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:
http://beachcombing.wordpress.com/2011/04/04/sweet-will-of-stratford/
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!

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