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False Balance and the Shakespeare Authorship “Debate”

Feb. 03, 2015 by | Comments (287)

Shakespeare-portrait-510px-2About a month ago, my phone suggested that I might want to read a Newsweek article called “The Campaign to Prove Shakespeare Didn’t Exist” by Robert Gore-Langton. I was somewhat disturbed that my phone knew I had an interest in the manufactured controversy over Shakespeare’s authorship of the works attributed to him. I was also a little irritated that my phone, which has apparently progressed from snooping through my email to acquiring some form of telepathy, didn’t know that I was getting tired of the subject.

I’ve written about Shakespeare denialism many times before (most comprehensively here), and I’ve started to feel like I’m running around in circles while simultaneously banging my head against a wall (do not try this). The Newsweek headline, though, seemed to offer a new twist: Shakespeare didn’t exist at all?! Wow, that’s taking Shakespeare denialism as far as humanly possible. It’s as if someone not only claimed that the moon landing was a hoax but also said that there is no moon to land on. (Wait, what? Someone actually claimed that?)

Well, it turns out that Newsweek and my phone had tricked me with that headline. No one is saying that William Shakespeare, whose baptism and burial are recorded, didn’t exist. Instead someone is saying yet again that he was not the primary author of the plays and poems attributed to him.

Specifically, the article discusses Alexander Waugh (grandson of novelist Evelyn Waugh), his new book Shakespeare in Court, and his and the Shakespeare Authorship Coalition’s (SAC) grandstanding challenge to the Shakespeare Birthplace Trust (SBT). The SAC raised £40,000 which it offered to donate to the SBT if the latter could prove “beyond doubt” that Shakespeare, the actor from Stratford-upon-Avon, really was Shakespeare the poet in a mock trial before “a panel of neutral judges” (the letter can be viewed here; the SAC ran the letter in a full-page ad in the Times Literary Supplement). The SBT turned the offer down. In the Newsweek article, Waugh claims he is considering legal action against the SBT:

Can you believe it? A registered charity turned down the opportunity of £40,000 to defend the very basis on which they are founded! … We are now considering a formal complaint to the Charities Commission and appealing to anyone who would like to join a class action suit against the Trust for all the money they’ve taken under false pretences. I am publicly accusing them of that and I am waiting for my writ. Where is it?

There have actually been moot court hearings on the authorship question before. On September 25, 1987, three sitting US Supreme Court justices–William Brennan, Harry Blackmun, and John Paul Stevens–heard arguments supporting the claims of Edward de Vere, the 17th Earl of Oxford. The justices ruled in Shakespeare’s favor. The proceedings were filmed for posterity. Ordinarily, Supreme Court rulings can’t be appealed, but Oxfordians are persistent and had the case retried on November 26, 1988 before three British law lords. The British judges upheld the American verdict.

Those decisions didn’t change anyone’s opinion, of course. The Oxfordians didn’t bow to the wisdom of some of the greatest legal minds of the English-speaking world. Instead, they continued their campaign to sway the hearts and minds of the general public. Eventually, they even swayed some Supreme Court justices. For instance, former Justice Stevens later became convinced that Oxford had written Shakespeare based on depressingly fallacious reasoning.

A mock trial is not the right venue to decide a matter of scholarship. As Stanley Wells, honorary president of the SBT noted in the Newsweek article, “Public debates are an exercise of forensic skill rather than an intellectual scholarly exercise. So no, we are not going to debate or take their money. I would hope we have more dignity.”  Scholarly questions in any field are generally decided (or not decided) by people who have a great deal of expertise in the field, not “neutral panel[s] of judges.” Ideally, a scrupulously researched and evidenced paper goes through a rigorous peer review process. Once the paper is printed, it may well provoke lively response, debate, and criticism. Those responses will also undergo peer review before being published. In literary studies, many questions are not absolutely decided one way or another. There is not, for instance, a single right way to interpret Hamlet. But this question, the question of the primary authorship of Shakespeare’s works, has been decided. The evidence in favor of Shakespeare’s authorship and the lack of evidence for anyone else’s primary authorship is so compelling that the question isn’t even really a question worth considering. Imagine if the validity of climate change or evolution were to be decided in a mock trial before a “panel of neutral judges.”

If the SBT were to participate in the mock trial, they would give undeserved legitimacy to a fringe theory. And that, of course, is what the SAC wants. In their letter, they describe their view by saying that “there is ‘reasonable doubt’ [about Shakespeare’s authorship], and…the authorship issue should therefore be regarded as legitimate.”

When the media use false balance in stories about the “authorship question,” they also bestow undue legitimacy on a discredited notion. Shakespeare deniers have received sympathetic treatment in surprising places for a long time. PBS’s Frontline has run three episodes that questioned Shakespeare’s authorship: “The Shakespeare Mystery” (1989), which made the case for Oxford; “Uncovering Shakespeare” (1992), a three-hour video conference update to the previous show; and “Much Ado about Something” (2001), which suggests that Christopher Marlowe wrote Shakespeare’s work. A Teacher’s Guide is available for the Marlowe program. Similarly, NPR’s Morning Edition ran a story called “The Real Shakespeare? Evidence Points to Earl” (2008), and for many years, William S. Niederkorn wrote many ostensibly balanced, teach-the-controversy pieces for the New York Times.

In the Newsweek article, Gore-Langton doesn’t take a position on the authorship question, and he interviewed Stanley Wells to get his side of the story. The article is, however, an example of false balance. More space is given to the Shakespeare deniers, and the article begins and ends by casting doubts. Indeed, it begins with some very misleading statements:

The greatest ongoing investigation in literary history has been caused entirely by William Shakespeare’s thoughtlessness. He left no paper trail. Not a single poem or letter or play has ever been found in his own hand. We have just six shaky signatures. His will mentions no books, plays or anything else to suggest the balding Stratford businessman was also a writer.

His personality, love interests, movements are all a total mysery [sic]. The documents relating to his life are all of a legal nature. Nobody ever recognised Shakespeare as a writer during his lifetime and when he died, in 1616, no one seemed to notice. Not a single letter refers to the great author’s passing at the time.

A possible example of Shakespeare's handwriting. By Unknown. (Scanned from the original document.) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

CLICK TO ENLARGE: Facsimile of a page written by ‘Hand D’—a possible example of Shakespeare’s handwriting. (Via Wikimedia Commons.)

First of all, I’d hardly call the authorship manufacturversy the “greatest ongoing investigation in literary history.” Second, the description of Shakespeare as a “Stratford businessman” suggests that he had a full-time job some distance from London that wouldn’t allow him the time to write plays. More importantly, what Gore-Langton says about the lack of documentary evidence is inaccurate. It is true that Shakespeare doesn’t mention plays or books in his will, but he entailed the bulk of his estate, including his primary residence, New Place, and its contents. He didn’t need to mention plays or poems. It might be true that no poem or play survives in Shakespeare’s hand, but that is not unusual among Elizabethan/Jacobean poets. Moreover, Hand D of the play Sir Thomas More may be in his handwriting (see image, right).

Most crucially, Shakespeare absolutely was recognized as an author during his lifetime. About half of Shakespeare’s plays were printed during his lifetime. Many of those list his name as author on the title page. Here is one early example (see image below, left).

Quarto of Love's Labor's Lost. Public domain

Quarto of Love’s Labor’s Lost. (Via Wikimedia Commons)

Wikipedia has a convenient list of Shakespeare’s quartos, along with images of all the title pages. There are many other contemporary references to Shakespeare as a writer as well. Scholarly editions of the Complete Works, such as the Norton Shakespeare and the Riverside Shakespeare, generally include these references in appendices. The problem isn’t that documentary evidence doesn’t exist. The problem is that Shakespeare deniers claim that somehow these references to William Shakespeare don’t actually refer to William Shakespeare, the actor from Stratford, but to a pseudonym of another person. To say that these references don’t exist, however, is simply false.

Gore-Langton gives the impression that he is neutral, just like those mock-trial jurors who will decide the issue once and for all if the SAC gets its way. I imagine he believes that he is presenting both sides of the argument in a light-hearted manner. However, there really aren’t two equally valid sides to this argument. There is a mountain of evidence for Shakespeare’s authorship, no evidence that he didn’t or couldn’t have written the works, and a bunch of weak and contradictory evidence for other authors. After all, evidence (of a sort) has been offered for dozens of putative authors over the years. None of it is convincing.

The Newsweek article reveals  a common problem with false balance: not only does it give a minority view legitimacy it doesn’t deserve, it is often noticeably skewed against the conventional, well-supported view.

 

Eve Siebert

Eve Siebert contributes to the Skepticality podcast and is a panelist on the Virtual Skeptics webcast. She taught college writing and literature for many years. She has a Ph.D. in English literature from Saint Louis University. Her primary area of study is Old and Middle English literature, with secondary concentrations in Old Norse and Shakespeare. Read Eve’s full bio or her other posts on this blog.

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Hitandrun
February 27, 2015 12:20 pm

Tom Reedy in his reply to post #35 provides a link to his team’s Shakespeare Authorship Page chronological “List of Non-literary References to William Shakespeare of Stratford-upon-Avon”: ( http://shakespeareauthorship.com/name2.html )

What caught my eye was the Dec 23, 1614, handwritten Thomas Greene diary entry: “my Cosen Shakespeare”. Greene was fairly consistent in spelling his friend’s name “Shakspeare”. I believe this is a transcription error (or overlooked misprint) by Chambers. Schoenbaum (vol. 2), using Scott’s transcription, has it right as “my Cosen Shakspeare”, though in vol. 1 Schoenbaum himself has it as “my Cosen Shakspear”. Has this discrepancy been pointed out to Kathman, Reedy et al with a view to correcting their entry? Perhaps they could check the facsimile themselves.

Hope this helps,
Hitandrun

Hitandrun
February 27, 2015 11:41 am

John Shahan characterizes as “alleged” the six WS signatures available to us and then quotes Jane Cox’s contention that the four non-Blackfriar signatures are “not of the same man.” Does Mr Shahan agree the Blackfriar signatures are by the same man? Does he believe that William of Stratford personally penned any of the six?

Mr Shahan states that “at least ten people have been identified who clearly knew Shakspere, and {knew about} the author “Shakespeare”, but never connected the two.” Who are they? Please list them.

Thank you,
Hitandrun

Hitandrun
February 26, 2015 2:08 pm

John Shahan writes (bracketed comments are mine):
>Instead they [the Supremes in 1987] rendered a Scottish verdict of “not proven” (not proven either way).<

I believe this is slightly misleading. Justice Stevens in his 1992 U. of Pa. Law Review article characterized the verdict as follows: "The panel decided that the proponents of the de Vere authorship had not met their burden of proof on the basic issue."

Mr Shahan later supports Mr Waugh's challenge to the SBT to prove their claim that the Stratford man was the author "beyond reasonable doubt". Are Mr Waugh and the SAC now willing to reduce their posted "beyond doubt" requirement for the SBT to "beyond reasonable doubt"? Which is it?

Mr Shahan then claims Stratford William "never" spelled his name "Shakespeare". How can he possibly know, given the limited evidence that has survived?

More later.
Hitandrun

Howard Schumann
February 25, 2015 12:50 pm

Speaking of classic techniques, you have just provided an example of the Stratfordian classic technique – just ignore the issues and resort to mudslinging. Mr. Shahan’s letter responded to misstatements of facts in the article, yet you are strangely silent on the substance of his response. I guess I shouldn’t really expect anything else.

knitwitted
February 25, 2015 1:37 pm

Howard Schumann wrote: “you have just provided an example of the Stratfordian classic technique – just ignore the issues and resort to mudslinging.”

FYI, I’m not a Stratfordian. Further FYI, I’ve addressed the ignorance of the Oxfordians’ argument against Will of Stratford’s last will and testament MANY times.

If, according to the Oxfordians, a person’s last will and testament is paramount to proving his authorship of the Shakespearean works, then Oxford is O-U-T since he neglected to leave one. In fact, Thomas Sackville’s last will meets the demands imposed by the Oxfordians (see Sabrina Feldman’s book *The Apocryphal William Shakespeare*).

BTW, a last will and testament is a legal document; it is not a literary work.

knitwitted
February 25, 2015 9:35 am

I see John Shahan, Chairman of the Shakespeare Authorship Coalition, has written a complaint letter to Michael Shermer, Editor-in-Chief of Skeptic magazine, re Dr. Siebert’s lack of response to Mr. Shahan’s comments here.

>> http://www.shakespeareoxfordfellowship.org/john-shahan-responds-to-skeptic-com-blog-on-authorship-question/

Funny, but I don’t see any comments posted here by Mr. Shahan. Nor do I note Dr. Siebert is required to respond to ANY comments, much less, any that are not posted.

Sadly, Mr. Shahan has fallen prey to the Oxfordian classic technique of playing “the victim” for the sake of garnishing much-needed publicity for his group, as any and all attempts to produce evidence for de Vere as the true author have proven not only fruitless but also, not newsworthy.

For further validation of typical Oxfordian scholarship, Dr. Siebert’s readership would be advised to read the following recently posted thread on ShakesVere, the official home of the Oxfordian echo chamber.

https://www.facebook.com/groups/shakesvere/permalink/10153173871134529/

Damian Weber
February 21, 2015 2:31 pm

This is so disappointing. What I like about Skeptic magazine is that they use facts and information in order to arrive at the truth, in the face of opposition. But this post is the opposite of that, using dismissive language and simplified arguments. Reading Skeptic magazine reminds me of reading the scholars who argue against William Shakespeare, because they also use honest scholarship. I always imagined that Skeptic magazine would be open to this idea. I’m heartbroken.

William Ray
February 21, 2015 1:35 pm

I agree with Ms Feldman to the extent that there were more plays showing the Shakespeare style than are presently credited. I would not go so far as to say they were written by a shadow figure, Shakspere, as there is no evidence that he could write. The Hand D script is dubiously connected to the six scrawling attempts to write, the only literary output of the Stratfordian figure.

Having reviewed this exchange, I see that it has devolved very quickly into partisan squabbling. To my mind, there are only a few tenets of the Stratfordian belief in a miracle writer, each faulty to a disinterested reader.

The first is that Shakspere (as in his birth record and all family spellings) was ipso facto Shakespeare/Shake-speare. This is an inexplicable jump to belief, though there is no accompanying explanation for the changed spelling on play title-pages, about 40% hyphenated.

The second tenet is that in one case only in the history of great literature, the life of the author need have nothing and does have nothing to do with the tenor, rank, station, or philosophy shown in the works.

The third tenet is that what appeared on the title-pages constitutes probative value as representing the first tenet, that Shakspere used the name Shakespeare/Shake-speare. In an era when theatrical anonymity and pseudonymity were the rule not the exception, such a belief has no objective support.

A final tenet, this perhaps held unconsciously more than explicitly, is that it is offensive and unjust to take away from a hard-working burgher the respect and regard he earned through writing glorious and patriotic literature. Here we enter the realm of received values, sanctioned thought, which cannot be easily altered by logic and evidence alone. The existence of this category, implicit belief, is neither new nor few in number. Discredited beliefs include just slavery, eternal segregation, primogeniture, the creation of the world in seven days, and others now deemed superstition or wrong conventions.

The Shakespeare issue, far from being manufactured as the article writer asserted, continues due to the stress of seeking clarity concerning the historical facts surrounding the writing of the canon and poems. Some do not want a re-evaluation, despite the illogical and insupportable basis for the received view. Others do.

William Ray
wjray.net, Shakespeare Papers

Sabrina Feldman
February 21, 2015 10:46 am

Dr. Siebert overlooks an essential point in the authorship debate: the problem that among the plays printed under William Shakespeare’s name or initials (or otherwise attributed to him, e.g. in play lists) before the 1623 First Folio appeared, around half are now designated as “apocryphal” Shakespeare plays or Shakespearean “bad quartos.”

Scholars don’t actually believe that “Shakespeare wrote Shakespeare” when it comes to these anomalous plays. However, in Siebert’s own words: “There is a mountain of evidence for Shakespeare’s authorship [of some dozen apocryphal plays and half dozen bad quartos], no evidence that he didn’t or couldn’t have written the works, and a bunch of weak and contradictory evidence for other authors. After all, evidence (of a sort) has been offered for dozens of putative authors over the years. None of it is convincing.”

Why were two separately authored bodies of work attributed to William Shakespeare during his own lifetime and for many decades afterwards, including The Puritan, The London Prodigal, The Troublesome Reign of King John, Mucedorus, Fair Em, The Merry Devil of Edmonton, Thomas Lord Cromwell, The Birth of Merlin (co-authored), etc.? Perhaps two different men were writing under the same name: the main author of the Shakespeare canon, and the high-spirited, crowd-pleasing author of the apocryphal plays.

Sabrina Feldman (http://www.apocryphalshakespeare.com)

Hitandrun
February 23, 2015 10:18 am

Dr Feldman writes:

> However, in Siebert’s own words: “There is a mountain of evidence for Shakespeare’s authorship [of some dozen apocryphal plays and half dozen bad quartos],<

Did Dr Siebert truly intend what you, Dr Feldman, interpolated in your brackets?

Hitandrun

KOJohnson
February 21, 2015 4:32 am

Sorry, but if you say, “Most crucially, Shakespeare absolutely was recognized as an author during his lifetime. About half of Shakespeare’s plays were printed during his lifetime. Many of those list his name as author on the title page,” it’s clear that you’re not understanding the question, much less the answer.

Hitandrun
February 20, 2015 1:01 pm

Dear Dr Siebert,

Please explain how Justice Stevens’ reasoning is “depressingly fallacious”.

You state that there is no “single right way to interpret Hamlet”. I believe there is: namely, authorial intent, and how that intent (conscious by definition) is altered both by the author/authors’ own slips (accidental or subconscious) in expressing that intent, and by all collaborators and intermediaries (compositors, printers, editors, etc) in producing the related text. The problem, of course, is ascertaining, as best we can, that intent and its alterations/corruptions by grading, evaluating, and integrating any available evidence. Do you agree?

Dr Wells appears uncomfortable with uncredentialled ‘nonscholars’ judging scholastic controversies. Do you share his discomfort? Should legal jury pools be restricted to those experienced in law enforcement or adjudication? Do you think “Dr Wells erred in characterizing his Stratfordian position as “beyond doubt”, an impossible position already belied by the participants in this blog?

Finally, what, in your view, is the “main object of art historians”?

Thank you for your most interesting blogpost,

Hitandrun

Earthside
February 17, 2015 11:01 am

I’m rather disappointed in this commentary.

There is a paucity of evidence demonstrating the a fellow identified as William Shakespeare is the author of the plays and sonnets. It has little to do with ‘false balance’ — there is, in fact, very little balance at all, the vast majority of people and scholars accepting the traditional Shakespeare narrative.

Skeptics ought to embrace skepticism — especially when there are real competing hypotheses. Skeptics don’t always have to be killjoys; there are mysteries still extant and exciting historical problems to solve. Maybe, in this case, there needs to be an encouragement to real balance — not a diminution of Shakespeare skeptics.

Howard Schumann
February 17, 2015 12:40 pm
Reply to  Earthside

Here skepticism means unthinking adherence to the status quo.

Authorship Skeptic
February 15, 2015 10:11 am

Dear Hitandrun,

You asked me: “Would your skepticism extend to your current antiStratfordian position, should you become persuaded that Hand D was indeed that of the player William Sh. of Stratford?”

Yes, of course. If you could prove to me that Hand D is the handwriting of Shakspere of Stratford, then I’d have to change my position on the Shakespeare Authorship Question.

Howard Schumann
February 15, 2015 1:27 pm

Your position seems pretty shaky to me. There are many apocryphal plays of lesser quality with Shakespeare’s name on the title page that Shaksper conceivably could have written.

If, on the million to one chance that it could somehow be proven that William of Stratford was the author of Hand D, that would still not prove that he had written the 38 plays and 154 sonnets in the Shakespeare canon. The only thing that would change my position is the discovery of original manuscripts signed – William Shakespeare of Stratford-on-Avon.

Authorship Skeptic
February 15, 2015 8:23 pm

Howard,

Surely you’re not serious in saying that “There are many apocryphal plays of lesser quality with Shakespeare’s name on the title page that Shaksper conceivably could have written.” Anyone who thinks Shakspere wrote ANYTHING, given his six signatures (which were probably all executed by clerks) is delusional. You seem to have a lot less faith in what the existing evidence shows than I do, and notice that Mr. “Hitandrun” has to prove his claim TO ME. Not likely. You should have the courage of your convictions, rather than running scared of Strats who don’t know what the hell they’re talking about.

Howard Schumann
February 16, 2015 8:33 am

The last thing I want to do is to get into an argument with a fellow doubter, especially not about one’s courage of conviction. All I was saying is that it is unlikely but still conceivable that Shaksper could have written the apocrypha. Actually, this is what is argued by Sabrina Feldman in her book, “The Apocryphal William Shakespeare.”

http://www.amazon.com/Apocryphal-William-Shakespeare-Authorship-Scenario/dp/1457507218/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1424101348&sr=1-1&keywords=Shakespeare%27s+Apocrypha+Feldman

While she ascribes the accepted Shakespeare canon as having been written by a nobleman, she postulates that Shaksper may have written the ten apocryphal works pointing out that they were written in a “funny but clumsy manner, employing clunky blank verse, bungled Latin phrases, slapstick, jingoism, jokes about food, and other distinctive features.”

I do not see it this way but it is still within the realm of possibility.

My only point being that even if proven that Shaksper wrote Hand D, this does not by itself prove that he wrote the 38 plays and 154 sonnets of the canon.

Authorship Skeptic
February 16, 2015 11:02 am

> “All I was saying is that it is unlikely but still conceivable that Shaksper could have written the apocrypha. Actually, this is what is argued by Sabrina Feldman in her book, “The Apocryphal William Shakespeare.”

Do you know Feldman? As I say, “Anyone who thinks Shakspere wrote ANYTHING, given his six signatures (which were probably all executed by clerks) is delusional.”

> “My only point being that even if proven that Shaksper wrote Hand D, this does not by itself prove that he wrote the 38 plays and 154 sonnets of the canon.”

Agreed, and I never said otherwise.

Notice that Hitandrun hasn’t even tried to prove to me that Hand D is by Shakspere. Apparently he hasn’t got the goods and he was just bluffing, as I suspected. As John Maynard Keynes said, “If the facts change, I change my mind. What do you do, Sir?” Why should we put Strats in a position to say that when the facts change, authorship doubters DON’T change their minds? That was probably his agenda all along. Waiting.

Authorship Skeptic
February 17, 2015 4:12 pm

It looks like Hitandrun, rather than backing up his Hand D challenge, has decided to run and hide. Or, as Horatio says of Osric, “His purse is empty already. All ‘s golden words are spent.” All it takes to shut up this Strat is to say put up or shut up. Over and out.

Howard Schumann
February 14, 2015 11:51 am

You just ignored everything I said, including the question I asked so don’t expect a yes or no answer to your ridiculous hypothetical.

Dave Randall
February 13, 2015 7:38 am

For an avowed skeptic, you seem remarkably gullible. Your argument that Shakespeare’s name appeared on some of the plays published during his lifetime, for instance. If we use that logic, we have to believe that Shakespeare also wrote “The London Prodigal,” “The Puritan,” “A Yorkshire Tragedy,” and half a dozen other plays published under his name during his lifetime, or shortly after his death. And I simply cannot believe that you (or any reasonable person) would seriously propose that Hand D in the manuscript of “Sir Thomas More” might be Shakespeare’s. There are no surviving examples of his handwriting to compare it to – even five of the six supposed signatures of Shakespeare are probably not signatures at all, just clerks writing his name on a legal document to identify his seal, or, in the case of his will, to identify it as his. Look at the final signature on the will. The words “By me, William” are CLEARLY written in a different hand than the badly scrawled “Shakesper.”

Hitandrun
February 13, 2015 12:01 pm
Reply to  Dave Randall

Mr. Randall, et al,
If it were demonstrated to your satisfaction that the King’s Man from Stratford, i.e., the player/shareholder William Sh., more likely than not, penned Hand D, would you seriously consider abandoning any nonStratfordian position you may hold?

Curious,
Hitandrun

“Though past is not always prologue, it’s still the way to bet.” (JE, 2010)

Howard Schumann
February 13, 2015 4:05 pm
Reply to  Hitandrun

First of all, unless some other examples of Shakespeare’s writing can be discovered (unlikely after 400 years), there is no way to demonstrate that Hand D was in his writing. The only comparison is to six shaky signatures that do not even look they were from the same hand and are hardly the basis even to decide something that is “more likely than not.”

Besides, with all these alleged collaborations, how come we have never heard a peep from any of his so-called collaborators claiming that they knew the author Shakespeare personally or talk about his many characteristics? The whole think just doesn’t add up.

Hitandrun
February 14, 2015 9:29 am

Mr Schumann et al,

Thank you for your reply. It does not, however, answer the hypothetical posed in my question. Is silence admissible here as affirmative?

Hitandrun

Steve Bari
February 11, 2015 9:59 pm

Jan, There is no birth certificate just a birth listing in a church ledger. The name is spelled in a variety of ways as was the norm of the period. Spellings were not standardized until the 1700s. Shakespeare’s name is spelled several different ways across his lifetime by himself and other people. However, the spelling on the coat of arms application is Shakespere and also noted as Shakespear. The reason this is important is because this is the highest office in England responsible for keeping track of family names and lineages. So if they accept that this is the family name than that is what it is. So Shaksper or any other variant as Oxfordians can’t even agree on how to spell it is incorrect.

Stanley Wells has never said that only the First Folio was the only mention of William Shakespeare as an author. There are numerous references to William Shakespeare as an author in his lifetime.

Francis Meres 1598, King James Christmas book account 1604, first part of Parnassus circa 1600, Dedication for The White Devil to name a few. There are references to this same person being an actor and sharer in the company that put these plays on. Sorry, there is no proof whatsoever that Oxford had a pen name, he ever used a pen name, he even knew William Shakespeare, he had any connection to the Lord Chamberlain’s/King’s Men, that any business arrangements existed between Oxford and Shakespeare, that Oxford had any theater experience or acting know how needed to write these plays or even how it was supposed to work – get from Oxford’s pen to the stage. The majority of plays in this era were collaborations and the plays of Shakespeare are no exception. John Fletcher, Thomas Middleton, George Wilkins, George Peele and possibly Marlowe and Kyd all contributed parts to these plays. When did Oxford even meet with these men let alone closely work with them?

The idea of Shakespeare authorship didn’t begin with Garrick, he never doubted anything as he held the jubilee im Stratford. It began with a retired priest whose name I can’t recall right now in the 1700s simply because he couldn’t locate any books that stated to be owned by Shakespeare. He eventually destroyed his writings and didn’t pursue it. Not until Delia Bacon that it caught wind again. She was the first who stsrted the attacks calling Shakespeare a stupid, boorish, third rate player from a dirty, dogish group of players simply because she wanted Francis Bacon to be the author not Oxford. She never heard of Oxford and probably would have called him similar names if there were Oxfordians around then. Doesn’t it strike you as odd that no one mentioned Oxford until 1920? Why did take 300 years for the allegedly true author to even come to light?

If you are really interested in biographies that show all the evidence dispassionately I would suggest “Shakespeare: The Evidence” by Ian Wilson or “Shakespeare: A Life” by Park Honan

Jan Scheffer
February 11, 2015 5:37 pm

Dear Mr. Bari,

Even Stanley Wells – I have been told – mentions that there were no indications that William Shaksper (name according to his birth certificate and other legal documents) wrote the plays and sonnets attributed to Shakespeare until seven years after his death: with the publishing of the first folio. Diana Price, Prof. Tony Pointon and Steve Steinburg all wrote biographies of the man from Stratford which credit him for what documents show he was: a clever and successful businessman – who, for instance was able to buy New Place. You can hardly call these biographies, based on facts ‘character assassination’. I do understand that you are angry that there are people who fail to believe that Shaksper was Shakespeare, but, after all, this idea only got foothold when David Garrick lauched his three day jubilee in Stratford, in 1767.

Jan Scheffer

Hitandrun
February 13, 2015 12:54 pm
Reply to  Jan Scheffer

Dear Jan Scheffer,

If it were proven to your satisfaction that the King’s Man, William Sh. of Stratford, indeed penned Hand D, would you consider leaving the antiStratfordian fold?

Hitandrun

Steve Bari
February 11, 2015 4:45 pm

That is who I mean. Oxfordians continually denigrate William Shakespeare of Stratford. Nothing but constant character assassination. I do not call him Shaksper because there were no such person. You just confirmed the source of all the insults, there you go Jan

Jan Scheffer
February 11, 2015 5:51 am

To Steve Bari,

The fact that we disagree on who the author was, whether Shake-speare was a pseudonym (to me for Oxford, 1550-1604) or an alternative spelling of Shaksper from Stratford (1564-1616) and try to find and present arguments for either ‘position’, discern facts from suppositions and fantasies, make more or less likely suppositions, be able to tolerate doubt, still does not explain why it should be necessary or perhaps inevitable to use all these insults.

Jan

Steve Bari
February 11, 2015 12:36 pm
Reply to  Jan Scheffer

It would be a very nice if that were the case but alas it isn’t. Civil debate will never be the norm because these discussions have taken on the level of a political election. Jabs at the other candidate and those who support them are par for the course, whether they are warranted or not.

You may want to probe Oxforidans for that question, “Why all the insults”? People like Roger Strittmatter go out of their way to be condescending if anyone disagrees with them and use ad hominem attacks. When others respond back in kind, he makes a fuss of being attacked. From what I’ve noticed, the insulting candor on the Oxforidan side often starts with tearing down of Will Shakespeare himself. Anyone who points out a contradictory viewpoint will receive that same level of condescension. So one person starts the name calling and then the other returns the treatment and soon its a free for all.

Howard Schumann
February 11, 2015 1:36 pm
Reply to  Steve Bari

Please provide examples of where Oxfordians have tried to tear down the great author, William Shakespeare.

Saying that the man from Stratford was not the true author in no way diminishes the greatest writer in the English language. It is because his accomplishments are so magnificent that Oxfordians want the true author, Edward de Vere, to be recognized by the world, a recognition that would lead to a deeper understanding and appreciation of his works.

Steve Bari
February 11, 2015 2:01 pm

All the comments about Illiterate Buffoon, petty law suits, crappy motto in his coat of arms and not even getting the man’s name right aren’t enough? Unfounded character assassination of William Shakespeare is a central theme to your case.

Howard Schumann
February 11, 2015 2:05 pm
Reply to  Steve Bari

You could not be more wrong. Oxfordians are not attacking the real author, only the front man.

Dix-Kenwin
February 10, 2015 7:36 pm

How telling that no one here mentions the Sandra Day O’Connor reversal. Why has that been hushed up? It seems she requested the removal of her name from the Declaration of Reasonable Drought after examining this new evidence for Stratford:

http://trymbelrod.com/

Authorship Skeptic
February 11, 2015 4:18 pm
Reply to  Dix-Kenwin

>”How telling that no one here mentions the Sandra Day O’Connor reversal. Why has that been hushed up? It seems she requested the removal of her name from the Declaration of Reasonable Doubt”

O’Connor’s name is still on the list of notable signatories (http://doubtaboutwill.org/signatories). What’s your basis for saying she wants it removed? Cite your source.

Steve Bari
February 10, 2015 3:25 pm

>The plays were written in the 1560s 70s and 80sThey portrayed aristocrats at work and at play, enjoying bawdy, scatology and much else. Bibles are not the same as plays. The latter have often been the occasion for riots, or the gathering of conspiratorial rebels (as in 1601). And James paid not a penny for that BibleYou have no grasp of history> You have no grasp of evidence. You use selective reading and interpretations to support your views and no facts. There’s no use in a further discussion since you’re completely blind to actual proof.

>Cromwell removed the monarchy 40 years later. James knew something like that could readily happen during his own reign. You have no grasp of history.Exercising mercy was traditional and expected, Releasing prisoners would not blacken her name.> Southampton was part of the Essex rebellion. Releasing an enemy of the state isn’t a risky move on James’ end and wouldn’t have stirred rebellious thoughts in the people who hated Southampton and his circle. YOU have no grasp of history. Trying to quell rebellious tendencies by hiding that a nobleman wrote fiction you believe, but releasing a political prisoner that took part in a failed overthrow, No That’s ok.

>Oxford’s father (like his grandfather) had his own theatre in his own house during the winter months.Oxford was seeing plays before he could talk> You have no proof of this and so what, he still didn’t get any instruction on how to be an actor nor is there any record he performed anywhere.

>Read Hamlet:” . . he hath borne me on his back a thousand times . . “. Here Oxford is talking about Richard Tarleton, known to him since childhood as “Yo-Rick”. (Btw, Tarleton was the model for Falstaff).Not so. Look at her signature . . “Susanna Hall’. Each repeated letter is drawn differently. Three ‘a’s — each different. Two ‘n’s, each different. Two ‘L’s, each different. She has no routine or regular way of writing these letters, because she can’t write. Further, she is not aware that all letters are supposed to run along a line, or she has lost the skill. They randomly jump up and down. Like her father, she once learned how to ‘draw’ her signature. She’s remembered much better than he ever did, but it’s still unconvincing. It’s not a signature produced by someone who knew her letters, and wrote regularly.>

Point is that she knew how to form them and knew what she was writing hence she was instructed on how to do so and could read and write. Just because she had little occasion to write doesn’t mean that she couldn’t do it.

As for signatures, I would direct you to view the entries of the marriage of William Shakespeare and Anne Hathaway. The clerk that recorded that and other entries has atrocious handwriting and he’s a professional scribe. Again you’re own supposition not backed up by anything.

.Dr Cooke was failrly local (from Warwick) yet he does not mention her supposedly famous father, nor seek after any of his books. He clearly expects Susanna to be literate, given her wealth and social status. But she clearly isn’t, tries to hide the fact, and gets annoyed. These manuscript books of her husband have been lying around her house for some ten years after his death, yet she does not know what they are — since she can’t read.>

You’re statement about these books laying around and Susanna not knowing what they are is ludicrous. She was the one who pulled the books, she was the one who noted there were books on physick. How did she know which books to initially give him and that there were book on a specific subject if she couldn’t read what they were? She makes an assessment that handwriting is not her husband’s. How can she do that if she can’t read his handwriting? Why would Cooke mention Shakespeare so many years after he died and the point of his entry is about Dr. Hall’s books?

>Rich illiterates got a lot of letters, especially begging ones. They employed literate clerks to read them (and write back when appropriate).<
Again, spouting supposition as fact. You have no proof that this is what Shakespeare did or anyone else.

You are right that this has grown tedious as you continually throw out your opinion as fact and have nothing concrete to back it up. I'm not still in school for your information, however taking refresher courses on actual Elizabethan history that are comprised of tangible facts would certainly help you do you a world of good. You're myopic and selective view of history based on fictions and supposition has grown tiresome.

Paul Crowley
February 11, 2015 5:43 am
Reply to  Steve Bari

>> . . Further, she is not aware that all letters are supposed to run along a line, or she has lost the skill. They randomly jump up and down. Like her father, she once learned how to ‘draw’ her signature. She’s remembered much better than he ever did, but it’s still unconvincing. It’s not a signature produced by someone who knew her letters, and wrote regularly.>

> Point is that she knew how to form them and knew what she was writing hence she was instructed on how to do so and could read and write.

Does not follow. You could be shown your name in Mandarin or in Arabic or in Farsi, copy it, and learn how to draw it, without any idea of what the letters meant, or even where they began or ended. That is clearly how both Susanna Hall and her father acquired their ‘signatures’ — they were just more elaborate forms of ‘marks’.

> Just because she had little occasion to write doesn’t mean that she couldn’t do it.

As the wife of a prestigious doctor, and as the (supposed) daughter of the great playwright, she’d have had loads of occasions to write. Queen Henriatta Maria, and Prince Rupert stayed in New Place at one point.

Susanna’s ‘signature’ is made up of individual letters — not joined-up. That, for a start, is a mark of someone unused to writing. Her father (who was even more incompetent) was more ambitious, or we might say, more foolish. I copied Cooke’s words (not Hall’s as my typo stated) from Schoenbaum, “A Compact Documentary Life”. He goes on to remark and ask: ” . . It is odd that Susanna failed to recognize her own husband’s hand. Could she read and write, or did she have learning sufficient only to enable her to sign her name? . .”

> As for signatures, I would direct you to view the entries of the marriage of William Shakespeare and Anne Hathaway. The clerk that recorded that and other entries has atrocious handwriting and he’s a professional scribe.

Firstly, I can see little wrong with the handwriting of those entries. They are in competent Secretary script. Secondly, you need to distinguish between _signatures_ and regular handwriting. The latter often became sloppy, and sometimes unreadable — when the writer was under pressure, or tired. But Elizabethan gentlemen and gentlewomen almost invariably took care with the their signatures, especially on legal documents.

> Again you’re own supposition not backed up by anything.

Find a signature from an Elizabethan gentleman which is as bad as those of William Shagsper or his daughter.

> You’re statement about these books laying around and Susanna not knowing what they are is ludicrous. She was the one who pulled the books,

She ‘pulled’ no books. She could tell the difference between books and pots and pans, etc. You don’t have to be literate to do that. She found the only books in the house, and brought them to Dr Cooke.

> she was the one who noted there were books on physick. How did she know which books to initially give him and that there were book on a specific subject if she couldn’t read what they were?

Read Dr Cooke’s words:
” . . .she told me she had some books left, by one that professed physic with her husband” She has no idea what’s in those books, or what they are about.

> She makes an assessment that handwriting is not her husband’s. How can she do that if she can’t read his handwriting?

She made no assessment.

> Why would Cooke mention Shakespeare so many years after he died and the point of his entry is about Dr. Hall’s books?

Would YOU have asked his daughter if he left any books or notes? If you had told that story, and published Dr Hall’s books, would YOU have mentioned (at least in passing) his relationship to the famous poet?

>>Rich illiterates got a lot of letters, especially begging ones. They employed literate clerks to read them (and write back when appropriate).<

> Again, spouting supposition as fact. You have no proof that this is what Shakespeare did or anyone else.

Are you saying (a) that there were no rich illiterates? OR (b) if there were some rich illiterates, they never found out what was in letters written to them, and never replied to any letters?

In fact, there are still plenty of rich successful illiterates; they can prosper because they employ literate people to help them out.

Steve Bari
February 11, 2015 1:57 pm
Reply to  Paul Crowley

“Does not follow. You could be shown your name in Mandarin or in Arabic or in Farsi, copy it, and learn how to draw it, without any idea of what the letters meant, or even where they began or ended. That is clearly how both Susanna Hall and her father acquired their ‘signatures’ — they were just more elaborate forms of ‘marks’.”

Why would she learn to ‘draw’ her name and why not just use a mark? Do you have any examples of people learning to draw their name instead of using a mark? Why would anyone do this when it was a common practice in this era to use marks to sign documents? A simple sketch that would last a couple of seconds vs. recalling how to draw letters which would take twice perhaps three times as long to do, especially for someone who was not used to holding a quill. Why did she opt for the harder task instead of quick mark to get the task over with faster?

No, she chose instead to sign her name. It doesn’t follow that someone who is illiterate and who rarely held a pen would choose the more difficult of the two options. I’m not going to sift through signatures to find a “bad” example as any handwriting will be subjective and not going to waste time on that point. I don’t agree that handwriting is any different than signatures but we’ll have to disagree on that.
“As the wife of a prestigious doctor, and as the (supposed) daughter of the great playwright, she’d have had loads of occasions to write.”

I think you meant “supposed playwright”, she was his daughter and there has never been any contesting of this fact as far as I know. First, I would ask why would a prestigious doctor choose an illiterate buffoon as his wife? You could say “well, her family was wealthy”, however, by all accounts Dr. Hall had a successful practice so why would he need to align himself with such a low rent family if money or career prospects were not an issue?

In other words what did Dr. Hall gain from a marriage to a simpleton and her simpleton family? Dr. Hall must have found something else appealing about Susanna. If any merit is to be given to her epitaph “She was witty above her sex” than he would have found her an intellect worthy of his hand in marriage and to have a child with. So she had to be learned enough to attract this man. Its speculation however, it fits the fact that they got married and stayed married and Dr. Hall didn’t need her family’s money. So its illogical that such a bumpkin could land such a learned man and keep him when he had plenty of other more worthy prospects. Its only logical that she herself was worthy match to someone of his educational background as money was not an object.

“Queen Henriatta Maria, and Prince Rupert stayed in New Place at one point.” I recall reading that the queen visited Stratford but I know of no such account that she stayed at New Place. Do you have proof of this?

“Susanna’s ‘signature’ is made up of individual letters — not joined-up. That, for a start, is a mark of someone unused to writing. Her father (who was even more incompetent) was more ambitious, or we might say, more foolish.”
That’s your aesthetic assessment of her and her father’s signature, nothing more. Are you a handwriting expert? Still its handwriting so she knew how to write and knew that what she wrote spelled out her name. Hence she could write and read.

“I copied Cooke’s words (not Hall’s as my typo stated) from Schoenbaum, “A Compact Documentary Life”. He goes on to remark and ask: ” . . It is odd that Susanna failed to recognize her own husband’s hand. Could she read and write, or did she have learning sufficient only to enable her to sign her name? . .”

Has it ever occurred to you that Dr. Cooke may have been in error about the handwriting and she was simply correcting him? Regardless if it was Dr. Hall’s handwriting or not or who was correct, Dr. Cooke shows Susanna some markings in a book and states “this is her husband’s handwriting”. She says “no, they’re not”. They have an argument that according to Dr. Cooke got contentious and he decided not to pursue the matter further. This means that Susanna held to her opinion that the handwriting was not her husband’s. Its not like Dr. Cooke showed her same random hand written symbols and stated “this” was her husband’s handwriting to which Susanna said not its not. The disagreement was about established handwriting in a book to which she then, MADE AN ASSESSMENT, as to what the handwriting was and stuck to an opinion based on that assessment. In other words she READ what was in the book and to her it didn’t resemble handwriting that she knew to be her husband’s. She knew handwriting to be her husband’s and used that knowledge to counter what she looked at in the book.

Cooke did the same thing, he was familiar with John Hall’s handwriting from reading it before and assessed that the handwriting in this book was his. Do you get that? They both did the exact same thing. Dr. Cook knew a handwriting style that had read and seen previously and used that recollection as the basis for his opinion.
However let’s futher break down the doctor’s story, here it is as you copied it earlier
“Being in my art an attendant to parts of some regiments to keep the pass at the bridge of Stratford upon Avon, there being then with me a mate allied to the gentleman that writ the following ob-servations in Latin, he invited me to the house of Mrs. Hall, wife to the deceased, to see the books left by Mr. Hall. After a view of them, she told me she had some books left, by one that professed physic with her husband, for some money. I told her, if I liked them, I would give her the money again; she brought them forth, amongst which there was this with another of the author’s, both intended for the press. I being acquainted with Mr. Hall’s hand, told her that one or two of them were her husband’s, and showed them her; she denied, I affirmed, till I perceived she begun to be offended. At last I returned her the money. . . “

So a friend invites Dr. Cooke to Susanna’s house to see books left by Dr. Hall. – “to see the books left by Mr. Hall.” –
Doctor Hall doesn’t mention this friend again so by his account its just him and Susanna in the house.

Doctor Cooks says “After a view of them, she told me she had some books left, by one that professed physic with her husband…She brought them forth, amongst which there was this with another of the author’s, both intended for the press.”
After he initially views a certain set of books Susanna mentions that there were some other books one professing to be physic with her husband and she goes to fetch them. So if its just Susanna at the house getting both the first set and second set of books for Dr. Cooke, how does she know what books to get or pull if she can’t read? Someone as learned as a doctor wouldn’t had a study full of books along with papers and other brick-a-brac however, Susanna, by Doctor Cooke’s account, fetched the correct books not once but twice.

How does she what books to get and know that one of them is “physic with her husband” if she can’t read their contents? She might as well have pulled books on other subjects but Dr. Cooke doesn’t state that. He never mentions she got the books wrong. The only contention on his end was in the disagreement over if the handwriting was her husband’s or not. If she couldn’t read a word she would have brought Dr. Cooke to the study/room that contained the books and left him to find the books themselves as she could be of no use if she were illiterate. No instead she’s assisting in him in getting the doctor the material he wants to look at, Doctor Cooke isn’t doing it himself.

“If you had told that story, and published Dr Hall’s books, would YOU have mentioned (at least in passing) his relationship to the famous poet?”

No, as Dr. Cooke’s interest is in the publishing a medical journal not in a familial connection to his wife. There’s no reason in this account for it come up.
“Are you saying (a) that there were no rich illiterates? OR (b) if there were some rich illiterates, they never found out what was in letters written to them, and never replied to any letters?”

I agree that rich illiterates could use a go between to answer correspondence but there is no evidence that there is one. The letter from Quiney does not mention “I hope this letter finds you and “name” here. Its addressed directly to Shakespeare. The fact that you have a letter addressed to someone usually indicates the person receiving the letter can read it. So, unless you have actual proof that William Shakespeare used some assistant to answer letters you just speculating.

Paul Crowley
February 12, 2015 10:30 am
Reply to  Steve Bari

Steve Bari wrote:
> Why would she learn to ‘draw’ her name and why not just use a mark?

Because she was wealthy, wife (and then widow) of a learned doctor, daughter of a ‘gent’, Dr Cooke assumed she was literate — presumably for those reasons. Like so many people, then and now, she did not want admit her illiteracy.

> I’m not going to sift through signatures to find a “bad” example as any handwriting will be subjective and not going to waste time on that point.

You are dodging. It’s easy to call up hundreds of Elizabethan signatures. It’s very easy to set out objective criteria, and say why some signatures are clear and elegant, and others (such as the Stratman’s) are appalling

> I don’t agree that handwriting is any different than signatures but we’ll have to disagree on that.

You are dodging again. Most Elizabethan nobles (and gentlemen) had fancy signatures, but rarely wrote at that level in their ordinary letters.

> First, I would ask why would a prestigious doctor choose an illiterate buffoon as his wife? You could say “well, her family was wealthy”, however, by all accounts Dr. Hall had a successful practice so why would he need to align himself with such a low rent family if money or career prospects were not an issue?

I believe that he was, in effect, a government agent, similar to Thomas Greene, sent to Stratford to ‘mind’ the Stratman. As with Greene, there is no obvious reason why such a capable young man, with good contacts, and great prospects in a prosperous and rapidly expanding London, would end up in the remote poverty-stricken sticks. Like Greene, he first lived in New Place, when Susanna was about 18. No doubt he fell for her charms. Maybe his government bosses had hoped that would happen. At that time he was just starting to build up a practice.

> they got married and stayed married

Staying married was the rule then. Hall does not appear to have been at all happy in Stratford in later life, making a thorough nuisance of himself.

> Dr. Hall didn’t need her family’s money.

When he married, he might have thought he would need it.

> So its illogical that such a bumpkin could land such a learned man and keep him when he had plenty of other more worthy prospects.

In Stratford? You obviously don’t know the place.

> “Queen Henriatta Maria, and Prince Rupert stayed in New Place at one point.” I recall reading that the queen visited Stratford but I know of no such account that she stayed at New Place. Do you have proof of this?

It’s mentioned in many places, such as
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Elizabeth_Barnard

Unsurprisingly, no courtiers are known to have ever mentioned staying in ‘Shakespeare’s house’ or to collect manuscripts or mementos.

> Has it ever occurred to you that Dr. Cooke may have been in error about the handwriting and she was simply correcting him?

Her younger sister Judith was undoubtedly illiterate, putting her mark on legal documents properly signed by her sisters-in-law. So there is no good reason to doubt the illiteracy of Susanna. Another indication is gravestone of her husband,
(who died in 1635) on which she is mentioned only as the daughter of ‘a gent.’ A literate person told her about this, and (being highly conscious of her status) she had the inscription altered. That was NOT to tell the world she was the daughter of a great poet, nor even of a member of the Royal Household of both Queen Elizabeth and King James. Oh, no. It was to tell the world she was the ‘co-heire’ of a ‘gent.’

> The fact that you have a letter addressed to someone usually indicates the person receiving the letter can read it. So, unless you have actual proof that William Shakespeare used some assistant to answer letters you just speculating.

That’s plain silly. If you write to President Obama, or some lesser being like Donald Trump, you can be certain that it will first be read by some low-level lackey, and if it gets through him, by several more lackeys. But you still don’t bother addressing them, nor even acknowledging their existence.

Hitandrun
February 13, 2015 1:01 pm
Reply to  Paul Crowley

Paul,

If you became persuaded that Hand D, more likely than not, was indeed that of the player William Sh. of Stratford, would you seriously consider leaving the Oxfordian fold?

Hitandrun

Yeats: “The worst are full of passionate intensity.”

Howard Schumann
February 9, 2015 6:28 pm

Very well argued, Jan. Don’t expect Stratfordians to see the nuances or read between the lines, however. Also, don’t hold your breath about them reading any books about Oxford and the case for his authorship. They don’t want books to come between them and their made-up minds.

Jan Scheffer
February 9, 2015 5:02 pm

Errors: fund= found, 1662 is, of course 1562.

Jan Scheffer
February 9, 2015 4:59 pm

Many people, have, from the 19th century on, doubted that William Shaksper, who left no literary trail, wrote the plays, lyrical poems and sonnets under the name Shakespeare. They include even Winston Churchill who made a dismissive gesture to Lesley Howard when offered a the copy of Thomas Looneys 1920 ‘Shakespeare Identified’ with the words: “I don’t want my myth tampered with”. The number of doubters is increasing, which obviously annoys those who grew up with the idea that the man from such a humble background, simply? somehow? because he was a genius? became the most famous playwright in the world – while his father and children were illiterate. The capacity to doubt is generally thought of as a prerequisite for scientific thinking. Edward de Vere’s life is so full of connections to the plays and sonnets that one simply cannot escape the notion that he, like so many writers, fund the sources for his characters and circumstances in his own life, in his many traumatic, conflictuous but also funny and contradictory experiences. With this in mind, watching a Shakespeare play deepens the understanding, it makes a strong appeal on our unconscious and brings us to the realization that writing plays and putting them (his life experiences) on stage, was therapeutical to DeVere, and, to some extent, helped him to keep this difficult life bearable. Perhaps one needs some sensitivity for this or, at least an open mind, to allow you to get into his, or under his skin. You would find, for instance that it suddenly dawned on Oxford (at fourty?), or in a dream, that his father, John, 16th Earl, a ghost, was not killed in ‘a hunting incident’ in 1662, but by one of Leicester’s (Claudius’) men and that Corambis (1603), Polonius(1604), his stepfather Burghley, had been eavesdropping on him, meeting his fate on Hamlets foil, through a (stage, symbolic?) curtain. When I read Oxfords biography, of which there are over twenty by now since 1920, and watched Hamlet, I could not escape this notion, just like Derek Jacobi, after having played the protagonist threehundred, could no longer believe that it was the Stratford’s man’s. Snobs? Conspiracy theorists? why all these insults?

Steve Bari
February 9, 2015 8:53 pm
Reply to  Jan Scheffer

Why all the insults? Because you and your group of deniers seek to deny a man of his work and legacy. A man who toiled in the theater for over 20 yesrs and worked shoulder to shoulder with other theater professionals. 20 years of blood, sweat and collaboration went into creating this extraordinary body of literature and you people would turn that over to a murderer, a wartime deserter, a man who abandoned his wife and squandered his family fortune and that is wrong and criminal. A man’s life work denied just because he doesn’t fit your notion about what he should have been. Oxford was not an actor and knew nothing about the theater. You have no proof whatsoever that Shakespeare’s family was illiterate and his name was not Shaksper. The man created by Looney is the myth and for some inexplicable reason all you want to do is deny reality and paint the real author as someone he wasn’t.

Steve Bari
February 9, 2015 6:58 am

If his company was active and became the Worcester Company in 1602 than why didn’t that company produce the plays?

Why didn’t one of his private secretaries who were established playwrights simply become the front?

What proof do you have that Oxford wrote for the Queen’s men?

What proof do you have that Oxford had any connection whatsoever to the Chamberlain’s men?

Not supposition, but concrete proof.

Why would Oxford choose an unrelated company to peddle his plays or how about this, why would the Chamberlain’s Men let him? This was Henry Carey’s company. He’s the first cousin to Queen Elizabeth and has the highest office next to Cecil. Why would Carey have stood for another nobleman mucking with his company, who are people in his employ. This would be like the owner of the Yankees, secretly managing players on the Dodgers or your neighbor doing yard work in your own yard and calling it his yard.

All you have is fervent desire, one might call it an obsession, to shoehorn your Earl into other people’s affairs just because you wish it to be so. You can repeat these bits of fiction all you want until you have concrete proof to back it up and show how it all worked and interconnects and makes logical sense you have nothing but a fantasy story. Shakespeare is a documented actor, shareholder and yes, author with one company for 20 years that produced these plays and it all mutually supports each other. It shows the progression of a man who started at an entry level, made a splash and continued to capitalize on success after success and parlayed that into other business interests. It shows a writer who matured over time and who was INTIMATELY familiar with the theater no just an absentee owner like Oxford.

You have NOTHING. You LOSE! Good Day, Sir!

Steve Bari
February 8, 2015 8:22 pm

Lots of supposition and no actual proof of any kind. You are so certain that Oxford wrote the plays requiring the assistance of a group of men who had no connection with Oxford and could have cared less about him. He wasn’t even their patron why would they do all this for him and not some other random nobleman? These men ran a business where they worked day in and out for over 20 years and not a spy ring. Again why is Oxford writing for them and not his own company? If he’s writing plays why didn’ t one of his srcretaries like Mundy be the front? You seem extremely close minded to any other possibility than your Earl when you are presented with actual evidence to the contrary. All you have is some obsession with Oxford with no actual proof whatsoever.

Howard Schumann
February 8, 2015 8:48 pm
Reply to  Steve Bari

I was hoping that you would have been able to at least acknowledge that a different perspective raises many interesting questions, but I guess that was too much to ask.

Oxford had his own troupe, Oxford Boys and Oxford’s Men, which was mainly a touring group active between 1580 and 1587, though they later became the Worcester Company in 1692.

During the 1580s and 1590s, Oxford used the Queen’s Men, and then beginning in 1594, the Lord Chamberlain’s/King’s Men as the primary vehicle for his plays.

Howard Schumann
February 8, 2015 10:52 pm

I meant 1602 not 1692.

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The Yeti or Abominable Snowman

5 Cryptid Cards

Download and print 5 Cryptid Cards created by Junior Skeptic Editor Daniel Loxton. Creatures include: The Yeti, Griffin, Sasquatch/Bigfoot, Loch Ness Monster, and the Cadborosaurus.

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