Holderness creed

Do yourself a good turn and hie over to novelist Michael Prescott’s blog to read “Graham Holderness Clarifies His Position” wherein — in a hilarious commentary on the nature of fame in the third millenium — Shakespearean scholar Holderness says:

My name is Graham Holderness, and my position on the Shakespeare Authorship Question is that I am interested in reasonable doubt, but not in alternative certainty.

Although Holderness speaks gentlemanly at length on his acceptance of the Stratfordian hypothesis, I’m not sure he understands what a breath of fresh air his humor and relative freedom from dogmatism bring to the authorship discourse. As a starting point for those who question the Stratfordian attribution of Shakespeare’s works, I could whole-heartedly support the Holderness Creed.

Graham Holderness and Katherine Scheil edited the current issue – Shakespeare and ‘the personal story’, Vol. 21, No. 3, Winter 2009 — of the journal Critical Survey published by Berghahn Journals. The journal “. . . addresses central issues of critical practice and literary theory in a language that is clear, concise, and accessible, with a primary focus on Renaissance and Modern writing and culture.” Readers may view the full text of the Scheil and Holderness introductory essay, “Introduction: Shakespeare and ‘the personal story'”.

From their introductory article:

Shakespeare scholars since Edmund Malone have tried to
construct a biography based on the historical evidence, and to explore links between the man and his works. There is of course massively more information about the latter than the former, but the two are notoriously difficult to connect.

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  • Marie Merkel  On March 6, 2010 at 6:19 PM

    That was a good read, written by a good sport. Even when recycling the snob or conspiracy theory dismissals, he’s not on the attack, just saying how it looks to him.

  • hewardwilkinson  On March 6, 2010 at 7:53 PM

    Linda, Marie, I agree it is delightful, and I believe Oxfordians need to find the middle ground with someone like Graham Holderness and engage in serious dialogue. We need to honour that some very great and passionate Shakespeareans, such as Keats, FR Leavis, and Wilson Knight, have been Stratfordians and that there are huge complexities and problematic elements in our own position – for we cannot even agree on something as basic as the interpretation of Greene’s Groatsworth of Wit!

    And, if we were to take more seriously a somewhat deconstructionist position about the ‘identity of the author’, as Graham Holderness is arguing, then we would both be freer to explore the implications of the Oxfordian pseudonymity, and we might also be more skilful in using and invoking those deconstructive moments when Stratfordians make inadvertant recognitions, as when Wilson Knight in Hamlet Reconsidered (The Wheel of Fire) appeals to Castiglioni’s Il Cortegiano as Hamlet’s Book, and imagines:
    If he returned with a sense of artistic superiority, washed his hands of the whole nasty business and confined himself to writing a Ph.D thesis at Wittenberg on satiric literature; or, better still, set himself to compose explosive dramas calculated to terrify all the kings of Europe, we, today, should be very pleased with him indeed. (Knight, 1949/1960, pp 320-1)

  • Roger Stritmatter  On March 6, 2010 at 8:06 PM


    That’s quite a quotation from Knight.

    I think, however, that there is in fact a very robust tradition among Oxfordians of honoring traditional scholars, on whom we naturally depend for much insight about the bard. So, although I agree with your analysis, I don’t think I agree with your apparent premise that such an honoring has not taken place. Perhaps we need to do it more often, but most of the major Oxfordians of whom I’m aware have carefully read reams of traditionalist scholarship and often made very astute use of it in constructing an Oxfordian alternative to traditional readings of the evidence. What has not happened, historically, is any acknowledgment of this by mainstream Shakespeareans, most of whom are still fighting a rearguard against the genteel tolerance of folks like Holderness.

  • Marie Merkel  On March 7, 2010 at 12:41 PM


    I would add Emerson, Goddard and Bloom to your Keats, Leavis and Knight, as worthy Shakespearean companions.

    Holderness wryly wonders how he might keep his Oxfordian standing as a “foremost” Shakespearean scholar. Have you seen his merry romp:

    “Ofelia: Lawrence Nowel: Excerpta Quaedam Danica (1565)” Translated by Graham Holderness?

    He’s written a whole book promisingly titled “The Shakespeare Myth”, produced an edition of the 1594 “Taming of A Shrew” and is “one of the most prolific critics of Shakespeare’s history plays.” To my great shame, I’ve read none of these works, but will soon make amends, next visit to the library.

    In this recent letter, he writes:

    “Insofar as Shakespeare Authorship inquiry is interested in pursuing these profound questions about life and writing, the self and identity, personal expression and impersonal artistry (and I know that some authorship doubters are interested in such matters), then there is common ground for debate.”

    A welcome invitation, I should think.

    From G. Wilson Knight:

    “or, better still, set himself to compose explosive dramas calculated to terrify all the kings of Europe…”

    !!! Would Wm. of Stratford dare?

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