Tag Archives: Contested Will

New York Times Magazine Piece by Stephen Marche — Attacking Snobbery With Snobbery!

Here’s a wonderful example of someone with what appears to be a superficial grasp of the Oxfordian theory trashing that theory based on a few favorite straw men —  Oxfordians are snobs, Shakespeare “wrote” plays after Oxford’s death in 1604, Looney was “aptly named,” etc.

But the amazing thing to me about this piece is how much it depends on snobbery as a way to attack the snobbery of Oxfordians.  Maybe Marche should devise an exam for “undergraduates” that counts how many unfounded assumptions and appeals to snobbish expertise his article contains.  Anyway, it’s worth reading.  He does make several good points about the historical inaccuracies of Anonymous.  Hey, I’m not here to defend Anonymous the movie.

But attacking the movie’s flaws should not be allowed to be a substitute for attacking the Oxford theory in general.  That’s too broad a brush.  It continues to amaze me that the traditional assumption — and it’s nothing more than that — that “Shakespeare” continued to write plays after 1604 — some with partners? — is presented so often as the slam dunk refutation of the Oxford theory.  The hard evidence for this is … what exactly?

The fact that so many so-called experts accept the traditional “narrative’ as fact is not the same thing as real evidence.  And I love that Galileo is invoked without any sense of irony since Galileo was punished — forced to recant what he knew to be true — by an establishment view of the world that was … well … flat wrong.  Sometimes those who come up with alternative theories that challenge orthodox opinion turn out to be right after all.  Not always.  But sometimes.  And resorting to emotional appeals, reckless ad hominem attacks, branding them as heretics, etc. is neither constructive or productive.

It’s not particularly helpful to make an argument based on historical analogies.  Those can easily cut both ways and don’t really advance the state of the debate.  They usually inflame the debate and only serve to generate much more heat that light.  There may be lots of legitimate reasons to question the validity of the Oxfordian theory, but the alleged snobbery of Oxfordians, Rick Perry’s anti-climate change or anti-evolutionary views, the “aptly named” proponent of the theory, or the unfounded assertion that Shakespeare “wrote” plays after 1604 are not among them.  Why do anti-Oxfordians so often stoop to these specious lines of attack?  Can’t they muster a real case against Oxford without injecting these bogus and logically challenged arguments?  Apparently not.

the good news about this article … and other reviews of the movie … is that the authorship question is being discussed widely in the media.  It would be a shame if various parties to the debate simply resort to their tried-and-true arguments to put down the other side.  This isn’t an election campaign.  We don’t have to “go negative” to get votes.  We should be evaluating and assessing evidence, not trying to score debate points.  Maybe one day we’ll evolve to that stage in this discussion.  Matthew

Wouldn’t It Be Cool if Shakespeare Wasn’t Shakespeare?

By STEPHEN MARCHE
Published: October 21, 2011

http://www.nytimes.com/2011/10/23/magazine/wouldnt-it-be-cool-if-shakespeare-wasnt-shakespeare.html?pagewanted=1&_r=1&emc=eta1

“Was Shakespeare a fraud?” That’s the question the promotional machinery for Roland Emmerich’s new film, “Anonymous,” wants to usher out of the tiny enclosure of fringe academic conferences into the wider pastures of a Hollywood audience. Shakespeare is finally getting the Oliver Stone/“Da Vinci Code” treatment, with a lurid conspiratorial melodrama involving incest in royal bedchambers, a vapidly simplistic version of court intrigue, nifty costumes and historically inaccurate nonsense. First they came for the Kennedy scholars, and I did not speak out, because I was not a Kennedy scholar. Then they came for Opus Dei, and I did not speak out, because I was not a Catholic scholar. Now they have come for me.

[SNIP]

In the movies, a few mistakes don’t matter, but the liberties with facts in “Anonymous” become serious when they enter our conception of real history. In scholarship, chronology does matter. And the fatal weakness of the Oxfordian theory is chronological, a weakness that “Anonymous” never addresses: the brute fact that Edward de Vere died in 1604, while Shakespeare continued to write, several times with partners, until 1613. “Macbeth” and “The Tempest” were inspired by events posthumous to the Earl of Oxford: the gunpowder plot in 1605 and George Somers’s misadventure to Bermuda in 1609. How can anyone be inspired by events that happened after his death?

[SNIP]

The original Oxfordian, the aptly named J. Thomas Looney, who proposed the theory in 1920, believed that Shakespeare’s true identity remained a secret because, he said, “it has been left mainly in the hands of literary men.” In his rejection of expertise, at least, Looney was far ahead of his time. This same antielitism is haunting every large intellectual question today. We hear politicians opine on their theories about climate change and evolution as a way of displaying how little they know. When Rick Perry compared climate-change skeptics like himself to Galileo in a Republican debate, I dearly wished that the next question had been “Can you explain Galileo’s theory of falling bodies?” Of all the candidates with their various rejections of the scientific establishment, how many could name the fundamental laws of thermodynamics that students learn in high school? Healthy skepticism about elites has devolved into an absence of basic literacy.

# # #

Columbia Magazine’s Review of Shapiro: Contested Will: Who Wrote Shakespeare?

Dear Friends … Many thanks to Tom Regnier for sharing this link to the review of James Shapiro’s Contested Will that appeared in Columbia Magazine last summer.  I’ll post several paragraphs below.

Here’s an excerpt that addresses the Oxfordian thesis directly and fairly sympathetically.

“There is no question that Contested Will, which has already occasioned considerable debate, lands at a time of great popular interest in the subject. As Shapiro acknowledges, this is a cultural high-water mark for the presumed authorship of de Vere, a celebrated poet and playwright who would have been intimate with court manners and politics, and whose life story evokes incidents in Hamlet and the rest of the canon. The progenitor of the Oxford hypothesis was the Englishman J. T. Looney, whose 1920 book, “Shakespeare” Identified in Edward de Vere the Seventeenth Earl of Oxford, was embraced by Freud, among others. Shapiro reads it as “a product of Looney’s profound distaste for modernity,” but also calls it a “tour de force.”

And here’s the link to read the entire review on the Columbia Magazine website.

http://magazine.columbia.edu/reviews/summer-2010/brush-your-marlowe?page=0,0

Brush Up Your… Marlowe? by Julia M. Klein

by Julia M. Klein

When James Shapiro ’77CC began plotting out Contested Will: Who Wrote Shakespeare?, a friend unnerved him by asking, “What difference does it make?” Shapiro, the Larry Miller Professor of English and Comparative Literature at Columbia, answered, “A lot,” without articulating why. This intellectually passionate book represents his more complete and considered response: The controversy matters, he suggests, because a belief in Shakespeare’s authorship affi rms the power of the human imagination.

The authorship debate, though mostly ignored by specialists, has long intrigued writers from Mark Twain and Henry James to Helen Keller and the now-obscure Delia Bacon. It has fl ourished because so little biographical information has survived about the Stratford-upon-Avon-born actor and grain dealer — and the facts that are known point to a man of modest education, travel, and life experience. How in the world, the doubters say, could such a man, neither an aristocrat nor an intellectual, write such masterpieces, with their literary sophistication and references to law, foreign languages, courtly customs, the classics, and European geography?

In Contested Will, Shapiro has two aims: to provide insight into the debate and to make what is known as the Stratfordian case, which he does with gusto. His account of the theories of skeptics is purposely selective (though a bibliographic essay usefully points readers to more information). “My interest,” Shapiro writes, “is not in what people think — which has been stated again and again in unambiguous terms — but in why they think it.” Shapiro attempts to take the opposition seriously, locating its origins in the Higher Criticism that undermined Homer’s authorship and exposed the piecemeal composition of both the Old and New Testaments. But, in the instance of Shakespeare, he can’t help being dismissive of the briefs for Sir Francis Bacon and Edward de Vere, the 17th Earl of Oxford, the only two claimants to whom he allots full chapters. (The playwright Christopher Marlowe and other alternative bards receive only passing mentions.)

The history of the skeptics, Shapiro writes, is “strewn with . . . fabricated documents, embellished lives, concealed identity, pseudonymous authorship, contested evidence, bald-faced deception, and a failure to grasp what could not be imagined.” He uncovers a scam himself, involving what he says is a forgery of a 19th-century manuscript that spread doubt about Shakespeare’s capacities.

In Shapiro’s view, to believe that anyone but Shakespeare wrote Shakespeare’s plays is to succumb to conspiracy theories, weird cryptographic excesses, social snobbery, and incipient lunacy, not to mention the anachronistic fallacy of reading Elizabethan and Jacobean literature as autobiography. This last is Shapiro’s particular bête noir, and he is lacerating on the subject, indicting such early Shakespeare scholars as Edmond Malone for pointing the (wrong) way. “The plays are not an à la carte menu, from which we pick characters who will satisfy our appetite for Shakespeare’s personality while passing over less appetizing choices,” Shapiro writes.

[SNIP]

Read the entire review:  Click HERE.

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.

http://www.brooklynrail.org/2011/04/books/the-shakespeare-chronology-recalibrated

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.

READ MORE

From The Oxfordian: Excellent Article Summarizing the Case for Oxford as Shakespeare Now Available Online

This excellent article, written by longtime Shakespeare Oxford Society member Ramon Jiménez, is must reading for anybody with an interest in Shakespeare generally and the Shakespeare Authorship Question in particular.  I’m pasting below a few of paragraphs from Ramon’s compelling article. A link is provided below so you can read the entire article which was recently posted on the Shakespeare Oxford Society’s website:

The Case for Oxford Revisited
Ramon Jiménez

In his recent biography of William Shakespeare, the critic Jonathan Bate writes: ‘Gathering what we can from his plays and poems: that is how we will write a biography that is true to him’ (xix). This statement acknowledges a widely recognized truth—that a writer’s work reflects his milieu, his experiences, his thoughts, and his own personality. It
was the remarkable gap between the known facts about Shakespeare of Stratford and the traits and characteristics of the author revealed in the Shakespeare canon that led an English schoolmaster to suppose that the real author was someone else, and to search for him in the backwaters of Elizabethan poetry.

This inquiry led him to conclude that ‘William Shakespeare’ was a nom de plume that concealed the identity of England’s greatest poet and dramatist, and that continued to hide it from readers, playgoers, and scholars for hundreds of years. In 1920, J. Thomas Looney published his unique work of investigative scholarship, demonstrating that the man behind the Shakespeare name and the Shakespeare canon was Edward de Vere, the 17th Earl of Oxford (1550-1604).1 Since then, hundreds of books and articles have augmented the evidence that this unconventional nobleman and courtier not only wrote the plays and poems attributed to Shakespeare, but concealed the fact of his authorship throughout his life. It appears that after his death his descendants and those in their service deliberately
substituted an alternative author and fabricated physical and literary evidence to perpetuate the fable.

The web of evidence associating Oxford with the Shakespeare canon is robust and far-reaching, and grows stronger and more complex every year. Although he was recognized by his contemporaries as an outstanding writer of poetry and plays, he is the only leading dramatist of the time whose name is not associated with a single play. This fact, alone, about any other person would be sufficient to stimulate intense interest and considerable research. Yet the Shakespearean academic community has not only failed to undertake this research itself, it has willfully and consistently refused to allow presentations or to publish research on the Authorship Question by anyone who disputes the Stratford theory. What Oxfordian research it does not ignore, it routinely dismisses, usually with scorn and sarcasm, as unworthy of serious consideration.

READ ENTIRE ARTICLE

Editor Egan Calls For Book Reviews For The Shakespeare Oxford Society’s Newsletter

The next issue of The Shakespeare Oxford Newsletter, published by the Shakespeare Oxford Society, will feature Spring Books. Anyone who would like to review a book or offer more generalized comments about the recent spate of books/movies concerning the Authorship Question (from Contested Will to Anonymous) is invited to contact the newsletter editor, drmichaelegan@omcast.net. Reviews and review-articles should be about 1000 words, negotiable each way.

Dr. Michael Egan
Editor
The Oxfordian
The Shakespeare Oxford Newsletter
575 652 3490 Desk
808 258 5564 Cell

From The Archives: Parts I and II of About.com’s Interview With Matthew Cossolotto About The Shakespeare Authorship Question

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 , About.com Guide

The Shakespeare authorship debate1 has been raging for years and the circumstantial evidence for one candidate is particularly compelling: Edward de Vere2, 17th Earl of Oxford.

In this two-part interview3 we ask Matthew Cossolotto, Shakespeare Oxford Society4 president (2005-2009), to defend the case for Edward de Vere by answering some common Stratfordian questions.

In the first installment we ask Cossolotto to consider the Shakespeare-De Vere relationship and ask how William Shakespeare5 from Stratford-upon-Avon6 fits into the De Vere story.

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.

READ MORE Of PART I

Part II: Was Shakespeare a Pseudonym for Edward De Vere?

An Interview with Matthew Cossolotto About The Case for Edward De Vere

By , About.com Guide

Edward de Vere1, 17th Earl of Oxford, has emerged as the strongest candidate from the Shakespeare authorship debate2.

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.

READ MORE OF PART II

From the Catholic Herald: Shakespeare did write Lear; what is more, he was a Catholic

Interesting article.  I’ll post a few graphs below and the link to the full article.  Note the wording in the subtitle.  I don’t think anybody has suggested “that Shakespeare could not have written his own plays?”  If they are “his own plays” (a loaded way to put it) then “Shakespeare” must have written them.  The relevant question is, Who was Shakespeare?  Did the actual playwright and poet employ a pseudonym?  Ultimately, there’s no escaping the fact that Shakespeare (whoever he was) did write Shakespeare (the plays and poems of Shakespeare).  Anyway, I thought folks would want to see this article.  The author, Francis Phillips, asserts that Shakespeare — here she means specifically William of Stratford — was a Catholic and that the paucity of biographic information about the playwright William Shakespeare is attributable to the fact that he destroyed the evidence because of his adherence to the Old Faith.  The article is accompanied by what appears to be the so-called “Cobbe” portrait and the caption makes the claim that it is “believed to be authentic.”  By whom?   There’s virtually no evidence this is a portrait of William of Stratford.  This portrait is almost certainly a painting of Sir Thomas Overbury.   I’ll paste the one Overbury likeness I have available next to the Cobbe portrait.  This composite was created by the late Robert Brazil and posted to his Elizaforum listserv.  Many thanks to Robert for creating this composite. 

These two faces bear a striking resemblance.  On the left may well be a younger version of the face depicted on the right.  Same hair, hairline, ears, etc.  If you take a look at the painting in the article below you’ll see that the painting that’s claimed to be an “authentic” Shakespeare portrait seems pretty clearly to be the Cobbe, which is most likely a painting of Sir Thomas Overbury.  A question worth asking is whether the Overbury portrait was somehow used as a model for the famous, crudely drawn Droeshout engraving of Shakespeare that first appeared in the First Folio in 1623.  That’s a very long discussion for another time.  Anyway, take a look and see what you think.   Matthew

Shakespeare did write Lear; what is more, he was a CatholicSir Derek Jacobi is wrong to think that Shakespeare could not have written his own plays; the greatest poet and dramatist of all times was an Englishman and a Catholic

By Francis Phillips on Friday, 7 January 2011

The actor Sir Derek Jacobi is currently acting the part of King Lear to great critical acclaim at the Donmar Warehouse. I must get to see it before the production closes just to see if he gets my personal imprimatur or not. But there is one matter on which I cannot agree with Sir Derek: the authorship of Shakespeare’s plays. Apparently the knighted thespian takes a benighted view on this one: that a semi-educated country boy from Stratford couldn’t possibly have written the works of genius attributed to him.

Indeed, Jacobi has publicly declared, “The only evidence of Shakespeare’s literary life was produced after he died and is open to dispute. Nothing, apart from some shaky signatures, puts a pen in his hand. Legend, hearsay and myth have created this writer.”

This is bilge and balderdash, stuff and nonsense. But rather than rehearse his arguments at second-hand, may I direct readers of this blog to an excellent book, Contested Will: Who wrote Shakespeare? by James Shapiro, a professor at Columbia University. Shapiro demolishes all the far-fetched and tendentious theories advocated by Jacobi and others – Sigmund Freud and Mark Twain among them – who are too intellectually contorted to see the obvious: that if you are a genius you don’t have to experience at first-hand everything you write about; you use your imagination. After all, Shakespeare did not have to commit murder to be able to write Macbeth; nor did he have to go mad in order to write King Lear.

Read More (and see the portrait)

From SAC: Actor Keir Cutler’s Excellent New Video — Shakespeare Authorship Question

The SAC is pleased to announce that a new video about the Authorship Question, by actor Keir Cutler, Ph.D., is now available for viewing on YouTube. In the video, titled “Why Was I Never Told This?” — — Cutler first explains what changed his mind about the Shakespeare Authorship Question, and then invites people to join him in signing the Declaration of Reasonable Doubt.
The video targets a general audience, but especially young people and students who are unfamiliar with the Authorship Question. In recounting his personal journey, discovering little-known facts about Shakespeare, Cutler creates a highly engaging narrative. The quality of the video is superb, in keeping with Keir’s previous work, such as his interpretation of Twain’s “Is Shakespeare Dead?”
The Declaration is a great introduction to the Authorship Question, and the Cutler video is a great introduction to the Declaration. We urge all authorship doubters to watch the video, then help us make it “go viral” by calling attention to it in the following ways:
1. Send the link to everyone you know who may find it interesting, and ask them to forward it on to others who may be interested. 2. If you control a website or blog — especially one dealing with the Authorship Question — embed the video where people will see it.
With your help, the new Cutler video will greatly increase the visibility, and credibility, of the Shakespeare Authorship Question.

Please support the work of the SAC.

The SAC had a good year in 2010, and we expect 2011 to be even better. We were pleasantly surprised when James Shapiro praised the Declaration lavishly in Contested Will, a book written with the stated purpose of “putting an end” to the Authorship Controversy. That should enhance our credibility among mainstream academics! Thanks to Shakespeare Fellowship President Earl Showerman, we staged our fourth public Declaration signing ceremony at the Joint Authorship Conference in Ashland, Oregon, last September. Ten prominent theater people participated, including OSF Executive Director Paul Nicholson and long-time actor James Newcomb. Local media coverage was good, thanks to reporter Bill Varble. We added 217 signatories: 65 with advanced degrees, 39 academics. Finally, the development of the Keir Cutler video gives us a great new tool to increase our visibility with the general public in 2011.
So what’s up for 2011?
1. Add an MP3 audio recording of a well-known actor reading the Declaration to our website so people can listen as they read along. 2. Renew the nine different domain names that go to our website for 5 years to put them out of reach of Stratfordians through 2016. 3. Organize another Declaration signing ceremony in Washington, D.C., around the time of next fall’s Joint Authorship Conference. 4. Raise funds to advertise the Keir Cutler video, and the Declaration, to high school English teachers and college English professors.
All of these initiatives take money, and especially the Declaration signing ceremony if we are to gain the maximum benefit from it. Please make a tax-deductible donation to the SAC to support our work. As a non-membership organization, we depend on donations. Donors of $40.00 or more ($50.00 outside the U.S.) are eligible to receive a Declaration poster like the one seen in the Cutler video. See the donations page at the SAC website for details.
Thanks for supporting the SAC!
John Shahan, SAC Chairman

Oh Shakespeare, Shakespeare … Who Art Thou? Wikipedia article about Roland Emmerich’s forthcoming film Anonymous

In case you haven’t seen this, there is a nice Wikipedia entry about the forthcoming Roland Emmerich film — Anonymous.  The article states right at the beginning that the film presents Edward de Vere, the 17th Earl of Oxford, as the true author behind the Shakespeare works.

Here’s how the Wikipedia article begins:

Plot

Anonymous is a political thriller which also involves the question of who actually wrote the plays of William Shakespeare. It follows Edward de Vere, 17th Earl of Oxford (Rhys Ifans), and is set against the backdrop of the succession of Queen Elizabeth I (Vanessa Redgrave) and the Essex Rebellion against her.

*****************

The section about the Controversy is interesting highlighting how James Shapiro really misrepresents in an op-ed piece the positions taken by three U.S. Supreme Court Justices at the famous 1987 moot court case on the Shakespeare authorship question.  It’s worth pasting below this section from the Wikipedia article.  Note especially the quote from Sir Derek Jacobi, who plays the narrator of Anonymous:  ” I’m on the side of those who do not believe that the man from Stratford-upon-Avon wrote the plays. I think the name was a pseudonym, certainly. [Anonymous] puts the authorship question firmly and squarely on the big screen. It’s a very risky thing to do, and obviously the orthodox Stratfordians are going to be apoplectic with rage.” 

It is rather sad, if you think about it, that Stratfordians would react that way.  It makes it sound as if the Stratfordian position is something akin to a religious faith which does not tolerate any dissent or “heretical” thinking.  Having a faith-based attachment to the Stratfordian position makes it very difficult for new information to seep into the barricades that have been erected to protect against (or silence) any opposing views.   

Here’s a link to the full Wikipedia entry … followed by an excerpt from the article that deals with Shapiro’s mischaracterization of the position taken by the three Justices.  The Emmerich film may not capture the whole truth of the Shakespeare authorship question but I am hopeful that this film will open people’s minds to the possibility that there is something rotten in the state of Stratfordian scholarship and that the case for Oxford’s authorship should not be lightly or cavalierly dismissed. 

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Anonymous_%28film%29

Controversy

In response to the inception of the film, James Shapiro, Columbia University English professor and author of Contested Will: Who Wrote Shakespeare?,[9] wrote an April 11, 2010 op-ed article in the Los Angeles Times titled “Alas, Poor Shakespeare.” He acknowledged recent substantial worldwide support for Oxfordian theory, including three Supreme Court Justices quoted in a 2009 Wall Street Journal article.[10] Shapiro said that 25 years ago, support for Oxfordian theory was not strong, and that in a celebrated moot court in 1987, Supreme Court Justices John Paul Stevens, Harry Blackmun and William Brennan had “ruled unanimously in favor of Shakespeare and against the Earl of Oxford.”[11] Shapiro calls Oxfordian theory “conspiracy theory,” and argued further against Anoynmous in an April 2010 Wall Street Journal interview.[12]

In screenwriter John Orloff‘s published response in the Los Angeles Times, he said “Shapiro has, at best, oversimplified the facts.” He responded to Shapiro’s characterization of the original 1987 moot court decision by saying:

In fact, Brennan, the senior justice on the case, did not rule on whether Shakespeare actually wrote the plays; he simply ruled that the Earl of Oxford did not meet the burden of proof required under the law.
Blackmun agreed, but then added, “That’s the legal answer. Whether it is the correct one causes me greater doubt” (emphasis mine).
Stevens went even further, saying: “I have lingering concerns. . . . You can’t help but have these gnawing doubts that this great author may perhaps have been someone else. . . . I would tend to draw the inference that the author of these plays was a nobleman. . . . There is a high probability that it was Edward de Vere [the Earl of Oxford].”
I would hardly characterize these as opinions “unanimously for Shakespeare and against the Earl of Oxford.

In a June 2010 post-filming interview with the Washington Post, Derek Jacobi, who plays the Narrator of Anonymous, noted that he is not neutral in the Shakespeare authorship debate. “I’m on the side of those who do not believe that the man from Stratford-upon-Avon wrote the plays. I think the name was a pseudonym, certainly. [Anonymous] puts the authorship question firmly and squarely on the big screen. It’s a very risky thing to do, and obviously the orthodox Stratfordians are going to be apoplectic with rage.”[13]

May 2010 Shakespeare Oxford Newsletter Goes To Press — If You’re Not an SOS Member, You’re Missing Out!

I’m sharing below the excellent lead story that will appear in the forthcoming SOS quarterly newsletter.  This piece was written by co-editors Katherine Chiljan and Ramon Jimenez.  Why am I sharing this with the world?  To show you what you’re missing!  Normally only SOS members get first crack at seeing the articles in our quarterly newsletter.  But I wanted to let SOS Online News readers see this excellent article and thereby encourage you to join the SOS.  

This lead story is just the proverbial tip of the iceberg.  The newsletter is chock full of high-quality, insightful articles and reviews.  SOS members in good standing in 2010 are among the fortunate few who will be receiving their newsletters in the mail in the next few weeks. Non-members will be left in the dark … and really should consider joining the Shakespeare Oxford Society to keep up with fast-paced authorship and Oxfordian developments.

To join the SOS or renew your membership online, click this link. 

http://www.goestores.com/catalog.aspx?Merchant=shakespeareoxfordsociety

The process is quick, easy, painless.  Membership in the SOS does have its privileges … like receiving our newsletter and our annual scholarly journal The Oxfordian — which is mentioned in glowing terms in the lead article below.  So go ahead:  click and join.  You’ll be glad you did.  If you have an open mind on the authorship issue and want to learn more, we’ll welcome you into the SOS with open arms. 

Just click here to join: 

 

Much Ado About Authorship in Media

The Shakespeare Authorship Question has reached a new level of legitimacy upon the fresh release of a book devoted to the topic by English professor James Shapiro, Contested Will: Who Wrote Shakespeare? The major media has embraced the book, and the controversy, by featuring interviews with Shapiro and reviews of his book online, and in English and American newspapers.

Academics have long ignored, dismissed, and even ridiculed those who doubted the Stratford Man as Shakespeare, but the public’s fascination with the controversy has put them on the defensive. Shapiro, in his recent interview with The Wall Street Journal (April 2, 2010), admitted his fears about this surging public attention. He stated that Roland Emmerich’s upcoming film portraying the Earl of Oxford as Shakespeare, “will be a disaster for those of us who teach Shakespeare.” Yet he also stated that Shakespeare was a “court observer” due to his having “performed at court over 100 times probably in the course of his career …” Although Oxfordians would agree with the former statement, the latter about the Stratford Man is a fantastic piece of guesswork.

In his interview, Shapiro also revealed the new defense strategy that academics are being forced to adopt: the sonnets of Shakespeare, written in the first person, are not autobiographical, nor are there autobiographical sources or references anywhere in the Shakespeare canon. He stated that “either you believe he’s recycling bits and pieces of his life, or you believe that he imagined them, and I like to think that he had the greatest imagination of any writer in the language. And I don’t want that belittled.”

Oxfordian scholars and enthusiasts, as well as other anti-Stratfordians, were also heartened by a clear-sighted and incisive review of Shapiro’s book in the April 2010 edition of The Brooklyn Rail: Critical Perspectives on Arts, Politics and Culture. The reviewer is William S. Niederkorn, a well-known commentator on the authorship question, and one of the most perceptive observers of its growing importance. Niederkorn’s 5,000-word essay, “Absolute Will,” reveals the inconsistencies, circular reasoning, and ridicule of anti-Stratfordian scholars that permeate Shapiro’s book, which has just been published by Simon & Shuster. Niederkorn describes Alan Nelson’s Monstrous Adversary as one of the most bilious biographies ever written,” “riddled with errors . . . and an embarrassment to scholarship.”

In recounting the recent history of the authorship question, Niederkorn also remarks that 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.” Niederkorn’s piece was chosen as the book review of the week by the National Book Critics Circle.

Perhaps the most notorious Shakespeare-related book of the last decade, Contested Will has already been reviewed in Publishers Weekly and The Chronicle of Higher Education, The Los Angeles Times, salon.com, The Economist, The Sunday Times, The Telegraph, The London Review of Books, The Guardian and The Independent and others. The book was also reviewed on the SOS’s website (SOS Online, Archives, Dec. 2009). Oxfordian scholars Richard Whalen and Tom Hunter provide additional reviews in this issue on pp. 7 and 12. It appears that the Anti-Anti-Stratfordian movement is “at last gasp,” to quote Oxford’s phrase in Cymbeline (1.5.53).