Unlike the benign attempts through scholarship to discover new works of Shakespeare, Samuel and William Henry Ireland took a much more direct (though also immoral) route when Samuel, a rare book dealer, revealed that his son William had discovered a cache of documents written by Shakespeare.
The documents eventually revealed included notes for Hamlet, the complete manuscript of King Lear, correspondence between Queen Elizabeth and Shakespeare, and a complete new play, Vortigern and Rowena. The documents caused an uproar when they were discovered, but were quickly deemed forgeries once this volume was published and experts were able to examine them. One of the final straws was the production of Vortigern and Rowena, which was unable even to finish its first night of production--the audience drowned out the actors with laughter at the quality of the work, and refused to allow the actors to come back onstage unless another play was substituted.
Edmund Malone was one of the most eminent individuals who went after Ireland’s forgeries. His anger and disgust at the forgeries--especially at their low quality--is evident throughout the book. His evidence of the falseness of the papers was of many types: the forgeries were incorrect in terms of grammar, spelling, social graces and history for the Elizabethan (or any other) age. In short, the Ireland forgeries were constructed to appear “old-fashioned” in the sense that William Henry Ireland imagined “old-fashioned” to mean, rather than appearing truly "Elizabethan."
For example, “chicken” was used by Ireland as a singular word, as we use it now. However, in Shakespeare’s day, one had a single “chick” and multiple “chicken.” King Lear is written as Kynge Leare--a faux-historical inauthenticity that Malone mocks. Some of the materials even refer to the Globe Theatre several years before it was constructed.
Compare the text of this play to the text of the beginning of the forged manuscript of Kynge Leare. The ridiculous spellings in Kynge Leare, it turns out, would have seemed just as ridiculous to Shakespeare as they did to the Edmond Malone in 1796 and to us in the present.
The refutation of these forgeries by scholars was not difficult once reproductions were published: simply by comparing the forgeries to known examples of the same handwriting, the differences were clear. Compare this letter to the forged letter of Queen Elizabeth, above--the Virgin Queen was well-known for her excellent handwriting, while the Ireland forgeries were written by a much shakier hand.