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Guest Blog: Shakespeare Beyond Doubt

By Professor Stanley Wells, CBE

It’s not often, when one publishes a book, that a parody of it appears shortly afterwards – or, indeed, ever – but this has happened with Shakespeare Beyond Doubt, the collection of essays that I edited along with Paul Edmondson and that was published by Cambridge  University Press in  April of this year. Round about the time of publication an article appeared in the Evening Standard saying that Alexander Waugh, grandson and editor of the more famous Evelyn, intended to publish a riposte. It didn’t materialize quite as soon as was threatened but a few days ago there appeared on my desk and on Paul Edmondson’s a volume which clones ours. Entitled Shakespeare Beyond Doubt? – note the question mark – and published by an American press which describes itself as providing ‘self-publishing services’ (which one might think of as a vanity press),  it is co-edited with John M. Shahan, described as ‘Chairman of the Shakespeare Authorship Coalition’. It has a jacket modelled on ours and uses a similar type face.  And like ours it is made up of a number of contributions discussing various aspects of the topic. Over seventy pages print material which has been available on the internet for well over a year. Very soon after the copies arrived the editor of The Literary Review, formerly edited by Alexander Waugh’s father Auberon, got in touch with me to say – are you listening carefully? – that they were publishing a review of our book written by Alexander Waugh, and inviting me to review his book. And then a few days later my co-editor and I received copies of a letter addressed to Peter Kyle, Chairman of the Shakespeare Birthplace Trust, of which I am Honorary President, challenging us to take part in a public debate about the authorship of Shakespeare. The letter replicates a challenge also published in the book, where an extraordinarily elaborate format of debate involving a whole week of events and counter-events is proposed.

Intellectual disagreement is welcome but there are several aspects of the Waugh/Shahan volume that I find unpleasant and indeed offensive. Its editors falsely and repeatedly say that our book is published by the Shakespeare Birthplace Trust. And the back jacket is headed ‘The book the Shakespeare Birthplace Trust Doesn’t Want You to read’. It goes on to claim ‘Never has the case against the Stratford man been made so clear and compelling’, describing itself as a ‘withering reply’ to shakespeareour book. Emphasis on the Trust is part and parcel of a slur campaign, repeating a technique common among the doubters, implying that those who defend Shakespeare’s authorship are influenced by mercenary considerations, fearful that if their case is accepted they will suffer financially. In fact our book is published by Cambridge University Press whose Syndics accepted our proposal after receiving reports from several independent and unidentified readers. Moreover almost all of our contributors, who include well over twenty distinguished English and American scholars, have no connection with the Trust.

The essays in the Waugh/Shahan volume rehearse arguments that will come as no surprise to anyone who is familiar with the ways in which the controversy has manifested itself, and it is endorsed by the usual supporters such as Sir Derek Jacobi, Mark Rylance, and other worthies including a ‘Clinical Professor of Psychiatry: Faculty Expert on Shakespeare for Media Contacts, Georgetown University, Washington D. C.’– how sad it is that great Shakespeare actors such as Rylance and Jacobi (who once supported Marlowe as the author but now roots for the Earl of Oxford) should be so ready to bite the hand that has fed them for so long!

The book repeats arguments made elsewhere such as that Shakespeare couldn’t have written the plays because on the evidence of the surviving signatures he had poor handwriting. If that is a valid argument, perhaps someone will soon dispute my authorship of the books I have written. Waugh in his essay repeats claims, which I dispute, that the plays show a detailed knowledge of Italian topography but doesn’t acknowledge that while there is no evidence that Shakespeare went to Italy, equally there is no evidence that he did not. Much, as so often, is made of the presence or absence of hyphens in printed forms of the author’s name. There is no systematic attempt to controvert the arguments for Shakespeare’s authorship which I advance in my essay in our book. As usual, there is an irrational refusal to accept posthumous evidence however strong it may be.

What a pity that the great comic novelist Evelyn Waugh is not in a position to comment on these two books! I should like to have been able to see what his satiric pen would have made of them.

Stanley Wells CBE is Emeritus Professor of Shakespeare Studies of the University of Birmingham, Honorary President of the Shakespeare Birthplace Trust, and the author of Shakespeare, Sex, and Love (OUP). He is also the co-editor (with Paul Edmondson) of Shakespeare Beyond Doubt (CUP) and contributes to the website Blogging Shakespeare.

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About interestingliterature

A blog dedicated to rooting out the interesting stuff about classic books and authors.

Posted on July 28, 2013, in Literature and tagged , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 412 Comments.

  1. Alasdair Brown

    Paul Crowley, why do you keep asking everyone if they know 13 year old boys? As it happens, I know two. One does nothing except play computer games. The other breeds terrapins and is learning Japanese for reasons completely unknown to his parents. Apart from demonstrating, like other members of your cult, that you want to fit all human activity , behaviour and experience over many hundreds of years into mental compartments you have already designed, what exactly is your point?

    • Alasdair Brown asks: ” Paul Crowley, why do you keep asking everyone if they know 13 year old boys? . . . what exactly is your point?

      My point is that IF the Stratman had attended school — and, in spite of the difficult financial straits his father was in from around the son’s 9th year, completed syllabus — his education would have finished at 13. Take a look at those 13 year-olds you know and imagine telling them “No more edycation for you, my lad — from now on you’ll be full-time in the tannery”. Then try to match this with your conception of the Great Bard.

  2. Authors in general will always have their critics. Many of the people who know me in my home town of Thronbury, Onatrio would prefer that a book I’m working on called “God’s Miracles For Him” http://osborne2029.wordpress.com/2013/04/28/gods-miracles-for-him/ never would be published. It will shine a light on how even our own police constable tried to pacify my schizo affective father by saying after he came when my mom had been beaten up, “Now, Jim, you need to be good. Promise me you’ll be good.”

    You are to be commended for standing up for your literary convictions. People can agree or disagree. That is their right. That is the priviledge we should all be thankful for. Let us never forget that in many countries where citizens are ruled by a despot or some self-serving and evil dictator, that they have no right to express their opinion about anything. To do so would mean their impisonment and maybe even their life.

    I encourage you to keep on writing, even when you have your critics. And let us all remember to be respectful even as we criticize. Let us treat those even whose opinions we disagree on the same way we would like to be treated ourselves. I enjoy debating, but not at the cost of being right for right’s sake.

    Keep up the writing that causes us to really think and listen with both our mind and heart.!

    Kevin

  3. very nice publish, i actually love this website, keep on it

  4. If education was all that was required to produce Shakespeares, there would be more than one of them.

    • What you hear is the uproarious guffawing coming from the Oxfordian Shakespeare forums.

      • They’re so easy to amuse. Give them a piece of paper with ‘For conclusive evidence of Oxford’s authorship, turn over’ written on both sides and you can keep them entertained for hours.

        Authenticate Hand D and you”ll have nothing left but a pair of Stritmatter’s old socks in the bottom of the drier. Not matching, of course

      • Alasdair Brown

        All I hear is the sound of poor Professor Bruster sighing as he opens his emails.

        Mrs Bruster: What’s the matter dear?

        Prof Bruster: Just some guy Bill Bryson warned me about.

        Mrs Bruster: Does he want to burn our house down?

        Prof Bruster: No, Don’t worry. He thinks I’ve just proved some English Lord or other wrote Shakespeare.

        Mrs Bruster| Oh good! Cup of coffee dear?

      • Ankas,

        FYI, I’m putting my thoughts together re. the significance of Thomas Thorpe’s dedication to the 1609 edition of Shakespeare’s sonnets vis-a-vis the authorship debate, and hope to share them with you (and any other who may be interested) within the next few days. Please stay tuned.

        And remember:

        “Truth hath a quiet breast.” (Richard II, iii, 96)

        GB

      • Or, Ankaz, it may be all that flatulence emanating from the Strats’ lobby! [which is quite appropriate, since “flatulence” is secondarily defined as: “pretentious without real worth or substance.” (Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary)].

        Tally-Ho!

        GB

  5. As we know, we have to be patient for the walls of Stratford to crumble and tumble down into the sea. I mean, for heaven’s sake, the RSC just spent more than a L150 million on renovating the theaters in Stratford. How much has Oxfordians spent on British theaters?

    Meanwhile, the RSC (apparently secretly) retains the elderly Dr. Stanley Wells to do battle with all Oxfordians. He, of course, does so covertly, and is most concerned with publishing houses and actors (who defect from behind the Iron Curtain). Actors who develop some kind of preternatural desire for knowing more about what they act, and can’t seem to find anything in the CV for the Stratford man.

    (Did you note the aristocratic aire throughout the film of “Much Ado” by Joss Whedon? – The actors learned all of that, of course – of course – from the traditional biography.)

    Oxfordians know they have the upper hand when it comes to the life and correspondence of de Vere and how it matches up to the plots and diction in the dramas and poems. But they certainly lack leadership in directing the flow of government funds and donations to Oxfordian projects in England. The RSC has a turnover of roughly L60 million, where as I noticed this June, Lord Pembroke (an Oxfordian), the 18th earl of Pembroke, donated approximately L3 million to the purchase of two Bugatti Veyrons. They will help Oxfordians attend any debate at 233 mph, with the tops off.

  6. Dear Steve Evans,

    I admired your post . I found it intelligent and humane. The fact that you are also a novelist added credibility to what you had to say. You have opted out of this discussion and perhaps that is the sensible thing to do, even though you clearly think that Oxfordians sing loony tunes.

    I’m opting out too because I have work to do. But before I do, I want to say something to you.

    You made me feel guilty about patronizing Oxfordians. For about thirty seconds.

    I was an active member of an educational wing of the anti apartheid movement for over ten years. The reason I stayed in this ‘non-discussion’ as you call it is not just because I love Shakespeare and find nothing problematic about his background but because I feel exactly the same sense of repugnance towards Oxfordians as I felt towards that obnoxious South African regime.

    There’s the same meanness of spirit. The same depressing view of humanity. The same anti-democratic impulses. The same construction of fundamental human differences. The same smug sense of superiority. The same perception of a divinely sanctioned order of things. The same distortion of history. The same denial of human capability and potential.

    We’re not just talking about people who are bonkers or intellectually challenged. We are talking about people whose ideas are insidious, reactionary and dangerous.

    Steve, they seriously want their garbage taught in schools, for God’s sake.

    Have a look at a recent post on the Facebook Shakesvere group.

    It’s entitled: ‘When Genius and Privilege Collide’

    It’s followed by a fantasy of De Vere floating through ‘celestial realms of royal privilege’ and stroking ‘rare and valuable books’ in ‘his august library”

    Fatuous, purple prose perhaps, but I’m hearing those Nietzchean bells ringing rather too loudly there.

    Amongst the many enthusiastic comments that follow, the only cautionary note is that “there’s always the possibility that genius might randomly strike some bumpkin.”

    Please note the pseudo- reasonable tone which varnishes the virulent class-hatred.
    It reminded me so much of an argument I once had with an Afrikaaner businessman. “Look”, he said, “Maybe the black man can run our country one day. But before he draavs a car, he’s got to learn how to ride a bicycle.”

    Ultimately, the fact that that Oxfordians have a hopelessly muddled view of history and literature doesn’t matter to me. As you suggest though, it’s very sad that they can’t just read Shakespeare and allow him to inform a deeper understanding of the world.

    What does matter is the nastiness of the ideology that lurks behind every single word they say.

    Dear Steve Evans,

    I admired your post . I found it intelligent and humane. The fact that you are also a novelist added credibility to what you had to say. You have opted out of this discussion and perhaps that is the sensible thing to do, even though you clearly think that Oxfordians sing loony tunes.

    I’m opting out too because I have work to do. But before I do, I want to say something to you.

    You made me feel guilty about patronizing Oxfordians. For about thirty seconds.

    I was an active member of an educational wing of the anti apartheid movement for over ten years. The reason I stayed in this ‘non-discussion’ as you call it is not just because I love Shakespeare and find nothing problematic about his background but because I feel exactly the same sense of repugnance towards Oxfordians as I felt towards that obnoxious South African regime.

    There’s the same meanness of spirit. The same depressing view of humanity. The same anti-democratic impulses. The same construction of fundamental human differences. The same smug sense of superiority. The same perception of a divinely sanctioned order of things. The same distortion of history. The same denial of human capability and potential.

    We’re not just talking about people who are bonkers or intellectually challenged. We are talking about people whose ideas are insidious, reactionary and dangerous.

    Steve, they seriously want their garbage taught in schools, for God’s sake.

    Have a look at a recent post on the Facebook Shakesvere group.

    It’s entitled: ‘When Genius and Privilege Collide’

    It’s followed by a fantasy of De Vere floating through ‘celestial realms of royal privilege’ and stroking ‘rare and valuable books’ in ‘his august library”

    Fatuous, purple prose perhaps, but I’m hearing those Nietzchean bells ringing rather too loudly there.

    Amongst the many enthusiastic comments that follow, the only cautionary note is that “there’s always the possibility that genius might randomly strike some bumpkin.”

    Please note the pseudo- reasonable tone which varnishes the virulent class-hatred.
    It reminded me so much of an argument I once had with an Afrikaaner businessman. “Look”, he said, “Maybe the black man can run our country one day. But before he draavs a car, he’s got to learn how to ride a bicycle.”

    Ultimately, the fact that that Oxfordians have a hopelessly muddled view of history and literature doesn’t matter to me. As you suggest though, it’s very sad that they can’t just read Shakespeare and allow him to inform a deeper understanding of the world.

    What does matter is the nastiness of the ideology that lurks behind every single word they say.

    • Thank you, Alasdair. Well said.

      Nat

    • Gosh, Alasdair, do anti-Strats kick kittens, too?

      • Alasdair Brown

        I really couldn’t say Linda. But there’s some evidence that they kick dogs. Scroll back to Paul Crowley explaining Sonnet 125.

        • Oh, I thought they ate puppies live!

          • Alasdair Brown

            To be fair, that’s only when they run out of supplies and go but mad on a North- North -West expedition.

            • But you do agree that anti-Strats are slave masters who devour their young.

              • No. As long as they don’t catch their kids reading James Shapiro or googling Oxfraud.

              • Dear Linda,

                You’ll have to pardon Alasdair. The poor fella has been very grumpy of late – trying to defend the indefensible can be very fatiguing, you know! And his Aug. 14th diatribe against poor Steve Evans she may becoming unhinged…so tread lightly, my dear, give him some slack!

                By the way, have you noticed that in your exchanges with the dear lad you haven’t been discussing his hero Shakspere? Well, that’s the whole point, you see! It’s called “changing the subject”. Can’t say that I blame him, though…if I was dealt the hand the Strats have been dealt (i.e., Shakspere’s non-existent literary paper trail during his life time), I’d want to change the subject, too!

                And you can be comforted by what H.L. Mencken once observed: “Human beings never welcome the news that something they have long cherished is untrue. They almost always reply to the news by reviling its promulgator.” How true! How sad!

                GB

              • Linda,

                Sorry for my typo in my opening paragraph…the 3rd sentence should read: “And his August 14th diatribe against poor Steve Evans causes me to fear that he may becoming unhinged…”

                GB

                • Alasdair Brown

                  No way was that a diatribe against Steve Evans, George. If you read his nice reply to me, it is perfectly clear that he didn’t think it was either.

                  • Dear Alasdair,

                    In reading your letter to Steve Evans, I do, indeed, need to apologize for describing it as a diatribe against Mr. Evans…but it was a diatribe, nonetheless, against folks who happen to disagree with you re. the authorship of Shakespeare. You’re better than that, lad. Deep down, I know there’s a kinder, gentler person there!

                    And may I tip my hat to you for your (no doubt) valiant, tireless efforts to help free So. Africa from the jaws of apartheid? I have no doubt there’s a place waiting for you (and Nelson Mandela!) in heaven – and I salute you, my friend!

                    It kind of reminds me of what Ralph Waldo Emerson once said, “Rings and jewels are but apologies for gifts. The only true gift is a portion of thyself.”

                    Take care, Alaisdair, and God Bless!

                    GB

    • Alasdair Brown wrote: “There’s the same meanness of spirit [among Oxfordians] . The same depressing view of humanity. The same anti-democratic impulses. The same construction of fundamental human differences. The same smug sense of superiority. The same perception of a divinely sanctioned order of things. The same distortion of history. The same denial of human capability and potential. We’re not just talking about people who are bonkers or intellectually challenged. We are talking about people whose ideas are insidious, reactionary and dangerous.”

      Oxfordians do accept that they cause a lot of distress, and everyone can see where Alasdair is coming from. His kind of emotions are inevitable when you are obliged to demonstrate that some hallowed, primordial belief has no basis in reality. It’s like telling a child that Santa Claus does not really exist, or that there are, in fact, no fairies at the bottom of the garden, or that storks don’t bring new-born babies. The same applies when you try to disabuse a firm believer in Genesis, or in the story of Noah and his Ark. How could such ancient, much-beloved and beautiful stories possibly be wrong?

      Strats have the comforting belief that almost anyone could become the greatest writer of all time. Perhaps you will wake up in the morning with the Great Bard’s gift for eloquence, and perhaps that day — in the morning before you have lunch — you will write a play as good as Romeo and Juliet. After all, if a yeoman, brought up by illiterates, with no training, no mentor, no access to a library, could do it, why shouldn’t you? All you need is pen and paper.

      Unfortunately, the real world is not like that, and such fantasies can be dangerous. In the real world, you have to have a lot of talent, and you have to work insanely hard — over years and decades — to produce anything of value.

      So, sorry Alasdair. Sometimes growing-up can be hard.

      • You’re right Paul and I am going to try really hard to grow up now. It’s only because I’d forgotten how Santa used to bring me a falcon every year. And how , every Christmas Day, that august aroma of scented gloves would thrill my bumpkin’s nose.

      • “After all, if a yeoman, brought up by illiterates, with no training, no mentor, no access to a library, could do it, why shouldn’t you? All you need is pen and paper.”

        Elizabethan playwrights, all of them, are an example to us all. (Unlike Elizabethan aristocrats)

        “Strats have the comforting belief that almost anyone could become the greatest writer of all time. . . .Unfortunately, the real world is not like that,”

        The real world, as we have seen almost daily since the introduction of free education and the trivium, is EXACTLY like that. Only people who seek to overvalue their own intelligence would ever argue with the fact that there are people who were born off the scale, with ability miles beyond all we sub-geniuses.

        Or to put it another way, ‘Talent instantly recognises genius. Mediocrity recognises nothing above itself’.

        Oxfordianism is a mediocre pastime for the terminally mediocre.

        • alfa at oxfraud.com wrote:

          > > “Strats have the comforting belief that almost anyone could become the greatest writer of all time. . . .Unfortunately, the real world is not like that,”

          > The real world, as we have seen almost daily since the introduction of free education and the trivium, is EXACTLY like that.

          So to elaborate the Stratfordian Theory of Literary Genius (SToLG): (a) In Elizabethan times only a tiny fraction of the population received good education. Today the number would be tens of thousands of times a multiple. Somehow I have not noticed tens of thousands of Shake-speare equivalents. Maybe I’ve just missed them.

          SToLG (b) might be that the first literate generation coming out of the ranks of the illiterate yeomanry had a special talent. But there are several problems with that. Firstly, there would still be tens of thousands of such cases. But what makes it worse is that it’s almost impossible to find any author in that generation, let alone a good one.

          So what is the dominant SToLG? In fact, there isn’t one. No one proposes any remotely plausible SToLG. It’s almost never discussed in the so-called literary journals. That’s because everyone knows that there is no likely solution. At some deep level everyone knows that the Stratfordian theory is nonsense, and that it’s pointless to attempt to fit it into any kind of sensible historical, literary, genetic or other framework.

  7. Mr. Blomquist wrote: “for me, Nat, the terse, three word entry in the Holy Trinity church death register says it all: ‘Will Shakspere, gent.’”

    And so?

    Is “George Blomquist, Jr.” some sort of insult? Does “Junior” denote an intrinsic inferiority? Does “Gent”? (“They’re not like Us, you know.”) And you’re not even Us. Do you think that identifying with an earl upraises you above the common herd?

    “Will Shakspere, gent” was the poet’s legal name. After the Stratford Shakespeares–father and son–were granted arms in 1596, “Master,” “Mr.” or “Gent.” appears in all published (and most written) references to the playwright.

    The register records the fact of Shakespeare’s death. The praises were inscribed on his monument:

    IVDICIO PYLIUM, GENIO SOCRATEM, ARTE MARONEM,
    TERRA TEGIT, POPULUS MAERET, OLYMPUS HABET

    It doesn’t get much higher than that.

    The parish register of St. John’s at Hackney records the death of one “Edward de Veare Erle of Oxenford.” His legal name. But no one cared to raise a monument to Oxford: not his widow and children. Not William Herbert, nor any of those people you imagine knew his supposed “great secret.” Unlamented, Neddy No-Good* was buried in the churchyard. And in that—as in so many other things—his society observed rank. Worthies got a place within the church, the nearer to the altarstone, the better. The nobodies–the riff-raff, rabble, hoi polloi–got put outside in the churchyard for the cats to piddle on. Before the Reformation, an earl would have had a chantry built for him, and priests endowed to sing masses *in aeturnum*. In 1604, he would’ve at least had a monument, something modest like this:

    St. MARY, STOKE BY NAYLAND, SUFFOLK

    (You don’t put work like that out in the rain.)

    At the very least (you would have thought) they’d have given him a simple marker: “Dead! And never called me Author!”

    But no, this earl was buried in the glutted churchyard: where, in the course of time, his bones were shoveled up for the charnel house, to make room for newer nobodies.

    Nat

    *Oooh! Look, a hyphen!

    • And because (unlike Oxford) I care about Latin spelling, I correct my inadvertent typo: “in aeternum.”

      Nat

    • Nat

      Such an apt and eloquent closure to this thread.

      Alasdair

    • Dear Nat,

      No sarcasm was intended…just a personal observation (shared by many, many other people over the years) as to how odd an entry for a person who would have arguably been the most famous citizen in town, IF he had been the Great Writer. On the other hand, the entry, “Will Shakspere, gent” makes perfect sense in light of what the actual historical records DO reveal about the fellow – i.e., that, on several occasions he had attempted to acquire the title “Gentleman” for his father John (and by extension, himself) and eventually succeeded. Nothing wrong with that…but it has nothing to due with matters literary.

      The same can be said of Mr. Shakspere’s last will and testament…it’s plainly that of a businessman, completely devoid of anything of a literary nature. That strikes me (as it has many others over the years) as very odd, IF he had been the Great Author. However, when one studies the actual historical documents about the man’s various and sundry business ventures during his lifetime, the document makes perfect sense.

      As for the Latin inscription upon the Stratford monument…that too, has struck many as being rather odd, difficult to understand, and seemingly out of context – that is, IF the fellow had been the Great Writer.

      As you know, the English translation reads as follows: “The Judgement of Nestor, the genius of Socrates, the art of Virgil: the earth encloses, the people sorrow, Olympus possesses.”

      In his article, “The Stratford Bust: A Monumental Fraud”, Richard Whalen comments on the Latin inscription (and the ensuing six lines) in part, thusly:

      “The abstruse eight-line epitaph on the Stratford monument also argues against its having been erected to a writer. The epitaph never mentions poems, plays, or the theater. It opens with two lines in Latin referring to Nestor, Socrates, Virgil, and Olympus. But Nestor and Socrates were not writers. Virgil was much less important than Ovid for Shakespeare, and Mount Olympus should have been Mount Parnassus, home of the Muses and literature, since the lines are supposed to be for a writer.”

      Of course, these are merely three examples of the so-many things that makes one want to say, “Hmmmm” about the legend of Will Shakspere. I’ll see if I can bring some more puzzlers to your attention for your consideration in the coming days and weeks.

      But, for now, let’s agree to disagree.

      Peace!

      GB

      • GB, Jr.:

        This is a style of Oxfordian argument I call “Bees can’t fly.”

        We say: Look, it’s flying.

        You say: It can’t. The wings are too stubby. The body’s too heavy. The stripes are all wrong.

        We say: Look, we’ve had 38 pots of honey from this bee. With labels. We’ve made a study of what fields the flowers grew in. And we’re working on collaboration in the hive.

        You say: Our Dr. X has written an equation =proving= that bees are aerodynamically unsound. Without aristocratic tutelage in flapping, no insect can rise.

        Then you point to your pet grub.

        Nat

        • Actually, Ned, it’s more appropriate to describe this particular line of Oxfordian argument as, “There’s no there there”, as opposed to “Bees can’t fly”.

          But, to carry-on with you’re honey bee analogy, we’d say something along these lines: No one’s disputing honeybee Shakspere ever lived or worked very hard at producing honey during his lifetime; indeed, he retired as one of the wealthiest of honeybees in all of Stratford…that’s what the actual historical records show, after all. Unfortunately, the same historical records shed no light on honey bee Shakspere’s supposed literary career!

          Carry-on, good man!

          GB

  8. Thanks for sharing this insight here! Years ago, I had the distinct honor of being part of a class conducted by Prof. Wells over the course of a summer in Stratford-Upon-Avon through Roehampton Institute, and I have to say that the experience left me with a deep appreciation for the creations of the Bard and also for the world that nurtured and shaped him.

  9. Alasdair Brown

    Paul Crowley, look up dictionary definitions of ‘theory’ and you will find one of them always accommodates the Oxfordian position perfectly. Look up definitions of ‘cult’ and you will find the same thing. Shakespeare’s authorship is not a theory. It is a fact. You and you George can pour your dollops of bizarre gunk over the facts but you will always fail to disprove them.

    Nevertheless, you will carry on doing this until eventually Oxford joins Bacon in his oblivion and until another strange cultural zeitgeist in the future produces yet another peculiar candidate for authorship.

    Anyway, never mind all that. I have had quite enough of trading generalities with you.

    Instead, let’s have another go at testing some Oxfordian theory against the best evidence there is. Which is William’s Shakespeare’s writing. And see if you do any better this time.

    A currently popular Oxfordian mantra seems to be: ‘You can be born with genius but you can’t be born with learning’.

    But what do you actually think is the proportion of book learning in Shakespeare as opposed to the proportion of wholly original insight into human thought, emotion and behaviour? Is it really the former rather than the latter that you believe is Shakespeare’s chief characteristic?

    Try to put aside some prejudice that you can’t have one without the other and give us your thoughts about my question in relation to one of Hamlet’s soliloquies. Perhaps try: ‘To be or not to be’ or ‘How all occasions do inform against me’.

    Tell us what books Shakespeare needed to read in order to write them.

    We are, after all, in a discussion group called Interesting Literature.

  10. Our work here would appear to be done Alasdair. Paul is one doing far more damage to his own case than we are.

    Exactly as Tom Reedy predicted he would at the start of the thread.

  11. Why thank you, George.

    Would you like to see a real nail in the Oxfordian coffin? http://oxfraud.com/100-cannon

  12. George. C’mon now. You can’t start defending The Oxfordian Fallacy from scratch for a third time on someone else’s site. At least not with that pusillanimous surname spelling nonsense.

    If you have questions for the author of ‘Canon fodder’ you can pose them right underneath the article.

  13. Alasdair Brown wrote:

    >>> Perhaps try: ‘To be or not to be’
    > Of course these are familiar. But when I hear these speeches delivered by exceptional actors, I find something new in them every time. You have simply copped out of what could have been a useful discussion.

    It seems you think you have something to say. So why not come out with it? My guess is that it’s either obviously wrong or utterly banal. You seem to regard Shake-speare as a one-dimensional being, to be placed at a point on a scale with ‘education’ at one end and ‘genius’ on the other. OK, it’s the Strat way of ‘thinking’ but it should not limit you so drastically.

    > But I’m not surprised because Oxfordians rarely want to look at text objectively and in detail.

    What’s the objective question? On what detail?

    > They are terrified of not finding you-know-who in it.

    You have a strange conception of authorship. Oxford was not going to make his own personal experience the subject of every single speech — e.g. his life in Italy, or his relationship with his wife (Anne Cecil) or that with his father-in-law (Burghley) although such matters will frequently intrude. Why the obsession about the ‘jealousy of husbands’ do you think? Why the concern with ‘reputation’ and with ‘loss of good name’ ?

    But here’s an objective question. Tell us how your candidate for the authorship managed to write Line 1 of Sonnet 125 which begins: “Were’t aught to me I bore the canopy . . ” Is the following a reasonable parallel (i.e. as an illustration of its sense): “Were it something to me I wore the Garter . . .”. If not (a) what is wrong with the parallel ? And (b) suggest a better one. If you think it is a reasonable parallel, how did the poet imagine that anyone could conceive of him either bearing the canopy over the Queen, or getting the Garter? And — even allowing that you might _somehow_ read in a subjunctive (which btw I don’t accept) — surely it would be a grievous insult to the noble person he was supposedly addressing (e.g. Southampton) who could well someday bear the canopy or get the Garter ?

  14. Stanley Wells? What a coup!

  15. It all has to begin with the 1623 First Folio, the plays written by Francis Bacon, the verses in the frontmatter
    contributed by Bacon’s great friend and scribe, Ben Jonson. The Stratford Broker wrote nothing, he died
    in 1616, the First Folio came off the presses in 1623, full of the greatest plays in European history, all
    written by Bacon, edited by Jonson. Bacon and Jonson had lived in a house in Twickenham for some years,
    that may have been the beginning of their literary relationship. When the lease on the Twickenham house
    ran out, Bacon and Jonson rowed across the Thames and took up residence in the Blackfriar’s Gatehouse
    for which the Queene (Bacon’s mother by her ONLY HUSBAND Sir Robert Dudley, the earl of Leicester,
    by the way, both Bacon and Oxford were the queen’s two sons, she used Bacon to punish Robert Dudley
    for making an irregular marriage to her younger and prettier cousin, Lettice Knowles. Sadly, Lettice
    gave birth to the Earl of Essex, who tried to rally the Londoners behind him to rush the gates of London,
    the Queen had only one choice, she sent Essex to the Tower and hence to the block.
    Well, those who realize that Bacon and Jonson’s 1623 First Folio plays have held up on stages all over
    the world, all these five centuries later must also realize that the illiterate Stratford Broker wrote nothing,
    he couldn’t even recognize his own name on the Montjoy documents, even though he had signed his
    name only a little earlier. And yes, Bacon and Oxford were, in fact brothers, the Queen had two sons,
    it was an open secret . . .

    neonprose@gmail.com

  16. David Gontar

    There’s another way of approaching this issue: read the plays and poems and see if Stratford-based exegeses hold water. They don’t. See, Hamlet Made Simple and Unreading Shakespeare, New English Review Press, 2013, 2015.

    • David as you wrote these books you might have had the courtesy to tell readers that this is the case. Actually, I have read the plays and the poems, some of them many times.

      • Well, it wouldn’t be the FIRST time an author touted his own books. Here, from PBS’s Frontline – The Shakespeare Mystery:

        Interviewer: Why do you suppose the doubts about William Shakespeare of Stratford being the true author have persisted all these years.

        A. L. Rowse: Well, nearly all the rot that’s spoken by people who don’t really–should shut up. I had a letter only a month or two ago from some silly woman who wanted to know, didn’t I think, Dr. Rowse, that William Shakespeare must have been a woman. And then shortly after I got another nonsense letter: didn’t I think that Elizabeth I–Queen Elizabeth–must have been a man. Why don’t they get on and the read the books that can really tell them what is absolutely straight–history.

        Interviewer: You own books?

        A.L. Rowse: My own books.

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