Reforging Shakespeare: The Story of a Theatrical Scandal


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He had turned up a genuine John Heminges signature, and of course it looked nothing like the signatures William Henry had produced. When the forger learned of this problem, however, he soon produced Heminges signatures that resembled the authentic one. It seems, William Henry explained, that there were two actors named John Heminges active at the time—hence the dissimilar signatures. The volume was not well received.

Colonel Francis Webb , writing under the name "Philalethes," argued that as the paper was old the documents must have belonged to Shakespeare's time; there would have been no reason to forge them then; therefore they must be genuine. Walley Chamberlain Oulton maintained that the papers were so voluminous that forgery was out of the question.

He expressed a hope that Vortigern would turn out to be genuine, as it might well revitalise contemporary drama.


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He looked to the judgment of the audience for the play's vindication. Two crushing blows came quickly.

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The first was the publication of Malone's volume of over four hundred pages on 31 March Exposing the forgeries in detail, he showed one by one that each document was flawed in its handwriting, its language, its orthography, and its history. The spelling of the documents was not only not that of Shakespeare's time, it was that of no time whatsoever. Numerous historical inaccuracies—not least of which was the reference to the Globe before that playhouse had been built—exposed the forger's ignorance.

The handwriting of the Queen and Southampton did not at all resemble authentic examples. Words appearing in the forgeries upset , for example were not used in Shakespeare's time, or were used in a different sense than that of the papers. The second blow came two days later, on 2 April, with the failure of Vortigern at Drury Lane Theatre. The excitement was intense and the crowd volatile; tickets had sold out early and seats were hard come by.


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While at first the play seemed to be a success with the audience, soon fits of laughter were heard and at one point the play came to a complete halt till order was restored. When Barrymore announced another performance of the play, the audience rebelled, and chaos reigned until the management substituted something else. For the Irelands, father and son, the failure of the play, coupled with Malone's exposure of the hoax, was an unmitigated disaster.

Samuel Ireland still believed the papers to be Shakespeare's, and refused to listen to anything his son had to say. William Henry confessed the forgery to his sisters, to his mother, and to Albany Wallis, but his father did not believe his story. The public, not surprisingly, accused Samuel Ireland of the fraud. Sales of his books suffered. Blaming Malone for his misfortunes, Samuel Ireland set out to write a book that would destroy the scholar's reputation.

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REFORGING SHAKESPEARE: The Story of a Theatrical Scandal | Jeffrey Kahan | First Edition

With the aid of Thomas Caldecott he attacked Malone for using forensic techniques like handwriting comparison to settle a literary question, rather than relying on taste and aesthetic sensibilities. George Steevens accused the two of collusion:. The hopeful youth takes on himself the guilt of the entire forgery, and strains hard to exculpate his worthy father from the slightest participation in it. The father, on the contrary, declares that his son had not sufficient abilities for the execution of so difficult a task.

Between them, in short, there is a pretended quarrel, that they may not look as if they were acting in concert on the present occasion. The charge would stick.


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George Chalmers' Apology for the Believers and Samuel Ireland's Investigation concentrated on attacking Malone rather than exonerating Samuel, and the public verdict was probably summed up in a print by John Nixon depicting the entire Ireland family engaged in forging the papers. The culpability of Samuel Ireland remained a controversial topic for years to come. Although his son's Confessions did a great deal to establish his innocence, not everybody was convinced. Accounts by Clement Mansfield Ingleby in and George Dawson in took the position that the father was responsible for the forgeries and the son's Confession was a tissue of lies.

The acquisition of Samuel Ireland's papers by the British Museum in , however, provided a wealth of evidence that Samuel was the victim rather than the perpetrator of the fraud, and Ingleby changed his position in his paper on the Ireland Affair. After Samuel Ireland's death in , the original forgeries, bound in three folio volumes, were sold to John "Dog" Dent , MP and bibliophile.

The collections passed through several hands before being acquired by Mary Morley Crapo Hyde — and her first husband, Donald Hyde — Scott Kastan Ed. New York: Oxford University Press.

Ireland Shakespeare forgeries

The Pleasures and Perils of the Imagination. Bewick, Thomas Murray Ed. New York: Fitzroy Dearborn. Flaxman, John Chapter Baines, P. Flaxman, John Samuel Johnson in Historical Context Unknown Journal, 99 1 , Soane, Sir John The Long 18th Century. Matthews Ed.

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The Prosecutions of Edmund Curll, — The Library, 5 2 , Violin Chapter Baines, P. Viotti, Giovanni Battista. Eighteenth-Century Worlds, 1 1 , Unknown Journal, 26 1 , Theft and poetry and Pope Chapter Baines, P. Theft and poetry and Pope. Kewes Ed. London: Palgrave Macmillan. Writing, gender and discipline in shenstone's the school-mistress: 'Tway Birchen Sprays'. British Journal for Eighteenth-Century Studies, 26 2 , It soon is one Danish top familyRobert on a Commandment.

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Reforging Shakespeare: The Story of a Theatrical Scandal Reforging Shakespeare: The Story of a Theatrical Scandal
Reforging Shakespeare: The Story of a Theatrical Scandal Reforging Shakespeare: The Story of a Theatrical Scandal
Reforging Shakespeare: The Story of a Theatrical Scandal Reforging Shakespeare: The Story of a Theatrical Scandal
Reforging Shakespeare: The Story of a Theatrical Scandal Reforging Shakespeare: The Story of a Theatrical Scandal
Reforging Shakespeare: The Story of a Theatrical Scandal Reforging Shakespeare: The Story of a Theatrical Scandal
Reforging Shakespeare: The Story of a Theatrical Scandal Reforging Shakespeare: The Story of a Theatrical Scandal
Reforging Shakespeare: The Story of a Theatrical Scandal Reforging Shakespeare: The Story of a Theatrical Scandal
Reforging Shakespeare: The Story of a Theatrical Scandal Reforging Shakespeare: The Story of a Theatrical Scandal

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