A Blast From the Authorship Past

We found a copy of an early list of speakers that we had put together for our 20th Anniversary (17 years ago). Our more recent speakers after 2005 are listed on our WEBSITE. We were there at the “beginning of the day” in 1985 and we hope we shall never see the end of the Authorship Question!

So much has changed and yet many of the authors here have stood the test of time. Maybe not the 400 year Elizabethan test, but still… We are very proud to be vocal and visible with regard to the very mysterious Shakespeare Debate.

Check out some of our speakers on YouTube and let us know what you think or who you’d like to see speak at one of our future Zoom Events.

Thanks for all your support over the years,

The Shakespeare Authorship Roundtable

Coming Soon to a Theater near You!

Romeo and Juliet 2021

Two of Shakespeare’s most enduring and endearing tragedies are alive and well in 2021. Not one but two versions of two plays hit theaters this year. Famous for lines like “A rose by any other name would smell as sweet” and “Out, damned spot!” Neither play lacks for multiple versions but these new adaptations have some heady, minimalist attributes.

Starring Josh O’Conner of “The Crown” fame – he of the prominent ears, and Jessie Buckley (RADA graduate) recently seen in “I’m Thinking of Ending Things.” This well-reviewed National Theater filmed production (already released this spring on PBS) can be viewed in the USA by using the PBS viewing app. For more information about the production go HERE.

Arriving this fall from a man of mammoth influence comes Steven Spielberg’s remake of 1961’s “West Side Story”. It looks to be equally colorful though not filmed in Technicolor. Or is it? The name “Disney” is attached as well since they now own 20th Century Fox. Most people know that “West Side Story” is a brilliant adaptation of Romeo and Juliet.

Originally called “East Side Story”, the Broadway play was going to feature a conflict between the Jews and the Catholics. Slightly more Shakespearean than the Puerto Ricans vs. the Whites. The composer of the music, Leonard Bernstein, shared at the time that the score was deeply influenced by his Jewish heritage.

Regarding the man who would be king, we have two scintillating adaptations. Did you know it was bad luck to mention a certain Scottish Lord whose name begins with an “M” ? Let’s not take this Lord’s name in vain, especially since one of the movies is called Joji” and you can watch it on Amazon Prime.  The film is an Indian Malayalam-language, modern crime drama directed by Dileesh Pothan and written by Syam Pushkaran. The story admittedly inspired by that famously ambitious Scottish fellow.

The other Macbeth is written and directed by an unusually solo Joel Coen. It stars Denzel Washington and Frances McDormand  (Joel’s lauded wife). To be released a month before Halloween, perhaps it should be called “The Witches’ Play” as they three are certainly crowd-pleasing favorites whatever the production. In this one, one actress (Kathryn Hunter) plays all 3 witches! Genius film composer Carter Burwell did the music. McDormand, as authentic and no-nonsense as they come, is typecast in this role but she has more than earned the right to have a go at it.

Even if you can’t get to the theater in person, there should be a way to see all 4 of these films via streaming sources sooner that you might imagine. And the Bard (whomever he may be) lives on and on. What are your favorite Romeo & Juliet or Scottish Play adaptations? Please let us know in the comments below.

Play On Podcast – The Scottish Play!

Another boon of the Pandemic. PLAY ON, an organization based in Ashland that used to get together in person and study one play at a time to discuss the specific language in the plays and how to make them more accessible, is now available on a Podcast.


Give it a listen HERE:

Even though the language is brilliant, the plots and the 5 Act Structure are pretty great too!

A First Folio Found on 400th Anniversary

Mount Stuart House on the Isle of Bute

Mount Stuart House on the Isle of Bute

Check your bookshelves! Between the dog-eared copy of Fifty Shades of Gray and the un-cracked Knausgaard, you might find a valuable, out-of-print first edition. Or maybe even a First Folio!

That’s what happened in Scotland. A copy of the first collected edition of Shakespeare’s plays (roughly a 750 print run) published in 1623, seven years after his death and called the First Folio – was found at Mount Stuart House on the Isle of Bute, of all places. I mean, the Isle of Bute??

The book, owned by the Seventh Marquess of Bute, Johnny Dumfries, had been shelved in the library at Mount Stuart House, an enormous Gothic revival pile and tourist attraction in the firth of Clyde, about 60 miles west of Glasgow.

Emma Smith, professor of Shakespeare studies at Oxford University, said her first reaction on being told the stately home was claiming to have an original First Folio was: “Like bloody hell they have.” But when she inspected the book she found it was authentic. “We’ve found a First Folio that we didn’t know existed,” said Prof Smith. “It’s like spotting a Panda.” The announcement brings the number of known surviving First Folios to 234.

What the Folio Did for Us

The circumstances surrounding the creation of the First Folio are of keen interest to people inquiring into the authorship issue. Of course there are no existing manuscripts of Shakespeare’s plays or sonnets. Nothing much from Shakespeare’s hand at all, except a poorly written will and some business records. He left no letters. No notes. No literary record of any kind, which in itself is strange. Ben Jonson left a ton of stuff behind, as did other writers of the time. So with no record, how do we know about the plays at all? Two ways: the Quartos and the First Folio.

The Quartos were small format imprints of some of the individual plays, rather like today’s paperbacks. The name “Shakespeare” had some currency at the time and printers believed they could make some money by printing and selling small versions, sometimes without having any rights to do so. But not all the plays became Quartos. Of the 36 plays we know about, only 18 were printed as Quarto. So without any manuscripts, and no Quarto, how do we know about the other 18? Right: the First Folio.

In 1623, seven years after Shakespeare’s death, the first collected edition of the plays was published. John Heminges and Henry Condell, members of the King’s Men theater company to which Shakespeare had belonged, collected the plays and with some help of Ben Jonson, created the First Folio. Without this book we would have no record of plays such as Macbeth, Twelfth Night, Julius Caesar, As You Like It and The Tempest.

On the surface the Folio would seem to be clear evidence that a guy named William Shakespeare was the author of the plays. The official story argues that his colleagues loved Shakespeare so much and thought so highly of the that they just had to preserve them (and maybe make a little money as well). Makes sense.

Why Wait so Long?

But one question that arises is: why wait seven years? Why hadn’t Shakespeare himself ever made an effort to collect his own work? Or publish it. Ever? When Shakespeare died (the one from Stratford) on April 23, 1616, 400 years ago almost to the day, there was no public outpouring or expression whatsoever. No obituaries about the loss of a great poet. No eulogies. No announcement in the London Times. Nothing. Silence. Shakespeare was a non-entity.

Apparently it took seven years for everyone to awaken to his greatness, after which he was compared to Aeschylus, Euripides and Sophocles (As he should be). There are other things about the history of this book that also merit thought that goes beyond the official story. Ben Jonson’s participation has some curious aspects. Up to 1623 Jonson didn’t have much good to say about William Shakespeare. And then after many, many years he calls him the “Soul of the Age.” It’s weird that NO other writers were chosen to add nice comments to the new book. Jonson had many more tributes from other writers in his own folio than Shakespeare. In fact Jonson is the only major writer to write a tribute at all—this for the man known as the “Soul of the age.” There are official explanations for all of this. They are reasoned and will be taught in English classrooms throughout the world. But there are some weird things going on with the official story that merits a closer look. (You might start with Shakespeare Beyond Doubt?, edited by John M. Shahan and Alexander Waugh)

A Charismatic Book

A Charismatic Book

That being said, First Folios are among the world’s most sought-after and valuable books. Christie’s recently announced that it was selling what it calls a previously unrecorded First Folio from a “discreet and off-the-radar” private collection, valued at 1.1million to 1.7million.

The Scottish copy is the personal property of Mr. Dumfries, a former Formula One driver who is descended from Robert the Bruce, the medieval hero of Scottish Independence. The book will not be sold and will remain on the Isle of Bute, which has a population of around 6500.

Like the play, the sonnets, the poems; like just about everything associated with William Shakespeare there is a quality of mystery and intrigue surrounding the Folio. A Charismatic book, indeed. Check your shelves. You never know what you might find.

Celebrate the Bard! 400th Year!


April 23, 2016 marks the 400th anniversary of the passing of William Shakespeare, the one born and raised in Stratford on Avon and that a lot of people, especially English teachers and people with an equity interest in Stratford real estate, believe wrote the plays and sonnets. The entire world is celebrating the event, including the Roundtable. If you’re local or in town, PLEASE JOIN US!

On Sunday, April 24, at 2:00 we will join with the Shakespeare Authorship Coalition and the Shakespeare Center at Los Angeles to host a celebration of the Bard and at the same time pose a challenge to the orthodox view that the fellow from Stratford authored the plays. The event will be “spear” headed by John Shahan and the Coalition, which is the group that published and promoted The Declaration of Reasonable Doubt. In the face of some pretty nasty intimidation by orthodox Shakespeare scholars, the “Declaration” offered a simple forum where people could stand up and declare what any unbiased person would say is just common sense: that is, there is room for doubt on this subject. Thousands of people – scholars, Supreme Court judges, psychologists, theater professionals — have since signed the document, including great Shakespearean actors like Mark Rylance and Sir Derek Jacobi It’s basically a way to stand together against intimidation and censorship and for free inquiry. If you haven’t already, please check it out and sign. (Declaration of Reasonable Doubt about the Identity of William Shakespeare.)

The co-sponsored event on Sunday will open with an introduction from Actor-Author, Michael York. We’ll screen about 30 minutes of the terrific documentary film that was produced by Roland Emerich, Last Will. & Testament, the portion of the movie that deals with reasons to doubt that Shakespere of Stratford was the author of the plays. Then our own Sylvia Holmes and John will talk about new evidence and arguments that have turned up since the Declaration was issued in 2007.

This is going to be a provocative, enlightening and more than likely emotional event. So mark your calendar. NOTE: it is free, but ticketing is required.

Date:  Sunday, April 24, 2016

Time:  2:00 p.m. until 5:00 p.m.

Place:  The Shakespeare Center of Los Angeles

1238 West First St, Los Angeles. Street parking available on First and Second Streets, Edgeware Road, and Bixel St.

To order tickets to this free event, just go to: “Beyond Reasonable Doubt” at the SCLA website. The SAC website is at: DoubtAboutWill.org, and the SAR site is at: shakespeareauthorship.org/