Who was Shakespeare?

9th annual global Authorship Conference in Toronto Oct. 17–20.

Sponsored by York and Guelph Universities, conference attracts renowned scholars and premieres two films

TORONTO, October 15, 2013 – As millions of students read Shakespeare plays and millions of tourists flock to his birthplace in Stratford-upon-Avon each year, a growing number of respected theatre scholars are asking the question: “Could the name ‘Shakespeare’ be a pseudonym?”

Nearly 100 scholars from Germany, the UK, U.S. and Canada will arrive at the Metropolitan Hotel Toronto this week for the ninth annual global Shakespeare Authorship Conference, one of the largest gatherings of people who argue that the name William Shakespeare was a pseudonym and that the presumed identity of the world’s greatest writer should be reconsidered. The conference runs from Oct. 17 through 20.

Sponsored by the theatre and drama departments of York University and Guelph University, and under the auspices of the U.S.-based Shakespeare Oxford Society and the Shakespeare Fellowship, the Toronto conference will feature the Canadian premieres of two new authorship films from the U.S. and Germany, 21 hours of academic papers, and a visit to the Stratford Festival to see The Merchant of Venice.

In keeping with the theatre-related interests of the two Canadian universities, many of the papers focus on theatrical conditions in Shakespeare’s time, including discussions on who among the aristocracy was sponsoring Elizabethan theatre troupes.

“We are hoping that the conference will offer new understandings of these companies and these connections. The obvious thing is that the man who wrote under the name of Shakespeare had to have been a man of the theatre,” said Prof. Don Rubin, a York University theatre professor and organizer of the conference. “We know that William of Stratford had connections to the Globe Theatre in London where these plays were first performed, but few people know that Edward de Vere, the 17th Earl of Oxford, and one of the alternative candidates proposed as the Bard, also had significant theatre connections to both adult and children’s companies of the period. De Vere also travelled extensively in Italy, where nearly a third of the Bard’s plays are set.”

A growing number of scholars are questioning whether the presumed author—a businessman from the rural town of Stratford who clearly had trouble writing his own name on documents (his parents as well as his children were all functionally illiterate)—would have had the worldliness, much less the vocabulary or knowledge of numerous foreign languages and topics including the expensive aristocratic sport of falconry, to actually write the plays.

“Could he have been the front man for someone else? He never actually claimed to have written the plays,” said Prof. Rubin. “As well, more than a third of these works were set in Italy, a country he never visited. They also boast enormous knowledge of medicine and the law, subjects he never studied. Even a genius needs opportunities.”

Among the many early authorship doubters were Sigmund Freud, Mark Twain, Orson Welles, and even Sir Tyrone Guthrie, a founder of the Stratford Festival of Canada.

The Canadian premieres of the two new films to be shown during the conference are free. They will take place:

  • Thurs. Oct. 17, 4:30 pm – 6:30 pm: The Naked Shakespeare by Claus Bredenbrock. Introduction by German scholar Hanno Wember.
  • Sat. Oct 19, 4:30 pm – 6:30 pm: Last Will. & Testament by directors Lisa and Laura Wilson, who will be present for the Canadian premiere of this PBS film just released in the U.S. They will take questions following the viewing.

Keynote speakers will include American Mark Anderson, author of the groundbreaking biography, Shakespeare By Another Name, and John M. Shahan from California, chair of the The Shakespeare Authorship Coalition, which leads The Declaration of Reasonable Doubt campaign that argues the authorship is still in dispute. The campaign now has thousands of signatures including English actor and stage director Sir Derek Jacobi, actor Mark Rylance (the first Artistic Director of the rebuilt Globe Theatre) and Oscar-winning actor Jeremy Irons.

To interview Don Rubin or other attending scholars, or to cover the conference, please contact:

Don Rubin, Professor
York University Theatre Department
905-960-9150
drubin@yorku.ca

Theresa Ebden, President
Joshua Tree Communications Inc.
416-988-8733
JoshuaTreeCommunications@rogers.com

About Don Rubin:

Professor Rubin is a founding member of York University’s Department of Theatre and Faculty of Fine Arts. He served as Chair of the department for three years and later was a founder and first Program Director of York’s Graduate Program in Theatre and Performance Studies (MA and PhD). Don’s areas of specialization today include Canadian Theatre, African Theatre, Criticism, Theatre Theory, and Modern Drama. A founder and editor of the quarterly journal Canadian Theatre Review for eight years and a working daily critic in print, radio and television for the Toronto Star and CBC Radio among others, he is the editor of the standard scholarly text Canadian Theatre History: Selected Readings (Playwrights Canada Press) and Routledge’s six-volume World Encyclopedia of Contemporary Theatre. Prof. Rubin is a former president of the Canadian Centre of UNESCO’s International Theatre Institute, a founder and current President of the Canadian Theatre Critics Association, a member of the International Executive Board of the International Association of Theatre Critics, and a member of the editorial board for the IATC web journal, Critical Stages (criticalstages.org). He serves on the Executive Board of the Shakespeare Fellowship and studied Elizabethan theatre (now called Early Modern Theatre by many scholars) at Hofstra University (with Bernard Beckerman, author of the groundbreaking Shakespeare At the Globe) and at the Shakespeare Institute at the University of Bridgeport (connected to the Stratford, Connecticut Shakespeare Festival). Don has taught and lectured at major universities and theatre schools in South Africa, Nigeria, Russia, China, Japan, France, England, Sweden, Mexico, Egypt and at numerous universities across North America. In December, he will be a guest professor at Charles University in Prague, one of central Europe’s oldest and most prestigious universities. In 2011-12, he taught a senior-level course at York in Shakespeare: The Authorship Question, a course which interrogated the mystery surrounding who really wrote the plays ascribed to “Shakespeare.” A trained actor, Don began his career at the famous High School of Performing Arts in New York City.