You are looking at Hand D, right here.

There really is no doubt about Hand D. And there really was none created in the MOOC. This section (and its discussion forum) made smoke, weaved and bobbed, ducked and dived but could make no impression on  the prima facie case, now accepted by The British Library.

Real Evidence

The Goldsmiths MOOC ignored any real evidence that might have enabled learners to compare Hand D to the signatures or the handwriting of other Bankside playwrights. It was almost as if none existed—the prayer (and sometimes the claim) of every doubter.The latest article of faith, the insufficiency of control samples (for what are they insufficient?—not for attribution), was recited many times with great enthusiasm. It's the only counter claim the doubters have left. But no discussion took place of the important things that anyone can see just by looking at the exhibits. There were no exhibits in Barber's coverage. Check them out below.

Doubters addressing Hand D, (only a small handful have tried), limit themselves to reproducing high contrast PMTs of an early 19thC  engraving of Shakespeare's signatures, making them look as illegible as possible. Nor will you see high resolution images of any of the manuscript hands, nor any of the analysis carried out by Maunde Thompson. Maunde Thompson's work first appeared in full in Pollard's book in 1923 but was carried out, for the most part, for the OUP's work on the tercentenary in 1916. NOT, as Barber insinuates and others claim, in response to pressure created by the ‘Authorship Question’ and certainly not in response to Oxford's pretensions, which began in 1920, four years after Maunde Thompson published..

Ros flirted with orthography, sneered at Professor Mac Jackson's analytical math but left that discussion without producing anything that could be called an objection, arbitrarily reduced the numbers of similarities in the handwriting analysis, refused to engage in a discussion of the quality of the additions, forbade the subject of who else might have produced them (she's simply TOO busy  for forums), and ignored all the most recent stylometric work completely. She leaned entirely on Professors May and Werstine who don't like some of the palaeography but have nothing else helpful to say and certainly have no alternative candidates to suggest. She insinuated that Hand C and Hand D were written by the same person, (check for yourself below) then partially withdrew. And so on.

It's not her favourite subject. It isn't any doubter's favourite subject.

She did, however, link to our site but then lost all those Brownie points by linking to Diana Price's execrable essay on the subject for the counter arguments. Course item B:16 is a perfect example of all-your-eggs-in-one-basket special pleading as Barber begs her course participants to take her word for the fact that May and Werstine trump all of the other evidence. They don't. Not a bit. Their essay is tied by copyright for another two  years. “Oh, trust me, if only you can wait” Dr Barber cries “you'll see there's someone who's a bit on my side in this”. They aren't. There isn't.

And even without the palaeography, once Hand D is proved canonical, it's connected to Shakespeare by all the other evidence Barber ignores. The nutty parlour game ambiance of the quizzes was amplified by complete failure to engage with the text itself. Learners learnt nothing of Hand D. 

0/10. See us.

So here, in our Anti-MOOC, is some of what she withheld. Start the slideshow by clicking on one of the images and you'll see clear and obvious differences between 'C' and 'D'. You'll see clear and obvious authorial tweaking as 'D' struggles to get something just right. You'll see the enormous variety of Bankside secretary hand. Barber can see all this too. She's hiding it because it demolishes one of the cornerstones of her premise. The rest of what she is hiding can be found here on this site.

Click thumbnails to the different hands in high resolution

The signatures can be seen in much greater detail on Shakespeare Documented, a website that, all by itself, should silence any rational doubt about the authorship. The sixth slide sees the signature preceded by the words "By me". Doubters obsessed with the mistaken idea that there are too few "control samples" have spent hundreds of hours trying to prove that these two words are not written by the same hand as the signature. Why on earth? And do you need to be a handwriting expert to doubt the doubters? Or do you just need to look at decent reproductions instead of the awful PMTs they reproduce on their websites?

In this course Barber  rejects not one, not two, not three, but four professional palaeographic analyses of the signatures (Maunde Thompson, Chambers, Dawson and Jackson), all of which conclude that the handwriting is that of the man who signed Shakespeare's will—not on the basis of any serious analysis of her own but on the mistaken belief that six exemplars are insufficient for meaningful analysis of a sample of three pages of manuscript. This is wrong. Meaningful analysis exists aplenty. While this does not add up to 100% certainty (even DNA evidence can't do that), the case for attribution to Shakespeare on the basis of handwriting alone is very strong and when placed in a chain with the other evidence. It's certainly enough to attribute the work to Shakespeare beyond reasonable doubt.

The course makes nothing of the most important fact about the handwriting analysis, namely that there are no disqualifying discrepancies. The relic thought to be in Marlowe's handwriting, for example, would rule him out at a glance, as does the handwriting of The Earl of Oxford. And Francis Bacon clearly spent a lot more time trimming his quills than our Bankside playwright. Analysis of similarities isn't necessary if there are discrepant features or letter forms. How many discrepancies are there in the signatures which might rule out the manuscript? None.

You reduce the number of trademark handwriting features identified by the palaeographers from seven to four yet you reproduce none of them, nor the tables in Pollard's book which place every instance of each character in the signatures next to every instance of those characters in the manuscript. These reveal some idiosyncratic similarities observable even to the untrained eye.

In a MOOC bearing the branding of a front rank academic institution's Comparative Literature Department, you pronounce recycled lines (No no no no no) and adapted material as useless for the purpose of detailed comparison and casually throw out all the orthographic evidence apart from a few carefully picked cherries.

You reject the spelling evidence while failing to point out that the play which contains the re-used line (Coriolanus) and adapted material also contains another instance of a proper noun spelt "Sci" in the character of Scicinius yet there are no other instances of this in the writing of any of Shakespeare's contemporaries.

You make no mention of stylometric analysis of the work, which has been extensive and conclusive in its own right. That done by Craig & Kinney provides very strong evidence of Shakespeare's authorship and strong evidence of the proximity of its vocabulary to Othello. "The Hand-D and Addition III portions share many rare words with Shakespeare and avoid many of the same common words. On these measures the More passages are not on a Shakespeare borderline but in a Shakespeare heartland. These results can be added to the many indications already in existence, from parallel passages, image clusters, rare words, idiosyncratic spellings, and indeed from handwriting..."

And given all of that, the biggest failure is the failure to acknowledge the strength of the chain of evidence as a whole, a chain which links all of these strong indicators together into what the British Library, along with almost all scholars and historians, now consider to be adequate proof. You call it "confirmation bias" (somewhat unwisely in the circumstances).

You should give up addressing this question by nitpicking the utility of parallel references and forget spurred "a"s.

Someone wrote it. You can't argue that no one did. So who was it? Come up with a plausible alternative.

This line of enquiry will take you straight into the realm of extreme probability (it may feel familiar). There are no possible Bankside candidates who can't be ruled out, even without resorting to expert palaeography. I would start with a visiting space alien were I you.

At least you'll have Shakespeare's singularity working for you.

https: //


Stylometry was entirely and inexcusably ignored on the course. This post attempted to set things right.

Here is an extract from the stylometry in question. Learners wishing to find more details can find them in Timothy Irish Watt's contribution to Craig & Kinney's book on PCA-based techniques of analysing early texts  Shakespeare, Computers and the Mystery of Authorship:  2009, revised in 2012. There is a detailed review on Oxfraud. All other authorship sites ignore it, though Ros, to be fair, has attempted to address it in one of her authorship talks wearing her Marlovian hat.

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The first and most important thing to understand is that, unlike early stylometric tests, the norms here are derived algorithmically not from banks of subjectively designed tests. This limits the type of question the technique can address to questions that have simple "yes" or "no" answers, but because the whole process is a computerised process, it is easy to vary and repeat the questions and home in on solutions. Secondly they run not on test banks, but on the available digitised data from the Early professional theatre. 3, 250, 000 words of dialogue from 165 plays.

This test simply separates Shakespeare from the rest by calculating values for words most likely to be used by Shakespeare and words most likely to be used by all other dramatists. This type of mathematical stylometry can get much more complicated than this (and achieve higher rates of accuracy) but all its results on Hand D are consistent.

It's 98% accurate. 98% of Shakespeare's segment appear below a dividing mean and only 2% stray into the territory of "all the rest". And vice versa. The 2% error doesn't mean that those segments were written bey other dramatists, it just means that this test suggests they might repay further investigation.

The Sir Thomas More segments represented by a triangle, are nowhere near the boundary, however. The are close to the centre. They don't just sound like Shakespeare, they come from Shakespeare's heartland. It's Shakespeare on a good day.

There are further tests and analysis in the chapter I have cited which make even stronger claims for Shakespeare's authorship, The chapter on Hand D in this seminal work on big data stylometry has this to say in conclusion about Hand D.

"The identification of Hand-D with Shakespeare now seems one of the better established facts about his canon, and among the surest facts of his biography."

Bluster cannot rebut evidence like this.

Even a finding of "beyond a reasonable doubt" does not equal absolute certainty in establishing a fact. The evidence surrounding Hand "D" currently justifies a finding that it is Shakespeare's beyond a reasonable doubt. If someone can come up with evidence in rebuttal of that finding then it may be adjusted or even refuted. That probably isn't going to happen.


Mark JohnsonLifetime trial lawyer

You know calligraphy only as an art form, a display. Writing for Shakespeare was a means, not an end. All of his surviving signatures come from the last four years of his life. A working hand that had written a million words might be expected to show some fatigue (in the scientific sense of the word): some structural damage, perhaps arthritis. This is very far from inexperience.


Nat WhilkOxfraud

Tannenbaum is a proven charlatan. He famously authenticated a forged Shakespeare signature on a volume of Montaigne, wisely refused to call himself a palaeographer and invented the discipline of "bibliotics", a discipline with only one disciple.

Tannenbaum is the only person claiming to be a document examiner who rejects the signatures. The mods simply deleted this comment.



This is a double page spread from Maunde Thompson's essay in Pollard's 1923 book. The original work was commissioned by the Oxford University Press for the tercentenary, had nothing whatsoever to do with the authorship debate which was languishing under the weight of new candidates at the time, and Maunde Thompson published his first results in 1916.

Even the untrained eye can see that the letters extracted from the signatures are compatible and that some pairs are a close match for the characters from the manuscript.



Does anyone here actually like Shakespeare?

The course ploughed a straight furrow, creating doubt about Will's authorship, looking neither right, nor left. A four week Shakespeare course with hardly a single line of Shakespeare discussed in it. Doubters can't really afford to flirt with the idea of of a unique genius. They prefer to think that the real Shakespeare is mixed up with other dramatists whose writing is indistinguishable from his. The idea that there was only one Shakespeare is much too dangerous. So when a poster questioned the word "mountainish" and invited a discussion of what Hand D actually wrote (rather than how it looked on the page), there wasn't a doubter to be seen in the discussion that followed.

Mountainish inhumanity"—he could have written "hugely indecent inhumanity" he could have written "inhuman inhumanity". He might even have written "mountainous humanity"—he certainly knew what the correct adjective was. He could have written all sorts of things. He could have written "the seas became dark red with blood" he could have written "the wine dark seas deepened to bible black" (how's that for mixing a metaphor?) or he could just have written "the seas got much redder".

But he didn't. He wrote "multitudinous seas incarnadine". And no one who watches Macbeth will ever forget it.

And he wrote "mountainish inhumanity", tripping everyone up and inserting a permanent earworm into the minds of his audience.

I hope you weren't up all night looking for your noun that's exactly the same as my verb. I suppose you didn't read the paper I linked, so you don't yet realise that nouns to verbs is a Shakespeare marker. Transitive verbs usually. If you'd been sharked upon you'd been in no doubt what had happened. "Sharker" is a good find though. Not the same, however. From an audience point of view, it all depends on whether you can feel the sharpness of the teeth.

Here's another one for you:

Was ever king that joy'd an earthly throne,
And could command no more content than I?

You could try arguing that he just left off the first syllable of "enjoy" but this one also features a bit of naughty wordplay. So by turning the noun "joy" into a verb (it's exactly the same as the "shark" trick) he gets to suggest a link with the French verb jouir.

Anyway, you're the one with EEBO access. Find another of those. The course ends in two weeks.

Or, like almost everybody else, you could just sit back and enjoy it as Shakespeare,

On form and speaking about human rights on behalf of all humanity, it's a subject he will return to, reusing some of his unproduced material, in Coriolanus. Hazlitt says of Coriolanus "Any one who studies it may save himself the trouble of reading Burke's Reflections, or Paine's Rights of Man, or the Debates in both Houses of Parliament since the French Revolution or our own. The arguments for and against aristocracy or democracy, on the privileges of the few and the claims of the many, on liberty and slavery, power and the abuse of it, peace and war, are here very ably handled with the spirit of a poet and the acuteness of a philosopher." In Sir Thomas More, Will is warming up to write the best political play of the 17th century.

You do realise your boat is sinking, don't you? Watch out for them sharkers

And the big one

Clicking on this image will produce a very large image file of three pages of Shakespeare's handwriting (6.6 Mb)

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Other on point comments about confirmation bias

Online Courses on Shakespeare