1. ‘Very Near the Truth’ – Evidence vs Story


First Lord He’s very near the truth in this.
Bertram But I con him no thanks for’t,
in the nature he delivers it.
– All’s Well That Ends Well

This chapter introduces some myths and facts about William Shakespeare, and the most essential problem – the absence of evidence, from his lifetime, that the man from Stratford was actually the author of the plays and poems attributed to him.

Read the first section, and continue through chapter by using the links at the bottom of each post. Sections are summarised below.

  • Evidence vs Story Does the truth matter? Most of us would instinctively answer yes. But does it matter more than established belief, long-standing tradition, or a good story?
  • Absence of Evidence ‘Absence of evidence is not evidence of absence’ sounds reasonable enough. Yet it is a logical fallacy, often used by believers to defend the existence of God. Why do scholars so often evoke it when speaking of Shakespeare? And is absent evidence actually meaningful?
  • His Name is On the Plays The first defence against Shakespeare doubters is this: his name is on the plays and poems attributed to him. But it’s also on seven plays, and many poems, he didn’t write. Is the varied body of work known as the ‘Shakespeare apocrypha’ a clue to understanding Shakespeare’s relationship to the Shakespeare canon?


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