Tag Archives: Richard F. Whalen

Still Plenty Of Room For Doubt — “Macduff’s” Insightful Review On Amazon.com Of Shakespeare Beyond Doubt: Evidence, Argument, Controversy

The following review, penned by “Macduff,” is certainly worth reading.  Here’s the link:

http://www.amazon.com/gp/cdp/member-reviews/A6LSWAP1OPLEB/ref=cm_pdp_rev_title_2?ie=UTF8&sort_by=MostRecentReview#R2AHSYAEJA9BMW

Review of Shakespeare Beyond Doubt: Evidence, Argument, Controversy by Stanley Wells and Paul Edmondson

This book’s overriding theme is that readers should stop thinking for themselves and accept the word of “authority” when it comes to the Shakespeare authorship question. It disparages open-mindedness, belittles its ideological adversaries, presupposes the truth of the thesis for which it is purportedly presenting evidence, ignores its most able opponents while making mincemeat of weaker opponents, dodges some of the most critical questions regarding the Shakespeare authorship question, and attempts to shame the reader away from even considering the possibility that the traditional authorship theory might be flawed. And yet this book accuses its opponents of being dogmatic and unreasonable.

Anonymity and use of pseudonyms were common among writers in Elizabethan times, when people could be punished for expressing views that offended the authorities. Furthermore, as George Puttenham wrote in 1589, many noblemen wrote literary works, including plays, but would not allow them to be published under their own names because writing for publication was regarded as beneath a nobleman’s dignity. Such facts make it reasonable to entertain the possibility that “William Shakespeare” was a pen name. Yet Shakespeare Beyond Doubt (SBD) summarily considers that hypothesis out of the question.

SBD never once mentions Diana Price’s seminal 2001 book, Shakespeare’s Unorthodox Biography: New Evidence of an Authorship Problem, which demonstrated that the Stratford man, whose name was spelled “William Shakspere,” left no literary paper trail during his lifetime: out of the 70 or so existing documents from the Stratford man’s life, not one identifies him personally as a writer of any kind or links him to the works published and performed under the name “William Shakespeare.” Price looked for a literary paper trail for 24 other Elizabethan writers and found evidence identifying each one personally as a writer during his lifetime, but found no such evidence for Shakspere.

But even though SBD doesn’t mention Price’s book, it more or less concedes her point. Stanley Wells admits in chapter 7 that no reference to the works of “William Shakespeare” before 1623, when the First Folio was published, explicitly identifies the writer with Stratford. SBD has no plausible explanation for the fact that the Stratford man’s death in 1616 was greeted by complete silence from the literary world, the nobility, and the public. Is it possible that no one at that time connected the Stratford man to the works of Shakespeare? Likewise, in chapter 6, Andrew Hadfield concedes that “there are virtually no literary remains left behind by Shakespeare outside his published works, and most of the surviving records deal with property and legal disputes.” Yet SBD insists that documentary evidence proves “beyond doubt” that the Stratford man was the true Bard.

While SBD ignores Price and other serious anti-Stratfordian scholars, such as George Greenwood, The Shakespeare Problem Restated, Mark Anderson, Shakespeare By Another Name, and Tony Pointon, The Man Who Was Never Shakespeare: The Theft of William Shakspeare’s Identity, it devotes three chapters to Delia Bacon, who wrote an unreadable book about the authorship controversy in the 19th century and later went mad. While no serious authorship skeptic of the past century relies on Delia Bacon’s work, she is an easy target for the authors of SBD. Its stratagem is to paint all doubters with the same brush as Delia Bacon and make the reader think that she epitomizes anti-Stratfordianism.

SBD categorically dismisses the idea of looking for a connection between the author’s life and his works. Matt Kubus in chapter 5 insists that there is no “inherent connection” between an author and “the content of his works.” While not all literature is thinly disguised autobiography, isn’t it reasonable to suppose that a writer might inadvertently reveal something about himself in the stories he chooses to tell? This should be an open question, one for debate and discussion, but the Stratfordians do not seem interested in discussion.

MacDonald P. Jackson in chapter 9 discusses stylometrics, the use of computer analysis of grammatical patterns and word usage, which allegedly shows that the Stratford man wrote the majority of Shakespeare’s plays with a little help from other playwrights of his time. But stylometrics is not a science: different stylometrics analyses come out with different answers as to who wrote what. Besides, the most that stylometric studies show is that the person who wrote the bulk of the plays (whoever that was) sometimes collaborated with others. They cannot prove that that central figure was the Stratford man because there is no known writing unquestionably belonging to the Stratford man to be used as a standard. Stylometrics may be a useful tool, but it cannot provide the total answer to the authorship question.

SBD never addresses the question of how the Stratford man acquired the vast knowledge of law, philosophy, classical literature, ancient and modern history, mathematics, astronomy, art, music, medicine, horticulture, heraldry, the military; etiquette and manners of the nobility; English, French and Italian court life; Italy; and aristocratic pastimes such as falconry, equestrian sports, and royal tennis, that is seen in the plays. Many books and articles have been written on Shakespeare’s intimate knowledge of these and other subjects. The author must have had extensive formal education, easy access to books, abundant leisure time to study on his own, and wide experience of the world gained through travel. This simply does not fit with the life of the Stratford man, who may or may not have had a few years of a grammar school education (documentary evidence is completely lacking on that subject), yet SBD makes no attempt to answer this anomaly.

Finally, and most disgracefully, SBD never ceases to use shaming techniques to frighten the reader away from questioning orthodoxy. One of its most unattractive ploys is to label anti-Stratfordians as “anti-Shakespearians.” As Edmondson and Wells explain in their introduction, the authors employ that word because “anti-Stratfordian . . . allows the work attributed to Shakespeare to be separated from the social and cultural context of its author.” How’s that for circular reasoning? It assumes that the Stratford man was the true author and implies that anyone who disagrees opposes the great playwright and all he stands for. Edmondson, in chapter 19, says that “open-mindedness” is merely a rhetorical maneuver and should be allowed only after the evidence for Shakespeare has been disproven, not (as Edmondson says) “merely ignored.” If Edmondson had read the better anti-Stratfordian writers, he would know that they have not ignored the evidence; rather, they have examined it and found serious flaws in it. “There is, too,” says Edmondson, “the loaded assumption that even though one may lack the necessary knowledge and expertise, it is always acceptable to challenge or contradict a knowledgeable and expert authority. It is not.”

That is the message of SBD: don’t question the authorities, who know better than you; don’t be open-minded; don’t read anti-Stratfordian books because you’ll go mad like Delia Bacon. It is an attempt to lull the reader into drowsy acceptance of authority. I hope that readers of SBD will resist its call for intellectual servitude, will explore the subject on their own, and will reach their own conclusions. Any reader who likes to hear both sides of an argument before making up his or her mind is encouraged to read Shakespeare Beyond Doubt? — Exposing an Industry in Denial.

Oxfordian Shakespeare Series: Richard Whalen’s Second Edition of “Macbeth” Published

The second edition of “Macbeth” — edited, fully annotated and with a new introduction and much expanded line notes — has been published in the Oxfordian Shakespeare Series by Richard F. Whalen.  Whalen is co-general editor of the series with Dan Wright of Concordia University in Portland, Oregon.

Whalen states that his second edition and all the editions in the series are intended for “the general educated reader who has an interest in Shakespeare plays and who might be curious to know what an Oxfordian edition of a Shakespeare play would look like.”  Of course, he hopes that Oxfordians might also be curious.

“Macbeth” and “Othello” are the first two plays in the Oxfordian series, with eight more — all edited by university professors — in the pipeline.  These are the first editions of Shakespeare plays ever produced by Oxfordian scholars. “Othello” (2010) was co-edited by Richard and Ren Draya of Blackburn College.

Whalen has kindly has granted permission to the Shakespeare Oxford Society’s Online News to publish the opening paragraphs of his new introduction to “Macbeth.”

From the introduction:

“The Tragedy of Macbeth” explores the agonizing predicament and downfall of a courageous warrior who triumphs on the battlefield but fails in the arena of power politics and court intrigue.  He knows he is not cut out by experience or temperament to seize the throne by assassinating the king, but he fails to resist the evil scheming of the courtier-like Thane of Ross whose lying eliminates a potential rival and clears the way to the throne for him.  When the time comes to assassinate King Duncan, Macbeth is conscience-stricken but fails to stand firm against it and yields to the bullying of Lady Macbeth, who covets the throne much more than he does.

His tragic flaw is not overweening ambition, as is usually posited by traditional scholarship.  To the contrary, he exhibits a surprising lack of ambition. When the Weird Sisters (a.k.a. the witches) prophesy that he will be king, he does not exult.  He finds it hard to believe.  He fears what lies ahead for him and tries to screw up his courage, but falters. Before murdering the sleeping king he tells his wife, “We will proceed no farther in this business,” and afterwards, he says, “I am afraid to think what I have done.”  This character trait of fearful, reluctant ambition seems to have eluded commentators on the play.

Macbeth is induced to seize the throne against his better judgment, fearing the moral and political consequences.  Once in power, he finds he must lie and deceive those around him in court.  He fails to use good judgment as a monarch, ordering the murders of Banquo, Fleance and Macduff’s family.  Tormented by self-doubts and in spite of himself, the hero of the battlefield has become a furtive assassin and cruel tyrant.  For the reader and spectator, Macbeth’s struggle with his conscience and his self-inflicted assaults on his sense of honor, loyalty and self-respect evoke fascination with his plight, even a measure of sympathy for him.  Macbeth is essentially an honorable man corrupted by politics.

A close reading of “Macbeth” informed by the view that Edward de Vere, seventeenth Earl of Oxford, was the author reveals a play about court intrigues and power politics and the danger of irresolute ambition by someone ill-suited to kill by assassination and practice Machiavellian duplicity.

As a nobleman in Queen Elizabeth’s court, Oxford had an insider’s knowledge of the maneuvering of ambitious courtiers and pretenders to the Crown.  He could weigh the contending theories of royal succession that are found in the play. And he was in a position to know details of the assassination in 1567 of the consort king of Scotland by a rival — details that are echoed in the play.  The play also evinces knowledge of Scotland, including its law, language, geography, weather and witches; and Oxford served with the English military in northern England and Scotland in 1570, when he was twenty.  Other correspondences between the play and Oxford’s life experience range from witchcraft in sixteenth century Scotland to the influence of Greek tragedy.”

(The second edition of Macbeth has just been issued by Llumina Press and copies are available from them at www.llumina.com/store/macbeth.htm or by Googling  ‘Llumina store’  or at Amazon in the US and UK, generally for $13.95 plus shipping.)

Many thanks to Richard Whalen for providing the above excerpt from the second edition … and congratulations to him on the publication of this important work of Oxfordian scholarship.

To read a bit more from Richard Whalen about the topical allusions and possible dates of composition of “Macbeth” from an Oxfordian perspective, here’s a link to the online version of Whalen’s article from The Oxfordian:

http://www.shakespeare-oxford.com/?p=533

The Stylometrics Debate Continues Online: Three Articles from The Oxfordian Now Posted On The Shakespeare Oxford Society Website

Readers of The Oxfordian — the Shakespeare Oxford Society’s annual scholarly journal — have been privy over the years to a fascinating debate between Ward Elliott and Robert Valenza on the one hand and John Shahan and Richard Whalen on the other.  In several articles published in The Oxfordian, Elliott and Valenza have made the argument that their stylometric analysis effectively eliminates Edward de Vere, the 17th Earl of Oxford, as a viable authorship candidate of the works of William Shakespeare.  In response, Shahan and Whalen have mounted a vigorous critique of what they assert are exaggerated claims made by Elliott and Valenza.  The Shakespeare Oxford Society is delighted to bring this important exchange to a wider online audience by posting three of the most recent articles in this debate to the SOS website.

Here, then, are the links to these three, newly posted articles.  Enjoy!

From The Oxfordian (Vol. 12) 2010

The Shakespeare Clinic and the Oxfordians

Ward E.Y. Elliott and Robert J. Valenza

A Reply to Ward E.Y. Elliott and Robert J. Valenza

John Shahan & Richard Whalen

From The Oxfordian (Vol. 11) 2009

Auditing the Stylometricians:  Elliott, Valenza and the Claremont Shakespeare Authorship Clinic

John Shahan & Richard Whalen

And here is the link to the page on the SOS website where many articles published in The Oxfordian over the years are available for readers to download and enjoy free of charge.  Simply click on this link and then scroll down the page.  You’ll find a treasure trove of intriguing articles about the Shakespeare authorship issue generally and the case for Oxford’s authorship of the Shakespeare canon in particular.  On the subject of stylometrics, I would also call your attention to the following, previously posted article by Shahan and Whalen.

From The Oxfordian (Vol. 9) 2006

Apples to Oranges in Bard Sylometrics:  Elliott and Valenza Fail to Eliminate Oxford

Visit www.Shakespeare-Oxford.com to learn more about the Shakespeare Oxford Society — Dedicated to Researching and Honoring the True Bard.   Membership information is available by clicking on this link.

Matthew

Ashland — Shakespeare Authorship Conference Schedule (Sept. 16-19, 2010)

Thought folks might want to see some additional details about the upcoming Shakespeare Authorship Conference schedule.  You can register online for the Shakespeare Fellowship/Shakespeare Oxford Society’s  SF/SOS Annual Conference — Sept. 16-19, 2010 in Ashland, Oregon at the online registration site: http://www.goestores.com/catalog.aspx?Merchant=shakespeareoxfordsociety

Shakespeare Fellowship
and Shakespeare Oxford Society

2010 Conference Schedule

On-site registration check-in will begin at 9:00 AM on September 16, and the education program will begin at 10:00 AM.

Conference registration includes an opening reception with appetizers on the 16th, buffet lunches on day two and three, and the annual awards banquet at the conclusion of the conference on the afternoon of the 19th.

Saturday afternoon will be dedicated to performances with music provided by the lute duet Mignarda, Ron Andrico and Donna Stewart, creators of My Lord of Oxenford’s Maske. OSF all-star Robin Goodrin-Nordli will present her original show, Bard Babes, and Keir Cutler will give an encore performance of his adaptation of Mark Twain’s satire, Is Shakespeare Dead? The afternoon will conclude with a signing ceremony for the ‘Declaration of Reasonable Doubt’.

Thursday: September 16

Music by Mignarda with Ron Andrico and Donna Stewart
Prof Tom Gage: The Bone in the Elephant’s Heart
Dr. Tom Hunter: The Invention of the Human in Shylock 
Dr. Earl Showerman: Shakespeare’s Shylock and the Strange Case of Gaspar Ribeiro
Cheryl Eagan-Donovan: Shakespeare’s Ideal: Sexuality and Gender Identity in The Merchant of Venice
Dr. Marty Hyatt: Teaching Heavy Ignorance Aloft to Fly
Conference Opening Reception – Ashland Springs Hotel Conservatory & Garden
Merchant of Venice at OSF Elizabethan Theatre

Friday: September 17

Shakespeare Fellowship Annual Meeting
Richard Whalen: ‘Goats and Monkeys!’ Othello’s Outburst Recalls a Fresco in Bassano, Italy
Dr. Frank Davis: The “Unlearned” versus the “Learned” Shakespeare
Prof Jack Shuttleworth: Hamlet and Its Mysteries: An Oxfordian Editor’s View
Merchant of Venice Panel: Tom Hunter, Tom Regnier & OSF Actors
Bill Rauch: Artistic Director of OSF and Director of Hamlet and Merchant of Venice
Prof Roger Stritmatter: The “Little Eyases” and the “Innovation” of 1589
Katherine Chiljan: Twelve “Too Early” Allusions to Shakespeare’s Hamlet
Tom Regnier: Hamlet’s Law
Prof Sam Saunders: The Odds on Hamlet’s Odds
Prof Helen Gordon: The Symbols in Hamlet: An Oxfordian Interpretation
Hamlet at OSF Bowmer Theatre

Saturday: September 18

Shakespeare-Oxford Society Annual Meeting
Hank Whittemore: The Birth and Growth of Prince Hal: Why did Oxford write The Famous Victories of Henry the Fifth?
Marie Merkel – “In the Fit of Miming”: A brief history of Sir John Falstaffe and the “whole school of tongues” in his belly
Lynne Kositsky: The Young Adult Novel Minerva’s Voyage and its Relationship to True Reportory and Minerva Britanna
Hamlet panel: Prof Ren Draya, Jack Shuttleworth & OSF Actors
Music by Mignarda
Robin Goodrin Nordli: Bard Babes
Keir Cutler: Is Shakespeare Dead?
“Declaration of Reasonable Doubt” Signing Ceremony with John Shahan, Paul Nicholson, Executive Director at OSF, and other signatories
1 Henry IV at OSF Elizabethan Theatre

Sunday: September 19

William Ray: Proofs of Oxfordian Authorship in the Shakespearean Apocrypha
Bonner Cutting: Let the Punishment Fit the Crime
John Hamill – Bisexuality, Bastardy, Avisa and Antonio Perez Revisited
Michael Cecil: Revisiting the 1st Baron Burghley’s Precepts for the Well Ordering and Carriage of a Man’s Life
Henry IV Panel: Felicia Londré & OSF Actors
2010 Annual Joint Conference Awards Banquet

For further information write to the local coordinator at earlees@charter.net

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).

 

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

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.

***

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.

***

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.

Whalen reviews Contested Will


Book Review: Contested Will: Who Wrote Shakespeare? by James Shapiro (New York: Simon & Schuster, 2010)

Richard F. Whalen

For the first time, a leading Shakespeare establishment professor, James Shapiro of Columbia University, has given serious consideration to the controversy over Shakespeare’s identity in a book-length analysis — a precedent that may help make the authorship issue a legitimate subject for more research and discussion in academia, even though Shapiro remains a Stratfordian.

Shapiro’s book is a history of the authorship controversy, from Delia Bacon in the 1850s to DoubtAboutWill.org in 2007. He recognizes that the seventeenth Earl of Oxford is by far the most impressive challenger and that his backers have achieved considerable success in recent decades. His final word is that a choice must be made, a stark and consequential choice.

The book’s cover will dismay committed Stratfordians. It shows the Stratford monument depicting a writer with pen, paper and a pillow; but his head is cut off by the author’s name and the book’s title, including Who Wrote Shakespeare? Indeed, that is the question.

Shapiro, however, states at the outset that he aims to answer a different question: Why have so many eminent people doubted that Will Shakspere of Stratford was the author and why have they argued for someone else, such as Oxford? In so doing, Shapiro declines to enter the debate over the evidence for Shakspere or for Oxford in any depth of detail. As a result, the general reader is left with the impression that the question of Shakespeare’s identity may well be legitimate, despite efforts by many Stratfordians to dismiss it. That a scholar of Shapiro’s standing in the Shakespeare establishment should take this approach bodes well for Oxfordians.

Continue reading

Whalen reviews Hope & Holston

Review of The Shakespeare Controversy: An Analysis of the Authorship Theories, Second Edition by Warren Hope and Kim Holston. Jefferson NC: McFarland & Company, 2009.

Richard F. Whalen

This second edition of Hope and Holston’s Shakespeare Controversy expands and brings up to date their selective survey and analysis of the literature on the authorship issue over the past 280 years. Well-written and well-researched, this book is not only an entertaining, good read but also a valuable reference work.

At the outset, the authors state that they are Oxfordians and “. . . what we track in this book are the efforts of a number of people which culminated in that recognition of Shakespeare’s identity, and the consequences, thus far, of that recognition. . . . Our aim is to be critically selective, not exhaustive.”

To cover the years since their first edition, published in 1992, the authors have added three chapters and extended their “Chronological Annotated Bibliography” with selected books and articles published in the past seventeen years.

In the first of the new chapters, the authors expand on works treated briefly in their first edition. They devote five pages to an admiring review of Hamlet Himself (1997), Bronson Feldman’s booklet published in 1977 that is out of print and almost impossible to find. The first edition gave Feldman four paragraphs. They follow with reports on the 1987 debate before three justices of the Supreme Court of the United States and the Frontline Public Broadcasting System television program on the authorship controversy, “The Shakespeare Mystery”, that was first broadcast in 1989.

The second new chapter, “The Stratfordian Response,” contains new, post-1991 material, including books by Irvin Matus, an independent researcher, and by Alan Nelson, an English professor emeritus. The authors devote five pages to Matus’s earnestly Stratfordian Shakespeare In Fact (1994), a book rarely cited by Oxfordians today. In the end, they say, Matus aims “to urge ‘the actor’s Shakespeare’ at the expense of ‘the scholar’s Shakespeare.’”  Alan Nelson’s anti-Oxfordian, archival biography of the earl of Oxford, Monstrous Adversary (2003), gets four pages, mostly on Nelson’s handling of three minor characters in Oxford’s life, George Brown, Orazio Coquo and William Hunnis. “His book,” say Hope and Holston, “is a piece of propaganda posing as scholarship.”

The third of the three new chapters reports on the work of various contemporary researchers of various persuasions. They include:

  • Peter Moore on the circumstances and votes for Oxford for membership in the Knights of the Garter, The Lame Storyteller, Poor and Despised;
  • Daphne Pearson on Oxford’s inherited income, “Edward de Vere (1550-1604): The Crisis and Consequences of Wardship”;
  • Roger Stritmatter’s dissertation on Oxford’s Bible, “The Marginalia of Edward de Vere’s Geneva Bible”;
  • Elliott Baker’s shortened edition of Delia Bacon’s book, Shakespeare’s Philosophy Unfolded;
  • Diana Price’s biography of Shakespeare, Shakespeare’s Unorthodox Biography;
  • William Rubinstein and Brenda James’s case for Henry Neville, The Truth Will Out;
  • Robin Williams case for Mary Sidney, Sweet Swan of Avon;
  • Mark Anderson’s detailed and fully annotated biography of Oxford, Shakespeare by Another Name;
  • and Bill Bryson’s informal, popular defense of the Stratford man, Shakespeare: The World as Stage.

Two of the chapters carried forward from the first edition are valuable essays on important early figures in the authorship controversy. They are the book’s opening chapter on Delia Bacon, the often unfairly maligned first Groupist, followed by a chapter on Mark Twain, quoted at length, and Walt Whitman with his friend William O’Connor.

The flamboyant, Baconian cryptologist Ignatius Donnelly gets a twelve-page chapter. The skeptic Henry James shares a chapter with Joseph Skipsey, the disillusioned custodian of the Stratford Birthplace. Grouped together in the next chapter are the respected anti-Stratfordian George Greenwood and two writers they call “rebels:” Samuel Butler and Frank Harris, who are not often heard from. Then comes one chapter entitled “Many Candidates: Marlowe, Rutland, Derby, and So On,” and an excellent, full chapter on J. Thomas Looney’s life and ground-breaking identification of Oxford as Shakespeare.

The last of the original, pre-1991chapters covers works of numerous researchers and witnesses, including John Galsworthy, B. R. Ward and his son B. M. Ward, Gerald Rendall, Eva Turner Clark, Charles Wisner Barrell, S. Schoenbaum, Percy Allen, Gerald W. Phillips, Dorothy and Charlton Ogburn, and Ruth Loyd Miller. For whatever reason, Clark, the Ogburns and Miller — major, influential Oxfordian authors — are not treated as fully as some of the more obscure writers.

It is of course impossible to include every book and article or do justice to any of the writers in a short survey of the immense literature on the authorship controversy by Oxfordians, Stratfordians and others. In most cases, but not all, Hope and Holston select one or two aspects of the writer’s work for discussion, instead of providing a generalized summary of each. This makes it more interesting reading but at the expense of a more comprehensive, if brief, description of the work.  They do an admirable job, however, of weaving together claims by Stratfordians and Oxfordians, showing the back-and-forth of the debate over the centuries. They have little patience for most Stratfordian claims.

The “Chronological Annotated Bibliography” picks up in November 1991 with “The Nose Job,” an episode from the TV program, Seinfeld. (A landlord contends that “Shakespeare was an imposter.”) The longest entries from 1991 to 2008 are on books by Ian Wilson, Irving Matus, John Michell, Joseph Sobran, Jonathan Bate, Diana Price, William Rubinstein, Rodney Bolt (a conjectural Marlovian,) Mark Anderson, Scott McCrae, and Robin Williams. The extended chronology also includes entries on the Harper’s Magazine (April 1999) collection “The Ghost of Shakespeare” that includes five articles by Stratfordians and five by Oxfordians and The Tennessee Law Review Vol. 72, No. 1 (Fall 2004) devoted to the authorship debate. (Full disclosure: This reviewer’s books and articles are included.)

Readers new to the book and its organization would do well to start with the chapters on Delia Bacon, Whitman, Twain and Looney; then browse here and there; and then keep the volume handy as a reference tool, consulting the index to find information on a specific author. Hope and Holston are especially good on biographical background.

Oxfordian readers will find anomalies. Some notable works receive scant attention while some obscure works are treated at length. Some bibliographic entries seem less than consequential. Major authors are covered in both chapter narratives and annotated bibliographic entries that sometimes run to several hundred words, so both should be consulted. Missing are any of the more significant Oxfordian research papers published in the Shakespeare Oxford Newsletter, the De Vere Society Newsletter, Shakespeare Matters, The Oxfordian annual journal, and the book Great Oxford, published in 2004 by the De Vere Society.

The chronological sequence is unusual for a bibliography. Rarely will readers have occasion to seek works published in a specific year. Nor does the sequence of entries convey any particular insights.

But these are quibbles. The authors state at the outset that they do not aim to be exhaustive. The book’s idiosyncrasies and the sidelights that caught the authors’ attention are a large part of its appeal. The book’s achievement, the result of an incredible amount of reading and thoughtful interpretation, is impressive. Warren Hope and Kim Holston have produced a worthy, if quite selective, survey of an immense subject — 280 years of literature on the Shakespeare authorship controversy in 227 pages.