The title of this post is H.L. Mencken’s description of his favorite occupation, provoking the dim and bigoted of his day. I will confess to a taste for it myself — and how could I deny it after tweaking those earnest Wikipediasts and the horde at The Web Site That Must Not Be Named? — which leads me today to direct your attention to a venerable group of cranks.
The Abbeville Manual of Style blog reports in "Supreme Court Shakespeare Screw-Up!" on the decision by a group of venerable jurists, inveigled into one of those inane mock trials of historical issues, that William Shakespeare was not the author of the plays of William Shakespeare.
Anti-Stratfordism has been a magnet for cranks since the 19th century, and their numbers appear to be annually replenished. It appears to draw people who are screwy about credentials, since Shakespeare lacked the two, noble blood and university education, that appear to matter to them.
That Shakespeare was widely acknowledged as the author in his own time, that the cranks have to resort to ingenious manipulations of known chronology (Christopher Marlowe and the Earl of Oxford having inconveniently died before all the Shakespeare plays were produced), or that they can only establish alternative authorship through bizarre and unproved (and unprovable) conspiracy theories does not give them pause.
And why should it? The Internet is a real big tent, and it can accommodate many freak shows. And that publishers continue to bring out the occasional anti-Stratfordian book indicates that the easily gulled remain, as ever, a lucrative market.
This way to the egress.