Baconian Theory - Critical Reception

Critical Reception

Mainstream academics reject the Baconian theory (along with other "alternative authorship" theories), citing a range of evidence – not least of all its reliance on a conspiracy theory. As far back as 1879, a New York Herald scribe bemoaned the waste of "considerable blank ammunition in this ridiculous war between the Baconians and the Shakespearians", while Richard Garnett made the common objection that Bacon was far to busy with his own work to have had time to create the entire canon of another writer too, declaring that "Baconians talk as if Bacon had nothing to do but to write his play at his chambers and send it to his factotum, Shakespeare, at the other end of the town."

Horace Howard Furness wrote in a letter that, "Donnelly's theory about Bacon's authorship is too foolish to be seriously answered. I don't think he started it for any other purpose than notoriety. I believe he doesn't attempt to show that Bacon corrected the proof-sheets of the First Folio, and no human foresight could have told how the printed line would run, and have so regulated the MSS. To Donnelly's theory the pagination & the number of lines in a page are essential."

Mainstream academics reject the anti-Stratfordian claim that Shakespeare had not the education to write the plays. Shakespeare grew up in a family of some importance in Stratford; his father John Shakespeare, one of the wealthiest men in Stratford, was an Alderman and later High Bailiff of the corporation. It would be surprising had he not attended the local grammar school, as such institutions were founded to educate boys of Shakespeare's moderately well-to-do standing.

Stratfordian scholars also cite Occam's razor, the principle that the simplest and best-evidenced explanation (in this case that the plays were written by Shakespeare of Stratford) is most likely to be the correct one. A critique of all alternative authorship theories may be found in Samuel Schoenbaum's Shakespeare's Lives. Questioning Bacon's ability as a poet, Sidney Lee asserted: " such authentic examples of Bacon's efforts to write verse as survive prove beyond all possibility of contradiction that, great as he was as a prose writer and a philosopher, he was incapable of penning any of the poetry assigned to Shakespeare."

At least one Stratfordian scholar claims Bacon privately disavowed the idea he was a poet, and, seen in the context of Bacon's philosophy, the 'concealed poet' is something other than a dramatic or narrative poet. A mainstream historian of authorship doubt, Frank Wadsworth, asserted that the "essential pattern of the Baconian argument" consisted of "expressed dissatisfaction with the number of historical records of Shakespeare's career, followed by the substitution of a wealth of imaginative conjectures in their place."

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