Great filmmakers Stanley Kubrick and John Ford, authors Ernest Hemingway, William Faulkner, Mark Twain, Herman Melville and Edgar Allen Poe, artists Andrew Wyeth, Pablo Picasso and Vincent Van Gogh, digital design giants Steve Jobs and Bill Gates -- all self-educated after their mid-teens with little if any college at all -- are just some of the possible world-class counter-examples, but Shapiro reports there is little discussion of such names among anti-Stratfordians.
He and many scholars complain that Shakespeare deniers resist dealing with countervailing evidence and often say it's simply part of a cover-up.
"For me, it is ultimately about how one responds to documentary evidence," said Shapiro. "Since there is no documentary evidence linking Oxford to the plays--only fabricated or wildly circumstantial evidence, or conspiracy theories meant to explain away the lack of evidence -- serious debate is impossible."
He and others have also turned up a great deal of documentary evidence directly linking William Shakespeare to the plays, as "Contested Will" lays out.
Wikipedia, says Shapiro, has (as of this writing) a compact, illuminating and trustworthy treatment of "The Case for Shakespeare's Authorship" to be found under the entry, "Shakespeare Authorship Question."
This reporter's first encounter with Shakespeare doubters was in 1974, when the Earl of Oxford – as Shakespeare -- appeared on the cover of none other than the Harvard Magazine.
I was at first intrigued -- not being a Shakespeare scholar -- with how the Oxfordians played the evidence of their "astonishing coincidences."
But every professional Shakespeare scholar I consulted, then and since, has been able quickly to show how selective or contorted, ignoring or dismissing inconvenient bits, are the arguments for the non-Shakespeares.
This professional journalist would gladly report any credible evidence for the authorship of the 17th Earl of Oxford, or anyone, but none -- none -- has, to my knowledge, ever turned up.
Oxfordians often dream of finding a neglected or buried trunk of musty manuscripts that will prove everything.
Hollywood producers dream of luring us in great numbers to gaze at their flickering screens.
Shakespeare's magical character Prospero knew all about this dreaming, of course.
In "The Tempest," he points out that "We are such stuff as dreams are made on."
This comes after he has conjured up wild fantasies for our entertainment that seemed perfectly real to everyone on stage and in the audience… before, as he reminds us, they are all then "melted into air -- into thin air."
(The PR-as-Teacher's Guide featuring The Earl of Oxford and titled "Anonymous - Was Shakespeare a Fraud?" -- is online here)