Michael Quinn Dudley

Jan 13, 2024

The Shakespeare Authorship Question and Philosophy

Knowledge, Rhetoric, Identity

Cambridge Scholars Publishing 2023

For nearly 200 years, people have questioned the identity of Shakespeare; however, this debate is often dismissed by most scholars as “just a conspiracy theory,” with the life of the poet-playwright being “beyond doubt.” And yet, the documented facts related to the man from Stratford are meagre—where they exist at all—forcing biographers to rely heavily on their own imaginations. 

The Shakespeare Authorship Question and Philosophy: Knowledge, Rhetoric, Identity (Cambridge Scholars Publishing, 2023) by Michael Quinn Dudley moves beyond this debate to understand how we construct our understanding of the author by asking pointed questions. What does it mean to say that the traditional stance on Shakespeare’s authorship is a belief as opposed to a search for knowledge? What are the ethical implications of declaring that some history is “beyond doubt,” and that no debate about it may be permitted? What can theories of knowledge, truth and rhetoric tell us about how knowledge of Shakespeare has been constructed and justified? To the extent that this belief has consequences for society, can it then be said to be an ethical one? Finally, what difference does it actually make—from a pragmatic perspective—who the Author was? Highly original in its scope, The Shakespeare Authorship Question and Philosophy sets out the debate’s many profound philosophical dimensions concerning knowledge, historiography, truth and academic freedom—implications that transcend the debate itself.

Dr. Michael LaMagna is the Information Literacy Program and Library Services Coordinator and Professor of Library Services at Delaware County Community College.

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Dr. Michael LaMagna is the Information Literacy Program & Library Services Coordinator and Professor of Library Services at Delaware County Community College.
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