Tag Archives: Shakespearean Authorship Trust

SAT trustee Julia Cleave reports on Shakespeare bio conference at The Globe

Shakespearean Authorship Trust Trustee Julia Cleave gave SOS permission to reprint her report on the conference: “Shakespeare: from Rowe to Shapiro held Nov. 28, 2009 at The Globe in London. This report appeared initially in Nina Green’s email list, Phaeton on December 3. Her report supplements an earlier report by De Vere Society Secretary Richard Malim.

A selective report by Julia Cleave on an event held at Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre in London on 28 November entitled: Shakespeare: From Rowe to Shapiro – a one day symposium on the function and critical value of Shakespeare biographies to celebrate the 300th anniversary of the first biography of William Shakespeare by Nicholas Rowe: Some little account of the man himself may not be thought improper. (1709)

About 100 people attended the symposium, including, to my knowledge, at least a dozen anti-Stratfordians – though Patrick Spottiswoode, Director of Globe Education, later claimed in an interview on the BBC Radio 4 programme ‘Today’ that 99.9% of those present were ‘non-dissenters’!
My own impression of the day was that all eleven speakers, to varying degrees, were haunted by the elephant in the room – given the paucity of evidence for a ‘life’ which matches the ‘works’ – the spectre of an alternative authorship. Three speakers, in particular, appeared to be re-positioning themselves, post New Historicism, in anticipation of a paradigm shift on the whole issue. Speaking from the heart of the academic establishment, the concessions they made, both implicit and explicit, to the case for ‘Reasonable Doubt’ were both refreshing and, I would suggest, unprecedented!

Brian Cummings

Brian Cummings, Professor of English at the University of Sussex, spoke in sub-texts. Responding to a question put to all the speakers about extrapolating the life from the works, he came out with a stream of observations, requiring much reading-between-the-lines. These are, presumably, points he will be expanding on in his forthcoming book – a debate on literary biography and Shakespeare entitled: Shakespeare in the Underworld.
  • “In contemporary publishing it is much easier to write / publish / sell books of biography than any other kind of writing about writing. (He cited Homer as a counter example of impersonal authorship).
  • People react to changes in chronology!
  • What is Thomas Nashe doing with his mischievous references?   – provides a terminus ad/ante quem to various of Shakespeare’s plays.
  • There is a chronological time-bomb under Shakespeare!
  • How much difference does it make to say a play written in 1603 / 05 / 08?
  • The historiography we use to explain works of literature links with biography.
  • The Tempest is placed at the front of the First Folio – Why?
  • Has to have been a very late work?
  • Issue of chronology is problematic because the ‘new Shakespeareans’ in the nineteenth century were eccentric and wrong-headed.
  • Twelfth Night and Winter’s Tale created back-to-back?
  • It wouldn’t be impossible to find a document which proves Malone right. Terminus ad and ante quem – still not accuracy – more than a year or two either side.
  • Shifting of ground methodologically is happening anyway – Re-examining historicism – When is a fact a fact?
Cummings talk had the ‘playful’ title: Anti-Biography
  • “I’m going to voice the secret doubts we all share about the ‘life’ which has been problematic since before Rowe.”
  • All Shakespeare biographers know what is missing!
  • We cannot precisely date any play.
  • We have created a ‘life’ because a modern author is somehow incomplete without a life.
  • Shakespeare’s life especially impossible to tell because of the paucity of the evidence and the gaps in between.
  • Conclusion:  “Maybe we should write more openly about the nature of the problem.”

James Shapiro

James Shapiro – his forthcoming book on the Authorship Question: Contested Will: Who Wrote Shakespeare? due out next year – gave the final paper of the day: ‘When Shakespeare turned Autobiographical’.  He sought to defuse the authorship issue by arguing that all attempts at cradle to grave biographies are essentially misconceived:
  • “I’m here to look at How, When and Why Shakespeare was transformed into an autobiographical author.”
  • It’s time to abandon any hope of learning about Shakespeare’s inner life – irrevocably lost to us!
  • The anti-Stratfordian movement is a bi-product of a mainstream scholarly tradition.
  • In a few months, in 2012, Emmerich’s film ‘Anonymous’ will come out – arguing that Shakespeare did not write Shakespeare.
  • I have studied this more intensely than any other Stratfordian.
  • Minds are not really going to be changed on this subject.
  • Debate on both sides is circular and self-serving.
  • There is a history to how we think what we think.
  • “These debates are not going to be easily resolved.”
Graham Holderness
From an Oxfordian point of view, most startling of all was the declaration made by Professor Graham Holderness, University of Herefordshire.  In the middle of a discussion re the questionable facticity of tales of deer-poaching, calf-killing and horse-holding, he stated baldly – without further comment:
If you were to construct a biography which ticked all the boxes – if you were to read Shakespeare’s plays and infer a biography from it – it wouldn’t be Rowe’s, it would actually be the Earl of Oxford’s.

Speakers/Topics at “Shakespeare: from Rowe to Shapiro” conference:
Michael Caine: Can you trust Nicholas Rowe?
Rene Weis: From John Hall to Nicholas Rowe
Andrew Murphy: Chronology meets Biography: Edward Dowden’s Shakespeare
Brian Cummings:  Anti-Biography
Graham Holderness: Fact and Tradition in Shakespeare Biography
Stanley Wells and Paul Edmondson: The Plurality of Shakespeare’s Sonnets
Andrew Dickson: Starring Shakespeare as Himself: snapshots of the author on stage, page and screen
Helen Hackett: Was Queen Elizabeth 1 Shakespeare’s muse? Theories about young William at Kenilworth in 1575
Richard Wilson – Welsh Roots: The Bard and the Brits
James Shapiro: When Shakespeare Turned Autobiographical

Julia Cleave, Trustee of the Shakespearean Authorship Trust : MA (Oxon) is a member of the academic board of the Temenos Academy. She originally studied Shakespeare with Professor Hugo Dyson, the most puckish of the Inklings, the literary group based in Oxford which included C.S. Lewis and J.R.R. Tolkien. Subsequently, in her career as a teacher and teacher trainer, she taught Shakespeare in the context of training courses for foreign teachers and lecturers sponsored by the British Council. Since 1998 she has worked as an independent scholar, tracing the presence of Hermetic traditions in Renaissance and seventeenth century art and literature. Her interest in the Authorship Question was first piqued by reading John Michell’s Who Wrote Shakespeare? This interest has since deepened and developed through participation in Wisdom of Shakespeare workshops at The Globe, and the Shakespearean Authorship Trust conferences and lectures. She is a member of the Francis Bacon Research Trust and the De Vere Society.

Altrocchi/Whittemore build the case

The first five volumes of a new series of books entitled BUILDING THE CASE FOR EDWARD DE VERE AS SHAKESPEARE, edited by Paul Hemenway Altrocchi and Hank Whittemore, has just (June 2009) become available online at: http://www.iuniverse.com/Bookstore, Amazon, and Barnes & Noble.

The series – which attempts to preserve authorship research in book form for scholars, students and general readers – begins with work done in the early twentieth century leading to Shakespeare Identified by J. Thomas Looney in 1920 and continues up to the 1960’s, with more volumes envisioned in the near future.

Most of the early literature pointing to Edward de Vere as the author of the Shakespeare works appeared in obscure newsletters, magazines and now out-of-print books. Some of this initial research work is of elegant quality and only recently emerged from years of storage by two of England’s authorship groups, the De Vere Society and the Shakespearean Authorship Trust. When, in 2006, Professor William Leahy of Brunel University organized the first graduate degree program in the world on Shakespeare Authorship Studies, both societies permanently loaned their books and papers to the English Department of Brunel, located in Uxbridge, a suburb of London.

Through the courtesy of Kevin Gilvary, President of the De Vere Society, Charles Beauclerk and other members of the Board of Trustees of the Shakespeare Authorship Trust, and Dr. Leahy, the editors were able to peruse and copy this vitally important early Shakespeare authorship material. Thus these difficult-to-find articles and book excerpts now become readily available in the first five volumes of this book series entitled Building the Case for Edward de Vere as Shakespeare.

Editor Paul Hemenway Altrocchi has a unique credential for this book series, being the longest-duration Oxfordian in the world-more than sixty years. Educated at Harvard University and Harvard Medical School, he trained in Neurology at the New York Neurological Institute of Columbia University, did research at the National Institute of Neurological Diseases in Bethesda, Maryland, and was on the full-time faculty of Stanford Medical School before ending his career in private practice. Since retirement in 1998, he has spent most of his time researching the candidacy of Edward de Vere as Shakespeare, publishing twenty-three scholarly papers and a book entitled Most Greatly Lived, A Biographical Novel of Edward de Vere, Seventeenth Earl of Oxford, Whose Pen Name was William Shakespeare.

Editor Hank Whittemore is a professional author of ten books and hundreds of magazine articles, an actor and playwright, and an Oxfordian for a quarter of a century. He has written more than two dozen articles on the Shakespeare authorship question from an Oxfordian perspective. After ten years of research, in 2005 he published his major scholarly contribution entitled The Monument, an eight-hundred page opus analyzing every line and every word of Shakespeare’s Sonnets, providing powerful new evidence that Edward de Vere was William Shakespeare.

Volumes in the Series
After Unmasking the Fraudulent Pretender,
Search for the True Genius Begins

Fact Versus Fiction in the
Shakespeare Authorship Debate

Evidence Grows Rapidly in Favor of
Edward de Vere as Shakespeare

A Coerced Pen Name Forces the
Real Shakespeare into Anonymity

Four Hundred Years of Deceit are Enough.
Edward de Vere is Shakespeare

The books are available in both hardcover and paperback. On iUniverse the paperback volumes are priced at $6.00 while the hardcovers are $27.95. The books may also be ordered by phone from IUniverse at 800-288-4677 ext. 5024.

Information courtesy of Hank Whittemore. For more information, see Hank Whittemore’s Shakespeare Blog.