A Scientific Approach to the Authorship Question
About the Book
This is intended to be a do-it-yourself book that simply guides you, the reader, from one relevant issue to another, leaving it up to you to assess its significance for the Authorship Question. However, the book is written in the form of a dialog, so necessarily each side has its advocate. Beatrice is the advocate for the The-Great-Author-was-the-Gentleman-from-Stratford-upon-Avon persuasion, and Claudia is the advocate for the No-He-was-the-Earl-of-Oxford persuasion. (We do allow for the logical possibility that they may both be wrong.) In the absence of any one irrefutable fact that conclusively identifies the Great Author, we present a procedure by which you may consider many facts (each refutable), and a mechanism for combining your many judgments to yield your final probabilities for the three options: The Great Author was the Gentleman from Stratford-upon-Avon, or the Earl of Oxford, or “Ignotus” (somebody else).
Within the confines of this book, one of the advocates necessarily gets the better of the argument, but you are urged to ignore that and make up your own mind concerning each issue. You should enter your assessments of each issue into this website. Our resident magician “Prospero” will then return your weighted rankings of the three candidates.
You do not need to be an expert in any field to follow the debate and weigh the evidence for yourself. Scholars of English Literature may find it interesting to look at the relevant evidence from a different perspective, and scientists may find the exercise an interesting diversion from their usual, more objective endeavors. Students from any field may find it a helpful introduction to the Authorship Question, and to scientific thinking.