To debate or not to debate: Challenge over Shakespeare's identity

Writer and literary critic Alexander Waugh has issued a challenge to scholars of Shakespeare to appear on TV and debate the Bard's true identity, according to the Guardian.

william-shakespeare-220.jpgWaugh, grandson of novelist Evelyn Waugh, recently co-authored the book Shakespeare Beyond Doubt?, which raises suspicions over the legitimacy of Shakespeare's authorship.

Since the mid-19th century, theories have circulated that the prodigious author credited with masterpieces like Macbeth and Hamlet didn't actually write his own works. Not much is known about Shakespeare's early life and some doubters wonder how a commoner such as he had been able to write so well, and to have such an intimate knowledge of the court and politics without any evidence of having received a higher education.

"The academics are cornered, they have no evidence at all," Waugh told the Guardian. "Our declaration of reasonable doubt has forced their hand. They have been idle, and swept other theories under the carpet, dismissing us as fragmented lunatics."

Waugh said that most literary scholars, who have largely dismissed the many alternative author theories, continue to ignore findings that call Shakespeare's authorship into doubt.

Documents and materials once safely kept inside academic institutions are being increasingly scanned and posted on the web, available for the public to see and dissect.

"They are not engaging properly because they have an industry to protect, but the rest of the world has moved on."

Stanley Wells, a professor of Shakespeare studies at the University of Birmingham and honorary president of the Shakespeare Birthplace Trust, dismissed Waugh's comments that scholars have been ignoring evidence to protect financial interests.

"We have put our case very firmly and strongly. We have had many very vigorous debates and discussions."

He also let Waugh know via the Guardian that Shakespeare scholars would consider the televised debate.

"If we receive a formal challenge, then we will look at it on its merit," he said.