Search

Sir Derek Jacobi: ‘Not one shred of evidence’ that Shakespeare wrote plays

12:00 23 January 2014

Sir Derek Jacobi and Matthew Lewin at Burgh House, where Sir Derek was the special guest in the Lifelines series of talks. Picture: Polly Hancock

Sir Derek Jacobi and Matthew Lewin at Burgh House, where Sir Derek was the special guest in the Lifelines series of talks. Picture: Polly Hancock

Archant

Celebrated actor Sir Derek Jacobi surprised a room full of admirers by insisting there is no evidence that William Shakespeare wrote the great works which bear his name.

The stage and screen legend, star of TV shows Last Tango in Halifax and Vicious, opened up about his controversial views during a discussion about his life before a Hampstead audience on Thursday.

He called on academics to accept there are significant doubts about the authorship of the Bard’s plays and to enter into a “no holds barred” debate.

“There is not one shred of evidence that puts a pen in the hand of William,” he said.

“I would challenge anyone to give one solid piece of evidence that connects him to writing.”

The Belsize Park resident was appearing as part of the Lifelines series of interviews at Burgh House, in New End Square, hosted by former Ham&High editor Matthew Lewin.

During his distinguished career, Sir Derek has played the lead in countless Shakespeare productions – performing nearly 400 times as Hamlet alone.

He said he has become convinced that there is “an authorship problem”, despite being branded a “lunatic” for his views by some.

It was in the 1980s that his doubts really took shape, at a time when the theory that Edward de Vere, the 17th Earl of Oxford, was responsible for Shakespeare’s plays began to gather interest.

“It needs academia just to lower its guard, just slightly, to accept that it is a legitimate argument,” he said.

“Then we can talk about it, then we can discuss it.”

He added: “Let’s hope that in the next few years we can have a worthwhile, no-holds-barred debate about it.

“We may be quite wrong and it was William. Fine – but let’s discuss it.”

The 75-year-old recalled some of the key episodes in his life over nearly two hours during the Burgh House interview.

He opened by reflecting on the “luck” that has helped to carry his career forwards.

“You are looking at the luckiest actor you will ever see,” he said.

“I have been given the opportunities to strut whatever stuff I have got.

“I have never had to hustle, I have never waited tables, I have never had to work the room – things have always just happened.”

Sir Derek spoke fondly of Laurence Olivier, whom he worked under as a young actor for eight years at the fledgling Royal National Theatre.

He also touched on a crippling bout of stage fright that kept him away from theatre for two years in the early 1980s, and his views on the posthumous pardon given to Enigma codebreaker Alan Turing just before Christmas.

The mathematician and computer pioneer was convicted of gross indecency in 1952 after being arrested for having an affair with a man.

Sir Derek, who portrayed Turing in the hit West End and Broadway play Breaking the Code in the 1980s, said the pardon made him “hot under the collar”.

“I think he should have been given an apology, not a pardon,” he said. “He’d done nothing wrong – and what about all the others?”

0 comments

Latest News Stories

Yesterday, 12:00
Gospel Oak School pupils Daniel Greene,10, and Paris Pereira, 10, with classmates dressed as superheroes. Picture: Polly Hancock

Is it a bird? Is it a plane? No, it’s a group of schoolchildren, who became mini superheroes for the day to raise money for Children in Need.

Saturday, November 22, 2014
Memories of 1914-1918 a show devised and performed by Lee Montague and friends in support of Keats Library Michael Palin pictured with Lee Montague and Robert Powell

Tales of local life during the First World War helped to light up a star-studded Remembrance event.

Saturday, November 22, 2014
Nicholas Lyndhurst and Tamzin Outhwaite pose with Lauderdale House staff members after filming in Waterlow Park

Stars of a TV detective series took time out of filming in Highgate to help a historic house’s fundraising campaign.

Friday, November 21, 2014
Thieves attempted to steal a cash point machine from Highgate Post Office in Archway Road in the early hours of this morning.

Thieves attempted to steal a cash point machine from a post office in Highgate in the early hours of this morning.

Most read news

The final GP in the UAE may not have been a thriller, but it did kind of sum up the season for a lot of drivers.

Protesters have been warned they are banned from setting up camp at the landmark.

John Cantlie features in the new IS video, in which he talks about a recent failed military attack.

From Britain First’s Facebook posts, you would assume they’d won the Rochester by-election. They didn’t, but they’re claiming it anyway.

Digital Edition

Image
Read the Hampstead & Highgate Express e-edition today E-edition