Author Archives: lltheil

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>.

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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?

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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”.

Oxfordian edition of Othello available from Llumina

Author Richard F. Whalen sends word that the Oxfordian edition of Shakespeare’s Othello edited by Whalen and Ren Draya, PhD is now available from Llumina Press. About his work on this Othello, Whalen said:

The cumulative effect of the clear correspondences between Othello and Oxford’s documented life experience is really extraordinary. There’s no better way to get a deep understanding of a Shakespeare play than to have to read everything written about it and then organize commentary on it. It was a great adventure working with Ren on this edition.

Ren Draya said, “We look forward to hearing responses from readers and hope that our Oxfordian Othello opens new avenues of investigation.” Draya has allowed SOS News Online to publish her remarks on editing Othello that she originally delivered as part of her presentation,“The Dramatist’s Knowledge of Music as Shown in Othello” at the Shakespeare Fellowship and Shakespeare Oxford Society 2009 joint annual conference in Houston, Texas: please see “Editing Othello” by Ren Draya.

Announcing Publication of the First Oxfordian Edition of Othello

The first Oxfordian edition of Othello, edited by Ren Draya, professor of British and American literature at Blackburn College, and Richard F. Whalen, co-general editor of the Oxfordian Shakespeare Series, has been released by the publisher, Horatio Editions – Llumina Press.

Informed by the view that the seventeenth Earl of Oxford wrote the Shakespeare plays, this edition of Othello has drawn on the extensive research and writings of Oxfordians and Stratfordians to describe the many correspondences between the play and the life of Oxford. Several of the most significant correspondences will be new to many Oxfordians.

In the introduction to the play and generous line notes, the editors examine how the play reflects the dramatist’s knowledge of the aristocracy, court life, the military, music, the Italian language, and the government and topography of Venice and Cyprus. A major influence on the play was commedia dell’arte, at its height in Venice when Oxford was there but unknown in England; another strong influence was Oxford’s concern for his reputation and abhorrence of the specter of cuckoldry.

In the appendix are articles on the significance of the music in Othello by Draya, on the dramatist’s unusual knowledge of the port of Famagusta on Cyprus by Whalen, and on Stratfordian scholars’ recognition of the dramatist’s in-depth knowledge of military command.

The general editors of the Oxfordian Shakespeare Series, published by Horatio Editions—Llumina Press, are Whalen and Daniel L. Wright of Concordia University in Portland, Oregon. The first in the series was Macbeth, edited by Whalen.

Forthcoming in the series, and their editors, are Antony and Cleopatra, Michael Delahoyde of Washington State University; Hamlet, Jack Shuttleworth, English department chair (ret.), U.S. Air Force Academy; The Tempest, Roger Stritmatter of Coppin State University, with Lynne Kositsky; Henry the Fifth, Kathy R. Binns-Dray, Lee University; King John, Daniel L. Wright, Concordia University, Portland, Oregon; Love’s Labor’s Lost, Felicia Londre, University of Missouri-Kansas City; and Much Ado About Nothing, Anne Pluto, Leslie University.

The Oxfordian Othello is $18.95 from Llumina Press at 866-229-9244 or order online from Llumina:
Oxfordian Shakespeare Series: Macbeth by Richard F. Whalen
Oxfordian Shakespeare Series: Othello by Richard F. Whalen and Ren Dreya

Editing Othello by Ren Draya

This essay on preparing an Oxfordian edition of Othello was first presented by Ren Draya, PhD, as part of a talk entitled “The Dramatist’s Knowledge of Music as Shown in Othello” at the Shakespeare Fellowship and Shakespeare Oxford Society 2009 joint annual conference in Houston, Texas.

Editing Othello
by Ren Draya, PhD

So, this business of editing Othello — well, I survived!  And the book is available from Llumina Press. How did it all start? Richard Whalen, a most persuasive and tenacious Oxfordian, asked me in the cafeteria of Concordia University in April 2005 if I’d be willing to tackle the project. Bedazzled by his Irish charm, I agreed. I had no idea it would stretch into a more than four-year-long endeavor.

Initially, I re-read the play, looked through all my files, and started collecting various editions of Othello. Editing an entire play involves three components:  working on the play text, writing an introductory essay, and preparing line notes.

Getting a copy of the play text on my computer simply meant a download from MOBY on June 9, 2005, which was done by the computer whiz at Blackburn College. Most of the work for this project was done in my very pleasant office at Blackburn College. As you might guess, teaching full-time or being committed to any full-time job, does not fit in well to a mammoth task such as editing a Shakespeare play. About 90-percent of my work was done during holiday times, occasional weekends, and the long summer breaks.

In that first summer, 2005, I spent a week at the British Library, happily requesting and reading dozens of articles and books on the play. (This was July 2005 – just two weeks before the bus and tube attacks blocks from my hotel.)

I wrote the first draft of the introduction in August 2005 and sent it off to Richard Whalen and Dan Wright. Richard became the main communicator — except that we discovered my Macintosh wasn’t always on speaking terms with his PC.  There were initial difficulties with the computers not communicating effectively (or at all) with each other. Because there was no common word-processing program, line numbers did not match up. With help from my students and professional technical advice, the problems were eventually resolved. I also received help from the college library staff, who sent for all sorts of material via inter-library loan from JStor.

Continue reading

More Contested Will reviews

More reviews of Contested Will: Who Wrote Shakespeare by James Shapiro:

Erudite Laura Miller at Salon.com on March 28, 2010 lays out the situation clearly, and fairly:
“Contested Will: Who Wrote Shakespeare? a new book on the authorship debate asks why some people refuse to accept ‘the Stratford man‘”

Chronicle of Higher Education reporter Jennifer Howard writes an unbiased presentation of the reasons Shapiro wrote Contested Will, and the state of authorship politics including quotes from Shakespeare Fellowship President Earl Showerman and prominent anti-Stratfordian researcher Roger Stritmatter.
“A Shakespeare Scholar Takes on a ‘Taboo’ Subject: James Shapiro explores the authorship question — and why few in academe will touch it” by Jennifer Howard in The Chronicle of Higher Education, March 28, 2010.

Actor/author Ben Crystal declares himself out-of-the-closet for Stratford:
“Does it even matter who the ‘real’ Shakespeare was?”
Contested Will by James Shapiro and The Boy Who Would Be Shakespeare by Doug Stewart reviewed by Ben Crystal in The Independent on Sunday/Books March 28, 2010

The Independent literary editor Boyd Tonkin’s long review hammering out the Stratfordian party line — covering all the bases including mental illness in those who dare to question Shakespearean authorship, multi-collaborations, and none of that “curious modern dogma”, biography, by damn! The comments are worth the trip:
The Independent, March 26, 2010
Contested Will: Who Wrote Shakespeare? by James Shapiro
Reviewed by Boyd Tonkin

Obsequious review with irritated commentary:
The Economist, March 25, 2010
“William Shakespeare, Hero or Hoax, the man and his pen”
Review of James Shapiro’s
Contested Will: Who Wrote Shakespeare?

Interview of author James Shapiro on BBC;s Front Row March 26, 2010

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Update April 2, 2010
“The Shakespeare Whodunit: a scholar tackles doubters on who wrote the plays; Hollywood weighs in” by Alexandra Alter, interview of James Shapiro in Wall Street Journal April 2, 2010.

Prologue to Contested Will on WSJ

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Update April 4, 2010
Peter Conrad reviews James Shapiro’s
Contested Will in The Observer, April 4, 2010.

Jeremy Noel-Tod reviews James Shapiro’s Contested Will in The Telegraph, April 4, 2010.

Heward Wilkinson’s “De-imagining Imagination” essay on James Shapiro’s Contested Will, April 4, 2010.

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Update April 5, 2010
“Will uncontested” no-byline review of James Shapiro’s Contested Will in the London Times, April 5, 2010.

Shapiro sez

Contested Will author James Shapiro published an essay titled, “Did Shakespeare write his plays alone?” in Sunday’s London Financial Times dated March 26, 2010.

Shapiro said that Shakespeare criticism has changed radically in the past thirty years, and those changes include the way that the plays are edited:

It emerged that scholars who had been preparing the editions on which the rest of us depended had not made clear the extent to which their texts of some major plays were stitched together, often arbitrarily, from different quarto and folio versions that had come down to us from Shakespeare’s day.

. . .

This news was hard to absorb. Surely you couldn’t just pick and choose which bits you liked from each version? Yet that is exactly what many editors had been doing. As a result, texts would now have to be unedited to make clear how early versions of the plays differed, and to discover where Shakespeare may have had second thoughts and revised his plays.

After decrying those editorial lapses of the past, Shapiro segues to the authorship question with this fascinating statement:

The revolution only went so far. Those transforming Shakespeare studies were rigorous in challenging outmoded ways of thinking about Elizabethan drama, but failed to address the persistent belief that somebody other than Shakespeare might have been the true author of the works long attributed to him. Maybe they had no reason to take such a claim seriously. But there’s an alternative worth considering: that when it came to the question of authorship they weren’t ready to confront some shaky biographical assumptions, assumptions they held in common with Shakespeare-deniers they viewed as cranks.

Those two assumptions that Stratfordians perilously share with Shakespeare-denying cranks are, according to Shapiro:

  • a disinclination to accept that Shakespeare collaborated with other playwrights and
  • an assumption that biography influences creativity, or to quote Shapiro, a belief:

. . . that the plays and poems are autobiographical. To believe this is to accept that the plays are not (or not merely) imaginative creations but also recycled chunks of an author’s life.

These two faulty assumptions are twins since collaboration precludes representation of a single artist’s biography according to Shapiro’s essay.

Shapiro then warns Stratfordian scholars of the imminent danger of continuing to support these faulty assumptions:

Since the 19902 the ranks of those who doubt that Shakespeare was the true author of his plays have grown. Prominent actors including Mark Rylance and Sir Derek Jacobi have joined those promoting alternative candidates, especially the Earl of Oxford. And it was recently reported that the director Roland Emmerich is shooting a new film, Anonymous, which should popularize the case of Oxford . . ..

He then makes a clear call to Stratfordian action:

Maybe this challenge will be enough to get scholars to repudiate the last, most cherished Shakespearean anachronism, one that not even the radical scholarshp of the past 25 years had dared question: Shakespeare, the autobiographical artist.

As I understand it, Shapiro’s goal is to devastate authorship queries by fragmenting  the artist with studies on Shakespearean collaboration, and by denying that an artist reveals his biography in his works.

If by “biography”, Shapiro means an artist’s use of actual events in his life, I am willing to make that concession that not every artist writes his life story in his work in the fashion of Arthur Miller or Neil Simon. I agree, not because Shapiro is correct in his notion that an artist expressing his “biography” is a nineteenth century development — but because that materialistic notion of biography is not the idea that most threatens the Stratfordian convention of authorship. An organic notion of biography, on the other hand, is devastating to Stratfordians.

An organic biography begins with a time and place of birth and continues with an individual’s awareness filtered according to his own particular biological gifts and individual opportunities for understanding and action. An organic notion of biography cannot be dismissed as a mere cultural fabrication, nor can the effects of an artist’s organic biography be erased from any human creation.

Neither can collaboration hide nor destroy the unmistakable imprint of an individual human psyche on a work of human artistic endeavor. Even if the poet Shake-speare wrote only one work of art, a reader would know him as an artist who expressed himself as a human creature according to his individual organic biography:

When in disgrace with fortune and men’s eyes
I all alone beweep my outcast state,
And trouble deaf heaven with my bootless cries
And look upon myself and curse my fate.

Wishing me like to one more rich in hope,
Featured like him, like him with friends possessed
Desiring this man’s art and that man’s scope
With what I most enjoy, contented least. . . . (“
Sonnet 29“)

Maybe this artist has given us no “life-writing”, but never say this artist has written nothing about his life.

Although those who question the attribution of Shakespeare’s works may be physically, emotionally, mentally, morally, psychically, and/or socially maimed, deficient, ignorant, damaged, ill, and/or deluded as Shapiro has explored in Contested Will; it is not pathology that drives this query. It is the simple, human, biological, biographical curiosity to know how this great art came to be created. The answer from Stratford is tongue-tied silence.

Robert Detobel translates Whalen review

Robert Detobel has translated Richard F. Whalen’s English-language review of James Shapiro’s new book, Contested Will: Who Wrote Shakespeare?, into German. Whalen’s review is now available on the German-language Shake-speare Today website.

Shake-speare Today administrator Hanno Wember said that Detobel will also translate R. Thomas Hunter’s review and will write a review of his own for Shake-Speare Today. When asked why the site is offering this service to their German readers, Wember said:

Shapiro’s book will be known in Germany sooner or later. Shapiro’s reputation, authority and influence on Shakespeare scholars should not be understimated. This holds for Germany as well. Possibly there will be reviews soon; even if no German translation of his book will be published in the near future. So we want to offer our readers an Oxfordian view first.

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Richard Whalens Rezension von James Shapiros neuem Buch Contested Will: Who Wrote Shakespeare? wurde von Robert Detobel ins Deutsche übersetzt und ist jetzt auf der deutschsprachigen Internetseite Shake-speare Today zugänglich.

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Update April 2, 2010
Robert Detobel’s translation of R. Thomas Hunter’s review of
Contested Will: Who Wrote Shakespeare? by James Shapiro has been posted to Shake-speare Today.

New tactic: Who cares?

Philadelphia Inquirer staff writer John Timpane wrote an interesting article about the addition of Cardenio/Double Falsehood to the Arden Shakespeare series, “The stamp of Shakespeare’s on it: A play bearing much of the Bard” dated March 23, 2010.

Timpane gives a clear and nuanced account of the complex situation regarding the Arden editors’ addition of Cardenio/Double Falsehood to the canon. The convoluted story makes the addition seem so pointless that a reader might be forgiven for wondering if there might be a political motive for adding seventeenth-century, collaborative material to the canon. Timpane’s experts sliced Shakespeare so fine it hardly seemed to matter who this pathetic collaborator might actually be.