The Unreadable Delia Bacon

G. Holderness

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter (peer-reviewed)


By common consensus, among both her admirers and her detractors, Delia Bacon’s pioneering book on Shakespeare authorship, The Philosophy of Shakesperes Plays Unfolded (1857), is ‘unreadable’. The case she presents, for an alternative theory of Shakespeare authorship, remains unproven, since (as she herself came close to admitting), she could adduce no direct evidence whatsoever to support it. Her work cannot truly be described as comprehensively influential, even within ‘Shakespeare authorship studies’, as her hypothesis was one of collective and collaborative authorship, whereas virtually all alternative authorship claimants favour a particular individual. Her methodology, which was to elicit from the plays a ‘philosophy’ that could in her view have been understood and expounded only by writers other than William Shakespeare of Stratford, has in the present been superseded, in alternative candidature polemics, by largely biographical readings of the works.
So why should anyone bother to read the writings of Delia Bacon? Why attempt to read the unreadable?
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationShakespeare Beyond Doubt
Subtitle of host publicationEvidence, Argument, Controversy
EditorsPaul Edmondson, Stanley Wells
Place of PublicationCambridge
PublisherCambridge University Press
Number of pages10
ISBN (Print)9781107603288
Publication statusPublished - Apr 2013


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