Chichester, England, after the final matinee of the play I Am Shakespeare on the topic of the bard's identity, featuring Rylance in the title role. As of 23 April 2016, the 400th anniversary of Shakespeare's death the document had been signed by 3,348 people, including 573 self-described current and former academics.[1][2][3]

The declaration is met by scepticism from academic Shakespeareans and literary critics,[4] who for the most part disregard or disparage the idea that some hidden author wrote Shakespeare's works.[5] The declaration itself has been characterised as an exercise in the logical fallacies of argumentum ad populum (appeal to popularity or the appeal to numbers) and argument from false authority.[6]

The declaration has been signed by prominent public figures, including U.S. Supreme Court Justices John Paul Stevens and Sandra Day O'Connor, in staged signing events followed by press releases in order to gain publicity for the goal of the petition.[7]

Doubters claimed in the declaration

The declaration named twenty prominent figures from the 19th and 20th centuries who the coalition claim were doubters:[8]

Included with caveats

2015 changes

In 2015, responding to criticism of the inclusion of some of the names on the list, the SAC removed two names, replaced them with two others, and revised the entries of two other names on the doubters list. The caveats were added to the entries on Ralph Waldo Emerson and Orson Welles. Charles Dickens (1812–1870) was originally included on the list based upon an incomplete misquotation that was interpreted as a statement of doubt. Leslie Howard (1893–1943), English stage and film actor and director, was included on the basis of the lines he spoke as the lead character in the 1941 film, "Pimpernel" Smith. Both names have been removed from the list, but the entries remain online in the "past doubters" pages of the website with the heading "Removed from Past Doubters list".[27] These two names were replaced with Hugh Trevor Roper and George Greenwood.


  1. Van Gelder, Lawrence (2007-09-10). "Arts Briefly". The New York Times. Retrieved 2010-05-23.
  2. "Actors question Bard's authorship". BBC News. BBC. 2007-09-09.
  3. Hackett 2009, p. 172
  4. Farouky, Jumana. The Mystery of Shakespeare's Identity. TIME entertainment. 13 Sept 2007.
  5. Kathman, David. "The Question of Authorship", in Wells, Stanley; Orlin, Lena C., Shakespeare: an Oxford Guide, (2003) Oxford UP, pp. 620-32: " " fact, antiStratfordism has remained a fringe belief system for its entire existence. Professional Shakespeare scholars mostly pay little attention to it, much as evolutionary biologists ignore creationists and astronomers dismiss UFO sightings" (621); Alter, Alexandra, "The Shakespeare Whodunit", Wall Street Journal, 9 April 2010, quotes James Shapiro: "There's no documentary evidence linking their 50 or so candidates to the plays."; Nicholl, Charles, "Full Circle; Cypher wheels and snobbery: the strange story of how Shakespeare became separated from his works"], Times Literary Supplement, April 2010, pp. 3–4, quotes Gail Kern Paster, director of the Folger Shakespeare Library: "To ask me about the authorship question ... is like asking a paleontologist to debate a creationist's account of the fossil record."; Nelson, Alan H. (2004), "Stratford Si! Essex No!", Tennessee Law Review (University of Tennessee) 72:1 (2004), pp. 149–171: "I do not know of a single professor of the 1,300-member Shakespeare Association of America who questions the identity of Shakespeare ... Among editors of Shakespeare in the major publishing houses, none that I know questions the authorship of the Shakespeare canon" (4); Carroll, D. Allen. "Reading the 1592 Groatsworth attack on Shakespeare", Tennessee Law Review (Tennessee Law Review Association) 72:1 (2004), pp. 277–294; pp. 278-9: "I am an academic, a member of what is called the 'Shakespeare Establishment,' one of perhaps 20,000 in our land, professors mostly, who make their living, more or less, by teaching, reading, and writing about Shakespeare—and, some say, who participate in a dark conspiracy to suppress the truth about Shakespeare.... I have never met anyone in an academic position like mine, in the Establishment, who entertained the slightest doubt as to Shakespeare's authorship of the general body of plays attributed to him. Like others in my position, I know there is an anti-Stratfordian point of view and understand roughly the case it makes. Like St. Louis, it is out there, I know, somewhere, but it receives little of my attention" (278-9).
  6. Siebert, Eve. "'Little English and No Sense': The Shakespeare Authorship Controversy". Skeptical Humanities. 5 January 2011.
  7. "News from and about SAC" Accessed 6 Nov 2010.
  8. "Declaration of Reasonable Doubt About the Identity of William Shakespeare". Shakespeare Authorship Coalition. Retrieved 2010-10-10.
  9. Mark Twain Quotes
  10. Letter to Violet Hunt, Letters of Henry James (1920), Macmillan, vol. 1, p. 432. Per Google Books, retrieved 16 October 2010.
  11. Whitman, Walt (1889). "What lurks behind Shakespeare's historical plays?". November Boughs. London: Alexander Gardner. p. 52.
  12. Chaplin 1964, p. 364
  13. Attributed on the declaration website to a letter to Charles Eliot Norton, May 2, 1902
  14. Freud 1927, p. 130
  15. Ogburn 1992, p. front jacket
  16. Schoenbaum 1970, p. 602
  17. Posthumously attributed to Galsworthy in Charles Wisner Barrell (1 May 1937). "Elizabethan Mystery Man". Saturday Review of Literature, 16 (1): 11-15, p. 11.
  18. Attributed on the declaration website to a letter to Max Weismann, Director, Center for the Study of The Great Ideas, November 7, 1997
  19. Nitze, Paul, preface to Whalen, Richard, Shakespeare: Who Was He?: The Oxford Challenge to the Bard of Avon, Greenwood, 1994, p.ix.
  20. Schoenbaum 1970, p. 553
  21. Ogburn 1992, p. vi
  22. Letter to Charlton Ogburn, following a moot court trial of the authorship of Shakespeare's works at American University in Washington, D.C., in 1987; quoted in Ogburn 1992, p. vi.
  23. Emerson's Representative Men (1850). In Works, 4:218
  24. Churchill, 1959, pp. 68, 207
  25. Bogdanovich, Peter. This is Orson Welles. New York: Harpercollins, 1992, pp. 211-212.
  26. Biskind, Peter, ed. My Lunches with Orson (2013). Metropolitan Books, pp. 102-3. ISBN 978-0805097252.
  27. Past Doubters: Removed from the List


External links

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