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This free course from the University of London explores critical thinking, and the interpretation of texts, through the Shakespeare authorship question. Using doubt about Shakespeare’s authorship as our playground, we will explore the key concept of authorship attribution, while developing skills in literary analysis, interpretation, and argument. Through forensic exploration of key texts, you will learn why Shakespeare’s authorship is questioned, and what evidence is cited on both sides of the debate. For those of you interested in exploring the works of Shakespeare from a new angle, or just wanting to hone your analytical thinking skills, this course offers an introduction to a fascinating area of interest. Those of you already interested in the Shakespeare authorship question will be encouraged to question your own assumptions in fruitful ways. Whether undertaken as a standalone course, or as preparation for the University of London BA in English, this course will be food for thought....

Meilleurs avis


Feb 21, 2018

Great Course with many interesting and innovative concepts. Thanks to all the folks who must have worked hard and long to put this course on the internet. Dr Quincy


Feb 18, 2019

This was an extremely interesting course. I loved that it questioned traditional thinking. I truly believe that more courses like this should exist. Excellent

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1 - 25 sur 47 Examens pour Introduction to Who Wrote Shakespeare

By Mike

Apr 29, 2018

Beginning with a lecture on Confirmation Bias was a brave way to start this course. Attributing the reasons behind people's enthusiasms to confirmation bias and cognitive dissonance is a comfortable way for contrarians to convince themselves that outrageous contradictions of accepted scholarship and buccaneering interpretations of the historical record are not intrinsically ridiculous.

In the 1990s, a group of mathematicians made a small fortune (they were caught early) by betting on the odds of a Hole in One in major golf tournaments. Unwary bookmakers would offer 500:1 or even 1000:1 when the actual odds were close to evens.A hole in one seemed much more unlikely than it actually was from thousands of tees shots played by hundreds of the best golfers in the world. Fans of the Authorship question try the same trick. Over and over and over. Only without the solid mathematical support. Each time a new tidbit appears—Weever's epigram, Sogliardo's identity, New Place malt stocks, Hampton Court as Avon, the Droueshout sleeves, suggestive numerology, the apparent solution of abstruse codes— articles are written about the "discovery" and websites filled with comment, support and argument. Yet amongst all the encyclopaedias of hopeful assertion, there is still no hard evidence supporting any alternative candidate. If there were, it would certainly have appeared in a four week attempt to legitimise doubt over Shakespeare's authorship—but check back. There is none. Nothing.There is no point in assessing the strength of the case for Shakespeare based on these materials. Dr Barber did not invite anyone to make it and could not have delivered a more feeble effort to make it herself. Items of evidence for Shakespeare are either challenged by the presentation of suggestive minutiae (rather than examined in their context) or waved away as part of a conspiracy to confuse and conceal the truth from everyone not possessed of the true eye for suggestive detail. Improbably, this includes almost everyone who studies and writes about Shakespeare (or ever has). Confirmation bias at work is the implication.Attributing significance to the insignificant is the business of the anti-Shakespearean. Arranging collections of suggestive nuggets in curiosity-inducing albums is the Art of the Doubter. "Oh look!" cries Barber, "I've found another Marian Hacket. Doubt!!" Then "Another Thomas Russell! Doubt!" and "a Warwickshire word in use in Newcastle! Doubt!". The doubt discussed in this MOOC is entirely created by of the tutors, who foster it with selective misinterpretation of the historical record, false parallelisms, wildly imaginative interpretations of contemporary references, and serious abuse of probability theory, all of which you will find in Dr Barber's modules.

The activity doesn't damage the case for Shakespeare.

In examining anti-Shakespearean method using this type of doubter methodology, the learning opportunities on this course lie entirely in the study of how irrational people think.

By Sandra S

Apr 18, 2018

I would like to see Dr.Barber give a course in her fields of expertise, poetry and fictional literature, not in historical fields she doesn't understand. Historical research is a meticulous regimen. In pursuing the Shakespeare Authorship Question, Dr. Barber not only bypassed the history of the original authorship questions, she completely repeated the first questioners' mistakes, and continues down the paths of old dried-up ideas that lead nowhere. There have been legitimate and truly possible answers to the SAQ over the past century, developed by professional historical research. Co-authors of Shakespeare's plays, both definitely identified and quite possible, have been named. In this course these real possibilities are ignored in favor of unsubstantiated romances with the rich and famous. The SAQ arguments today aren't debatable arguments at all - they are complaints which can be summed up in these few words: "We are not being taken seriously." Dr. Barber's course has proven, once again, there is a good reason for that lack of acceptance. The only thing I received from this course was conversation with a very few participants who know how to ask questions and not insist that their favorite answers be the right ones. That was refreshing. But the course itself was stale, useless, and nothing I can recommend to anyone. Not even those who really, really want their favorite answers to the questions to be true. They've already been through all this before.

By Keerthana B

May 31, 2019

I learnt many new information about shakespeare from this course. It is very helpful.

By Valerie S

Apr 13, 2019

Captured my interest and changed my views

By Raquel V

Mar 01, 2019

Critical thinking is modeled while examining the evidence in favor and agaist the authorship doubt regarding the Shakespeare's plays.

By John C

Feb 18, 2019

This was an extremely interesting course. I loved that it questioned traditional thinking. I truly believe that more courses like this should exist. Excellent

By Ana R O A

Jan 14, 2019

Simply mind opening!

By Lexi O

Jan 03, 2019

It's a good course for beginners and you get to know new things.

By Andrea C

Dec 27, 2018

The course is very well organized and all the contents are extremely well structured!

By Katrina D

Oct 26, 2018

This was a fantastic course by Dr Ros Barber that was academically rigorous and exceedingly well-balanced, with plenty of extra material including incisive and incredibly detailed video interviews with Peter Dawkins, Mark Rylance, Professor William Leahy, Alexander Waugh and others. As someone who'd previously only been able to pursue research on this subject independently, including primary and secondary text sources, and even YouTube videos about the authorship question (including the excellent Shakespeare Authorship Trust SAT conference videos), being able to study this in an academic context gave me the assurance of what I already knew as well as, crucially, significantly expanding and deepening that knowledge. I feel it's absolutely crucial that many more people are able to learn from this course and discover this amazing subject. Exploring the issues of authorship can only enrich our knowledge of the plays, the period and the author, and has immediate relevance for our current times as well in so many areas. I also hope that there is the possibility of following up this introduction with further courses exploring the many illuminating academic strands of research that continue into the authorship question. Sincere thanks to Dr Barber and everyone who contributed to an excellent course.

By Jose M R C

Sep 16, 2018

Brilliant, really interesting and very professional course about Shakespeare (and Shakspere). Thanks to Ros Barber, Goldsmith College and the University of London for offering it. I always wanted to base my PhD on this topic (PhD that I hope I can make some day) but after finishing this course I am even more interested. Thank you.

By kamaljeet s s

Jul 12, 2018

knowledge is the power ,enjoyed this course .something totally different .

By Joy S

Jun 10, 2018

Lots of detailed info about the evidence for and against.

By Walnea C

May 08, 2018

the issues are really interesting and well explained and supported and developed.

By James A

May 06, 2018

extremely fair and very thorough on the narrow (and surprising) question of whether there is enough evidence to say that Shakspere (ie William S of Stratford) wrote the Shakespeare plays - would welcome more material/new course on internal evidence from the plays and/or the sonnets, as hinted at the end of the course

By Catherine S

May 06, 2018

It started great, but seemed to drag by the midpoint. By the end I had to force myself to finish.

By Mark J

Apr 18, 2018

Two stars because I'm generous, and I'm no expert. I think there should be more indications of the time that some material was first mooted - e.g. so and so said this in, say, 1889 and then an indication that research has moved on since (or. tell the student where it hasn't). i think the course should start with the incumbent and then chip away from there. With this method, I feel there would be the sense of a journey rather than a feeling of scatter gun.

By David P

Apr 17, 2018

This course gave me a much deeper insight into the Shakespeare Authorship Question, and why there are so many conflicting and contradictory points of view about the whole subject. Recommended for anyone wishing to broaden their knowledge about this topic.

Dave Patrick, Editor, 'The View Beyond: Sir Francis Bacon - Alchemy, Science, Mystery' (Polair Publishing, 2011)

By Libby G

Apr 06, 2018

i was impressed with the class and Dr. Barber's work of presenting it. I enjoyed all the work that went into the support of the lectures. I especially liked the text that was available for the hard of hearing a group that I am included. I would take it again if it is offered and possibly additional material was added.

By Joan G

Mar 27, 2018

This mooc is way below the standard of any mooc that I have ever encountered. The course information is inaccurate. It states >Through forensic exploration of key texts, by both Shakespeare and other writers of the period, you will learn why Shakespeare’s authorship is questioned, and what evidence is cited on both sides of the debate<. That is totally untrue, no Shakespeare texts at all are examined and a one-sided account of the debate is presented, that ignores well-established documentary evidence to the contrary. The quizzes are very badly designed and the scholarly standard deplorable. As another learner says below: >To be blunt this course is so far from unacceptable to a university standard, it is absolutely shocking<!

Sent from my iPad

By Margaret S

Mar 26, 2018

I greatly enjoyed the course and found it quite informative. Dr. Barber’s open attitude encouraged us to reflect and ask questions of both the evidence and ourselves. Me only bémol is the forum, which at times was very contentious, people with an agenda fir disruption, people who wanred only to push their rather already cemented ideas. For this reason I didn’t participate much in the forums. But still, I am quite pleased with the course.


By Toni P

Mar 25, 2018

This course provided some excellent, detailed material for exploring various aspects of the Shakespeare authorship question. I especially enjoyed the content of the interviews with Mark Rylance, Greg Thompson and William Leahy, partly because, on a mooc there needs to be a human dimension, but mostly because they gave thought-provoking into this issue from their own specialist and knowledgeable perspectives.

I understand why it was not possible to include material on other candidates, and internal evidence from the texts, on this course but I feel that it is difficult to avoid these two key aspects of the debate. It would be great if the University of London provided further courses in these two areas, linked to this one.

It is always good to get to know your fellow participants on the programme, and I enjoyed conversing with a number of individuals on the threads on various aspects of the SAQ. However, it was noticeable that only a small number of participants took part in these discussions. It would be worth thinking through whether there might be a better way of bringing participants together in a way which encourages everyone to exchange views and ideas, rather than just a dedicated few.

Ros Barber managed the course very well, dealing with problems effectively, and presenting the evidence in an engaging and well-conceived way. The only issue I had with the content of the course was the use of quizzes to test the memory,, and the fact that this was mainly on information which tended to be favour a non-Stratfordian perspective. I didn't feel that this was a very effective way for me to test my own critical thinking on the various matters discussed, although I understand that it would be difficult for the small team involved to deal with written material from participants.

By Carol P

Mar 20, 2018

This pioneering course was well worth the time spent. Thank you to Dr Ros Barber and all the team

By Francis M

Mar 20, 2018

Fascinating subject. The content of this course is offered no where else. The course is well organized and presented with enthusiasm by Dr. Barber

By Philip B

Mar 19, 2018

The description of this course states that it “explores critical thinking, and the interpretation of texts, through the Shakespeare authorship question. Using doubt about Shakespeare’s authorship as our playground, we will explore the key concept of authorship attribution, while developing skills in literary analysis, interpretation, and argument. Through forensic exploration of key texts, by both Shakespeare and other writers of the period, you will learn why Shakespeare’s authorship is questioned, and what evidence is cited on both sides of the debate.”

The course failed based on its stated goals.

-- There was little exploration of critical thinking. Instead, a brief introduction to pop psychology warned against bias and the effects of cognitive dissonance.

-- The “skill development” took the form of stating certain rules for interpreting historical evidence. But there was no effort made to actually cover the historical method; one of the rules that was discussed is entirely unsupported by any historical authority; the one scholar named in the lecture, when contacted, strongly disagreed with the spin placed on his words.

-- The discussion of evidence on both sides took the form generally of setting up strawman arguments on the side of Shakespeare’s authorship for the purpose of knocking them down. Often the pro-Shakespeare arguments were taken out of context or given strained and illogical interpretations.

-- For instance, the lecturer devoted a quarter of the first module (A.3.) to a discussion of “the broker theory.” The idea was that, though Shakespeare was repeatedly named as a “player” in contemporary records and cast lists, he was really a “play-broker” who bought and sold plays, but neither wrote nor performed them. Nobody at the time was described as a “play-broker,” nor is there evidence that describing someone as a player really meant that the person was a “play-broker.” This entire line of discussion was apparently developed in order to identify Shakespeare as the target of a derisive poem that referred to “brokage” -- a word that meant something quite different from “brokerage” in the seventeenth century.

The instructor was quite clear that this course was intended to promote the fringe belief that a Shakespeare’s authorship of the plays and poems is seriously questioned. Though the description suggests that an even-handed approach would be observed, the lecturer chose to mispronounce Shakespeare’s name to distinguish the author from the man from Stratford; the comment section of the course was carefully scrubbed of pro-Shakespeare comments and even comments that complained about the quality of the course and materials -- in violation of the policies of Coursera.

Overall, this was a poorly organized, inadequately researched mess. The lecturer has no academic credentials in the area, and was frequently corrected by course participants who had a better grasp of the material. My recommendation is to drop this course entirely and start over, or just give it up.