Mark Rylance and actor Colin Hurley, who played “William Shakespeare,” the Stratford man, in Mark’s play, “I am Shakespeare,” hold the Declaration of Reasonable Doubt in Chichester, September 8, 2007 (Link)
Mark Rylance has always been one of the most vocal public figures on the William Shakespeare authorship controversy. For a simple explaination, Rylance, along with other figures (both living and dead) such as Sir Derek Jacobi, Charlie Chaplin, Orson Welles, and Mark Twain, have always questioned whether Shakespeare really wrote all these plays or if it was actually a group of playwrights who wrote under one name, or if it was simply a lone playwright such as Christopher Marlowe (who was murdered early on in Shakespeare’s career as an emerging playwright) or Francis Bacon.
In 2007, Rylance, along with Sir Jacobi, signed the Declaration of Reasonable Doubt, in hope to spark off an academic debate on Shakespeare’s authorship claim.
Mark Rylance signs the Declaration before his matinee performance (Link)
From the Guardian:
The literary conspiracy theory that refuses to go away, and which has a growing army of supporters all over the globe, reared its head in Chichester this weekend.
Two of Britain’s most distinguished Shakespearean actors, Sir Derek Jacobi and Mark Rylance, the original artistic director of the new Globe Theatre, have launched a formal ‘Declaration of Reasonable Doubt’ about the identity of the Bard of Stratford-upon-Avon.
The actors said the document, which has been signed by 300 people, is an effort to provoke academic debate.
After the last matinee performance of I Am Shakespeare, a play that questions the identity of Shakespeare, at the Minerva Theatre in the West Sussex town yesterday, Rylance, the star, joined Sir Derek to present the controversial declaration to Dr William Leahy, the head of English at Brunel University in west London. Later this month Leahy is to convene the first MA in Shakespeare authorship studies.
The key belief of the Shakespeare Authorship Coalition is that a body of literary works which displays an understanding of law, history and mathematics could not have been written by a mere commoner from an illiterate household in Warwickshire. What is more, no records exist that the man usually assumed to be the greatest playwright in western literature ever received payment or personal preferment for his writing. Shakespeare’s detailed will, in which he notably left his wife ‘my second best bed with the furniture’, fails to refer to any theatrical legacy. The coalition contends it is proof of cause for doubt.
Almost 300 people have signed a “declaration of reasonable doubt”, which they hope will prompt further research into the issue.
“I subscribe to the group theory. I don’t think anybody could do it on their own,” Sir Derek said.
The group says there are no records of Shakespeare being paid for his work.
While documents do exist for Shakespeare, who was born in Stratford-upon-Avon in 1564, all are non-literary.
In particular, his will, in which he left his wife “my second best bed with the furniture” contains none of his famous turns of phrase and it does not mention any books, plays or poems.
According to an e-mail from John Shahan (the Chairman of Shakespeare Authorship Coalition), this is what Professor James Shapiro (author of the recently released book Contested Will: Who Wrote Shakespeare?) had to say about Rylance’s involvement:
“On 9 September 2007, a recently formed website — ‘The Shakespeare Authorship Coalition‘ — received six hundred thousand hits. That extraordinary response followed a well-orchestrated campaign that had culminated in a press release announcing that a pair of major figures of the British stage, Sir Derek Jacobi and Mark Rylance, had signed a petition now circulating on the Internet, a ‘Declaration of Reasonable Doubt About the Identity of William Shakespeare.’ They had done so following a performance of Rylance’s play questioning Shakespeare’s authorship — I Am Shakespeare — and had timed the announcement to coincide with the news that a graduate program in Shakespeare authorship studies had been established at Brunel University in London.
“It is a skillfully drafted document, the collaborative effort of some of the best minds committed to casting doubt on Shakespeare’s authorship. Its title is inspired, combining the uplift of a historical declaration with that long-established sense of fairness that guided juries to just verdicts, “reasonable doubt.” A whiff of the courtroom is apparent throughout, as ‘the prima facie case for Mr. Shakspere’ is shown to be ‘problematic’ and the ‘connections between the life of the alleged author and the works’ no less ‘dubious.’ The testimony of a score of expert witnesses — including Mark Twain, Henry James, Sigmund Freud, and Justice Blackmun — is introduced into the record. And by not specifying a single candidate, it brings together under one roof proponents of all of them. The declared purpose is to get as many people as possible to sign on to the commonsensical position that ‘it is simply not credible for anyone to claim, in 2007, that there is no room for doubt about the author.’ (p. 218)
The Declaration of Reasonable Doubt is open for anyone– that’s YOU– to sign and contest Shakespeare’s authorship claim. It is available on The Shakespeare Authorship Coalition, an organization of which Mark Rylance is a patron of.