Shakespeare papers

Making Shakespeare –  Faking Shakespeare

#24 William Henry Ireland, Shakespeare papers (c.1800)

The most infamous forger of the eighteenth century was William Henry Ireland. In what started as a way to please his father, a Shakespeare enthusiast, young William began “discovering” new biographical documents in the 1790s, including the signatures of Shakespeare and his contemporaries, along with personal correspondence—such as a love letter to his wife Anne Hathaway. He also claimed to have found Shakespeare’s original manuscripts, such as a page from Hamlet, consisting of the end of Hamlet’s “To be or not to be” speech and his encounter with Ophelia. It was not long before Ireland’s forgeries were exposed, in part due to his idiosyncratic and anachronistic spelling—such as “Hamblette.”