Tag Archives: James Shapiro

Required Reading! Diana Price, Author of Shakespeare’s Unorthodox Biography, Reviews Shakespeare Beyond Doubt Edited by Stanley Wells and Paul Edmondson

Everybody who is interested in the Shakespeare authorship question should read Diana Price’s entire review of Shakespeare Beyond Doubt.  I’m pasting below a long section from Diana Price’s review.  To read the entire review, please visit Diana’s website (http://www.shakespeare-authorship.com) or click on this link:  http://shakespeare-authorship.com/Articles/Shakespeare%20Beyond%20Doubt%20review%20website.htm.

A long section of Diana Price’s review follows.  I encourage you to read the entire review.  It’s well worth a careful read.

*****

i.

Shakespeare Beyond Doubt: Evidence, Argument, Controversy is a collection of essays that purports to put an end to the so-called Shakespeare Authorship Question, once and for all. Its editors, Stanley Wells and Paul Edmondson, recruited 20 contributors, most of whom also contributed to the Shakespeare Birthplace Trust’s “60 Minutes with Shakespeare,” a project that provided 60 seconds each to 60 scholars addressing various topics, most with significance for the authorship question.

The essay collection was prompted in part by the release of Roland Emmerich’s 2011 film Anonymous (a box office flop dramatizing a fringe version of a “royal birth” theory positing the earl of Oxford as the real Shakespeare) and the “Declaration of Reasonable Doubt” (now signed by over 2,700 individuals) published on the website DoubtAboutWill. The substance of the Declaration is, in some measure, based on the research in my own book, Shakespeare’s Unorthodox Biography: New Evidence of An Authorship Problem. It was the first book challenging the traditional biography to be published by a mainstream publisher in a peer-reviewed series (Greenwood Press, 2001, “Contributions in Drama and Theatre Studies” no. 94; now revised and published in paperback by shakespeare-authorship.com, 2012). A major argument in the book is based on a comparative analysis of documentary evidence left behind by Shakespeare and two dozen writers active during his lifetime. The results of that analysis demonstrate that Shakespeare is the only alleged writer of consequence from the time period who left behind no evidence that he wrote for a living, or even as a vocation.

At the April 2013 launch of Shakespeare Beyond Doubt in Stratford-on-Avon, Ros Barber (author of the prize-winning The Marlowe Papers, a fictionalized case for Marlowe’s authorship) criticized the editors of the essay collection for failing to contend with their peer-reviewed opposition. In this review essay, I focus on particular contributors who defend the traditional biography, with the hope that my critique will move the debate forward.

As a general comment, it is unfortunate that a decision on nomenclature was made in this collection to re-label authorship skeptics as “anti-Shakespeareans,” rather than the more accurately descriptive “anti-Stratfordians. “Anti-Shakespearean” is unnecessarily pejorative (and it was a relief to read James Shapiro’s reversion to the term “anti-Stratfordian” in his Afterword). Also, in several places, some contributors assert that the authorship question first emerged, not during Shakespeare’s lifetime, but in 1856-57, when Delia Bacon published her unreadable tome (2, 87, 246). But Miss Bacon was not the first to ask questions about Shakespeare’s authorship. She was the first to formalize the question. Expressions of confusion about Shakespeare’s authorship were recorded during Shakespeare’s lifetime by Thomas Edwards, the Parnassus authors, Gabriel Harvey, and John Davies of Hereford, among others.

Now to particulars.

ii.

Andrew Hadfield is the author of the recent and well-received biography of Edmund Spenser. Spenser left behind good evidence of his literary interests and activities, the evidence that I call personal literary paper trails. These include books exchanged with his friend, Gabriel Harvey, his handwritten transcription of a Latin poem, and records of his education. Despite such evidence for Spenser, in his essay “Theorizing Shakespeare’s authorship,” Hadfield attempts to lower his reader’s expectations for evidence surviving for writers from the time period, essentially excusing the absence of literary paper trails for Shakespeare:

Even a superficial trawl through the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography will reveal how little we know about many important figures, making the gaps in the biographical records of Shakespeare seem typical rather than unusual and therefore in no need of explanation. . . What are left are scraps, fragments, and clues in parish registers, court records, and probate offices” (65, 66).

To which list I would add personal literary paper trails.

Hadfield admits that “there are virtually no literary remains left behind by Shakespeare” (66), but he also claims that in that sense, Shakespeare is no different than other writers, such as Henry Chettle, Christopher Marlowe, Thomas Middleton, Anthony Munday, and Thomas Nashe, among others (66). While the canons of these writers, like Shakespeare’s, present various attribution or authenticity problems, unlike Shakespeare, these writers left behind solid records of their activities as writers. To take one example (chosen here because Hadfield singled out Nashe in his 60 seconds contribution to the SBT program), among the personal literary paper trails for Nashe are an autograph poem from his days at Cambridge; a record of how much he was rewarded for writing by one of his patrons, as specified in a letter from Sir George Carey to his wife (the dedicatee of the pamphlet in question); and a letter to Carey’s servant describing his difficulties “writing for the stage and for the press.” Despite the survival of that letter, Hadfield claims that “personal letters did not survive in an age when paper was scarce and expensive” (64). Yet additional autograph letters DO survive for, among others, George Chapman, Ben Jonson, John Marston, and Michael Drayton, and all of them contain reference to literary topics (Price, Unorthodox, 314-18). There are no comparable records for Shakespeare, so Hadfield’s claims do not hold up. The deficiency of personal literary paper trails for a writer from the time period is not an expected or common phenomenon; the deficiency is unique to Shakespeare.

iii.

David Kathman’s essay “Shakespeare and Warwickshire” attempts to situate Shakespeare in the intellectual and literary communities in Stratford-on-Avon, investing him with intellectual credentials in a sort of literacy-by-association. Yet his sections on Shakespeare’s Stratford associates do nothing to establish Shakespeare as a man interested in literary matters. Identifying neighbors, such as Richard Quiney or Abraham Sturley, who read books or wrote letters, sometimes in Latin, is not evidence that Shakespeare read books or wrote letters. Indeed, the reason Kathman can state categorically that Quiney or Sturley read books or wrote letters is because letters survive to support those statements (124-27). No comparable evidence survives for Shakespeare.

Kathman claims that the plays “include numerous offhand references to people and places from the area around Stratford” (129). But those “numerous” Warwickshire characters and locations appear in only two plays, Henry IV (2) and The Taming of the Shrew. He further claims that the plays “are peppered with dialect words from Warwickshire and the West Midlands” (129). He cites three sources in his endnote, primarily C.T. Onions, and also R.C. Churchill (actually Ivor Brown’s introduction) and Hilda M. Hulme. Not only do these sources fail to verify all his claims, he omits other resources that would compromise or invalidate several of them. After consulting Joseph Wright’s still valuable six-volume The English Dialect Dictionary, James Orchard Halliwell’s Dictionary of Archaic Words, James Appleton Morgan’s Warwickshire Glossary, and the OED, I would propose that at least five of the nine words Kathman mentions don’t belong on his list.

For example, Kathman defines a “ballowas a ‘cudgel,’ which Onions locates in the north Midlands (12). But the texts of King Lear (IV.vi.238) read, variously, “battero” (Qq), “bat” (Q1 and Q2), and “ballow” (F), so there is not even a secure basis for accepting “ballow” as the intended word. The OED elaborates:

Only in the Shakes. Folio of 1623, and subseq. editions, in loc. cit., where the Quartos have battero, and bat (stick, rough walking-stick); besides which, batton, battoun, ‘stick, cudgel’ obs. f. baton n. (q.v.) is a probable emendation. Bailey (1742) has ‘Ballow, a pole, a long stick, quarter-staff, etc. Shakesp.’ (quoted by Halliwell as ‘Northern’): but no such word seems to exist, or to have any etymological justification.

The Arden 2 editor goes with “ballow” and cites Wright’s entry (1:145) for the word as common to Nottinghamshire (Muir, 173; Wright also specifies the word as in use in the shire of Kent). The Arden 3 editor goes with “baton,” rejecting the Folio reading of “ballow” since he could find “no convincing parallels” (Foakes, 346).

According to Onions, “potch,” meaning to thrust, “survives in Warwickshire” (165). Wright lists the word “potch” as a variant form of “poach” (4:562), defines “poach” (and its variant spellings) as “to poke, esp. with the fingers; to thrust, push suddenly,” etc., and locates the variant “potch” not only in Warwickshire, but also in Staffordshire, Shropshire, and Gloucestershire. The Arden 2 editor of Coriolanus glosses potch as “jab, poke” but is silent on the matter of dialect (Brockbank, 149), as are the editors of recent Oxford and Cambridge editions, as well as Halliwell. Morgan’s Glossary contains neither “poach” nor “potch.”

The word “batlet,” meaning ‘club (for washing)’ is described by Onions as “current recently in Yorks[hire] and Warwick[shire] (13). “Batler” is in the OED with reference to the modified word “batlet” in modern editions of As You Like It, but no dialect is mentioned. The word in the Arden 2 edition of As You Like It (II.iv.46) reads “batler.” Halliwell lists “batler” but does not assign a shire of origin or use (149). The New Variorum editor (Knowles, 93) cites [John R.] Wise’s list of Warwickshire words, but also cites Wright, who specifies Yorkshire and Warwickshire (per Wise’s list) and adds a disclaimer: “not known to our correspondents in Warwickshire” (1:186). Morgan’s glossary contains only “batten,” defined as “a stick used in washing clothes” (76), but provides no examples in the Shakespeare canon.

At least two other words in Kathman’s list, “pash” and “tarre,” fare no better. Of the nine dialect words cited by Kathman, only four may withstand scrutiny. Kathman acknowledges that while the dialect words that he cites “don’t prove anything,” they are “consistent” with the Stratford man’s authorship (129). But they are not. In order to make that case, he would need to show  (1) that Warwickshire and West Midlands dialect words are particular to, or better yet, usually exclusive to, those shires, and  (2) that the Shakespeare canon contains disproportionately higher numbers of dialect words from those regions. When a word such as “batlet” is found in Yorkshire as well as (possibly) Warwickshire, Kathman’s argument is weakened. It is further diluted as the known use of a word is discovered in additional shires or regions. It is difficult to give credence to words that he claims as Warwickshire dialect, even those found in Onions’s Glossary, when there is no further support or corroboration from Halliwell, Morgan, the OED, various critical editions, or especially Wright.

It is puzzling that Kathman cites Hulme’s research in his endnote. Her examples of Warwickshire or Midlands dialects are either qualified or introduced as speculative. She also shares the skeptical opinion that future research will likely “establish as more widely current such elements of apparently ‘Stratford’ language as occur in his text” and cites G.D. Willcock’s opinion that the Shakespeare corpus “shows no sign of surviving local patriotism” (316, 315). Hulme cites some idiosyncratic Shakespearean spellings consistent with, if not unique to, Warwickshire spellings (316, 318), but some of her citations depend upon the unfounded assumption that the printing house’s orthography faithfully followed the author’s manuscript (the hypothetical ‘foul papers’), when spellings are more likely scribal, compositorial, or editorial.

The last section in Kathman’s chapter is about “Shakespeare and Stratford after 1616,” in which he claims that “a wealth of evidence from the decade after Shakespeare’s death illustrates Stratford’s fame” (130). That “wealth of evidence” is, by definition, posthumous. The first testimony in the historic record explicitly identifying Shakespeare of Stratford as the dramatist appeared in the 1623 First Folio, seven years after Shakespeare’s death. Kathman failed to establish any significant connection between the author of Shakespeare’s canon and Warwickshire during Shakespeare’s lifetime.

*****

To read the rest of Diana Price’s excellent, insightful, well-argued review of SBD, please click on this link:

http://shakespeare-authorship.com/Articles/Shakespeare%20Beyond%20Doubt%20review%20website.htm

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From The “In Case You Missed It” Department: Anonymous Screenwriter John Orloff Answers Critics In The Guardian

This appeared several weeks ago.  In case you missed it … or in case you want to review again … well worth reading.  Here’s the link followed by a few paragraphs.

http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2011/oct/27/shakespeare-scholars-authorship-plays-anonymous?intcmp=239

Our film Anonymous asks viewers to think for themselves about Shakespeare

Criticism of Anonymous has been vitriolic. But scholarship about Shakespeare’s life relies on smoke and mirrors

John Orloff

guardian.co.uk, Thursday 27 October 2011 11.00 EDT

As the screenwriter of Anonymous, I’ve watched the reactions to the film both here in the UK and in the US with great interest and not a little surprise. The film-makers, myself included, expected controversy – one does not take on sacred cows naively – but I must confess that the vitriol of our critics has been impressive.

One American Ivy League professor, James Shapiro, has insinuated that our film is like Nazi propaganda. The county of Warwickshire allowed the Shakespeare Trust to temporarily remove Shakespeare’s name from public signs – an act of protest against our film that seems counter-productive; anti-Stratfordians couldn’t agree more with that act.

Throughout the run-up to the film’s release, I have been reminded that one does not take on people’s livelihoods lightly.

While our little film not only does not disparage the genius of Hamlet and Lear, but rather honours, rightly, the genius of the work, it does challenge two Bard-related industries – tourism and, perhaps more provocatively, Shakespearean scholarship itself.

Read More:  http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2011/oct/27/shakespeare-scholars-authorship-plays-anonymous?intcmp=239

John Orloff, Screenwriter of Anonymous, Responds to Shapiro in The Huffington Post

In case you missed John Orloff’s thoughtful response to Professor James Shapiro’s New York Times op-ed piece.  Orloff’s response highlights one of the perennial orthodox attacks against the Oxford theory — which Professor Shapiro employs in his New York Times piece — namely that Oxford died in 1604 before 10 or so Shakespeare plays were “written.”  This claim of post 1604 composition is at best an educated guess.  But it is frequently stated as if it is incontrovertible fact.  Like so much of the traditional Stratfordian theory, this post-1604 composition assertion is based on conjecture and assumption.  Yes there are some rather convoluted arguments for this assertion, but it’s a far cry from established by hard evidence.

In any event, here’s the link to the Huffington Post followed by a few graphs from Orloff’s article.  Enjoy, Matthew

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/john-orloff/shakespeare-anonymous_b_1034885.html

The Shakespeare Authorship Question

As the screenwriter of the upcoming Elizabethan drama Anonymous, I read Columbia Professor James Shapiro’s opinion piece (http://www.nytimes.com/2011/10/17/opinion/hollywood-dishonors-the-bard.html?_r=1) regarding our film in the NY Times last week with great interest. In it, Mr. Shapiro seemed to take great personal offense at the premise of our film; namely, that the works attributed to the actor William Shakespeare were in fact written by another man, Edward de Vere.

Not only did the NY Times decline to allow me to fully respond, but Mr. Shapiro refuses to be on the same stage with me at Q & A’s following screenings of the film — though he is happy to take questions from audiences as long as I am not present to defend myself or my film.

As the Shakespeare Authorship Question is a rather complex issue, I won’t attempt to prove my case that Shakespeare is not the man responsible for the works attributed to him in this forum.

SNIP

Again, here’s the link to the full article:

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/john-orloff/shakespeare-anonymous_b_1034885.html

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.

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