Shahan’s letter to Shermer, the skeptic

On July 24, 2009, John Shahan, Chairman of the Shakespeare Authorship Coalition, sent this letter to the editor in reply to Michael Shermer’s column, “Shakespeare, Interrupted,” in the August 2009 issue of Scientific American: <http://www.scientificamerican.com/article.cfm?id=skeptics-take-on-the-life>

Shahan wrote:

As a skeptic myself, I usually agree with Michael Shermer, but not on the Shakespeare authorship question. On that issue, I find Mr. Skeptic’s position oddly credulous. Shermer objects to Justice John Paul Stevens’ declaration in the WSJ that “the evidence that (Shakspere of Stratford) was not the author is beyond a reasonable doubt.” To hear Shermer tell it, one would think that Justice Stevens is the first and only authorship doubter to serve on the Supreme Court. On the contrary, others include Justices Scalia, O’Connor, Blackmun and Powell, as the WSJ article noted. Only two current Justices (Breyer and Kennedy) openly support the Stratford man.

Other prominent doubters include Mark Twain, Walt Whitman, Ralph Waldo Emerson, William and Henry James, Charles Dickens, John Galsworthy, Sigmund Freud, and Shakespearean actors Orson Welles, Sir John Gielgud, Sir Derek Jacobi, Michael York, Jeremy Irons and Mark Rylance. Over 1.500 people, including nearly 300 current and former faculty members, many of them scientists, have signed the Declaration of Reasonable Doubt (www.DoubtAboutWill.org/declaration). How ironic that Shermer, the professional skeptic, rejects out of hand the informed skepticism of five U.S. Supreme Court Justices and so many other prominent, well-educated people.

Orthodox scholars say there’s “no room for doubt” about the author. They use this false claim to stigmatize and suppress the issue in academia. It is a taboo subject. This is wrong. The authorship issue doesn’t belong in the same category as teaching intelligent design alongside evolution. It should be regarded as a legitimate issue. That’s what the Declaration is about.

Shahan sent this email to Skeptic Editor Michael Shermer on July 28

(The presentation has been edited for ease of reading. Ed.)

Dear Michael,

Naturally I am very disappointed in your column, “Shakespeare, Interrupted,” in Scientific American. I had the impression that you were receptive to Oxford’s candidacy; evidently not. I don’t know how I got on the wrong side of you and Frank (Sulloway, author of Born to Rebel: Birth Order, Family Dynamics and Creative Lives, Ed.) I think of myself, first and foremost, as a scientist. It’s all those English professors who are not. I think highly of you, or I wouldn’t have approached you in the first place. I based my strategy partly on my reading of Born to Rebel, which analyzes how paradigm shifts take place. In 2002, I reviewed it for The Oxfordian. I wrote and presented a paper based on it in New York and Carmel in which I proposed the Declaration strategy. How ironic that you, of all people, would now be attacking me in Scientific American. If I thought you understood, I would take it to heart; but I don’t think you do understand. Sorry this email is so long. If I didn’t care, I wouldn’t bother to address your issues, but I’ve tried to do so in some detail.

Can a theory be discredited before being replaced?

You say that, “reasonable doubt should not cost an author his claim, at least not if we treat history as a science instead of as a legal debate,” and also that “In science, a reigning theory is presumed provisionally true and continues to hold sway unless and until a challenging theory explains the current data as well, and also accounts for anomalies that the prevailing one cannot.” To the extent that this refers to Justice Stevens, he said “beyond” a reasonable doubt and did name a challenger whose claim he sees as superior — that of the seventeenth earl of Oxford.

Judges deal with questions of evidence, including scientific evidence, and that is what Stevens’ opinion is based on. He says the reigning theory should be overturned. You may disagree, but he never said that he thinks Shakspere’s claim should fall based merely on “reasonable doubt.” If writing the works were a crime, there wouldn’t be enough evidence to convict Shakspere beyond a reasonable doubt; but the earl of Oxford could probably be convicted. Stevens is qualified to make that judgment. He has followed the controversy for twenty years since participating in a moot court trial. He has a perfect right to speak out.

To the extent that it refers to me, I have never said that the reigning theory should be overturned based on reasonable doubt, and the Declaration doesn’t say that either. Its stated purpose is to legitimize the issue in academia by calling attention to problems with the case for Shakspere. Is it not a legitimate part of the scientific process to call attention to “anomalies” that don’t fit the reigning paradigm? That’s all we have done, and all we’ve ever claimed to have done. Your comment suggests otherwise.

If the issue is legitimized, and scholars turn their attention to it, I have little doubt about who will emerge as the author; but of course it depends entirely on the evidence. Speaking of evidence, I am perfectly willing to have a neutral panel of scientists rule on authorship-related issues within their area of expertise. That’s why I came to you. You weren’t interested. I am still willing. It’s the orthodox Shakespeare establishment that doesn’t want a neutral, objective panel of scientific experts ruling on the merits.

The reason why I focused first on Shakspere isn’t because the case for Oxford is weak; rather, it’s a huge circumstantial case that’s much more difficult to communicate. The orthodox distract attention from the case for Oxford by claiming there is “no room for doubt” about Shakspere. They’re correct that this question logically comes first. If there’s no room for doubt about him, then there’s no point wasting time considering anyone else. That has been their position, so it’s perfectly legitimate to challenge it. They use their ‘no room for doubt’ claim to delegitimize and suppress the issue, making it a taboo subject in academia. Thus the need to point out the reasons for doubt. Pointing out anomalies in a reigning paradigm is a perfectly legitimate part of the scientific process. There is no requirement that every article aim to overturn a paradigm.

You say, “we should grant that Shakespeare wrote the plays unless and until the anti-Stratfordians can make their case for a challenger who fits more of the literary and historical data.” I respectfully disagree. We should grant that Shakespeare wrote the plays unless and until someone makes a compelling evidentiary case that he didn’t. Proving that someone else did is one way to prove he didn’t, but not the only way. It’s possible to prove a thing didn’t happen one way without knowing how it did happen.

Your formulation is descriptive of how science normally proceeds, but there is no “iron law of science” that says one must accept a reigning paradigm until it is replaced. There is no reason why an existing theory cannot be thoroughly discredited, based on evidence, without necessarily knowing what alternative will end up taking its place. Science does not advance only by all-or-nothing leaps from one theory to another. The “anomalies” that you mention can accumulate until an existing theory is rendered untenable before anything takes its place. I doubt that either Thomas Kuhn, or your buddy Frank (Sulloway), would agree that a theory cannot be discredited before being replaced.

The naked emperor

What you seem to be saying is this: “How dare you point out that the emperor isn’t wearing any clothes until you have the power to place a new emperor on the throne!” Well, at some point the emperor’s nakedness is just too obvious to ignore. It may not be polite to point out that the emperor is naked, and some will prefer not to notice; but sometimes the best way to bring about change is to call attention to all of the anomalies that don’t fit the reigning theory at once, and make them clear to everyone.

That’s what we’ve tried to do with the Declaration of Reasonable Doubt, and I think we’re succeeding. The reference to “reasonable doubt” is deliberate understatement. Justice Stevens recognized it as such, and felt compelled to make an even stronger statement. He knows a naked emperor when he sees one, and would say no less. You may not agree that the emperor is naked, based on your reading of the evidence, but there’s no rule in science against us presenting our case that we think he is.

Scott McCrea on Shakespeare’s education

I was not impressed with Scott McCrea’s article in Skeptic. His book was reviewed negatively by Richard Whalen in the Shakespeare Oxford Newsletter (Vol. 41, No. 4, Fall 2005), and so I never read it. The premise of (McCrea’s) article that Oxford, unlike Shakspere, did not get a grammar school education is incorrect. Robin Fox, University Professor of Social Theory at Rutgers University, points out in his forthcoming article, “Shakespeare’s Education: The Grammar School Reconsidered” (The Oxfordian, Vol. XI, 2009), that everyone who got an education at the time, from the king down, had the same grammar school curriculum, and used the same texts. That includes Edward de Vere. McCrea makes much of the fact that Shakespeare seems to have been familiar with Lily’s grammar of 1557. Oxford was age seven in 1557, and almost surely studied it. Fox is one of the most widely-read anthropologists in the world. He grew up in Yorkshire during the 1930s, and attended the modern-day descendent of a grammar school. He writes as follows:

“… the education of royalty and nobility was not simply modeled on the Grammar School, it was for at least the foundational years the same in all its details. Edward de Vere, after his father’s death, was the ward of the same William Cecil who was at the heart of the group of St. John’s men who formed the education of Prince Edward. Cox, the [future king’s] first tutor, had drawn up the Eton curriculum, which he then followed. Can it be doubted that Oxford’s education then followed the same pattern?  He was raised in the household first of Sir Thomas Smith … a remarkable man of learning and diplomacy, and, among other things, Provost of Eton. Between Smith and Cecil then, Oxford would have received no less an education than did Prince Edward, and no less on the Grammar School model – particularly that of Eton. This would mean that Oxford too would have been drilled in his accidence, and from the authorized grammar of William Lily.”

To read McCrea’s article, one would think that Oxford’s education began at age eight, when he matriculated at Cambridge. What does he think Oxford was doing until then? There is nothing about the evidence of Shakespeare’s familiarity with grammar school texts that can’t be explained just as easily by Oxford’s authorship of all the plays.

Fox’s article points out that (Oxford’s grandfather, the fifteenth earl) was instrumental in the founding of the grammar school at his ancestral seat of Earls Colne and (Oxford) was involved with its affairs.

You say that, “de Vere’s partisans exalt his education at both the University of Cambridge and the University of Oxford and believe that the plays could only have been penned by someone of such erudition.” You give no quote. I doubt you can find a recent one. JT Looney never said that the author must have been “university-educated.” You and McCrea seem ignorant of the fact that Oxford did not spend much time at Oxford or Cambridge University. Both of the degrees he received from them were honorary. Stratfordian Alan Nelson made much of this, trying to claim that Oxford was not really very well educated; but this will not fly. As a nobleman, he had outstanding tutors. A dearth of university references in the plays is hardly disqualifying. Oxford was educated first in rural Essex, and then mainly at the home of William Cecil and at Court. You Strats can’t have it both ways. If you’re going to argue he didn’t spend much time at Oxford and Cambridge, you can’t then expect them to be reflected in the works.

Gray’s Inn

Interestingly, McCrea has nothing to say about the one school where we have reason to believe Oxford did spend time. He enrolled at Gray’s Inn, where he studied law. Scholars have long known that Shakespeare was steeped in the law. One reason so many anti-Stratfordians are lawyers is they recognize the Bard as one of their own. Sir George Greenwood, a distinguished lawyer and MP, analyzed his use of legal terms and metaphors in great detail, convincing Mark Twain that he had to be a lawyer. Stratfordians claim that his knowledge of law is imperfect, and no more than he could have gotten out of books. Mark Alexander demonstrated that this clearly is not so in his article, “Shakespeare’s Knowledge of Law: A Journey through the History of the Argument” (The Oxfordian, IV, 2001, 51-121). (Alexander) says that Shakespeare never makes a mistake in his use of legal terms and metaphors. Those who claim otherwise are always in error. Nevertheless, Alexander concludes that, “What distinguishes Shakespeare’s use of legal terms has nothing to do with the quantity of terms he uses, or his mere technical accuracy in legal matters: Shakespeare had a wide-ranging legal understanding integrated into his consciousness, the kind of consciousness that would draw on legal terms in non-legal contexts, where the apt legal metaphor of excellent understanding and quality is applied (111).

” There is no evidence Shakspere had legal training, and even McCrea, apparently, has not tried to argue that he did. Strange that he would omit that from an article on how the educational backgrounds of different claimants are reflected in the works. Perhaps it is dealt with in his book?

Romans

McCrea says, “Shakespeare’s borrowing from minor Roman writers comes exclusively from school texts and books of Latin adages and fragments young grammarians were forced to memorize. What’s interesting is he doesn’t stray far beyond these writers …” This is not true. He was very widely-read in the Latin classics, and not only English translations. The Roman history plays are based largely on the Amyott (French) translation of Plutarch’s Lives, which was not in the grammar school curriculum. An extant record in Lord Burghley’s papers shows that a copy of it was purchased specifically for Oxford, at his request (and also a Geneva Bible), when he was twenty. Nobody knows how Shakspere could have obtained a copy, or how he could have read it even if he did (despite McCrea’s fantastic speculations that he learned French).

Ovid

McCrea gives short shrift to Ovid, merely noting that, “The most prominent of the [Latin poets Shakespeare borrowed from] was Ovid, many of whose works the author knew, and whose Metamorphoses, the Elizabethan classroom favorite, was routinely studied alongside the Golding translation (1567).” Shakespeare’s knowledge and use of the Metamorphoses requires a better explanation than that.

Ovid is universally recognized as Shakespeare’s single most important source. He did not just know “many” of the works, as McCrea puts it. He knew all fifteen books of the Metamorphoses like the back of his hand. He used every one of them somewhere in the plays, and every one of the plays makes extensive use of them. Furthermore, Shakespeare clearly knew them not only in the Golding translation, but also in the original Latin.

Being part of the grammar school curriculum hardly accounts for the extent of Shakespeare’s knowledge. Oxford, on the other hand, was the nephew of Arthur Golding, and they both lived in Burghley’s household (300 people, regarded as one of the finest colleges in all of Europe) when the Golding translation of Ovid’s Metamorphoses was produced. Some evidence suggests that Oxford was probably involved in the work of translation. Golding dedicated one of the volumes to his 16-year-old nephew (Oxford).

Greek

McCrea says there’s, “no evidence the author knew the (Greek) language.” This is false. He clearly had knowledge of the Greek classics, and used them in the plays; this despite the fact that most had not yet been translated into English. Oxford would have learned Greek not at Cambridge, but from his childhood tutor, Sir Thomas Smith, an outstanding Greek scholar. See, for example, the article, “Shakespeare’s Lesse Greek,” by Andrew Werth at Washington State University (The Oxfordian, Vol. 5, 2002, 11-29). The allegation by Ben Jonson in the prefatory matter to the First Folio that Shakespeare had “small Latin and lesse Greek” is highly misleading.

Italy

McCrea has a hard time explaining how the author knew the plots of plays written in Italian, which hadn’t yet been translated into English. This is no problem for Oxford, who clearly knew Italian and spent much time in Italy. McCrea never considers why the author was so enamored of Italy in the first place, setting numerous plays there. Several scholars of Italy have demonstrated that the knowledge of Italy in the plays is so precise that it could only have been known to someone who had traveled there.

If one looks at a map of all the Italian cities Oxford visited, that’s where Shakespeare set his plays. None of the plays is set in any of the major cities Oxford did not visit. When he returned to England, he set a new trend toward Italian manners, dress and culture at Court, and was known to foreign diplomats as the “Italianate Englishman.”

French

McCrea says anti-Strats, “have a point when it comes to French,” because “The Bard writes in that language in Henry V and The Merry Wives of Windsor and scatters Gallic words and phrases throughout the Canon.” We know that Oxford studied French daily at Cecil House, and his earliest extant letter, at age 13, is in perfect French.

“But,” McCrea says, “William Shakespeare didn’t need to go to university to pick up the tongue.” Rather, “In the mid-1590s … he lived in the same ward that was home to “Petty France” (the French district), and could hardly have avoided them.” So in his early thirties, along with everything else he was allegedly doing — acting regularly, managing a theatre company, writing plays at a furious pace, keeping tabs on business affairs and family in Stratford, preparing to purchase New Place, we are told that he just couldn’t help bumping into Frenchmen who lived “in the same ward” and learning the language so well that he dropped words in “throughout the Canon,” and was able to include convincing dialogue among members of the French royal family in Henry V — embellishments, jokes, obscenities and all — almost as if he had been there. Do you find this credible? McCrea notes that Shakspere lived with the Mountjoys from 1602-4, but Henry V and The Merry Wives of Windsor were written by 1599. Oops!

Shermer’s bias and lack of information

You point out that Shakspere’s father was “middle-class” by Stratford standards, ignoring the fact that both of his parents, and also both of his daughters, were illiterate. That is highly relevant when talking about the developmental years of a literary creative genius. He grew up in an illiterate household! and never educated his daughters! What literary genius, while portraying women as well-educated in his plays, would neglect to teach his daughters to write, and leave no money for education in his will?

You say that, “Some anti-Stratfordians question Shakespeare’s existence.” I have never encountered any such person, nor have I ever seen anything like that in writing. Can you cite an example? If any such persons exist, they are not representative. Any theory has a right to be judged by the best arguments of its strongest proponents.

You say that, “the number of references to him from his own time [to Mr. Shakspere of Stratford, or to the author Shakespeare, whoever he was, and how do you know?] could only be accounted for by a playwright of that name (unless de Vere used Shakespeare as a nom de plume, for which there is zero evidence).” Actually, all it would take would be one clear reference to Shakspere as the author anytime before 1616 to put the authorship controversy to rest. Here’s your big chance.

You seem unaware that George Puttenham, in The Art of English Poesie, named Oxford first on a list of courtiers who wrote well, but suffered it to be published without their own names to it. Puttenham clearly implied that Oxford was an outstanding poet, who, due to his position in life, published anonymously, or under pseudonyms.

Shurink

You also seem unaware that Fred Shurink of the University of Newcastle Upon Tyne turned up clear evidence in 2006 that “Shakespeare” was seen as a pseudonym at the time of the First Folio. Shurink, a confirmed Stratfordian, noticed oddities in references to Shakespeare in Thomas Vicars’ manual of rhetoric, published in three different editions in the 1620s. In the 1624 edition he lists four outstanding English writers, omitting Shakespeare. In the 1628 edition, he included the following correction: “To these I believe should be added that famous poet who takes his name from ‘shaking’ and ‘spear,’ …” The odd format of this reference implies that the name was seen as a made-up or pen name.

The explanation offered is that Vicars knew the Stratford man wasn’t the author, and didn’t want to imply acceptance of him in the first edition of 1624, so he left him out. But by the time he published the 1628 edition, he had figured out a way to include a reference to Shakespeare — in a way that would signal the name was a pseudonym (Shakespeare Oxford Newsletter, Vol. 44: No. 1, Spring 2008). The fact that the name was often hyphenated on the works also strongly implies that it was a pseudonym.

There is also the evidence of the Sonnets. The author himself says that he does not expect his name to be remembered (#81), does not want it to be remembered (#72), and that the Youth shouldn’t be seen to mourn for him after he dies (#71). None of this makes any sense, unless the author’s true identity was not yet known at the time.

Diana Price

You say that “although Shakespeare skeptics note that there are no manuscripts, receipts, diaries or letters from [Shakspere or Shakespeare, either one], they neglect to mention that we have none of these for Marlowe, either.” It is simply untrue that we’ve neglected to compare the evidence of a literary background between Shakspere and other writers of his time, including Marlowe. That’s one of the main things that Diana Price did in her book, Shakespeare’s Unorthodox Biography (Greenwood Press, 2001). Apparently you haven’t read it.

It’s orthodox scholars who never bothered to systematically compare the kinds of literary evidence extant for all of the writers of the period. Price found that Shakspere was the only one of twenty-five writers of the time for whom she could find none of ten different kinds of evidence suggesting a literary career. He is an extreme outlier in this sense.

Marlowe’s situation was very different from Shakspere’s. He died young, unmarried, disgraced, murdered, and an accused atheist. Who would have kept his papers? Why? Shakespeare was supposedly the “soul of the age!” His acting company became the “King’s Men” at the Court of King James I. He divided his time between London and Stratford — a situation conducive to correspondence — and his home remained in his family for generations after he died. He retired to Stratford in his late-forties, resting on his laurels, supposedly famous.

Surely someone to whom he wrote should have kept one letter. Other letters survived. There are records of people being interested in his son-in-law’s medical records, and purchasing them, apparently without ever inquiring about any papers of Shakspere’s.

Trevor-Roper

You prefer the views of a theater professor to those of a Supreme Court Justice, but what about the views of a top Oxford historian about what we should expect to find? As stated in the Declaration, “Hugh Trevor-Roper, Regius Professor of History at Oxford University, found Shakespeare’s elusiveness ‘exasperating and almost incredible … After all, he lived in the full daylight of the English Renaissance in the well-documented reigns of Queen Elizabeth and King James I, and … since his death has been subjected to the greatest battery of organised research that has ever been directed upon a single person. And yet the greatest of all Englishmen, after this tremendous inquisition, still remains so close to a mystery that even his identity can still be doubted.’” (“What’s in a Name?” Réalités, November 1962.)

Trevor-Roper was the British intelligence officer who tracked Hitler during WWII, and wrote the highly-acclaimed book, The Last Days of Hitler. I have much more respect for his views than McCrea’s.

Spawned from the same germ

Now let’s look at another of McCrea’s basic premises. He claims that, “…all versions of the true author were spawned from the same germinal belief in the inadequacy of Shakespeare’s education,” This is false. It’s just a cheap magician’s trick to make all of the other kinds of evidence disappear so that he does not have to deal with them. Reading his article, he never names, much less quotes, any Oxfordian since Looney, who published his book in 1920. McCrea gives no indication of having read Looney.

Looney had never heard of Oxford when he developed his profile of the author, using deductive logic to infer his characteristics from the works. He came up with eighteen characteristics of the author, only one of which relates to education. One thing he did not claim about the author’s education is that he necessarily attended a university!

McCrea ignores all of the other traits that Looney deduced from the works, all eighteen of which fell instantly into place as soon as he discovered Oxford for the first time.

Looney’s book is, for its time, a masterpiece of empirical methods. Mortimer Adler, series editor of the Great Books Series, said it was one of the best books of the 20th century. You should read it before jumping to conclusions based on McCrea. The reasons for doubting Shakspere go way beyond just education. McCrea ignores everything else. He seems stuck in a time warp, pretending Oxfordians have made no progress in almost ninety years, so he can just stereotype us, and then attack his own stereotype.

Simonton

The current issue of the Mensa Research Journal contains an article titled, “Shakespeare’s small Latin and less Greek: Scientific perspectives on education, achieved eminence, and the authorship controversy,” by Dean Keith Simonton, Distinguished Professor of Psychology at the University of California at Davis (Vol. 40(2), 2009, 22-26). Simonton is regarded as one of the world’s leading experts on creativity and genius. He’s a member of my academic advisory board, and wrote the article at my request. After reviewing the evidence, he wrote the following conclusion, the first part of which supports your position, but the second part of which poses major problems for you:

On the Stratfordian side, high levels of formal education and exceptional scholastic success are by no means required for extraordinary achievement as a creative writer, and especially not as a poet. Certainly a college degree is not a requisite. Indeed, in the arts and humanities a college degree is predictive of less success. To be sure, some college education is generally better than none at all, but this does not mean that someone with only a high school degree cannot reach the highest ranks. In fact, for the creators in the Cox (1926) sample, those with just high school were better off than those with master’s or doctoral degrees (Simonton, 1983). Hence, the fact that Shakspere seems not to have gone to Cambridge or Oxford tells us very little according to these results. The only real question is whether he obtained a sufficiently good education at the grammar school, and the answer to this issue will probably never be known with confidence.

On the anti-Stratfordian side, any dearth of formal training should be compensated by considerable self education. Not only are creative writers unusually prone to be omnivorous and voracious readers, but the amount of that reading is positively associated with achieved eminence. And this stipulation is the crux of the matter. The fact is that we have no direct evidence whatsoever that the Stratford man was a man of letters. Not one letter that he wrote, nor any book that he owned or read, has ever been found. Not one thing about Shakspere’s will suggests that it was written by a man who had lived the life of a writer, much less the writer Shakespeare. His own children were illiterate, a surprising outcome if Shakspere was spending numerous hours reading the historical and literary works that underlie his plays and poems. Worse, one has to wonder whether even the best education available at the local grammar school would suffice for the man to become as well-read as he needed to be. Shakespeare betrays considerable competence in modern languages, including French, and especially Italian. To become broadly read outside English and Latin literature may not have been possible given the grammar school training most likely offered at the Stratford of Shakspere’s youth.

Omnivorous Oxford

Right, this is the crux of the matter, not whether Shakspere may have attended Stratford’s grammar school. Oxford was apparently an omnivorous and voracious reader. He was a patron of writers, musicians and artists, who held him in the highest regard. Twenty-five works were dedicated to him, some praising his literary achievements. No work was dedicated to Shakespeare.

How likely is it that Shakspere became a voracious reader in childhood, before entering grammar school, with illiterate parents? Early childhood education is very important to the development of a literary creative genius, and Shakspere did not live in an environment conducive to such development. But as the Declaration says, “This is not to say that a commoner, even in the rigid, hierarchical social structure of Elizabethan England, could not have managed to do it somehow; but how could it have happened without leaving a single trace? Orthodox scholars attribute the miracle to his innate “genius,” but even a genius must acquire knowledge … Academic experts on characteristics of geniuses see little reason to think that Mr. Shakspere was a genius.” Simonton is one of the “experts” referred to.

Attached is a book review [see SO Newsletter, Vol. 37, No. 3, Fall 2001, 13] of Simonton’s Origins of Genius, Darwinian Perspectives on Creativity (Oxford University Press, 1999), focusing on implications for authorship. The book spells out in detail the developmental characteristics that one would expect to find in a literary creative genius. The review first describes these characteristics, and then examines the extent to which each applies to Oxford and Shakspere. Oxford clearly has all of them, and he has them in spades.

Shakspere has none of them. The results of Simonton’s work on genius couldn’t point more strongly toward Oxford, or away from Shakspere. I expect that you will find it both interesting, and relevant. Seen in this context, whether or not Shakspere attended grammar school seems like a red herring. What about all the other prerequisites to the development of genius? It’s easy to frame an issue such that only one’s own research paradigm seems relevant. That’s typical of academics who see only through the lens of the own discipline.

I will also send you separately a copy of the article, “Shakespeare in Stratford and London: Ten Eyewitnesses Who Saw Nothing,” by Ramon Jiménez (Shakespeare Oxford Society Fiftieth Anniversary Anthology, 1957-2007, 74-85). It is one very important article. If Shakespeare were really the author, it could not have been written. These are examples of the solid academic research that backs up everything we say in the Declaration.

If you are still interested in sponsoring a debate, I suggest that it be between Scott McCrea, and Oxfordian Mark Anderson, author of “Shakespeare” by Another Name. I’m still willing to help bring that about, and will welcome your involvement if you can put in the time to become well-informed.

Stick to what you know

Otherwise, please stick to what you know. You make wonderful contributions when you have done your homework; but a little knowledge is a dangerous thing, especially when it is mostly on one side of an issue.

Note: Prof. Simonton’s article in the current issue of the Mensa Research Journal is available by subscription or purchase. The Mensa Research Journal website is at: http://www.mensafoundation.org/Sites/foundation/NavigationMenu/Publications/Journal/Currentissue/CurrentIssue.htm

John Shahan is Chairman of the Shakespeare Authorship Coalition (www.DoubtAboutWill.org), and principal author of the Declaration of Reasonable Doubt About the Identity of William Shakespeare. He is a former vice president of the Shakespeare Oxford Society, and has served on the editorial board of The Oxfordian. His main areas of interest in the authorship controversy are how paradigm shifts take place, and the nature of creativity and genius.

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