Shakespeare Debate Splits Supreme Court

Stevens finds alternate author theory beyond a reasonable doubt

By Kevin Spak,  Newser Staff

Posted Apr 18, 2009 8:08 AM CDT

(Newser) – John Paul Stevens and Antonin Scalia don’t agree often, but the justices are united on one case: Neither believes Shakespeare’s plays could possibly have been written by a hick like William Shakespeare. Stevens has even written papers on the topic, and searched the Bard’s home for clues. “The evidence…is beyond reasonable doubt,” he tells the Wall Street Journal. But his theory—that Edward de Vere, the 17th earl of Oxford, penned the plays—isn’t a popular one.

“I’m not impressed with the Oxfordian theory,” says Anthony Kennedy, who, together with Stephen Breyer, believes in the guy from Stratford. No other justice would rule on the case, so the Journal turned to retired justice—and frequent swing vote—Sandra Day O’Connor. “I’m not going to jump into this and be decisive,” she said, but when pressed added, “It might well have been someone other than our Stratford man.”

A newly discovered portrait of William Shakespeare is seen in central London, March 9, 2009. The portrait is believed to be almost the only authentic image of the writer made from life.   (AP Photo/Lefteris Pitarakis)
In this undated image made available by the University of Durham, Friday July 11, 2008, the frontispiece of a "priceless" edition of Shakespeare's works stolen ten years ago is seen.   (AP Photo/University of Durham, HO, File)
U.S. Supreme Justice John Paul Stevens, right, pokes fun at his colleague, Justice Antonin Scalia, left, during the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals annual dinner in Chicago, Monday, May 19, 2008.   (AP Photo/Charles Rex Arbogast)
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A lot of people like to think it's Shakespeare because they like to think that a commoner can be such a brilliant writer. Even though there is no Santa Claus, it's a wonderful myth. - John Paul Stevens

It is probably more likely that the pro-Shakespearean people are affected by a democratic bias than the Oxfordians are affected by an aristocratic bias. - Antonin Scalia

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