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Shakespeare stars declare their doubt of The Bard

The distinguished Shakespearean actors Sir Derek Jacobi and Mark Rylance, the former artistic director of Shakespeare's Globe Theatre, will be officially declaring their “reasonable doubt“ and those of others, that the man from Stratford wrote the Shakespearean corpus of some 36 plays, 154 sonnets and two narrative poems.

Rylance, the creator and star of: “The BIG Secret Live: 'I am Shakespeare' Webcam Daytime Chatroom Show'“ at the Chichester Festival, an interactive comedy which probes the identity of The Bard, and Sir Derek - who is not in the cast - will be unveiling “The Declaration of Reasonable Doubt About the Identity of William Shakespeare“ at the end of the run of play's run, next week [September 8].

The poster-sized copy of the Declaration, which has almost 300 signatories states why there are reasonable grounds to doubt the authorship of William Shakespeare's work.

An honorary copy of the Declaration will be presented to Dr William Leahy, head of English at Brunel University, in West London and convenor of the first MA in Shakespeare Authorship Studies, which will be launched later this month [September 24].

Following the presentation, there will be a 45-minute panel discussion with the audience about the issues raised in “The BIG Secret Live: 'I am Shakespeare' Webcam Daytime Chatroom Show.“

The devised comedy, billed as “A Comedy of Shakespearean Identity Crisis,“ stars Mark Rylance as an ex- schoolteacher obsessed by the true identity of “the man from Stratford.“

Rylance is also the chairman of The Shakespearean Authorship Trust, which supports research into the theory that possibly someone other than the glover's son from Stratford-on-Avon, wrote the work attributed to William Shakespeare.

Scholarly research has thrown up a number of candidates for the authorship of Shakespeare's plays, most of whom appear as characters in “I am Shakespeare.“

These include the English aristocrat and Elizabethan courtier Edward de Vere, the Earl of Oxford; playwright Christopher Marlowe; Sir Francis Bacon; Sir Henry Neville [not included in “I am Shakespeare“] or the poet Mary Sidney.

Commenting on the new MA in Shakespeare Authorship Studies at Brunel University, Dr Leahy, said: “Applying students are asked to enter the course, as in any course, with an open mind. The course does not have an agenda, other than to examine Shakespeare and authorship.“

It is not necessary to attend “The BIG Secret Live: 'I am Shakespeare Webcam Daytime Chatroom Show' (matinee: 2.15pm) to attend the discussion. Free tickets for the debate (limited availability) at 5.15pm, September 8, the Minerva Theatre, Oakland's Park, Chichester, Sussex. Box Office: 01243 781312. www.cft.org.uk