Monthly Archives: April 2010

Happy Birthday William Shakespeare? Or Have James Shapiro and the Shakespeare Academic Establishment Been “Barding” Up the Wrong Tree?

For Immediate ReleaseMedia Contact
Matthew Cossolotto
Ovations International, Inc.
914-245-9721
matthew@ovations.com

Happy Birthday William Shakespeare?   Or Have James Shapiro and the Shakespeare Academic Establishment Been “Barding” Up the Wrong Tree?

Shakespeare Oxford Society calls for creation of an unbiased Shakespeare Authorship Commission to resolve the authorship mystery

YORKTOWN HEIGHTS, NY – April 23, 2010 – Traditional Shakespeare biographers – including James Shapiro with his new book (Contested Will) on the Shakespeare authorship mystery – believe the great poet and playwright, William Shakespeare, was born on April 23, 1564. 

Before you raise your glass to salute the Bard’s 446rd birthday, consider this:  You just might be paying tribute to the wrong person. 

Matthew Cossolotto, former president and current vice president of the Shakespeare Oxford Society, says there is plenty of room for reasonable doubt about the traditional authorship theory professor Shapiro’s new book notwithstanding.  “It’s a little sad to see Shakespeare’s birthday celebrated around the world every April 23rd,” says Cossolotto.  “What if we’ve been honoring the wrong guy all these years?  What if we’ve been ‘barding up the wrong tree’ and the so-called Stratfordian attribution is wrong?  I think any reasonable, unbiased person looking at the evidence objectively would have to conclude the jury is still out, that there truly is a legitimate Shakespeare authorship question.”

Indeed, there is a long and distinguished history of doubting the Stratfordian attribution of the Shakespeare works. Noted doubters over the years include Mark Twain, Walt Whitman, Henry James, Sigmund Freud, and Charlie Chaplin.  More recently, the ranks of doubters include noted Shakespearean actors like Orson Welles, Michael York, Mark Rylance, Jeremy Irons and Sir Derek Jacobi, not to mention current or former US Supreme Court Justices Harry A. Blackmun, Sandra Day O’Connor, Anthonin Scalia and John Paul Stevens.

The Shakespeare Authorship Coalition (SAC) has been collecting signatures on a “Declaration of Reasonable Doubt About the Identity of William Shakespeare.”   Concordia University in Portland, Oregon, and Brunel University in West London have launched degree programs in Shakespeare authorship studies.

Needed:  A Shakespeare Authorship Commission

To resolve the Shakespeare authorship mystery once and for all, the Shakespeare Oxford Society has called for the creation of an independent, blue ribbon commission composed of distinguished, internationally recognized experts in relevant fields – including historians, biographers, jurists, and other esteemed writers and scholars. 

“All members of the proposed Shakespeare Authorship Commission must be unbiased,” said Cossolotto.  “They must declare going in that they have open minds on this subject and are willing to follow the evidence wherever it leads – using internationally recognized evidentiary standards employed by leading historians and biographers.”

Cossolotto explained that the initial task of this commission would be to take a fresh look at the available evidence and determine whether there truly is reasonable doubt as to the true identity of the famous author.

The Society is proposing that an unbiased educational institute, think tank, foundation, or concerned educational philanthropist should take the lead in sponsoring the proposed Shakespeare Authorship Commission.  “After all, this is Shakespeare,” Cossolotto said.  “He’s the greatest writer in the English language, perhaps the greatest writer ever.  We should make sure we’re honoring the right author.  That’s the least we can do.  The evidence for the Stratfordian theory just isn’t sufficient.  That case is full of holes.  An unbiased, multidisciplinary panel of real experts should take a fresh look at the evidence and give the world the benefit of their judgment in this important matter.”

Cossolotto continued: “I hope Shakespeare enthusiasts in the media, the entertainment industry, and the foundation community will embrace this challenge.  All Shakespeare lovers around the world should be able to agree that it’s important to determine the true identity of the author. It’s a matter of basic fairness to give credit where it’s due. In addition, knowing the identity of the author will also help us better understand the works and the author’s motivations. Let’s get the facts and reach a scientific, evidence-based conclusion.”

About The Shakespeare Oxford Society
Founded in 1957, the Shakespeare Oxford Society is a nonprofit, educational organization dedicated to exploring the Shakespeare authorship question and researching the evidence that Edward de Vere, the 17th Earl of Oxford (1550 – 1604) is the true author of the poems and plays of “William Shakespeare. The homepage of the Society also says the group is “Dedicated to Researching and Honoring the True Bard.”  Visit www.shakespeare-oxford.com for more information. 

Who penned Shakespeare? Authorship Question Discussed — SOS Mentioned

Here’s a nicely balanced article in SpiceZee about the authorship question.  I’m quoted and the Shakespeare Oxford Society is mentioned.  Well done Akrita Reyar!  See excerpts below with link to read the entire article.  MC

Akrita Reyar
Updated on Friday, April 23, 2010, 12:58 IST

 
The literary world is firmly divided into two blocks: the Stratfordians and the anti- Stratfordians, such is the vigour of the authorship debate surrounding William Shakespeare.

Undoubtedly the greatest playwright of English, his sonnets and plays are at the core of literature and his famous quotes are such common parlance that one scarcely realises that he is citing Shakespeare, thinking rather the lines to be a part of the general language.

Master of the craft that he was, his quill had the power to mould the usage of the tongue; it follows that his oeuvre would come under microscopic scrutiny. Perhaps, no other author has been so consistently challenged, through the four hundred years after his death, as the famous Bard.

The Debate

The reasons for the debate are self explanatory. William Shakespeare of Stratford-upon-Avon was a man of humble background and modest education. Could he then produce the quality of writing that is yet to be paralleled and upon subjects that concerned a class much above his own? Could a middle class man, belonging to the countryside, write descriptively of the transactions in the palaces of London or of the nobility in Italy?

Why was it that Shakespeare did not itemize any of his volumes in his will? It may be disputed that the will’s inventory part was lost; but then again, how was it that none of his contemporary writers paid him a tribute on his death? The record of Stratford Parish Registrar shows that a gentleman was interred on April 25, 1616, but even the epitaph was placed only many days later. Could a man of Shakespeare’s repute be sent off unsung?

These questions are calcified because of insufficient evidence to establish that the Stratford man was indeed ‘the Shakespeare’. Besides the basic logic that is innate in the questions, hubris has had a role to play in raising doubts about the origin of the writings. One could ask – is it that the privileged and the well-heeled, of the class-conscious England, were not able to swallow the eminence and superiority of a man much below their rank?

Shakespeare was not spared from the magnifying lens even in his lifetime. A rival dramatist, Robert Greene had, on his deathbed in 1592, decried the “upstart crow”, who was not an original but an impostor “beautified with our feathers”.

Later, there were many famous names from across the globe who threw down the gauntlet like Mark Twain, Charlie Chaplin, Sigmund Freud and Orson Welles.

What did the contestants feel could have been the alternatives?

One, the Shakespeare of Stratford and the Shakespeare of London were two different people. Two, someone called William Shakespeare did work at The Globe; but rather than being the mainstay dramatist, he may have put his name to the plays being given to him. Or third, someone else was using the pseudonym Shakespeare.

Then again, why would a person not want to take credit for such sparkling prose?

Well, because a lot of the commentary in his plays was not necessarily politically correct. With the concept of ‘freedom of expression’ still unknown to the world, and particularly to the royalty, it may have been the obvious thing to do, if one didn’t want to befriend the guillotine. Using Shakespeare as a nom de plume may have been the ideal garb for a well known and upper class personality.

The Contenders and the Arguments

There are several names that have been recommended, time and again, as people who may have penned Shakespeare. The most prominent among them are Edward de Vere, Sir Francis Bacon and Christopher Marlowe. There are a slew of others, but not so serious contenders like English aristocrat, writer, soldier and explorer Sir Walter Raleigh, Jacobean preacher and poet John Donne and even Elizabeth, the Virgin Queen.

The theory that Shakespeare was written by Edward de Vere, the 17th Earl of Oxford, has probably the most believers. In-depth research into his life shows that many narratives and characters of the plays have a strong resemblance to this highly educated Earl, who was well positioned to create such illustrious canon. Not only does his style of writing resemble that of the Bard, he also had a moniker at court `Spear-shaker`.

Matthew Cossolotto, who was president of the Shakespeare Oxford Society in 2005-2009, feels the “jury is still out” on the authorship debate, which needs to be looked at with an “open mind”.

He said in an interview on the subject, “Hamlet is often cited by Oxfordians as being particularly autobiographical. The character of Polonius is widely regarded as a parody of Lord Burghley, Queen Elizabeth`s Lord Treasurer and most powerful adviser – and de Vere’s father-in-law. In the play, Hamlet and Polonius’s daughter, Ophelia, have a stormy relationship. In reality, de Vere married Burghley’s daughter, Anne Cecil, and the couple had a very stormy relationship.”

“Also, a detail is revealed in Hamlet that has no bearing on the plot: Hamlet is captured by pirates on his return to Denmark. Interestingly, the very same thing happened to de Vere upon his return to England after his extended sojourn to the continent,” he added

Read Whole Article:  http://spicezee.zeenews.com/articles/story59467.htm

May 8th Event, Watertown MA: A Symposium: Shakespeare from the Oxfordian Perspective

 

Charles Beauclerk

This notice submitted by Marie Merkel …

A Symposium:  Shakespeare from the Oxfordian Perspective 

 

A day-long program on “WHO WROTE SHAKESPEARE?” will focus on the case for Edward de Vere, 17th earl of Oxford as the true Bard, with Charles Beauclerk, author of Shakespeare’s Lost Kingdom: The True History of Shakespeare and Elizabeth as the featured speaker.  Alex McNeil, a past-president of The Shakespeare Fellowship will be Master of Ceremonies  

Saturday, May 8, 2010

9:30 a.m. – 4:30 p.m.

Watertown Free Public Library

123 Main Street, Watertown, MA

Admission Free and Open to the Public

 

RSVP by May 7, 2010 to ensure a space

Email: info@shakespearesymposium.org, or telephone: 617-955-3198

For additional information, please visit:  www.shakespearesymposium.org

 

PROGRAM FOR THE DAY:

9:30 a.m.  Alex McNeil, “An Overview of the Shakespeare authorship question.”  McNeil will cover why there is a question, the history of the issue, and give an introduction to Edward de Vere, 17th earl of Oxford.

10:45 a.m.  Frank Davis, “Shakespeare’s Signatures.”  A comparison of the illegible six known “Shakespeare” signatures to the extant signatures of other contemporary authors, actors and significant persons (both famous and lesser known) of Shakespeare’s time.  This comparison highlights a compelling issue — why couldn’t this great writer sign his own name?

11:45 a.m.  Richard Whalen, “The Oxfordian edition of Othello”  Whalen will describe the extraordinary correspondences between Oxford’s life experiences and ‘Othello’ and sign copies of the recently released Oxfordian edition of this play.

12:00 p.m. Lunch – A sandwich lunch will be served in the Library

1:15 p.m.  Charles Berney, performance as Mark Twain discussing his infamous essay, “Is Shakespeare Dead.”

1:30 p.m.  Marie Merkel, “Caliban’s Dream and Shakespeare’s Purge.”  Why would ‘Honest’ Ben Jonson take part in a cover-up of the Bard’s true identity?  If Shakespeare is Edward de Vere, then the ‘purge’ that the earl administered to Jonson, in the form of several lampoons on the public stage during the ‘Poet’s War’ of 1597 ~ 1602, may hold the key to this perennial question.

2:45 p.m.  Charles Beauclerk, “Shakespeare’s Timon of Athens.”  Beauclerk will discuss Timon as an authorial work and a portrait of Edward de Vere.  He will also discuss his newly released book, Shakespeare’s Lost Kingdom:  The True History of Shakespeare and Elizabeth, and there will be time for Q & A and book signing.

Books will be available for purchase at this event.

Co-sponsored by The Shakespeare Fellowship and Watertown Savings Bank

The Shakespeare authorship question isn’t settled — John Orloff Challenges Shapiro

It’s refreshing to see somebody taking on James Shapiro.  John Orloff, the screenwriter of “Anonymous,” does a commendable job of pointing out that Shapiro was extremely misleading (to say the least) in his description of the 1987 moot court involving three Supreme Court Justices.  If Shapiro can’t even be trusted to report accurately about what happened a mere 23 years ago, how can he be trusted to accurately report on events that occurred four centuries ago?  Here’s an excerpt from John Orloff’s opinion piece in the Los Angeles Times along with a link to the full article.  Three cheers for Orloff!   Matthew Cossolotto

The Shakespeare authorship question isn’t settled

And even if Shakespeare didn’t write all of the sonnets and plays attributed to him, the works’ centuries-old legacies would remain intact.

April 19, 2010|By John Orloff
As the screenwriter of “Anonymous,” the Roland Emmerich film about the Shakespeare authorship question now in production, I read with great interest James Shapiro’s April 11 Times Op-Ed article, “Alas, poor Shakespeare.”

I was particularly fascinated by Shapiro’s claim that U.S. Supreme Court Justices William J. Brennan Jr., Harry Blackmun and John Paul Stevens ruled “unanimously for Shakespeare and against the Earl of Oxford” in a 1987 moot court case.

Shapiro has, at best, oversimplified the facts.

In fact, Brennan, the senior justice on the case, did not rule on whether Shakespeare actually wrote the plays; he simply ruled that the Earl of Oxford did not meet the burden of proof required under the law.

Blackmun agreed, but then added, “That’s the legal answer. Whether it is the correct one causes me greater doubt” (emphasis mine).

Stevens went even further, saying: “I have lingering concerns. . . . You can’t help but have these gnawing doubts that this great author may perhaps have been someone else. . . . I would tend to draw the inference that the author of these plays was a nobleman. . . . There is a high probability that it was Edward de Vere [the Earl of Oxford].”

I would hardly characterize these as opinions “unanimously for Shakespeare and against the Earl of Oxford.”

http://articles.latimes.com/2010/apr/19/opinion/la-oew-orloff19-2010apr19

May 1st Event in New York City — Charles Beauclerk Discusses His New Book: Shakespeare’s Lost Kingdom

PRESS RELEASE:
Meet Charles Beauclerk (Earl of Burford), author of the new book Shakespeare’s Lost Kingdom, and descendent of Edward de Vere, who many believe to be the man who wrote under the pen-name of William Shakespeare. As special guest of Ron Song Destro and the Oxford Shakespeare Company, Mr. Beauclerk will give a presentation on the subject and sign books at 5:30 pm May 1st as part of the Tribeca Film and Family Festival celebration in Lower Manhattan at 74 Warren Street at the Church Street School for Music and Art, which houses the OSC theatre.

Shakespeare’s Lost Kingdom delves deep into the conflicts and personalities of Elizabethan England, as well as into the plays themselves to tell the true story of the “Soul of the Age.” To reserve a spot for this free event, please email Tickets@BoarMe.org. 

The Oxford Shakespeare Company plans to build a Globe theatre center in Lower Manhattan.

___________________
Contact:  Ron Song Destro
director, Oxford Shake-speare Co/BOAR
74 Warren St, NYC 10007
Tel 917-627-2334
destro@OSCtheatre.org

Theil no longer SOS News Online admin

The press of professional demands make it necessary for me to discontinue acting as administrator for this blog, the Shakespeare Oxford Society News Online. I have enjoyed working on this project for the SOS board and I hope that all of our contributors will continue to support the SOS News Online by contacting SOS Publications/Public Relations chairperson Matthew Cossolotto at <mailto:sosoffice@optonline.net>.

SOS journal, The Oxfordian, founder Stephanie Hopkins Hughes to be honored as scholar by SARC April 10, 2010

On Saturday, April 10, Shakespeare Authorship Research Centre Director Daniel Wright, PhD will present the center’s 2010 Scholarship Award to SOS journal, The Oxfordian, founder Stephanie Hopkins Hughes at Concordia University’s Shakespeare Authorship Studies Conference to be held April 7-11. Hughes will not be able to attend because of work committments.

Other honorees include Michael Delahoyde who will also receive the Scholarship Award and Portland Centre Stage Artistic Director Chris Coleman who will receive a Distinguished Achievements in the Arts award. Jose Carrillo de Albornoz Fa’bregas and Charles Boyle will also be honored at the conference.

Since the conference began in 1997, Scholarship Awards have been conferred on Charlton Ogburn, Jr (1997); Ruth Loyd Miller (1998); Verily Anderson (1999); Richard Whalen (2000); Roger Stritmatter (2001); Robert Detobel (2001); Alan H. Nelson (2002); Deborah Bacon (2003); Paul Altrocchi (2004); Charles Beauclerk (2005); Hank Whittemore (2006); Mark Anderson (2o06); William Farina (2007); Peter Dawkins (2008); Bertram Fields (2008); William Boyle (2009); and Robin Williams (2009).

Stephanie Hopkins Hughes, is an artist, writer and editor who lives in Nyack, New York. Wright said the center is pleased to recognize her accomplishments among this illustrious company.

  • Stephanie completed her B.A. at Concordia in 2000 and authored in her senior year a remarkable 235-page thesis entitled “’Shake-speare’s’ Tutors: The Education of Edward de Vere,” a study that principally focuses on the early education of Edward de Vere and his relationships with such notable men as Sir Thomas Smith and Laurence Nowell.
  • In addition to her decade-long (1997 – 2007) tenure as designer and editor of The Oxfordian, as well as her editorship of the 2008 anthology celebrating the first 50 years of the Shakespeare Oxford Society — Stephanie is the author of several well-received booklets including “Oxford and Byron,” “The Relevance of Robert Greene to the Oxfordian Thesis,” and “The Great Reckoning: Who Killed Marlowe and Why?”
  • In 2006, working with British Oxfordians Malcolm Blackmoor and Susan Campbell, she compiled and edited de Vere’s letters and wrote the narration read by Sir Derek Jacobi for a CD  entitled Oxford’s Letters: The Letters of Edward de Vere, the seventeenth Earl of Oxford.
  • She has been a frequent presenter at conferences of the SOS and at Concordia University’s Shakespeare Authorship Studies Conference and has written a number of articles for the various authorship newsletters. She currently leads Shakespeare authorship discussions on her blog, politicworm.com.

The Shakespeare Oxford Newsletter took this opportunity to talk to Hughes about her distinguished career as an authorship researcher.

SOS: Could you tell us a little about your background?

SHH:

I was born in Willmar, Minnesota, on May 24, 1938, the oldest of three children. My father’s work as executive director of community fundraising organizations like the Community Chest and United Fund took our family from one city to another in every part of America, rarely living more than two years in any one place. After a year at Bennington College in Vermont, I lived and worked briefly in San Francisco, Los Angeles, and finally New York where I spent a decade working as a graphic designer, illustrator and art director for Arthur Rankin Jr. of Rudolph the Red-nosed Reindeer fame, and where I met my late husband of twenty years, Charlie Camilleri — a jazz trumpet player and arranger who wrote for or played with all the important bands of the period. After two years in Spain in the early Sixties, we returned to New York where we raised four daughters and I helped create the first alternative grade and high schools in the northeast. Currently I tutor kids at a learning center, preparing them for their SATs, and I also do volunteer work to see that good local candidates get elected. I have seven grandchildren. (You can see Hughes’s graphic work at: http://www.tornpaperstudio.com/)

SOS: How long have you been interested in the Shakespeare authorship question?

Continue reading

Jim Boyd named to SOS board

At the March 28, 2010 Shakespeare Oxford Society (SOS) board meeting, trustees named Jim Boyd as an interim trustee to fill one of the positions left by the January 2010 resignation of husband-and-wife board members Toni Downs and Stephen Downs. Boyd joins Joan Leon who was named to an interim board position in February.

According to SOS bylaws, the board may appoint an SOS member in good standing to fill any vacancy on the board of trustees created by the death, resignation, removal or inability of a trustee to serve until the next annual meeting of the membership — at which time the membership may elect a replacement to complete the remaining term of the vacancy.

Jim Boyd and Joan Leon will serve as an interim trustees until the next SOS general meeting in September 2010.

Other members whose terms are up in 2010 are: Michael Pisapia, Virginia Hyde, and Brian Bechtold. SOS President John Hamill’s term ends in 2010. He will have served the maximum of nine years in succession on the board and will not be eligible for re-election until he has spent at least one year off the board.

Board members terms ending in 2011: Jim Sherwood, Susan Grimes Width, Toni Downs (Resigned 2010), Stephen Downs (Resigned 2010)

Board members terms ending in 2012: Matthew Cossolotto, Richard Joyrich, Richard Smiley

SOS Committee Chairpersons 2010
By-laws: Susan Grimes Width
Membership/Fundraising and Joint Conference: Richard Joyrich
Merchandising: Virginia Hyde
Nominations: Michael Pisapia
Publications/Public Relations and Library Task Force: Matthew Cossolotto
Youth Outreach Task Force: Brian Bechtold

To contact board members, send email to <mailto:sosoffice@optonline.net>

Niederkorn weighs in on Shapiro

Former New York Times editor William S. Niederkorn weighed in on James Shapiro’s Contested Will: Who Wrote Shakespeare? with his review “Absolute Will” in the April 2010 edition of The Brooklyn Rail: Critical Perspectives on Arts, Politics and Culture.

Niederkorn reported on the Shakespeare authorship controversy in the pages of the New York Times from 2002 through 2007. He is knowledgable and writes clearly on the issue. Niederkorn says he has no favorite candidate in the controversy, ” . . . that if hard evidence were found for Will of Stratford as the author of Shakespeare’s works, I would love to break the story.”

Regarding Shapiro’s search for the reasons behind Shakespeare authorship query by otherwise respected minds like Hellen Keller, Walt Whitman, Mark Twain, and Sigmund Freud, Niederkorn says:

But Shapiro misses the main point: Whatever the reasons they used to support their views amid the emerging theories of their time, the idea that Will of Stratford was not the great poet, whether it was their own impression or suggested to them, was meaningful to them. These writers, reading the works with singularly ingenious intensity, each intuitively felt that the traditional story did not add up.

Throughout his review Niederkorn patiently picks apart errors in Shapiro’s logic and viewpoint — for example regarding Shapiro’s reliance on Alan Nelson’s 2003 biography of Edward de Vere, Monstrous Adversary, Niederkorn says:

If Shapiro has a bible on the Earl of Oxford it is Alan Nelson’s Monstrous Adversary, a life of de Vere that is one of the most bilious biographies ever written. Riddled with errors, which Oxfordians have pointed out since its publication in 2003, Nelson’s book is an embarrassment to scholarship.Contested Will, whose title is cast in the same syntactical form as Nelson’s and which revels in the same spirit, is almost as bad.

Though both books assemble a great deal of interesting information, they are patently biased and need to be read skeptically. While it is hard to find one page of Nelson’s book that is free of unfair statement, though, Shapiro can occasionally sound seductively considerate. He characterizes Nelson’s book as “harsh,” but also “authoritative,” and recycles Nelson’s opinions.

Niederkorn hits the nail on the head regarding the current fad for finding “late” Shakespearean works:

The customary way to dismiss the Oxford case is to note that Oxford died in 1604, name some Shakespeare plays and insist they are of later date. Shapiro names nine. But the traditional dating of the plays is largely based on the assumption that Will of Stratford wrote them, so it’s a circular argument. There is no definitive post-1604 dating. That is why Stratfordians keep introducing new “Shakespeare” works that date from after de Vere’s death. It happened with the insertion of the poems “Shall I Die?” and “A Funeral Elegy” into editions of the Shakespeare canon, and now it is apparently happening again with a play appropriately titledDouble Falsehood, which the Arden Shakespeare is adding to its Complete Works.

He speaks fervently of journalistic objectivity and academic openness.

I count myself among journalists who aim to be objective, but if authorship articles are not slanted toward their side, Stratfordians get upset. . . . Among the conferences where I have spoken, Stratfordians have always been welcome to present papers. At one that I attended, Alan Nelson was honored at the awards banquet. The Oxfordian, the best American academic journal covering the authorship question, publishes papers by Stratfordians. By contrast, there is no tolerance for anti-Stratfordian scholarship at the conferences and journals Stratfordians control.

And his sense of humor leavens his commentary.

Anti-Stratfordian scholars are conspicuously absent from his (Shapiro’s) acknowledgments, which include what reads like a Stratfordian Politburo. The book is sure to be a prize winner; if Shapiro were British he would be knighted for it.

Read Niederkorn’s review at The Brooklyn Rail, “Absolute Will”.