Edward T. Oakes' review of three recent books on William Shakespeare (June/July) puts me in mind of Hugh Ross Williamson's line to the effect that wondering whether Shakespeare was a recusant is like asking whether Abraham Isaac Jacob Solomon is a Jew. No one element is conclusive in itself, but all of them together suggest Cardinal Newman's "convergence of probabilities." One prothonotary warbler does not make a May Day, but Shakespeare has bare ruined choirs full of them. The very "plausible deniability" of the evidence is itself further proof. Ultimately it is the difference between seeing the edifice from the outside and living inside of it. If there is such a thing as the argument from history, then the burden of proof lies with those asserting that the world's greatest playwright was an Anglican.
Edward T. Oakes replies:
Unfortunately, Blaise Thompson is not the only one who likes to apply the logic of "plausible deniability" to hypotheses supported by flimsy evidence. Oxfordians also use it to explain why Edward de Vere didn't want the plays he wrote to be known as his. To me, arguments from plausible deniability smack too much of the old argument from silence, on which The Da Vinci Code rests its case: Jesus was married, but the New Testament suppressed the fact. The argument...