The Question That Won’t Go Away
Critical Stages, a major international web-based theatrical journal, has just released a new issue (CS 18), featuring a major Special Topics section on the Shakespeare Authorship Question.
Edited by Don Rubin, Professor Emeritus of Theatre at York University, Toronto, the issue includes essays and interviews with British actors Sir Derek Jacobi and Sir Mark Rylance, Canadian actor Keir Cutler, and American actor-author Hank Whittemore, plus scholarly articles by independent researcher Diana Price, Oxfordian editor Gary Goldstein, and Shakespeare Oxford Fellowship past president Thomas Regnier.
Also in the bi-lingual journal is an essay in French by Montreal theatre critic Michel Vaïs on his personal search for the real author behind the pseudonym "William Shake-speare."
The journal, published by the International Association of Theatre Critics, has an introductory essay by Rubin titled “The Question That Won’t Go Away.” “Critical Stages receives some 20,000 hits per month,” said Rubin, “and reaches an audience of critics, scholars and journalists in 120 countries. Because it is free, it reaches a lot of people, and because it carries material in two languages, its international reach is wide.”
Each issue of the journal contains the equivalent of 250 pages and covers a range of theatre-related topics, including interviews with leading theatre artists world-wide, reviews of major productions from New York to Beijing, reviews of new theatre books of international interest, personal essays and special topic sections.
Critical Stages is edited by Professor Savas Patsalidis of Aristotle University in Thessaloniki, Greece, and receives publishing support from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, and from the Jin Xing Dance Theatre in China. Professor Jeffrey Eric Jenkins of the University of Illinois is Executive Publisher.
Professor Rubin, managing editor of the journal, said he proposed the special section two years ago and there was immediate interest. “But other topics were ahead of it,” he said, “so it took this long to get it out. I must say, though, that General Editor Patsalidis was extremely supportive every step of the way. In fact, after he read the first essays he suggested an expansion of the authorship section, then wrote an editorial for the whole issue, encouraging theatre professionals to look closely at the material and take it seriously.”
The Special Topics section – one of two in the issue – opens with Rubin’s essay and is then followed by a transcript of a YouTube video of a conversation between Sir Mark Rylance and Sir Derek Jacobi about the authorship question generally and, more specifically, the Shakespeare Authorship Coalition’s "Declaration of Reasonable Doubt About the Identity of William Shakespeare," which is now nearing 4,200 signatories.
Next is Canadian actor Keir Cutler’s engaging essay on why, as a theatre student working on his doctorate, he was never told that there was an authorship question. Cutler is best known to the authorship community for his one-man show based on Mark Twain’s great book on the authorship question, Is Shakespeare Dead?
American independent scholar Diana Price explores Shakespeare’s “unorthodox biography,” with excerpts from her book of the same title, including her highly revealing “Chart of Literary Paper Trails,” comparing extant documentary evidence for the Stratford man’s alleged literary career with that for two dozen known writers of the period for whom biographies have been written. Only for the Stratford man is the chart blank.
Gary Goldstein offers an original essay on how theatre producers can find a range of new stage possibilities if they are willing to consider ideas suggested by the authorship question, while attorney Thomas Regnier explores the play Hamlet as it reveals Shakespeare’s surprising knowledge of contemporary legal issues.
Hank Whittemore and Michel Vaïs, Secretary-General of the International Association of Theatre Critics, contribute essays on Edward de Vere and John Florio, respectively, as alternative authorship candidates.
The section closes with a transcript of a BBC interview on the authorship question with Sir Mark Rylance, done in April of 2018, and appearing in print here for the first time.
Note: The SAC is neutral about the true identity of the author William Shakespeare. Inclusion of material in Critical Stages’ Special Topics section on the authorship question relating to specific alternative candidates does not constitute an endorsement by the SAC. Most of the material in the special section is also neutral.