Reflections on Spelling and the Shakespeare Authorship Question: 'What's in (the Spelling of) a Name?'

Shakespeare Oxford Fellowship Website (Research and Discussion of the Shakespeare Authorship Question), August 9, 2018

Early Shakespeare Authorship Doubts, 2019 (Forthcoming)

Thomas Jefferson School of Law Research Paper No. 3185805

15 Pages Posted: 30 May 2018 Last revised: 9 Jan 2019

Date Written: May 30, 2018

Abstract

What’s in a name? Perhaps, as Juliet recognized, not much (see Romeo and Juliet, act 2, sc. 2).

This essay, published on the Shakespeare Oxford Fellowship Website on August 9, 2018, argues that the differences in spelling between “Shakspere,” “Shakespeare,” and their variants do not in themselves provide the strongest argument for doubt about the authorship of the works of "William Shakespeare" (the likely pseudonym of Edward de Vere, 17th Earl of Oxford, 1550-1604), conventionally said to be written by William Shakspere of Stratford-upon-Avon (1564-1616). While the late Oxfordian scholar Peter Moore (one of our best) went too far in calling it a “zero argument,” this essay does agree with Moore—and to some extent with David Kathman, a Stratfordian scholar—that many non-Stratfordians have placed too much emphasis on spelling issues.

But, as this essay seeks to show, the spelling issues do in fact raise very significant and interesting questions as part of the broader Shakespeare Authorship Question (SAQ).

The spelling issues add to the evidence indicating early doubts about the identity of the author “Shakespeare,” the subject of Professor Wildenthal's 2017 conference presentation and forthcoming book on "Early Shakespeare Authorship Doubts" (a modified version of this essay will constitute Part III.A of that book).

Keywords: Shakespeare authorship question, SAQ, Edward de Vere, Earl of Oxford, Shakspere, Stratford, Peter Moore, David Kathman, spelling, early authorship doubts

JEL Classification: K39

Suggested Citation

Wildenthal, Bryan H., Reflections on Spelling and the Shakespeare Authorship Question: 'What's in (the Spelling of) a Name?' (May 30, 2018). Shakespeare Oxford Fellowship Website (Research and Discussion of the Shakespeare Authorship Question), August 9, 2018; Early Shakespeare Authorship Doubts, 2019 (Forthcoming); Thomas Jefferson School of Law Research Paper No. 3185805. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3185805

Bryan H. Wildenthal (Contact Author)

Thomas Jefferson School of Law ( email )

701 B Street
Suite 110
San Diego, CA 92101
United States
619-961-4342 (Phone)

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