Daily Archives: April 23, 2010

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

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Matthew Cossolotto
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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