Monthly Archives: April 2011

Mark Rylance Speaks Out! Why It Matters To Him Who Wrote The Works of Shakespeare — Says It’s “An Absolute Crime” That People Are Being Taught The Works Were An “Impersonal Literary Exercise”

Mark Rylance -- photo Simon Annand

Many thanks to Ted Alexander for posting the text of Mark Rylance’s remarks on Phaeton.  Rylance, currently starring in “Jerusalem” on Broadway, was speaking at a press conference on April 29, 2010, at Babelsberg Studios, Berlin, regarding the movie ‘Anonymous’ — which is scheduled for release by Sony Pictures on September 30, 2011.  Read the text below and take a look at the video of Rylance making the case that it matters a great deal if we know the true identity of the author.

“Your question about the difference that it makes…

I’ve played in maybe 50 productions of Shakespeare plays and plays by his contemporaries over the 30 years of my career and was ten years artist director of Shakespeare’s Globe. I love the Shakespeare plays, I particularly love the author and I love new plays, and I think in any field if there were someone who had achieved what this author has achieved in his field, the people who work in that field would be interested. If it was in medicine, or war, or aviation, or farming, people would be interested in how that person had surpassed not just the people in his country but seemingly anyone that anyone can mention anywhere in the world. No one’s written such a wide compass of plays as Shakespeare.

So yes, I’m interested in how he did that, and at the moment there is a massive campaign to convince us that this is some kind of impersonal literary exercise. And that’s being taught to young people who pay a lot of money in many universities that the Sonnets are ‘a literary exercise’. I have never ever encountered a poet, a playwright, any artist that doesn’t involve himself or herself personally in their work, and doesn’t draw upon their own experience and their own efforts to learn by books, or by talking to other people, or by visiting places, by putting a lot of work in. To say that these works – that you make up fourteen plays about Italy, set in Italy, with accurate details of Italian landscape, customs, habits, culture – that you just imagine that stuff.

I think it’s an absolute crime that young people are being taught that. An absolute crime that members of my profession are being taught that. And since the authorship question was opened to me, my respect for the author, my attention to the detail of the plays, my feelings that I am working with someone who is possibly, in this particular story, sharing something of enormous personal pain and suffering, that these words were not just ‘made up’ – it’s a ridiculous idea – but that there was enormous personal suffering that went in to make this kind of writing. Let them bring forth other writers, let them bring forth evidence that Ibsen or Chekhov or Goethe wrote without deep feeling, or Dostoevsky wrote without deep feeling and personal input.

There’s a great great deal of rubbish being put about about Shakespeare and it’s getting in the way, it’s getting in the way badly. And fortunately people like Roland and these actors who are putting themselves on the line, and the people who backed this film, and the person who’s written it are doing a lot to break down that idiocy – as there is idiocy in many fields at the moment, isn’t there? Many many fields, and one of the fortunate things of this Shakespearean thing is it’s totally unimportant. It doesn’t matter a jot. But when you break through it it starts to teach you how to question and break through other fallacies that are being put about at the moment.

So that’s the difference it makes to me as an artist, Sir!”

Leslie Howard, starring in Pimpernel Smith, declares Earl of Oxford was Shakespeare!

Interesting.  Short YouTube clip from Pempernel Smith.

Description on YouTube:  Leslie Howard, shortly before his death, starred in and produced Pimpernel Smith, in which he plays “Horatio” Smith, a genteel Cambridge archaeologist who pretends to be searching for a lost Aryan civilization. He is meanwhile actually freeing Jewish victims of the III Reich from the death camps. This clip is excerpted for your viewing education, kindness the doctrine of “fair use,” from Howard’s classic film. Why Howard, who produced the film, and his screenwriters, chose to have Smith introduce Edward de Vere, 17th Earl of Oxford, into the film remains today a subject for contemporary dispute.

More details about the movie:

Release Date: 1941   Duration: 121 min

Cast: Leslie Howard, Ian Dalrymple, Anatole de Grunwald, Muir Mathieson, Francis L. Sullivan, Percy Walsh, David Tomlinson, Mary Morris, Allan Jeayes, Roddy Hughes, Roland Pertwee, Ben Williams …MORE

Cast: Leslie Howard, Ian Dalrymple, Anatole de Grunwald, Muir Mathieson, Francis L. Sullivan, Percy Walsh, David Tomlinson, Mary Morris, Allan Jeayes, Roddy Hughes, Roland Pertwee, Ben Williams, Raymond Huntley, Phillip Friend, Jack Hildyard, Peter Gawthorne LESS

Categories: Movies Spy Film War Spy Film War

The “Scarlet Pimpernel” legend is updated to WW2 in the breathless actioner Pimpernel Smith. Leslie Howard (who also directed) plays bespectacled and seemingly mild-mannered Professor Smith, who under cover of darkness transforms into a tireless… MORE

The “Scarlet Pimpernel” legend is updated to WW2 in the breathless actioner Pimpernel Smith. Leslie Howard (who also directed) plays bespectacled and seemingly mild-mannered Professor Smith, who under cover of darkness transforms into a tireless defender of democracy. With the help of several loyal companions, Smith makes several forays into Nazi-occupied territories to rescue the oppressed victims of the Third Reich, using a phony archeological expedition to throw the villains off the track. The picture really roars into life during the cat-and-mouse exchanges between the Professor and his Gestapo antagonist Von Graum, phlegmatically enacted by the corpulent Francis L. Sullivan. In some markets, Pimpernel Smith was retitled Mister V. ~ Hal Erickson, Rovi LESS

Happy Birthday William Shakespeare? This April 23rd … Toast But Verify!

Media Contact:
Matthew Cossolotto

Vice President, Communications and Outreach

Shakespeare Oxford Society

Pointing to the scheduled Sony Pictures release this September of Anonymous, a major motion picture that challenges the traditional Shakespeare authorship theory, the Shakespeare Oxford Society says orthodox scholars have been “Barding up the wrong tree” in Stratford-upon-Avon and calls for creation of an unbiased Shakespeare Authorship Commission to resolve the authorship mystery

YORKTOWN HEIGHTS, NY – April 21, 2011 – Traditional Shakespeare biographers claim the great poet and playwright, William Shakespeare, was born on April 23, 1564.

But before you raise your glass to salute the Bard’s 447th birthday this April 23rd, consider this:  You just might be paying tribute to the wrong person.

That’s the main premise of the forthcoming Sony Pictures film, Anonymous, directed by Roland Emmerich and featuring a cast of Shakespearean thespian luminaries such as Vanessa Redgrave, David Thewlis, Joely Richardson, Rhys Ifans, and Sir Derek Jacobi.

A recently released trailer promoting Anonymous begins with this intriguing question:  “What if I told you Shakespeare never wrote a single word?”  Later in the trailer a male voice says:  “Promise me you’ll keep our secret safe.”  An older woman’s voice, presumably that of Queen Elizabeth played by Vanessa Redgrave, says ominously:  “None of your poems or your plays will ever carry your name.”

The tantalizing trailer ends with a clever tagline — “We’ve All Been Played” — followed by a stage filled with actors taking their bows and the audience applauding wildly.

Here’s the link to the trailer.

In light of the scheduled release of this major motion picture – the first-ever that explicitly challenges the traditional authorship theory – the Shakespeare Oxford Society reiterates its position that traditional scholars have been “Barding up the wrong tree” in Stratford-upon-Avon.   Consequently, the Society recommends that Shakespeare lovers around the world should adapt Ronald Reagan’s “Trust but Verify” dictum.

“We call it ‘Toast but Verify,’ says Shakespeare Oxford Society spokesman Matthew Cossolotto.  “We should all toast the peerless works but also attempt to verify the author’s true identity.”

Indeed, there is a long and distinguished history of doubting the traditional “Stratfordian” attribution of the “Shakespeare” works. Noted doubters over the years include Mark Twain, Henry James, Orson Welles, Charlie Chaplin, and Sigmund Freud. More recent skeptics include U.S. Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia and former Justice John Paul Stevens along with renowned Shakespearean actors Derek Jacobi, Michael York, Jeremy Irons, and Mark Rylance, former artistic director at the Globe Theatre in London.

In 1996, the great Shakespearean actor Sir John Gielgud, while serving as president of the World Shakespeare Congress, signed the following petition:

“We, the undersigned, petition the Shakespeare Association of America, in light of ongoing research, to engage actively in a comprehensive, objective and sustained investigation of the authorship of the Shakespeare Canon, particularly as it relates to the claim of Edward de Vere, 17th Earl of Oxford.”

In 2007, the Shakespeare Authorship Coalition (SAC) began collecting signatures on a compelling “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 Commission should be unbiased. They should 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.

The Society is proposing that an unbiased educational institute, think tank, foundation, or individual should take the lead in sponsoring the proposed commission.

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 and for more information.  SOS on Facebook.  Join SOS or renew your membership online here:

Sweet Will of Stratford — “Beachcombing” Blogger Gets Into The Authorship Issue

Dear Fellow Shakespeare Lovers!  Several days ago a friend sent me a link to a blog called Beachcombing.  As you’ll see, there’s a lengthy discussion and a few responses from readers (including a long submission from me) about the authorship question.  Just passing this along.  See link to the blog below along with my somewhat long-winded post in response to some points made by Beachcombing.   Beachcombing is decidedly Stratfordian but he seems reasonable, respectful, and even somewhat open-minded.  Enjoy!  Matthew

Link To Beachcombing Blog:
Here’s the post I submitted with a few comments from Beachcombing.

7 April 2011: Beachcombing got a fascinating email from Matthew C.  Matthew writes that ‘I certainly encourage you to do some more reading on the subject.  You seem to only scratch the surface and you leap to conclusions based on limited information.  So keep at it. My line about this issue:  Traditional scholars including the academic establishment have been Barding Up The Wrong Tree for a few centuries.’ Matthew then takes Beachcombing’s argument apart bit by bit starting with some well made points about Beachcombing’s misuse of the word ‘fact’. Then, Matthew deals with Beachcombing’s allegation that Shakespeare could have travelled in the missing years. ‘You’re engaging in rank speculation… There’s not an actual fact lurking anywhere in what you say.  You speculate that he might have gone to Italy.  Yes, he might have.  He might have gone to Russia or China for that matter.  You assume that he wasn’t in Stratford with his family.  Yes age 21-28 are crucial years for an aspiring author.  Can you provide any evidence at all that he wasn’t simply living in Stratford?  He was, after all, married.  He had a wife and three children who lived in Stratford all these years.  Why do you claim ‘we don’t know where Shakespeare was between 1585 and 1592?’  What you’re really saying is there’s no evidence he was in London … or anywhere else on the planet.  So why couldn’t he have simply been living in Stratford?  Without any evidence to the contrary – and given the presence of his young family in Stratford – wouldn’t the fair assumption be that he was living there as well?  Your assumption that William of Stratford was off traveling to Italy and soaking in knowledge and experience is based on … well … nothing … except for the need to cram some worldly experience and knowledge into him.  If you’re going to posit some other theory, you really need to come up with some evidence to support it.’ Then Beachcombing gets in trouble over his comments that Shakespeare’s learning was shallow: ‘Here you’re engaging in a strange effort of ‘dumbing down’ Shakespeare so his learning comes closer to what might be feasible or believable for what we know about the actual life of William of Stratford.  Nice try out of desperation but really unfortunate.  And repeating the old canard about the Bohemian coast is simply sad.  A little bit of research on your part would reveal adequate evidence that Bohemia did in fact include a seacoast at different points in history.  It’s too bad you feel the need to denigrate Shakespeare’s knowledge in an effort to prop up the Stratfordian theory.  We need not idolize Shakespeare but let’s not resort to taking him down a few notches simply to force the square Stratfordian peg into a round hole.’ Matthew then adds. ‘There’s one topic you address briefly that deserves a great deal more attention – the Sonnets.  Both the content of those poems and the publication in 1609 strongly suggest, to my mind at least, that this was a posthumous publication.  Traditional scholars have not been able to explain the poet’s complete absence from the publication process, the absence of a dedication from the poet, and his complete silence about the publication (one way or another) after 1609.  The reference to ‘our ever-living poet’ in the dedication provides powerful prima facie evidence that the poet was, in fact, dead at the time of publication.  William of Stratford, of course, was very much alive until 1616 … and yet he remained completely silent about the Sonnets … and no scholar has yet provided any credible explanation as to how Thomas Thorpe could have acquired and published these very personal poems against the will of the poet himself.  There are more or less convoluted theories but posthumous publication offers a reasonable, Occam’s Razor explanation for the publication itself, the dedication, and the poet’s strange absence during and silence after publication.’ Then finally Matthew moves on to the question of Shakespeare’s daughters. ‘Finally, one quick point about raising illiterate (or perhaps semi-literate) daughters.  Your rather dismissive comment that this does not surprise you is, again, an attempt to dumb down the Bard.  Just think for a moment about all of the witty, highly educated heroines in Shakespeare’s works.  It’s hard to imagine that the poet would not want his own daughters to be able to appreciate not only his works but the wonderful world of literature that education opened up for him.  It’s remarkable to me that you would discount this “fact” so glibly.  There’s no indication that any members of the “Shakespeare” family who resided in Stratford for many years after 1616 took any interest in or asserted any connection with the life and works of William Shakespeare.  I would also ask why it is that we have no evidence that the rather well-to-do William of Stratford donated any money to the King Edward VI grammar school that supposedly gave him his start?  Nothing in the man’s will hints at anything remotely literary (as I’m sure you know).  But I’ve always been baffled by the absence of a bequest to the school in Stratford that supposedly provided his educational foundation.  One would expect him to have been eternally grateful to his school – if indeed he attended the school and learned so much from the year or two most scholars assume he spent there.’ Leaving aside, for a moment, the whole question of whether or not Shakespeare of Stratford was Shakespeare the author the one thing that strikes Beachcombing from the several emails he’s received is the passion with which both sides address this argument. It is enough to make a sleepy bizarrist retreat into his rabbit hole: back to zombies, unicorns and werewolves. Seriously, thanks to Matthew for this long contribution!

The Shakespeare Identity Crisis! Sony Pictures Launches Trailer for Anonymous — Release Scheduled for September 30th.

Tantalizing trailer for Anonymous.  Check it out.  Sir Derek Jacobi narrates.  Great visuals.  The costumes, scenes of The Globe, London, interior shots … all visually appealing.  Looks like a quality production.  Very dramatic and compelling.  This intriguing question is posed:  “What if I told you Shakespeare never wrote a single word?”  A male voice says:  “Promise me you’ll keep our secret safe.”   An older woman’s voice, presumably that of Queen Elizabeth played by Vanessa Redgrave, says ominously:  “None of your poems or your plays will ever carry your name.”

Quick cut scenes of sex, violence, a beheading (presumably Essex), secretive, knowing glances, the angry tossing of what looks like a manuscript by a woman (I’m guessing Queen Elizabeth).  Then the clever tagline appears on the screen:  “We’ve All Been Played.”  Followed by a stage filled with actors taking their bows and the audience applauding wildly.   All in all … a nicely done trailer that should stimulate interest in the movie.

And by the way, it’s good that the trailer comes out in April, before “Shakespeare’s” birthday on April 23rd.  This could ensure that the usual birthday stories will include a reference to the authorship question.

Here’s the link to the trailer.  Worth watching.

I’m glad to see there’s a marketing push behind the movie.  It might be Anonymous, but it looks like Sony doesn’t want this movie to be unknown.

Here’s the copy that tees up the controversy.  I have to say I’m pleased with the setup.  This makes clear that the movie is presenting only “one possible answer” to Shakespeare authorship mystery.  That’s the best way to approach this, as I see it at least.  This is clearly fiction.  It’s one possible answer to the question.  But at least it’s asking the question and not ignoring it completely as the academic establishment would seem to prefer.  Like it or not, there is reasonable doubt about the authorship and we shouldn’t be content to continue sweeping the issue under the proverbial rug.  This major motion picture just might compel more people (especially in the media) to recognize the existence of a legitimate issue worthy of serious debate and detailed research.

Here’s the copy explaining the trailer:  “Experts have debated, books have been written, and scholars have devoted their lives to protecting or debunking theories surrounding the authorship of the most renowned works in English literature. Anonymous poses one possible answer to the age old question: Who really wrote the works of William Shakespeare?”

There’s also a Facebook page for the latest updates on Anonymous:  The official Anonymous website is:

Anonymous opens in theaters September 30.

The Shakespeare Chronology Recalibrated: Excellent Review by William S. Niederkorn of “Dating Shakespeare’s Plays” Published by the De Vere Society in the U.K.

Kudos to William Niederkorn for writing an excellent, insightful review of Dating Shakespeare’s Plays.  And kudos to editor Kevin Gilvary and the many other contributors to this landmark work.  I shouldn’t (and won’t) reprint the entire review here.  Several paragraphs follow.  To read the entire review, which was published in the April 2011 edition of The Brooklyn Rail,  please click on this link now or click on READ MORE at the bottom on this post.

As anybody who has delved into the Shakespeare authorship mystery in any detail knows all too well, the issue of the chronology of the plays is a major point of contention between the orthodox camp and skeptics of various stripes.  The traditional Stratfordian chronology has always struck doubters as more or less arbitrary, arranged to neatly fit into the lifespan and presumed career of the Stratfordian Candidate — one William of Stratford.  Dating Shakespeare’s Plays tackles this vexing issue with a great deal of skill and refreshing even-handedness.  As Niederkorn puts it in his review:  “[R]egardless of one’s position on the authorship question, Dating Shakespeare’s Plays is a most informative and useful book on a subject at the center of the Shakespeare labyrinth. It is not the last word, but rather an advantageous starting point.”

I couldn’t agree more.  Niederkorn’s review is highly recommended reading … as is Dating Shakespeare’s Plays itself.

Matthew Cossolotto

The Shakespeare Chronology Recalibrated

by William S. Niederkorn

Dating Shakespeare’s Plays: A Critical Review of the Evidence
edited by Kevin Gilvary
(Parapress, 2010)

Determining the chronology of Shakespeare’s plays has been both central and problematic since Shakespeare studies originated in the 18th century. Edmond Malone, whose work is regarded as the cornerstone of Shakespeare scholarship, made the first serious attempt. Malone’s initial Shakespeare achievement was his essay An Attempt to Ascertain the Order in which the Plays attributed to Shakespeare were written, included in the second edition of the Johnson-Steevens Shakespeare in 1778. This was “pioneering research,” as Peter Martin called it in his 1995 biography.

In 1875, Edward Dowden, in his Shakespeare: A Critical Study of his Mind and Art, divided Shakespeare’s career into four periods, based on what he deemed appropriate to the playwright’s age and mood, a division that Shakespeare academics still widely affirm. Dowden vastly expanded on Malone’s use of stylistic data, like frequency of rhyme, to support his chronology with statistics.

E. K. Chambers thoroughly reviewed the full scope of dating research in his William Shakespeare: A Study of Facts and Problems, published in 1930, and laid out a chronology derived largely from Malone and Dowden. Of the 36 plays in the First Folio, Chambers’s dating exactly matches Malone’s on 14 plays and deviates from it by only one year on eight more.

Then, in 1987, came William Shakespeare: A Textual Companion by Stanley Wells and Gary Taylor. Though Wells and Taylor admitted, “The existing or ‘orthodox’ chronology for all Shakespeare’s plays is conjectural,” their dates match Dowden and Chambers exactly for 24 plays and differ on average by less than two years for the rest.

All of this is recounted in the introduction to Dating Shakespeare’s Plays: A Critical Review of the Evidence. This new book, apparently several years in the making, goes on to review other aspects of the inherited tradition, and then lays out, play by play, the evidence put forward by scholars who believe that the plays were written by William Shakespeare of Stratford, followed by the evidence put forward by scholars who believe they are by Edward de Vere, the 17th Earl of Oxford.

The book is a major comprehensive revision and re-envisioning of the Shakespeare chronology, but it does not set up a rigid chronology of its own. The new chronology is refreshingly diverse, like the world of Shakespeare authorship studies.

The main challenge to the Shakespeare orthodoxy for much of the past century has been Oxfordian, though Oxfordians, unlike Stratfordians, have made the effort inclusive and welcome into their conferences and journals advocates for Bacon, Marlowe, William Stanley, Edward Dyer, Mary Sidney, et al., including, of course, Stratfordians. As a result, a more open-minded approach to Shakespeare is developing outside the mainstream.


Interesting Video Clips — Press Conference Involving the Director and Cast of Anonymous

I just happened across these short video clips today.  They’re about a year old but if you haven’t seen these yet they’re worth watching.  The first one is Mark Rylance talking about his love of the Shakespeare plays and poems and his strong view that the author is writing from deep personal experience and emotions.  Enjoy!  Matthew

Mark Rylance Comments:

Vanessa Redgrave Comments:

Roland Emmerich Comments:

Set Visit:

Joely Richardson Comments:

David Thewlis:

Rhys Ifans Comments: