By D'ARCY DORAN, Associated Press Writer Sat Sep 8, 7:39 PM ET
LONDON - The bard, or not the bard, that is the question.
Some of Britain's most distinguished Shakespearean actors have reopened the debate over whether William Shakespeare, a 16th century commoner raised in an illiterate household in Stratford-upon-Avon, wrote the plays that bear his name.
Acclaimed actor Derek Jacobi and Mark Rylance, the former artistic director of Shakespeare's Globe Theater in London, unveiled a "Declaration of Reasonable Doubt" on the authorship of Shakespeare's work Saturday, following the final matinee of "I am Shakespeare," a play investigating the bard's identity, in Chichester, southern England.
A small academic industry has developed around the effort to prove that Shakespeare, a provincial lad, could not have written the much-loved plays, with their expertise on law, ancient and modern history and mathematics.
The "real" author has been identified by various writers in the past as Christopher Marlowe, Francis Bacon, or the Earl of Oxford, Edward de Vere.
"I subscribe to the group theory. I don't think anybody could do it on their own," Jacobi said. "I think the leading light was probably de Vere, as I agree that an author writes about his own experiences, his own life and personalities."
The declaration put forward by the Shakespeare Authorship Coalition — signed online by nearly 300 people — aims to provoke new research into who was responsible for the plays, sonnets and poems attributed to the writer.
Jacobi and Rylance presented a copy of the document to William Leahy, head of English at Brunel University in west London and head of the first graduate program in Shakespeare Authorship Studies, which begins this month.
The document says there are no records that any William Shakespeare received payment or secured patronage for writing. And it adds that although documents exist for Shakespeare, all are nonliterary.
It also points to his detailed will, in which Shakespeare famously left his wife "my second best bed with the furniture," as containing no clearly Shakespearean turn of phrase and mentioning no books, plays or poems.
The declaration names 20 prominent doubters of the past, including Mark Twain, Orson Welles, Sir John Gielgud and Charlie Chaplin.
It argues there are few connections between Shakespeare's life and his alleged works, but they do show a strong familiarity with the lives of the upper classes and a confident grasp of obscure details from places like Italy.
"It's a legitimate question, it has a mystery at its center and intellectual discussion will bring us closer to that center," Leahy said. "That's not to say we will answer anything, that's not the point. 'It is, of course, to question.'"
___Coalition aims to expose Shakespeare - Yahoo! News