Dear Friends: I was doing some web surfing and I came across this two-part interview on About.com. I had forgotten all about this but now that I see it again I think it’s worth sharing on the SOS Online News. I’m pretty sure this interview took place before the SOS Online News was launched. I think the interview bears repeating. Sometimes it’s worth remembering that the authorship debate does receive considerable attention. And not only from scholars intent on dismissing the topic — like James Shapiro in his book Contested Will. So I thought I’d post portions of the interview here with links to the full Q&A. I also wanted to take this opportunity to express my thanks again to Lee Jamieson at About.com for doing the interview and recognizing that the Shakespeare Authorship Question deserves to be given serious consideration. Enjoy! Matthew
Part I: Shakespeare and De Vere
An Interview with Matthew Cossolotto About The Shakespeare-De Vere Relationship
By Lee Jamieson, About.com Guide
About.com: There is documentary evidence that a man called William Shakespeare existed? How does this man fit into the authorship case for Edward de Vere?
Matthew Cossolotto: There’s no question that a native son of the town of Stratford-upon-Avon with a name similar to “William Shakespeare” did in fact exist. Nobody questions his existence. The issue is whether this “William of Stratford” – as I like to refer to him – was in fact William Shakespeare, the great poet and playwright.
As far as I’m concerned, the jury is still out as to the exact role that this William of Stratford played in the Shakespeare story. More research is needed. There are several theories: he may have been go-between, a play broker, or a front man for the real author. Personally, I don’t think he ever played the traditional front man role as the public face of the writer during his lifetime.
About.com: So you don’t believe the conventional story: that William Shakespeare left Stratford-upon-Avon to become a prominent actor on the London theater scene?
Matthew Cossolotto: No. There’s virtually no contemporaneous evidence that William of Stratford was an accomplished or prominent actor on the London stage7. Did he play a few bit parts in some plays? Perhaps. But that does not prove he was William Shakespeare, the great poet and dramatist. It simply suggests he might have been recruited to play a kind of stand in role – perhaps because his name was so similar to the famous Shakespeare name
In fact, the evidence suggests that William of Stratford spent most of his time in Stratford-upon-Avon and very little time in London. After his death in 1616, William of Stratford began to play what I think of as the “fall guy” role. As Shakespeare wrote in Twelfth Night:
Some are born great, some achieve greatness and some have greatness thrust upon them.
After his death, William of Stratford had greatness thrust upon him.
Partisans of the Stratford theory are fond of circular reasoning. “Shakespeare wrote Shakespeare” is a frequent refrain. But partisans of the Stratfordian theory deny even the possibility that “William Shakespeare” could have been a pseudonym. So they shut down the debate and close their minds instead of opening their minds – Maybe I’m naïve, but I always thought true scholarship required an open mind.
Part II: Was Shakespeare a Pseudonym for Edward De Vere?
An Interview with Matthew Cossolotto About The Case for Edward De Vere
By Lee Jamieson, About.com Guide
In the second part of our interview with Matthew Cossolotto, Shakespeare Oxford Society3 president (2005-2009), we discuss why Edward De Vere would have needed a pseudonym.
About.com: Why did Edward De Vere need to write under a pseudonym? Why not simply use his real name?
Matthew Cossolotto: There were undoubtedly a host of reasons Edward de Vere did not publish his works under his real name. One likely reason is that he may well have been prevented from doing so by the powers that be at Court. In Sonnet 66, Shakespeare complained of “art made tongue-tie by authority.” That’s one theory.
De Vere may well have chosen to remain anonymous and employ a pseudonym because it gave him greater creative freedom and the ability to speak truth to power. If de Vere was revealing embarrassing or even scandalous facts about powerful figures at Court (Queen Elizabeth, Lord Burghley, the Earl of Leicester among others) he may well have concluded that discretion was the better part of valor and not put his name on his works.
About.com: So potentially, it would have been dangerous for de Vere to put his name to the plays and poems we now attribute to William Shakespeare?
Matthew Cossolotto: Yes. Sometimes I think of de Vere as the “deep throat” of Elizabeth’s Court. Remember, there was no such thing a freedom of the press in those days. If de Vere’s writings could be construed as critical of the government or specific individuals, especially the Queen, he would not have lasted very long.
In addition, there was something of a social taboo that tended to discourage high-ranking noblemen – Edward de Vere was the 17th Earl of Oxford after all – from publishing works of drama and poetry under their own names. My feeling is that this was not a hard-and-fast sort of thing. I wouldn’t argue that this so-called “stigma of print” was the only reason the Earl of Oxford opted against publishing under his own name. I’d say it’s one of the factors that should be taken into account.