In breaking news this weekend noted Shakespearean actor/director/producer Kenneth Branagh (Henry V, Much Ado About Nothing, Love’s Labors Lost, Hamlet) has apparently gotten off the fence about the Shakespeare authorship question. In a news report in today’s Sunday Express in the UK Branagh is quoted as saying, “There is room for reasonable doubt. De Vere is the latest and the hottest candidate. There is a convincing argument that only a nobleman like him could write of exotic settings and that William Shakespeare was a simple country boy … I am fascinated by all the speculation.” [UPDATE, May 13, 2009: The link to the Sunday Express news story is now dead … click on it and you get a message that “The article you are looking for does not exist. It may have been deleted.” with no further explanation. Word on my Internet grapevine is that the paper was asked to take it down and did. This link to the story on a different site still works. Stay tuned.]

Sir Derek Jacobi as Claudius (left) and Kenneth Branagh (center) as Hamlet in the 1996 film.

Well, welcome aboard Kenneth! Although we don’t know at this point in time what the back story to all this is, there has been speculation for years that Branagh was sympathetic to the authorship debate but was hedging his bets and keeping mum on what he really thought. Perhaps all the recent news (the portrait, Jacobi and Rylance in the news saying they have doubts, the usual birthday hoopla) finally got him to commit. The comments were made during remarks at the US premiere of his BAFTA-winning Swedish detective series, Wallander.

In any event, this is big news and must be unsettling to the powers that be in the Shakespeare Establishment.