It’s exam time and, as I wish my daughter good luck each morning, I remind her to read the questions carefully before answering. It’s an important thing to do. Unfortunately, the same doesn’t apply to some Shakespeare academics.
When we announced Mark Griffiths’s astonishing discovery of Shakespeare last week, we had the almost equally astonishing situation in which a Birmingham professor dismissed his find, but had to admit he hadn’t read the article. Without reading Mark’s scholarly work, all he was saying was that he didn’t want it to be true. Equally, a Harvard academic jumped the gun before reading the article, saying he had found the cipher listed as a printer’s mark in a 1749 book. What he failed to do was acknowledge that that error had been corrected in subsequent editions of the same tome (see www.countrylife.co.uk for more details).
Certainly, the discovery has caused a tremendous storm, but nobody has yet found any reason for it not to be true. The great Shakespeare scholar Sir Jonathan Bate, Professor of English Literature at Oxford and a man who knew in advance of the depth of Mark’s work, said in The Times that ‘the possibility has more plausibility than any other alleged new representation of Shakespeare discovered in my lifetime’. Proper scholarship needs proper peer review, not Twitter speak, and that’s what proper academics will now be doing.