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Controversy Timeline Part I


1769 The first biography of Shakespeare (as the man from Stratford) is written by Nicholas Rowe.

1769 The possibility that Shakespeare was a pen name for someone else is raised for the first time in a book by Herbert Lawrence, The Life and Adventures of Common Sense.

1769 David Garrick, actor and manager at the Drury Lane Theatre in London, creates the Shakespeare Jubilee in Stratford, performing a tribute that begins the veneration later to be known as bardolatry.

1780 James Wilmot, a Warwickshire clergyman and scholar, searches the records within a fifty-mile radius of Stratford-upon-Avon to find information related to William Shakespeare and his works. He fails to find any evidence, which leads him to suggest that Francis Bacon was the author of Shakespeare’s works. At his death, Wilmot has all his research burned.

1857  Delia Bacon raises the question in the first published book on authorship, The Philosophy of the Plays of Shakespeare Unfolded. She espouses the first group theory attributing the Shakespearean works to a committee headed by Francis Bacon and including Walter Raleigh, Edmund Spencer, Edward deVere, and others.

1895  Wilbur Ziegler writes a novel, It was Marlowe, first suggesting Marlowe, Raleigh, and the Earl of Rutland collaborated to author the Shakespearean canon.

1901  George Bernard Shaw coins the word “Bardolator” in the preface to his 1901 play, The Devil’s Disciple.

1908  Sir George Greenwood writes against the man from Stratford in The Shakespeare Problem Restated, which inspired Mark Twain’s 1909 essay, Is Shakespeare Dead?

1920  J. Thomas Looney, a British school teacher, devotes the first book to the theory that Edward deVere, 17th Earl of Oxford, is the sole author of the canon.

1933  Seven Shakespeares, by Gilbert Slater, proposes a group theory. He writes of several possible authors and believes Mary Sidney helped Edward de Vere.

1940   Scientific American magazine publishes an article by Charles Wisner Barrell claiming that the Ashbourne portrait of Shakespeare owned by the Folger Library is really the lost picture of the 17th Earl of Oxford, painted by Cornelius Ketel.

1943 Alden Brooks champions Sir Edward Dyer as the true author in his book Will Shakespeare and the Dyer’s Hand.

1952  Shakespeare’s Identity, a book by Dr. A.W. Titherley at the University of Liverpool, supports the Earl of Derby as the real Bard.

1955 The Marlowe theory is promoted in Calvin Hoffman’s book, The Murder of the Man Who Was “Shakespeare.”

1974  Ruth Loyd Miller edits and reprints Looney’s Shakespeare Identified, along with three other source books promoting Edward deVere as the real Shakespeare.

1984 Charlton Ogburn gets a favorable New York Times book review for The Mysterious William Shakespeare, which creates a new wave of public interest in Edward de Vere as the true Bard.

1985  Ogburn appears with Professor Maurice Charney from Rutgers on PBS’ Firing Line, which supports Ogburn’s point of view, and Charney calls it “preposterous.”

1987  A moot court debate takes place at the American University Law School where three Supreme Court Justices (Blackmun, Brennan, Stevens) witness two professors who present cases for the man from Stratford vs. the Earl of Oxford.

1988  The New Yorker magazine (April) publishes a story of the Washington debate by famed journalist James Lardner.

1988  The Inns of Court in London hold a moot court. Two British barristers defend the man from Stratford vs. the Earl of Oxford; it headlines the London Times.

1989  The Frontline PBS documentary, The Shakespeare Mystery, is hosted by Judy Woodruff. It airs several times over ten years and gets more people interested in the debate.

1991  John Louther, a retired journalist, sponsors a national lecture tour for young Charles Beauclerk, a descendant of the Earl of Oxford’s family. Beauclerk is the first to lecture on the subject at one hundred American universities where the subject was traditionally banned.

1991  The Atlantic magazine runs a 43-page cover story, Looking for Shakespeare.

1992 Visnet cable sponsors a live video-conference connecting twenty universities around the country, with panel discussions that include Professor Felicia Londré, Charles Beauclerk, Tom Bethell, David Bevington, Warren Hope, and hosted by William F. Buckley.

1994  An article in the Dartmouth Alumni Magazine, Who Was He? presents William Fowler and his extensive book about Edward de Vere’s letters and their connections to the Shakespearean works.

1994  A BBC documentary, Who Was He?, presents cases for Bacon by Thomas Bokenham, Marlowe by Dolly Wraight, and deVere by Charles Beauclerk. The filmmakers leave the audience members to draw their own conclusions.

1997  Dr. Daniel Wright, head of the English Department at Concordia University in Portland, creates the annual Shakespeare Authorship Conference that invites teachers to attend the only authorship conference to be held at an academic institution.

1999 The Shakespeare Conspiracy documentary is coproduced with Austrian television and the BBC, hosted by Sir Derek Jacobi, who advocates for Edward de Vere.

1999  Harper’s magazine story, The Ghost of Shakespeare, includes independent scholars and academic professors debating in essays by Harold Bloom, Marjorie Garber, Joseph Sobran, Jonathan Bate, Richard Whalen, Mark Anderson, Tom Bethel, Gail Kern Paster, Irwin Matus, and Daniel Wright.

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