Writing's on the wall for Shakespeare

by Heather Purchase

A handwriting expert has added weight to claims that the Elizabethan author and philosopher Francis Bacon wrote the plays attributed to Shakespeare.

Maureen Ward-Gandy claims it is "highly probable" that Bacon was the author of a recently discovered manuscript describing a scene which bears a striking similarity to one from Henry IV. She compared a copy of the handwritten document, thought to date back to the 1590s when Henry IV was written and published, with the handwriting of 30 well-known scholars and statesmen of the Elizabethan era.

Mrs. Ward-Gandy's strong belief that
the handwriting is Bacon's has been hailed by Bacon supporters as a major breakthrough in proving the true authorship of the 38 plays, 150 sonnets and two long poems which bear William Shakespeare's name.

The debate over who wrote what, which has dogged literary critics for more than a century, resurfaced recently when the manuscript went on sale at Sotheby's. Comprising a single sheet of 57 neatly handwritten lines, the document was expected to fetch up to £12,000 but was unsold. It has since been returned to its secret owner.

Mrs. Ward-Gandy, who outlined her findings in a 20-page report, is a forensic document examiner, a job which often involves studying handwriting for the police and Home Office to establish fraud. She said "The shapes of the letters and style of writing in the manuscript point to the writing being that of Bacon. It is very exciting and could settle the argument once and for all that the Shakespeare plays were in fact written by Bacon."

The scene in the manuscript describes a conversation in which an innkeeper tells two thieves of "a man that lodged in our house/Last night that hath three hundred markes in gold." Similar conversations in an almost identical setting are described in Henry IV.

Francis Carr, historian and the Director of the
Shakespeare Authorship Information Centre in Brighton, believes the document was a reject script for Henry IV. Mr. Carr, who dedicated 30 years to proving authorship, believes Bacon was writing under the pseudonym of William Shakespeare. "I think this is probably a breakthrough to the whole authorship mystery," he said. "It could bring the whole subject into the open again. The information we have built up pointing to Bacon could blow the whole of Stratford sky high."

From London Evening Standard, July 30, 1992

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