Lara Eakins's Reviews > Contested Will: Who Wrote Shakespeare?

Contested Will by James Shapiro
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's review
May 15, 2011

really liked it
bookshelves: audiobooks
Read from May 05 to 16, 2010

My only real complaint about the book is kind of a pedantic one - he uses the label “skeptic” to describe those who question the Shakespeare authorship. The use of that label has been a problem in other areas since the people that identify themselves as part of the “skeptic movement” don’t want to be confused with this type of person labelled “skeptic”. As happened with those who question anthropogenic global warming, I would call the Baconians, Oxfordians, etc. “Shakespeare Denialists”.

The pattern of “evidence” is very similar to other conspiracy theories - anomaly hunting, twisting facts to fit predetermined conclusions, and sometimes, out-right fabrications. And like some of the 9/11 conspiracies - the Shakespeare authorship claims have become byzantine mazes that have reached the point of absurdity. Shapiro’s final section of the book is the case FOR Shakespeare, which is a nice sanity check. Just like with evolution deniers, the Shakespeare deniers love to throw out large bodies of evidence and claim “There is no evidence!”. Well, the evidence is there, you just have to open your eyes and look at it.

There is also the “giving the other side legitimacy by addressing their claims” problem, which is often discussed in skeptic circles. But Shapiro addresses that too, and obviously felt that it was necessary to do so. Even NASA finally had addressed the moon landing hoax people, so there is no reason to expect the Shakespeare scholars not to rebut as well.
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Comments (showing 1-4 of 4) (4 new)

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Kyle Good to see your placing of the authorship problem within the bigger picture of conspiracies and contested theories. Reminds me of the line from the film 'A Dangerous Method': thinking of Freud as a Galileo, and plenty of the Shakespeare deniers must feel like it is me against the wrong-headed world, but each surprisingly finds a line of others waiting to charge madly through the opened door.

Emily Brown I sincerely hope you're joking. I am proud to commit myself as a skeptic, meaning I need evidence before I will refute an idea as true or false, if I have not already used Occam's Razor to arrive at a sound conclusion (as with the moon landing).
Seeing as you refute the moon landing, I will disregard your "skepticism". How your review of this book landed at the top of the list is incredible to me, and I hope to convince to move it where it belongs.

Lara Eakins Emily wrote: "I sincerely hope you're joking. I am proud to commit myself as a skeptic, meaning I need evidence before I will refute an idea as true or false, if I have not already used Occam's Razor to arrive ..."

Emily, I think you might be misunderstanding my comments about skepticism and the moon landings, etc. I totally believe we went to the moon! (For what it's worth, I have a degree and job in astronomy.) I consider myself part of the scientific skeptical movement that challenges people who claim we didn't land on the moon to provide evidence to back up their claim. Their claims, like those that deny that Shakespeare wrote Shakespeare, usually boil down to anomaly hunting and conspiracy theories.

message 4: by Esdaile (new) - added it

Esdaile Here is the definition of sceptisim from the online dictionary. Is it not good enough for you?
1. (Philosophy) a person who habitually doubts the authenticity of accepted beliefs
2. a person who mistrusts people, ideas, etc., in general
3. (Philosophy) a person who doubts the truth of religion, esp Christianity
(Philosophy) of or relating to sceptics; sceptical
[from Latin scepticus, from Greek skeptikos one who reflects upon, from skeptesthai to consider]
scepticism archaic and US, skepticism n

Your wish to arrogate the word for the "skeptic movement" cannot be justified in any way and is extremely arrogant.

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