Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Contested Will: Who Wrote Shakespeare? by James Shapiro

Every time I have taught a play by Shakespeare, some enterprising student will offer the observation--sometimes phrased as a question, sometimes a matter-of-fact dismissal of the entire enterprise--that Shakespeare didn't really write the plays attributed to him.  High school students are by nature, I think, conspiratorially minded.  I've known many who are happy to attribute most world events to the machinations of the Illuminati, as if an all-powerful super-secret international cabal would be transparent enough to make itself known to a sixteen-year old in Queens.  But some are also just happy to take Shakespeare down a peg, since he's been terrorizing them from the grave since middle school.  This phenomenon reached a fever pitch about three years ago, when the Roland Emmerich film Anonymous came out, which depicts Edward de Vere as the "real Shakspeare."

But high schoolers aren't the only ones susceptible to Shakespeare conspiracies.  As Shapiro notes in his prologue, "I can think of little else that unites Henry James and Malcolm X, Sigmund Freud and Charlie Chaplin, Helen Keller and Orson Welles, or Mark Twain and Sir Derek Jacobi."  Contested Will is a history of Shakespeare conspiracy theories, focusing on the two most popular historical candidates: Sir Francis Bacon and Edward de Vere, the Earl of Oxford.  These are not the only candidates, of course, and if you go see the new Jim Jarmusch film Only Lovers Left Alive you'll find a centuries-old vampire Christopher Marlowe who claims to have written Shakespeare's plays.  But most of the critical energy of anti-Stratfordians, as they're known, has focused on these candidates, with de Vere only surpassing Bacon as the preferred candidate in the middle of the 20th century.

An anti-Stratfordian might disagree, but for the most part, Shapiro's book is incredibly even-handed.  He treats his subjects with deference and respect (for the most part), detailing the personal and critical histories that spurred these movements.  One of the things he points out is that Shakespeare did not live in an "age of memoir," as we do; this is one reason that an author like Mark Twain, who claimed that everything he wrote was autobiographical in one way or another, found it difficult to believe that the plays could have been written by a relatively impoverished glover's son from the English backwaters.  But the book is best when it can't resist taking a swipe at the anti-Stratfordians, as when Shapiro discusses the attempts of Orville Ward Owen and Elizabeth Wells Gallup's attempt to uncover a hidden code attributing the plays to Bacon:

Prescott's account of Gallup piecing together names from a string of letters recalls nothing so much as the scene in Twelfth Night in which Malvolio is spied on as he decodes an unsigned letter with its cryptic message "M.O.A.I. doth sway my heart."  Malvolio gets off to a promising start--"'M.' Malvolio. 'M'--why that begins my name."  But he runs into trouble when he sees that "there is no consonancy in the sequel," since "'A' should follow, but 'O' does."  Malvolio, the patron siant of hopeful decipherers, resolves the matter in his ow nfavor by fiddlign with the anagram: "yet to crush this a little, it would bow to me," for "every one of these letters are in my name."  The first decoder of Shakespeare's words, Malvolio would not be the last to crush an anagram to fit the name he so badly wanted to find.

Shapiro saves a final chapter for outlining the case for Shakespeare's authorship of the plays.  The clearest evidence, he notes, is "first what early printed texts reveal; the second, what writers who knew Shakespeare said about him."  In other words, Shakespeare's plays were attributed to Shakespeare when they came out, and no one thought to claim otherwise until the 19th century.  He also makes an argument I hadn't thought of before, describing the progression of his writing career, which was radically different in its final years, challenging the kind of creative dating required to make the events of the plays fit into the schematics of Baconians and Oxfordians.  (de Vere, for one, died twelve years before Shakespeare, so that one takes some work.)

Shapiro is committed to making a rational case, and so avoids from too much invective, but I'll add what I see beneath his history: the case for noble authorship rests on a kind of half-subtle classism that rejects the idea that a man from humble beginnings could be a literary genius.  The subtext of Baconianism and Oxfordianism is that the breadth and imagination of Shakespeare's plays could only be achieved by someone with status and money.  As such, I think those who doubt Shakespeare's authenticity often say more about themselves than they do about Shakespeare.

There are a couple final points that Contested Will makes that I had never considered: First, that Shakespeare scholars, with their recent obsession over the playwright's life and how it affected his work plays into the hands of the conspiratorially minded: "[R]efusing to acknowledge that they have been doing similar things in their own books--even if their topical readings are far less fanciful and the author whose life they read out of the works is the one named on the title pages--rightly infuriates those who don't believe that Shakespeare of Stratford had the life experiences to write the plays.  I was left wondering whether Shakespare scholars ignore their adversaries (when not vilifying them) because they share with them more unspoken assumptions about the intersection of life and literature than they care to admit--and, indeed, were the first to profess."  Et tu, Stephen Greenblatt.

The second I'll leave quoted by itself, since I think it's the most persuasive and prudent reaction to the conspiracy theorists:

What I find most disheartening about the claim that Shakespeare of Stratford lacked the life experience to have written the plays is that it diminishes the very thing that makes hims so exceptional: his imagination.  As an aspiring actor, Shakespeare must have displayed a talent for imagining himself as any number of characters onstage.  When he turned to writing, he demonstrated an even more powerful imaginative capacity, one that allowed him to create roles of such depth and complexity--Rosalind, Hamlet, Lear, Juliet, Timon, Brutus, Leontes, and Cleopatra, along with hundreds of others, great and small--that even the least of them, four centuries later, seem fully human and distinctive.

59 comments:

Howard Schumann said...

Unfortunately, Mr. Shapiro does not address the issues raised by Shakespeare doubters but would rather talk about their motivations. The motivation is clear, uncover the truth and tell it – until then the issue will not go away no matter how many times the pejorative phrase “conspiracy theory” is used.

There is no documentary evidence that anyone ever claimed to have met the author Shakespeare while he was alive and he was never associated with William Shaksper of Stratford. Shaksper indeed never claimed to have written the works and no one in his family ever claimed that he was a writer, much less the greatest author in the English language. When contemporaries refer to William Shakespeare, they are referring to the name on the title page and nothing else.

There is nothing written in his own hand other than six barely readable signatures, each spelled differently. He left no letters, diaries, manuscripts, no correspondence of any kind. Many books that were used as source material for the plays were not translated into English in Shakespeare’s time.

Although without doubt the Stratford Grammar School provided a good education, there is no accounting for the detailed knowledge of the law, medicine, foreign languages, Italy, the court and aristocratic society, and sports such as falconry, tennis, jousting, fencing, and coursing that appears in the plays. I could go on but just one last question that does not require a tortured explanation, just common sense - Would the greatest writer in the English language have allowed his daughters to remain illiterate?

Stephen Matthews said...

"for the most part, Shapiro's book is incredibly even-handed", says Christopher. He means that Shapiro pretends to be even-handed: he is above making fun of Looney's name, for example. But he proceeds to discredit Looney as a proto-Nazi (yes, Shapiro actually uses the phrase 'final solution'), instead of actually addressing Looney's arguments. He then asserts (without any semblance of argument) that in order to accept Looney's conclusions you have to accept his politics. Go figure.

Benjamin Hackman said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Benjamin Hackman said...

Stephen, Are you referring to p.188 where Shapiro cites Looney's daughter who was trying to explain that her father only wanted "to see Edw de Vere established as the author of the Shakespeare plays and the Jewish problem settled." Shapiro took pains to explain that this referred to assimilation and had NOTHING to do with Nazi death camps. But it is difficult to separate Looney's politics from how he misread Shakespeare and thus ended up an Oxfordian.

Geoffrey Green said...

Shapiro is a good enough writer that readers not familiar with the subject matter might not recognize the dirty tricks he employs. Here are some other reviews that expose a bit of that:

http://bookcritics.org/blog/archive/nbcc_featured_review_william_s._niederkorn_on_contested_will_by_james_shapi

http://www.shakespeareoxfordfellowship.org/is-that-true-a-review-of-james-shapiros-contested-will/

http://shake-speares-bible.com/2011/03/05/amazon-contested-will-under-fire-or-anatomy-of-a-denouement/

http://www.academia.edu/7498327/FOUR_YEARS_AFTER_CONTESTED_WILL

Howard Schumann said...

Thanks to Richard Agemo for the following:

"Black’s Law Dictionary defines “conspiracy” as follows:

“A combination or confederacy between two or more persons formed for the purpose of committing, by their joint efforts, some unlawful or criminal act, or some act which is lawful in itself, but becomes unlawful when done by the concerted act of the conspirators, or for the purpose of using some criminal or unlawful means to the commission of an act not in itself unlawful.”

As far as I know, it’s not a crime for an author to write under a pseudonym. During Elizabethan times, a nobleman writing plays for the public stage under his real name would have been frowned upon by his family and peers.

Given England’s accepted form of totalitarian rule at the time, few, if any of the cognoscenti – probably not even Oxford/Shakespeare himself – would view the imposition of such silence as something unlawful, let alone as a “crime.” Ditto for the grain dealer acting as Oxford’s front man.

No crime, no unlawful means or purpose, no conspiracy, no “conspiracy theory.”

What Stratfordians really mean to say is that Oxfordians propose that there was a cover-up to hide Shakespeare’s true identity, Only the act of concealing or hiding something in needed for a cover-up. Unlike conspiracy, no criminality or unlawful purpose is necessary. A pseudonym, by definition, is a type of cover-up.

Cover-up, yes. Conspiracy, no. Stratfordians should drop the “conspiracy” charge against their opponents."

Benjamin Hackman said...

Black’s Law Dictionary. And angels dancing on pins.

Conspiracy or no, the Oxie stratagem is to not merely to cover up Oxford’s name. Were it that simple.

The conspiracy emerges with the fanciful state-directed cabal to ensure there’d be no record of the cover up, a conspiracy so fearsome and thorough that no one dared ever speak of Oxford’s secret doings, much less mention in a letter, in a journal, or some marginalia, or in a poem or play slyly alluding to Oxford’s secret career. Nope. None. Not even a hint. Not one single jot of Oxford’s blood.

And all this because Oxies need some way to explain why there is, in fact, ZERO evidence for their bad little boy. And the only way to explain why there’s zero evidence is to invoke a perfect conspiracy, not merely to suppress Oxford’s name at the time, but to ensure there would be no record . . . ever.

And now the final layer. Why did Oxford’s name have to be suppressed in the first place? Supposedly to avoid the embarrassment of a high-ranking Earl, rumored to be the Queen’s bastard son, publicly, and one would suppose gleefully, humiliating the powers-that-be, from to the petty apparatchiks of the all-seeing government, to the powerful Cecils, to the person of the Queen herself, al la Nell the kitchen wench—or so Mark Anderson tells us. (I’ve always wondered why the front man wasn’t tossed in The Tower when he slandered QE so grossly—even if only to teach Ox a lesson. But maybe QE was a really good sport and loved his impish pranks.)

So that’s why Oxies are laughed at. Because the manufactured conspiracy is, indeed, the necessary predicate for Oxfordian theory to work.

But Oxies, finally realizing this fatal flaw, are trying to walk it back, lately calling it an “open conspiracy,” where everyone who was in a position to know knew, but was too polite to ever speak or write of it, and not merely as a matter good manners, but due to the implicit threat of retaliation by dark and sinister forces who would do anything to enforce the cover up. And that’s why there’s no evidence.

Or an even more recent permutation. EVERYONE knew about Oxford. It was common knowledge. So common that no one ever commented on his activities. EVER. Like the weather. So that’s why there’s no evidence.

Any guesses what the next permutation will be, once the Oxies realize how this one is even sillier than their earlier self-licking ice cream cones?

Oh wait. Maybe it’s already here: “Only the act of concealing or hiding something in needed for a cover-up. Unlike conspiracy, no criminality or unlawful purpose is necessary. A pseudonym, by definition, is a type of cover-up.”

So there was no conspiracy, it was only a cover up, involving “no criminality or unlawful purpose.” And that’s why there’s no evidence—because the cover up wasn’t unlawful.

Guess what. It's already here! A new level of looniness.

Howard Schumann said...

There are no certainties as to the reason(s) for the suppression of the historical record for Oxford’s authorship or for that matter, that the greatest author in the English language is a complete cipher. Oxford certainly alludes to the erase of his name form the historical record in the Sonnets, in one case lamenting the fact that “I once gone to all the world must die.”

Editor James Warren speculates about the reason:

“… state power was used not merely to separate Oxford from the plays but to erase him from the historical record. Those in charge of state power concluded that this extreme step was necessary because the plays were inextricably tied to the issue of succession, and had to take steps to avoid public recognition that the plays were addressing the issue as it related to the current monarch, the most sensitive issue facing the kingdom after 1593, the year Queen Elizabeth turned 60 years old.

Warren, also cited the belief by some Oxfordians that de Vere was tied directly to the succession by being either a son of the queen, a lover of the queen and father of a child by her, or both. He requested that Oxfordians keep an open mind about the Tudor Heir (PT) theories because “there is no other theory on the horizon that is weighty enough to explain why those who controlled state power saw fit to use that power to conduct the systematic, sustained and determined effort that was needed to eliminate Oxford from the historical record.”

Mr. Hackman, if your purpose is uncovering the truth and I'm assuming it is, I suggest that you drop the bullying, smarter-than-thou sarcasm. You are not convincing anyone who may be on the fence.

The authorship issue, for those with enough intellectual integrity to truly investigate it, is a towering literary mystery. Please don’t pretend that you have all the answers. Only the closed-minded have certainty.

Mark Johnson said...

Speaking of intellectual integrity and certainty, nothing that r. Schumann has stated in his opening post here should be accepted as a certain fact. When he states that we have "no documentary evidence that anyone ever claimed to have met the author Shakespeare while he was alive" Mr. Schumann must necessarily ignore Ben Jonson's 'Timber'and must twist many other documents of the time [such as Heywood's reference to the author in the 'Apology for Actors' (1612)]. He must also deny the fact that, during William Shakespeare's own lifetime, there are many references to him as "M.", "Mr." or "Master" Shakespeare, an honorific which serves to specifically identify the author as one William Shakespeare of Stratford [by the grant of a coat of arms to John Shakespeare]. He must also ignore the references to the author as an actor and to William Shakespeare of Stratford as the actor [as in the Heralds' Office reference to Shakespeare "ye player", or as in the poems by John Davies].

Mr. Schumann states that there isn't any evidence that Shakespeare ever claimed to have written his works. This statement is not true, as it is clear that the dedications to the long poems count as evidence that he did just that. Mr. Schumann may not like that evidence, and may try to spin it to accord with his wishes, but that doesn't make his blanket statement that Shakespeare "never claimed to have written the works" acceptable as a statement of fact. His own certainty is misplaced.

Mr. Schumann states that " no one in his family ever claimed that he was a writer." This is an interesting statement as there is no possible way to ever determine whether or not it is true or false. As for its relevance, perhaps Mr. Schumann could offer up the names of any and all of the members of any playwright's family in the Elizabethan/Jacobean era who ever claimed that there relative was a playwright. What we do know for a fact is that a Monument was erected in the family church in Stratford which did identify William Shakespeare of Stratford as the author, and that this identification was widely accepted.

Mr Schumann states as follows: "When contemporaries refer to William Shakespeare, they are referring to the name on the title page and nothing else." Another very interesting statement as it indicates that Mr. Scumann has communicated with the dead and is privy to their thoughts. It is merely a coincidence that those thoughts match his conspiracy theory.

When Mr. Schumann contends that all we have of Shakespeare's handwriting, he is being disingenuous, as surely he knows that there is much scholarship identifying Hand D in Thomas More manuscript as being in Shakespeare's hand. When he states that Shakespeare "letters, diaries, manuscripts, no correspondence of any kind," that also is disingenuous. Very little of such documentation from the playwrights of the era has survived, and, again, Mr. Schumann is ignoring the manuscript already mentioned. Where are the letters and diaries for Marlowe? Kyd? Beaumont? Fletcher? Webster?

I could go on, but one last question. I'd like for Mr. Schumann to prove that Shakespeare's daughters could not read and/or write. He can't do it -- for the simple reason that there is not enough evidence to answer the question with any certainty one way or the other. But Mr. Schumann is perfectly secure in his certainty, all while proclaiming against any certainty in others.

Mark Johnson said...

A conspiracy does not necessarily involve a criminal act. Conspiracy:
1.
the act of conspiring.
2.
an evil, unlawful, treacherous, or surreptitious plan formulated in secret by two or more persons; plot.
3.
a combination of persons for a secret, unlawful, or evil purpose:
4.
Law. an agreement by two or more persons to commit a crime, fraud, or other wrongful act.
5.
any concurrence in action; combination in bringing about a given result.

A conspiracy theory is defined as follows:

1.
a theory that explains an event as being the result of a plot by a covert group or organization; a belief that a particular unexplained event was caused by such a group.
2.
the idea that many important political events or economic and social trends are the products of secret plots that are largely unknown to the general public.

Whether you like it or not you are promoting a conspiracy theory.

Benjamin Hackman said...

Howard:

Your write: “You are not convincing anyone who may be on the fence.”

Not my goal. Nor does it need to be, since the DORD has been stuck at 3,000 for how long now? You’re gaining no new converts, no fence-sitters are jumping off on your side.

Now I realize that Oxfordian minds cannot be changed, since they truly believe they see a truth that others cannot, and imagining themselves all little Galileos, that they are fighting a good and just fight against the evil powers of entrenched academia and the money grubbers of the Stratford tourist industry. Yup, professors and store owners, an evil cabal that makes the Illuminati look like a bunch of candyasses.

So let’s just say this is a source of innocent merriment. That fits the crime. =O)

Benjamin Hackman said...

Howard,

You also wrote, “There are no certainties as to the reason(s) for the suppression of the historical record for Oxford’s authorship.” No certainties. No reasons. But you still believe it. So what variety of religious experience is this?

Thus you are perfectly comfortable with blithely claiming, “Oxford certainly alludes to the erase of his name form the historical record in the Sonnets, in one case lamenting the fact that “I once gone to all the world must die.”

So it should not come as a surprise that you’d assert The Sonnets were by Ox, then impose an interpretation that neatly conforms to your faith. You assume to be true that which is to be proven, then use the assumed truth to prove it’s true. The good old self-licking ice cream cone again.

Finally, you trot out an “editor” who happens to be an uberacolyte (the editor of An Index to Oxfordian Publications?) who thinks PT is the best way to explain “the systematic, sustained and determined effort that was needed to eliminate Oxford from the historical record.”

Nothing like a wack telling other wacks they are not wacked enough.

Unless it’s having the editor of the “Tin Foil Hat Journals” testify to his fellow members on the necessity for double-thick tin foil hats.


Now that IS innocent merriment. =O)

Benjamin Hackman said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Benjamin Hackman said...

Howard,

". . . those who controlled state power saw fit to use that power to conduct the systematic, sustained and determined effort that was needed to eliminate Oxford from the historical record.”

"controlled state power, systematic, sustained, determined"

And you still wouldn't call this a conspiracy?

Well, at least it made damn sure no evidence for Ox as Shakes survived.

And talk about convenient. =O)

Howard Schumann said...

Benjamin and Mark

‎"Close your eyes, take a deep breath and let your head relax, you feel calm and relaxed, your hands are becoming weightless, then your feet, and then your whole body, on the count of three you'll open your eyes and find yourself in a different place, one, two, three. Open your eyes.”

Voila! Oxford is Shakespeare.

Mark Johnson said...

And there you have it...Oxenfordianism is a sleep-induced fantasy for those people who are so highly suggestible that they are easily hypnotized. ;-)

Benjamin Hackman said...

Howard,

Like Percy Allen, you're into seances?

Wait a minute.

My hand is moving . . .

I picked up a pen . . .

I'm writing . . .

it says . . .

"Shakespeare's the one, Shakespeare's the one."

Cheers!

Brent Waggoner said...

Well, Stratfordians, and anti-Stratfordians alike!

Howard Schumann said...

Mark -

Jonson may have met the great author Shakespeare while he was alive but he does not identify the author as William Shaksper of Stratford and it fails as evidence. Indeed, Jonson never offered any description of the man, never said a word when Shaksper died, and was left nothing in Shaksper’s will.

Though Heywood never refers to Shakespeare by name, the implication of his reference to the complaint of the author leaves little doubt that he is referring to Shakespeare. What is unclear, however, is when the objection was raised since there were several editions of the work, the first one as early as 1599. Not knowing the date, however, leaves it open to speculation whether or not de Vere raised the objection shortly after its first publication, how Heywood learned about this, or even if the objection was something Heywood invented to strengthen his case. We simply do not know.

The Shakespeare cover was, most likely, created and maintained by the Lord Chamberlain’s Men in the mid-1590s to protect the source of their plays. Using Shaksper as a front, they saw to it that William of Stratford got the “Gent.” after his name.

According to Stephanie Hopkins Hughes, “After a time it became a sort of catch-all name used by any unscrupulous printer or publisher to add a cachet to his publication. Since the King’s Men cared for the name only as a cover for the true author, they did not concern themselves with chasing down every publisher who appropriated it––or perhaps they did; we simply don’t know.”

The question is whether William of Stratford was a writer, not an actor so evidence the he was an actor or “player” is not germane. As far as John Davis is concerned, there is no indication that he ever met or knew Shakespeare personally and the poem does not praise literary achievement.

His choice to hyphenate the name suggests that he regarded Shake-speare, like Terence, as a pseudonym. His epigram, directed to “our” Shake-speare, is also contrary to the other epigrams addressed to: To my worthy friend, to my dear well-known friend, To my well-accomplished friend, etc. “

Howard Schumann said...

In addition: The line “Had’st thou not played some Kingly parts in sport” does not suggest a man who is acting for a living but may indeed refer to Edward de Vere who indicates in his sonnets that he was an actor and made himself “a motley to the view.”

Dedications to the long poems are not evidence that William of Stratford claimed to be the playwright known as William Shakespeare.

What I should have said is that no evidence exists that anyone in his family ever claimed that he was the great author.

The Monument you refer to erected in the family church in the original sketch commemorated a sack-holding, sour-looking commodity trader, not the version modified in 1748-50 showing a man with a quill in his hand that we see today, who, in any event, bears no resemblance to other depictions of the man.

My statement about the name on the title page is meant to show that contemporary references are literary, not personal references. If they were personal references, there is nothing that they wrote that would indicate personal knowledge of the man and his characteristics.

Sorry, We have much documentation for lesser writers.

Gabriel Harvey left over 150 books written in five languages.
Thomas Nashe left behind a handwritten verse in Latin, a letter to William Cotton, and a 1593 letter to Sir George Carey to Cotton reports that Nashe had dedicated a book to him.

Robert Greene’s death in 1592 was the talk of the town in literary circles and there is a complete record of Greene’s education at Cambridge.

George Chapman contributed a commendatory poem to John Fletcher and received one from Michael Drayton.

Drayton was treated by physician John Hall and was described in Hall’s casebook as an excellent poet. He has a handwritten inscription to “his honored friend” Sir Henry Willoughby on a copy fo his poem “The Battle of Agincourt”.

Drayton, Chapman, Henry Chettle, and John Webster among others were paid by Henslowe to write plays. Thomas Dekker’s name appears in the Henslowe diary as a payee over fifty times.

I could go on and on citing documentation from the period for John Marston, Francis Beaumont, William Drummond, Samuel Daniel, George Peele, John Lyly.

Thomas Kyd wrote in a letter that he shared a room with Marlowe for writing and that Marlowe had been writing for his players. Peele paid tribute to Marolowe with in a month after his death. There are records of Marlowe’s education at Cambridge. Marlowe along with Eatson and Webster were three of the least documented writers yet for each of them, literary records survive such as personal tributes (while they were alive) or payments for writing.

If the man from Stratford did write the plays, he would have left some trace as to HOW he did it.

There is also no evidence that Shakespeare's two daughters were literate, except for two signatures by Susanna that appear to be "drawn" instead of written. His other daughter, Judith, signed a legal document with a mark.

There is nothing “verifiably” written in his own hand other than six barely readable signatures, each spelled differently. The “Hand D” attribution is highly questionable since the only basis for comparison are the six scrawled signatures.

Oh, yes - Two statements you forgot to address:

Many books that were used as source material for the plays were not translated into English in Shakespeare’s time.

There is no accounting for the detailed knowledge of the law, medicine, foreign languages, Italy, the court and aristocratic society, and sports such as falconry, tennis, jousting, fencing, and coursing that appears in the plays.

Did he learn all of this at the Mermaid Tavern University?

Howard Schumann said...

Ben:

Meditation aside (glad someone still has a sense of humor), I didn't trot out any editors. I quoted from a talk given by Mr. Warren in Toronto. In that talk he said that the PT theory could answer a lot of questions about the erasure of Oxford's name from the historical record, but did not say that he thought that it was the final answer or even that he endorsed it. He simply urged the group to keep an open mind on the subject.

As far as certainty is concerned, You are right. I don't have all the answers. Maybe you do.

I am strongly convinced, however, that de Vere was the author of the canon, though, for me, there are still many unanswered questions.

Anyone who claims to have all the answers in this maze is blowing smoke.

Mark Johnson said...

1. Jonson may have met the great author Shakespeare while he was alive but he does not identify the author as William Shaksper of Stratford and it fails as evidence. Indeed, Jonson never offered any description of the man, never said a word when Shaksper died, and was left nothing in Shaksper’s will.

Actually, Jonson does in fact identify the author as WS of Stratford when he identifies him as the actor who is friends with Heminge and Condell [in his 'Timber' and in the prefatory materials to the First Folio]. Your negative evidence does not serve to rebut those documents.

2. Though Heywood never refers to Shakespeare by name, the implication of his reference to the complaint of the author leaves little doubt that he is referring to Shakespeare. What is unclear, however, is when the objection was raised since there were several editions of the work, the first one as early as 1599.

This is only “unclear” if you are attempting to spin the evidence in favor of your candidate. Heywood's complaint is written in the present tense and specifically deals with the fact that two of his works are included in the 1612 edition of 'Passionate Pilgrim' [they were not included in earlier editions]. I'll be more than happy to go through the passage word by word if you would like, as I believe that will demonstarte the error in your spin.

3. The Shakespeare cover was, most likely, created and maintained by the Lord Chamberlain’s Men in the mid-1590s to protect the source of their plays. Using Shaksper as a front, they saw to it that William of Stratford got the “Gent.” after his name. 

This is all speculation on your part devoid of any evidentiary support.

4. According to Stephanie Hopkins Hughes, “After a time it became a sort of catch-all name used by any unscrupulous printer or publisher to add a cachet to his publication. Since the King’s Men cared for the name only as a cover for the true author, they did not concern themselves with chasing down every publisher who appropriated it––or perhaps they did; we simply don’t know.”

Quoting Ms. Hughes baseless speculations does nothing to support your baseless speculations.

5. The question is whether William of Stratford was a writer, not an actor so evidence the he was an actor or “player” is not germane. As far as John Davis is concerned, there is no indication that he ever met or knew Shakespeare personally and the poem does not praise literary achievement. 

The fact that WS of Stratford was an actor is extremely relevant [although I can see why you would wish to spin it away]. The author was identified as the actor in numerous documents from the period [for instance, the Parnassus plays, the Heralds Office record, Ben Jonson's references, etc.].

6. His choice to hyphenate the name suggests that he regarded Shake-speare, like Terence, as a pseudonym. His epigram, directed to “our” Shake-speare, is also contrary to the other epigrams addressed to: To my worthy friend, to my dear well-known friend, To my well-accomplished friend, etc.

I am sorry to see that you simply repeat the old canard about Terence as if it is fact in this instance, and I am sorry that you refuse to deal with the fact that Davies wrote three separate poems that place William Shakespeare. Finally, your reliance on the hyphen is misplaced. There is no indication that a hyphen was used specifically to indicate a pseudonym was being used.

I do appreciate that you have demonstrated, unwittingly, that my argument is correct. There is more than enough evidence to identify WS of Stratford as the author. It is only through spin and unreasonable manipulation that Oxenfordians can attempt to make that evidence say something other than what it clearly says on its face. In the end, the attempt is an abject failure.

Mark Johnson said...

1. In addition: The line “Had’st thou not played some Kingly parts in sport” does not suggest a man who is acting for a living but may indeed refer to Edward de Vere who indicates in his sonnets that he was an actor and made himself “a motley to the view.”

I do hope that you are aware of the illogical circularity of your statement here.

2. Dedications to the long poems are not evidence that William of Stratford claimed to be the playwright known as William Shakespeare.

They are evidence that he was the author of the poems, and that he sought and received patronage from the Earl of Southampton [which other evidence tends to corroborate – see 'Return from Parnassus 1', for example]. That other evidence, considered cumulatively, indicates that the same WS who was the author of the poems was the author of the plays. I realize that Oxenfordians attempt to examine each piece of evidence in a vacuum but that is not how evidence works. By the way, why in the world would Oxenforde be depicted as seeking patronage from Southampton, and, in a play that deals with William Shakespeare [RFP1], why would Oxenforde be depicted as someone other than the author?

3. What I should have said is that no evidence exists that anyone in his family ever claimed that he was the great author. 

They must have been greatly puzzled by the Monument in their church. Was John Hall a simpleton or was he in on the conspiracy? [sarcasm intended]

4. The Monument you refer to erected in the family church in the original sketch commemorated a sack-holding, sour-looking commodity trader, not the version modified in 1748-50 showing a man with a quill in his hand that we see today, who, in any event, bears no resemblance to other depictions of the man.

Another Oxenfordian canard. See articles by Diana Price and Peter Farey – and also see the contemporary 17th century references to the Monument as a monument to the author William Shakespeare.

Mark Johnson said...

5. My statement about the name on the title page is meant to show that contemporary references are literary, not personal references. If they were personal references, there is nothing that they wrote that would indicate personal knowledge of the man and his characteristics.

Sorry, but 'Timber' is about as personal as it gets [Jonson

6. If the man from Stratford did write the plays, he would have left some trace as to HOW he did it.

Once again, you completely ignore the evidence as to the 'Sir Thomas More' manuscript.

7. There is also no evidence that Shakespeare's two daughters were literate, except for two signatures by Susanna that appear to be "drawn" instead of written. His other daughter, Judith, signed a legal document with a mark. 

So when are you going to prove that neither of them could read, and since when does a signature [your subjective opinion of it notwithstanding] indicate that a person was illiterate?

8. There is nothing “verifiably” written in his own hand other than six barely readable signatures, each spelled differently. The “Hand D” attribution is highly questionable since the only basis for comparison are the six scrawled signatures.

The evidence for Hand D is not just based on handwriting [although the handwriting evidence is strong]. See: http://oxfraud.com/HND-Hand-D-home Seriously, why don't you visit there and explain how the case that is made there is not valid. You would be the first Oxenfordian to do so.
9. Many books that were used as source material for the plays were not translated into English in Shakespeare’s time.

Eliminating the subjective element in this point, so what? 

10. There is no accounting for the detailed knowledge of the law, medicine, foreign languages, Italy, the court and aristocratic society, and sports such as falconry, tennis, jousting, fencing, and coursing that appears in the plays.

Why do you think that your making a god in the gaps of our knowledge [in this case, as to how WS attained the knowledge exhibited in the plays] serves to rebut a positive case based on documentary evidence from the historical record?

William Ray said...

Returning to the book, James Shapiro stated his motivation for writing it at the Shakespeare Guild in New York City.

He said he wrote it "to shut them up once and for all," and to "show how they don't know how to evaluate evidence."

This was in reference to the Oxfordian challenge to the present narrative of a litigious money-lender writing the Shakespeare canon.

Personal bias necessarily results in an inferior study. And so 'Contested Will' failed to achieve its low purpose. The subject cannot benefit from polemical approaches to the evidence, or by the same token toward those who introduce heretofore unconsidered evidence.

Mr. Johnson misuses his considerable lawyerly skills to attack and belittle Mr. Schumann's previously unconsidered facts and views. Consequently he has demonstrated to the reader his own motivation for participating in these fora––to maintain the status quo, no matter how curious and contradictory.

Maintaining the status quo on dubious grounds through a variety of rhetorical means, as is evident here, is merely symptomatic of the weakness of the present understanding.

Both the book and its defenders evince undue resistance to the historical inquiry. There must be a reason.

For those readers interested in a skeptical but not biased view of the book, a Book Critics praised review is here: http://www.brooklynrail.org/2010/04/books/absolute-will

Thanks to Geoffrey Green for reference to my own review.

Mark Johnson said...

Mr. Ray is mistaken. I am not attacking or belittling "Mr. Schumann's previously unconsidered facts and views." I am merely pointing out that while we are all entitled to make up our own views as to the facts, we are not entitled to make up our own facts. The evidence exists outside our spinning of it.

Likewise, I have no interest in maintaining the status quo. My interest is in a methodical presentation and evaluation of evidence, and I will follow actual evidence wherever it may lead. I have enjoyed my discussion here with Mr. Scumann, and I see no reason to look for any hidden motives in his participation here.

R.M. Fiedler said...

So based on these theories, who wrote Paradise Lost?

Howard Schumann said...

Mark - Many books that were used as source material for the plays were not translated into English in Shakespeare’s time. For example:

Francois de Belleforest Histories tragiques
Ser Giovanni Fioranetino’s Il Pecorone
Epitia and Hecatommithi
Luigi da Porto’s Romeus and Juliet (Italian)
Jorge de Montemayor’s Diana (Spanish)

Shakespeare's reliance on books in foreign languages puzzles the experts, so we can suppose all sorts of things rather than conclude the obvious. If the man who was Shakespeare regularly relied on books not yet translated from Italian, French, and Spanish, then he must have been able to read in Italian, French, and Spanish. Nothing we know about William of Stratford indicates he could read those languages.

We know specifically, however, that Oxford was fluent in four foreign languages, Latin, Greek, Italian, and French.

About the "gaps in our knowledge" as to where WS acquired the knowledge evident in the plays, it is more like a chasm than a gap.

About the so-called Hand-D collaboration, it is not universally accepted as valid either by Stratfordians or anti-Stratfordians. Where are all the collaborators who Shakespeare is alleged to have worked with? Not a single one has come forth and said yes, I worked with the man William Shakespeare, ya know - the guy from Stratford. All is silent.

When you can show a simple direct statement from someone who could say - yes I have met Shakespeare and he is the man from Stratford-on-Avon, then we will have something to talk about. All the rest is murky.

Howard Schumann said...

Bill - It is quite obvious that Mr. Shapiro wanted to convey the idea that he was looking at the authorship issue in an even handed manner, but any one even somewhat knowledgeable could easily see it was in reality a subtle ad hominem attack on those who think outside of the mainstream.

Mark Johnson said...

Howard: ..."so we can suppose all sorts of things rather than conclude the obvious."

I think this statement quite clearly demonstrates our difference in approaching this issue. Anti-Startfordians believe that their suppositions serve to rebut documentary evidence from the available historic record. I don't find that to be true...I think that physical evidence outweighs suppositions.

I also think that there are more than enough simple direct statements that, when considered cumulatively, serve to establish that WS of Stratford wrote the works attributed to Shakespeare. When you contend that we can only have something to talk about when I can "show a simple direct statement from someone who could say - yes I have met Shakespeare and he is the man from Stratford-on-Avon," I have to wonder why you are a proponent of an Oxenfordianism where there is a total absence of such statements. Talk about murky...all of Oxenfordianism depends upon idiosyncratic interpretation of literary works and there isn't a single piece of documentary evidence identify Oxenforde as the author. Seems like a double standard there.

Mark Johnson said...

Howard...as an aside, I'd like to say how much I enjoyed our discussion here and how civil you have been in the back-and-forth with me. I realize that isn't always the case in these debates and I want you to understand how much I appreciate your demeanor here.

Howard Schumann said...

Mark - Thanks for your kind comment. The fact is that there is no smoking gun. It is all circumstantial evidence. If there were indeed any clear, straightforward, and unambiguous evidence one way or the other, there would be no authorship debate.

I think the Oxfordian attribution makes more sense to me and allows the pieces to the puzzle to fit together in a way that feels right. Even as a child, I could never understand how it is possible that we know next to nothing about the greatest writer in the English language (arguably).

Oxford's biographical connection to the plays, his superior education under the tutelage of Sir Thomas Smith and his access to Cecil's vast library, his involvement with the theater, his travels to Italy where many of the plays are set, the fact that the Sonnets seem to be written by a man advanced in years.

The Sonnets are written by a man who is clearly much older than William of Stratford. The sonnets tell us that the poet was in his declining years when writing them. He was "Beated and chopped with tanned antiquity," "With Time's injurious hand crushed and o'er worn", in the "twilight of life". He is lamenting "all those friends" who have died, "my lovers gone". His is "That time of year/When yellow leaves, or none, or few, do hang/Upon those boughs that shake against the cold." The sonnets that most contradict Will of Stratford's life story are those about shame and disgrace to name and reputation. Here Shakespeare's biographers have nothing to go on, claiming it is all imagination.

The Puritan attack on the theater causing theaters to be closed, playwrights arrested and suggestions they were murdered provide ample reason for a playwright whose plays satirize members of the court to want to use a pseudonym.

There is more but too little space. In the 1580s the earl was hailed in print as “best for comedy” – his plays produced at court, all of which are presumed to be “lost” although the records suggest they were early versions to be revised much later as Shakespeare’s plays. Oxford saved the private Blackfriars Theater from being closed, handing over the lease to his secretary John Lyly, whose plays would be credited with having much influence upon Shakespeare’s writing.

I'll stop here.

Benjamin Hackman said...

Howard,

First, your general MO is thus: (a) you assume a single source of your chosing is the only possible source for the play, (b) the only way Shakes could have acquired the unique information from the unique single source was to have read it in the original, (c) because the information in this source was available by no other means, and (d) all other possible sources must be dismissed as inconsequential.

Let’s do Hamlet first. In 1598, in his introduction to Robert Greene’s Menaphon, Thomas Nashe implies the existence of an early Hamlet (or Hamlets): “English Seneca read by candle-light yields many good sentences, as Blood is a begger, and so forth; and if you entreat him fair in a frosty morning, he will afford you whole Hamlets, I should say handfuls of tragical speeches."

We all know the supposition that since Nahe is talking about Kyd, it suggest that Kyd wrote the “Ur-Hamlet” that was referred to by Henslowe (1594) and Thomas Lodge (1596), especially given Lodge’s description of "the ghost which cried so miserably at the theatre, like an oyster-wife, Hamlet, revenge!"

As far as the 1570 Belleforest, a translation appeared in 1608 called The Hystorie of Hamblet, so Shakes could have read it in French (and that, of course, is a huge “if’), or perhaps there was an earlier translated version available before 1608. Or, more likely, he simply cobbled together pieces of the extant “whole Hamlets,” since the Hamlet story, in parts if not whole, hand been kicking around the Elizabethan theater scene during the decade preceding Shakespeare’s Hamlet (1600). After all, that’s was what Shakes the borrower did-- take the old and make it new.

I know you’ll have none of this, since there’s only one way to skin your Hamlet cat. Demand a particular proof, rule out all other exigencies, and when such proof is not proffered, claim victory, and in the same breath, speculate anything you want about Oxford, feeling zero requirement for proof.

But that's fine. I'll play along by your rules.


I’ll tackle the other sources in subsequent posts, as time permits.

And I will also try to be nicer—but not to Willie Jay Ray.

Howard Schumann said...

No so-called "Ur-Hamlet" has ever been discovered. It is simply a convenient way to shift discussion away from the fact that many Shakespeare-like plays were written in the 70s and 80s and performed at court without attribution. The Hamlet referred to by Nashe was most likely an earlier version of the play written by Oxford.

Whether the foreign sources listed were the one and only source for the plays is not relevant. They are agreed to be one source that Shakespeare used.

The fact that they weren't translated into English at the time is a good indicator that the author was not the man from Stratford who as far as anyone knows could not read any language other than English and Latin.

Don't try to be nicer. Yoda says there is no try. There is either do or do not.

Mark Johnson said...

Howard....you're welcome, but I beg to differ with you when you say that all of the evidence at issue is circumstantial in this matter. In fact, the documentary evidence for the orthodox case qualifies as direct evidence. There is also circumstantial evidence for the orthodox case. I'd be interested to see what you can produce that qualifies even as circumstantial evidence for Oxenforde, as I have yet to see any such evidence brought forward.

As to the old age of the sonnet author, the literary imagery of "old age/impending death" was a common convention of the time and nothing unique to Shakespeare. First, we should go back to the source and visit Petrarch.

Petrarch's Sonnet lxxxi [to Laura after death]

Dicemi spesso il mio fidato speglio,'
L'animo stanco e la cangiata scorza
E la scemata mia distrezza e forza:
Non ti nasconder piu: tu se pur veglio.

My faithful glass, my weary spirit, and my wrinkled skin, and my decaying wit and strength repeatedly tell me: It cannot longer be hidden from you, you are old. [See also Sonnet cxliii].

[As an aside, Shakespeare's Sonnet 22 appears to contain a certain reference to this poem in particular, starting, "My glass shall not persuade me I am old."]

Following this traditional Petrarchian source, we have Elizabethan poets calling themselves old when they most decidedly are not. Daniel, in his 'Delia' series (1591), says,

"My years draw on my everlasting night,...
my days are done [xxiii]. 

Daniel was 29 at the time.

Richard Barnfield, at about age 20, wrote in his 'Affectionate Shepherd' (1594), 

Behold my gray head, full of silver hairs, 
My wrinkled skin, deep furrows in my face.

Drayton, in the sonnet 'Idea' (1594), says,

Looking into the glass of my youth's miseries,
I see the ugly face of my deformed cares
With withered brows all wrinkled with despair;...
Age rules my lines with wrinkles in my face.

Drayton was 31 at the time he wrote that.

Richard Barnfield presents quite the interesting case. "In the person of the shepherd, Daphnis, Barnfield praises the beauty of the boy Ganymede, warns him that this beauty is perishable, declares his love for him, and laments that he has a rival in a woman whose love is light. Moreover, he advises him to marry, warns him against profligacy, expatiates on the courtier's fawning for his prince's favour, and on change and decay....And he is even more emphatic than Shakespeare in asserting that his own years are past the best....[though he] was about 20...." [Excerpt from Hyder Rollins, Variorum II]

So why should literary works that depend on imagery of old age and death be considered unique to Oxenforde, and why must we believe that the poet of the Shakespeare Sonnets was necessarily old?

Mark Johnson said...

Howard...what is the specific evidence for your contention that "that many Shakespeare-like plays were written in the 70s and 80s and performed at court without attribution."

Howard Schumann said...

Mark - I think the following qualifies as circumstantial evidence. references to events that are paralleled in Oxford's life.

For example, in ALL’S WELL THAT ENDS WELL

Oxford became a ward of court in Lord Burghley's household at the age of twelve. Oxford left his widowed mother to become a royal ward.

Bertram left his widowed mother to become a royal ward.

Oxford’s guardian's daughter fell in love with him and wanted to be married.

Bertram’s foster-sister fell in love with him and wanted to be married.

Oxford was of more noble birth than Anne and did not favor marriage.

Bertram argued he was of too high birth for marriage.

Following an ailment, marriage was agreed and the Queen consented to Oxford’s marriage.

Following an illness, the King consented to the marriage.

The wedding was at first postponed, no reason was given.

Bertram attempted to change the King's mind regarding his marriage.

After the wedding, Oxford suddenly left the country.

After the wedding, Bertram suddenly left the country.

A reconciliation between Oxford and Anne is contrived by switching his bed companion for his wife. As a result, a son is born. Confirmation of this reconciliation appears in The Histories of Essex by Morant and Wright: 1836.

A reconciliation between Bertram and Helena is contrived by switching his bed companion for his wife. As a result, a son is born.

More evidence:

Of the 37 plays, 36 are laid in royal courts and the world of the nobility. The principal characters are almost all aristocrats with the exception perhaps of Shylock. From all we can tell, Shakespeare fully shared the outlook of his characters, identifying fully with the courtesies, chivalries, and generosity of aristocratic life.

Many lower class characters in Shakespeare are introduced for comic effect and given little development. Their names are indicative of their worth: Snug, Stout, Starveling, Dogberry, Simple, Mouldy, Wart, Feeble, etc.

The history plays are concerned mostly with the consolidation and maintenance of royal power and are concerned with righting the wrongs that fall on people of high blood. His comedies are far removed from the practicalities of everyday life or the realistic need to make a living. Shakespeare's vision is a deeply conservative, feudalistic and aristocratic one.

When he does show sympathy for the commoners as in Henry V speech to the troops, however, Henry is also shown to be a moralist and a hypocrite. He pretends to be a commoner and mingles with the troops in a disguise and claims that those commoners who fought with the nobility would be treated as brothers.

But we know there was no chance of that ever happening in feudal England. What can scarcely be overlooked is a compassionate understanding of the burdens of kingship combined with envy of the carefree lot of the peasant, who free of the "peril" of the "envious court", "sweetly…enjoys his thin cold drink" and his "sleep under a fresh tree's shade" with "no enemy but winter and rough weather". This would come naturally to a privileged nobleman.

Benjamin Hackman said...

Howard,

Mark Johnson asked you for some specific evidence to support your contention that "that many Shakespeare-like plays were written in the 70s and 80s and performed at court without attribution."

I’d also like you to address the rest of what you said, “The Hamlet referred to by Nashe was most likely an earlier version of the play written by Oxford.” Based on what? (Let me guess, because it’s so autobiogtraphical? But I thought Ox got the story came from Belleforest—when he read it in the original French. So how could it be autobiographical if Ox copied the story from Belleforest?)

And BTW, I’m, perfectly happy to agree with you that there’s no proof of an “Ur-Hamlet” by Kyd. BUT, something Hamletesque existed in 1590s, and likely more than one, per Nashe, and that Henslowe recorded seeing at least one of them in his diary, and that Lodge described the infamous Hamlet ghost scene. So plenty of raw material for Shakes to work with.

And, again, what is your basis for claiming Nashe was referring to Oxford’s Hamlet(s)?

Mark Johnson said...

Howard...sorry, but I don't see any of that as being circumstantial evidence tending to prove the proposition that Oxenforde was Shakespeare. If the circumstances of the play parallel Oxenforde's life [which I doubt, as the purported bed trick scenario isn't reported until years after his death*], there is nothing that shows that it is necessarily autobiographical rather than biographical.

As for the settings of the plays and the status of the characters therein, other playwrights of the day wrote similarly. Are you one of those Oxenfordians who think that de Vere wrote under multiple pseudonyms.

* The first mention of the bed trick is as follows: “…the last great Earle of Oxford, whose lady [Anne Cecil] was brought to his Bed under the notion of his Mistris, and from such a virtuous deceit she [Susan Vere, Countess of Montgomery] is said to proceed.” – Traditional Memoirs of the Reigns of Queen Elizabeth & King James by Francis Osborne, Esq., 1658. So, there was some gossip reported for the first time in 1658,which said that the alleged bed trick resulted in the birth of a daughter, not a son. Posthumous gossip, and yet Oxenfordians treat this as if it were proven fact...another neat double standard they are practicing.

Howard Schumann said...

Mark -
Between the mid 1560s through 1588 many original plays are recognized by scholars as "source material"for the Shakspeare plays. But they are either anonymous or written by an unknown who produced one or two works then sank into oblivion.

Eva Turner Clark did a comprehensive study, looking at the titles of all the plays recorded by the Court Revels, then compared them to the titles of of the Shakespeare canon. Her study lists hundreds of such titles.

A number of these plays sounding suspiciously like Shakespeare supposedly have no author while a known playwright, Oxford , singled out my Meres as "best for comedy."

A few of them are:

A History of the Duke of Millayn and the Marquis of Mantus - Two Gentlemen of Verona

The Jew - The Merchant of Venice
Portio and Demonrates - The Merchant of Venice

Ptoleme - Antony and Cleopatra

There are much more but I cannot spend the time to list more than a few.

Benjamin Hackman said...

Howard,

Meres (1598) did not single out Oxford. Rather, he mentioned Ox once, where he was first, by rank, in very long list:

“So the best for Comedy amongst vs bee Edward, Earle of Oxforde, Doctor Gager of Oxforde, Master Rowley, once a rare scholler of learned Pembrooke Hall in Cambridge, Maister Edwardes, one of Her Maiesties Chappell, eloquent and wittie Iohn Lilly, Lodge, Gascoyne, Greene, Shakespeare, Thomas Nash, Thomas Heywood, Anthony Mundye, our best plotter, Chapman, Porter, Wilson, Hathway, and Henry Chettle.

And guess who else is on the list? I won’t tell you. I’ll let you figure it out for yourself.

There’s more, too. But I’ll save for later. I think it’s best I spoon feed you, one bite at a time. (And ya, ya, ya, I broke my promise. But you are so exceptional that I must make exceptions.)

BTW, are you just indiscriminately recycling Ox pablum because you don’t know any better? Or are you doing this deliberately. IIRC, I’ve seen you name before elsewhere on the internet, so you’re not a newbie and thus should know better.

Benjamin Hackman said...

Howard: Ye writ: “A number of these plays sounding suspiciously like Shakespeare supposedly have no author while a known playwright, Oxford , singled out [by] Meres as ‘best for comedy’."

There you go again. Ox is default setting, despite zero evidence. That empty mantra, “Must be Oxford.”

Think we should set it to music:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=42_vCV2_gf0&feature=kp

Who is the earl with a wounded name?
Ox is the earl with a wounded name!
Who is the earl with a walk that’s lame?
Ox is the earl with a walk that’s lame!

Wounded name!
Walk that’s lame!

Must be Oxford,
Must be Oxford,
Must be Oxford, Earl de Vere

Laugh track fades . . . .

Meanwhile, ‘tis best I not approach your dreadful misreading of H5 just now. Your wretched abuses there deserve a serious response, since you are wrong on so many levels.

psi said...

The reviewer should be careful about throwing about insults about people he has never met. If Shapiro's book is the best that mainstream Shakespeareans can come up with to defend their sinking paradigm, then it is no wonder that an ever growing number of Shakespeare lovers have chosen to depart from the popular academic mythologies about the bard. Here are a few useful resources to put Shapiro's factually sloppy and intellectually dishonest book in some larger perspective:

Here we see that Shapiro cannot even get the basic facts straight. He invents hyphens were even a fourth grader can see they don't exist and then builds long arguments on his own fantasies:

http://shake-speares-bible.com/2010/04/18/james-shapiro-and-the-notorious-hyphen/

This review illustrates further instances of Shapiro's rather shocking disregard for reason and casual attitude towards basic factual questions:

http://www.amazon.com/Contested-Will-Who-Wrote-Shakespeare/product-reviews/1416541632/ref=cm_cr_dp_synop?ie=UTF8&showViewpoints=0&sortBy=bySubmissionDateDescending#RERTJ0A73ONJA

psi said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Tom Reedy said...

You might want to check the latest edition of Shapiro's book, the paperback published April 2011. The mistakes you have been ranting about for the past three years have been corrected. Have you corrected your confusion of Mary Tudor with Mary Queen of Scots in your 2001 dissertation yet?

Alfa said...

Hi Roger. Nice to see you out and about again.

I must say this ever-growing chorus of doubters must be made up of extremely quiet people. And judging by the hoary old arguments here, Oxfordian theory seems to have disintegrated into nothing more than a series of unconnected and unsupported assertions.

You must have changed things pretty radically to take account of all the work that's being done on Jacobean theatre. Can you direct me at a good summary of where things stand currently on issues like the dating of Shakespeare's Jacobean plays?

Brent Waggoner said...

Better watch it Chris. Psi is gonna get you, Gangham-style.

Brittany said...

Chris,

I think the most intriguing observation in your review is some people's obsessions with having secret knowledge that the world doesn't or refuses to acknowledge. Once my classroom got derailed into a crazy discussion of the Illuminati, and I watched 30 seniors become enthralled and enchanted with another senior who became the Grand Master of Knowledge of Illuminati. I found it so fascinating that these kids (who were struggling students very much in danger of not graduating from a struggling school) trusted another kid (again, one in danger of not graduating) to tell them the secrets of the world.

I checked out the DORD list of notable signatures (https://doubtaboutwill.org/signatories), and while there are many impressive people (2 supreme court justices and many professors), there is only one professor of English on the list. If the question really is that important of a question, why aren't English professors (who can argue in crazy minute details about so many different things) in on it or interested in it at all?

Are you planning on delving more into this? I'm considering petitioning to start a Shakespeare class and that's the only way I could see myself falling down this rabbit hole.

Howard Schumann said...

Some people are really obsessed with having secret knowledge. Remember when folks were talking about how the world was round when everyone knew it was flat.

Weren't there also some other crazies who were trying to tell people that the Earth revolves around the Sun rather than the Earth being the center of the universe?

Loonies!

Speaking of starting a Shakespeare class, Professor Don Rubin of York University conducted a recent course in Authorship studies at York. He did not take a position toward one candidate or another but simply let students discover the facts on their own and do their own research.

The students in his class this past year looked closely at both recently published “Doubt” books as well as at the Hope and Holston history of the subject, The Shakespeare Controversy.

They also spent time on the First Folio, reading Venus and Adonis and seeing several videos. The centerpiece of the course was attendance at the authorship conference in Toronto. In lieu of a final exam, the students (in small groups) had to conduct an open debate in front of the class arguing for one of the authorship candidates.

For the record, in a final straw vote, Oxford’s candidacy had the most support though the idea that the works could have been group-written finished a strong second. Needless to say, the candidacy of William of Stratford finished near the bottom of the pack.

Alfa said...

>>Remember when folks were talking about how the world was round when everyone knew it was flat.

Ironically, this is yet another myth from the list of myths that Oxfordians cite in an attempt to support the idea that crackpot theory can be metamorphosed into fact. No one ever really believed the earth was flat for the simple reason that if you climb to 500' near the sea and look at the far horizon, you can see it isn't.

Oxford died before a third of the work was written. Oxfordians have no satisfactory explanation of the fact that Shakespeare's work continued to develop and reflect trends in Jacobean theatre as its language, focus and genre diverged from the Elizabethan theatre which preceded it.

Almost all English Faculty academics accept that the Hand D additions to the manuscript copy of Sir Thomas More, held in The British Library, were written by the canon playwright. Closing the loop, professional handwriting ties it to the witnessed signatures of William Shakespeare on documents which include a will containing bequests to his fellow players. The man who signed the will was unquestionably Will from Stratford, the man who wrote the Hand D additions was unquestionably the Bard and paleography welds the two together.Oxfordians have, laughably, tried to dismiss these witnessed signatures and even gone so far as claiming that they demonstrate the author of them was illiterate. Almost to a man, they base all this analysis on a copy of the signatures, engraved for a book published at the start of the 19th century rather than the signatures themselves.

If you follow the relations between the Digges family and the Shakespeare family you will find a tight loop linking Digges' stepfather to Shakespeare and young Leonard's commentary on Will's work and career and it's success. But you won't find his introduction to the Second Folio edition discussed by Oxfordians.

The focus in many English Faculties, far from attempting to smother the authorship debate, is now on discriminating between hundreds of different Elizabethan and Jacobean authors, whose work is far more collaborative than previously thought. There is absolutely no place for Oxford's feeble artistic talent in the new genome they are building. He figures nowhere.

Oxfordianism is over. Wrong, and not even that wromantic.

Almost all of it is reductionist drivel. An attempt to fit Shakespeare's Size 12 feet into Oxford's Size 4 shoes.

Far from Cinderella, Edward de Vere, with his mediocre poetry and dull, dull prose, barely qualifies as an Ugly Sister.

Benjamin Hackman said...

What's worse about Howie's last post is how Oxie's insist on comparing themselves to the true paradigm breakers across the ages. For them, establishing Ox as author of the canon would be at least equal, if not surpass, Galileo's truth. And, of course, each Oxie fancies himself a Little Galileo, pursuing truth in the face of great adversity, as they bravely stand up against a malevolent cabal of omnipotent college professors set on enriching themselves at the expense of truth. Oh brave new world that hath such Oxies in it. So heroic, so selfless, so wise that only they can see the truths concealed from all other mortals who linger, sadly unblessed, by the vision miraculously endowed unto only the happy few who call themselves Oxfordians.

Nat Whilk said...

Gosh. York University lets students vote on matters of historical fact? How about science?

"For the record, in a final straw vote, Adam and Eve’s candidacy had the most support though the idea that the earth could have been colonized by aliens finished a strong second. Needless to say, the candidacy of evolutionary biology finished near the bottom of the pack."

Mikael said...

The "Hand D" theory is really something extra. Here is the Stratford man's (collected) hand writing:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Shakespeare's_handwriting#mediaviewer/File:Shakespeare_sigs_collected.png

And here is Hand D:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sir_Thomas_More_(play)#mediaviewer/File:Sir_Thomas_More_Hand_D.jpg

To claim that they were written by the same hand not only takes great imagination, a certain dose of wishful thinking has to be added as well. But in the world of Stratfordia, where evidence are practically non-existing, such obstacles are easy to overcome. Thus Alfa here proclaims it as a full proof of authorship: "the man who wrote the Hand D additions was unquestionably the Bard and paleography welds the two together". With Henry James' words we have here another example how the biggest and most successful fraud ever is again practiced on a patient world.

Benjamin Hackman said...

Mikael,

You really need to see Thompson’s analysis comparing signatures to Hand D. (BTW, did you know there is only one surviving signature for Marlowe, made on a will in 1585 that he witnessed?)

I offer this recommendation in hopes that you’ll not be like the many Oxfordians who too willingly accept the type of shallow refutation of the handwriting such as that proffered by Tony Pointon (App E of his book). For example, minimizing Pollard's collection of articles (1923) with a dismissive "he [Pollard] and his collaborators got through a mountain of detail."

Apparently a mountain of detail that Tony preferred not to dig into.

Instead, Pointon dismisses Thompson’s analysis (in Pollard) as work a "supposed expert," and then boldly, and with not the least bit of circumspection, declares: "There are, in total, seventy-six letters in the "signatures" and none of them looks [sic] like any of the others." For this bold pronouncement Tony offers no analysis, no support. Instead he simply says the ‘a’s don't look alike (no reason, just that Tony thinks so), the ‘h’s are different, "and so on." Tony simply waves off the ‘a’s and ‘h’s and then summarily dismisses the other letters with flippant "and so on."

So I recommend you do some homework of your own and consult Thompson's original work, if only to see pp. 20-25 where he rigorously, painstakingly, analyzes the individual letters (where Tony never made it past "a" and "h"). BTW, the whole article only 63 pages long.

http://books.google.com/books?id=UdFAAAAAIAAJ&printsec=frontcover#v=onepage&q&f=false

Let me know what you find. And remember, this is the old stuff. There’s much more recent analysis of the handwriting that I can direct you to, if interested.

Mikael said...

Benjamin: thanks for the link, unfortunately I could only read samples from the article, though. Maybe it was enough though.

My impression in short is in line with Dr Wilson R Harrison's comment on the strained efforts to link the long-spurred 'a' on the Blackfriars mortgage to hand D; "It is simply one of the variant methods of writing 'a' in the Secretary hand, and in Schoenbaum's illustration of the Secretary hand it can be sen along with other equally bizarre formations. As evidence of common authorship, it is lightweight indeed".

Thompson makes the rather amusing speculation that WS in his later years suffered some kind of nervous condition so that he could not write his name properly when he was under stress, but to write hand D was obviously much easier and not so 'embarrassing'. So much for 'paleography'. Quote:

"Now I think that there can be little doubt that this sudden failure was due to something more than weakness of health, and moreover, that Shakespeare was himself conscious of inability to control his hand when attempting a curve in reverse action, as just described, under embarrassing conditions, as in the present execution of his will; and hence that failure was inevitable"

All in all, as I see it: wishful thinking that somehow is raised to the level of proof. The usual Stratfordian method, in other words.

Mark Johnson said...

"Only the closed-minded have certainty." -- Howard Schumann

Speaking of myths that have outlived their usefulness. ahem. This article is bs. Of course, since Will is so obviously a fraud, we have to dumb him down. positing that he was a plagiarist without any new ideas, a collaborationist who couldn't write a play without the help of geniuses like Fletcher. Shakespeare was without doubt a genius and his name was Edward de Vere, his genius carefully nurtured by education, travel, and experience. -- Howard Schumann

Mark Johnson said...

Mikael: If you are interested in pursuing the case for Hand D, you really ought to review all of the material at:
http://oxfraud.com/HND-Hand-D-home

Benjamin Hackman said...

"Mikael"

I tried the link and had no problems. You can also google the monograph yourself. It's only 60 pages. I suspect you didn't try very hard, or if you did, but didn't like what you found. Too bad. I had hoped you were better than the average close-minded Oxie.

Christopher said...

Brittany,

As far as I'm concerned, there's nothing really else to delve into. There are plenty of actually interesting authorship questions regarding Shakespeare though, including the question of who, and to what extent, his later plays are collaborations with other playwrights. You should read The Shakespeare Wars if you haven't.