IMG_0569
Blog powered by Typepad

« :-) | Main | »

Comments

Are you serious that some scholars put forth argument #1 (the Looney one) as a real proposition? It's hard to believe, though you don't sound like you're kidding.

Can you give me the name of an expert who falls into that category? (The Looney bin, let's call it.) It would be fun to check out the Amazon page for one of their books and see who's buying it and loving it.

OK. i just finished writing that Looney comment. And as I'm finishing my meal, I click on one of my favorite art sites. And what do I see?

http://gandalfsgallery.blogspot.com/

He's even got Thomas in his name!

(This comment will only make sense today. There will be another artist up top tomorrow.)

Those are indeed pathetic arguments.

If someone is looking for good ones:

http://shakespeareauthorship.com/

"Are you serious that some scholars put forth argument #1 (the Looney one) as a real proposition?"

It's not exactly a real proposition; it's more of a debating tactic, a way to get an easy laugh at the expense of one's opponents.

A not-very-subtle example of this tactic:

http://skepticalhumanities.com/2011/11/10/spot-the-looney-a-lot-of-bad-evidencegood-evidence/

Another site tells us, "The Oxfordian view dates back to the early part of the twentieth century, to a English schoolmaster named Thomas Looney (pronounced, most unfortunately, 'loney' rather than 'loony')."

http://credenda.org/index.php/History/why-i-am-a-stratfordian.html

A review of the movie Anonymous says, "In 1920, a man deliciously named J. Thomas Looney ..."

http://www.thepointmag.com/2011/reviews/a-failure-of-will

A newspaper piece titled "Why do they keep trotting out this Looney idea about Shakespeare?" makes reference to "a Gateshead schoolteacher rejoicing in the name of J Thomas Looney. No, really."

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/culture/theatre/8843248/Why-do-they-keep-trotting-out-this-Looney-idea-about-Shakespeare.html

Another newspaper piece, lamenting that Hollywood hates the English, refers to "one Thomas Looney, a suitably named schoolteacher from Tyneside."

http://www.dailymail.co.uk/debate/article-2053944/Why-does-Hollywood-hate-English.html#ixzz1pfayCSvB

You can find plenty of other examples by Googling. It's a standard trope, a guaranteed crowd pleaser like "Take my wife - please!" Of course it's not stated as baldly as I put it in my post. It's not an argument addressed to the brain; it's more like an elbow directed at the ribs.

I posted earlier with a citation to an actual academic [on the issue of Shakespeare's familiarity with court life]but that post has now disappeared. Instead of revisiting all that, how about we address some of the silly arguments made by anti-Stratfordians, starting with the arguments that William Shakespeare of Stratford made his money from a commercial loan business or from acting as a grain merchant. These are arguments that are not supported by the available evidence. On the other hand, there is more than enough evidence to establish that William Shakespeare of Stratford was the author of, and an actor in, the plays performed by the Chamberlain/King's Men, and that he was a shareholder in the company that performed those plays and in the theatre where they were performed.

Dominic, sorry your comment disappeared. It may come back; TypePad is quirky sometimes.

The Stratford man was cited for hoarding grain during an shortage, so there's at least some basis for thinking of him as a grain dealer. He made loans to several individuals and pursued them in the courts for redress, which is the basis for the idea that he was a moneylender.

I agree that he was a shareholder in the acting company. He seems to have had a variety of commercial interests.

About the missing post, thanks. It was there and then it wasn't.

I respectfully disagree with the argument that Shakespeare was cited for hoarding grain during a shortage. If you examine the documentary evidence itself, the list on which his name appears in February of 1598 is more an inventory of everyone in his neighborhood ["Chapple Street Warde"]in Stratford, and no individual on that list is described as a hoarder of grain. While the Shakespeare household is shown to have ten quarters of malt on hand at the time of the inventory, there are other of his neighbors with more than that, and others with much less, all the way down to as little as one quarter [held by Hughe Ainger]. Unless the purveyors of the "grain hoarder" myth are able to establish that H. Ainger was also cited for hoarding grain, this myth should be consigned to the "silly argument" file. It appears to be one more attempt to demean and villify Shakespeare.

The evidence does show that Shakespeare may have made a couple of loans to people [one of the records very possibly refers to a different William Shakespeare], but that [or the fact that he may have filed suits to recover a couple of loans] doesn't make him a commercial lender.

My general point is that mythmaking, and the repetition of such myths, whichever side is indulging in the practice, should be avoided, and that the dialogue should be confined to an examination of the actual evidence. I have no interest in silly arguments, just as I have no interest in arguments that are not founded on the available evidence. It may be enjoyable to engage in speculation, but I think we'd all benefit more by sticking to facts.

" It's not an argument addressed to the brain; it's more like an elbow directed at the ribs. "

Thinks for digging those examples up. I get it now. It's the same tactic pseudoskeptics use against psi. It's saying, "OK, we're gonna talk about this claim today, but it's such a silly claim that I'm gonna spend much of the time making silly jokes so you can see how silly this whole subject is."

If you go to that first link, the photograph says it all.

I'm not taking one side or the other here, but number 2 is not as black and white as might appear. It is itself fallacious to assert that any any argument that addresses the personal characteristics of its supporter(s) is an example of the fallacy of argumentum ad hominem just as not all reference to authority in an argument constitutes an instance of the fallacy of appeal to authority.

This is not, of course, a justification for denigration as an argument (like most netizens and virtually all that support views like parapsychology contrary to others' strong philosophical beliefs, I have had my share of such painful and unfair arguments made against me), but only a recognition that the issue is more nuanced then implied here. In this case, I quite agree that this has no weight of itself as an argument in favor of Shakespeare's authorship...

...but it is a legitimate part of the discussion in support of more substantive arguments.

The statement, albeit with a bit less snarkiness, is relevant on two counts. And let's me honest here, you stated the argument in a fairly insulting and excessive way ("simply snobs"). Certainly the argument has been made this way and worse, but it has also been made in more reasonable terms (paraphrasing -- "one important piece of the argument, and probably a major factor in the conviction of some of its supporters, depends on a belief in the implausibility, whether through lack of education, breeding or intrinsic nobility of spirit, of a man of the lower classes being capable of producing such works of sophistication -- a belief that is natural in the strongly classist traditional British society").

When a debate occurs between people of equal and identical knowledge of the subject -- when the facts are not at issue but only their logical interpretation -- then authority is not at issue. But when facts are at issue and when those who are attempting to make a judgement on the issue are not of at least equal expertise on the subject as the debaters then issues of authority and bias are a legitimate part of the discussion.

The other relevance is not entirely distinct from the first -- a motive for some of the ghost authorship proponents is quite relevant.

It is mathematically provable that two "rational agents" (as defined by the mathematical theory of optimum belief revision -- Bayesian Inference Theory) with differing initial views on some issue, will, if given freedom to communicate on the issue, always converge to a common belief -- and amazingly quickly unless the initial strength of belief of both is extraordinarily strong. This is because for such rational agents the strength of the other rational agent's belief, as evidenced, perhaps, by the vehemence of their argument, is itself evidence for their stance or aspects of it.

Since this is also true for less mathematically pure disagreements -- people certainly do take a proponent's strength of conviction in assessing their statements (though sometimes negatively: "the lady do protest too much, methinks") -- reasons why the strength of someone's conviction might be due to factors other than a dispassionate evaluation of the available evidence -- why the person might deviate from the ideal "rational agent" -- are apropos and proper.

As to the argument itself, it does seem incredibly weak, at most a reason to look for evidence rather than substantive evidence itself -- and your arguments to the contrary do little to change my mind.

From the time of the widespread use of the printing press until the 20th Century and to a lesser extent the late 19th Century it was quite possible to become proficient in a great part of what was considered the full body of significant human knowledge in Western Europe by reading. In fact, most aristocrats' educations were largely this. Heading off to meet at what we would call a conference with distant peers was a major undertaking, and one could not pick up the phone or type an email to request the opinion of colleagues, and this held true for intellectual communities as well.

The Great Books project, for example, grew out of a longing in the 1920s to be able to return to a time when "fully educated" was equivalent to "well read".

Moreover, if one's education need be demonstrated only in such areas as one feels confident, and one can research from and even directly crib from the works of others, then any holes in a genius' knowledge would not be evident. And keep in mind that though the fairly egalitarian intellectual and artistic communities of the coffee houses were still a few years off, the better taverns of London were their predecessors and a glib tongued and knowledgeable young middle class man like Shakespeare presumably was, would have had plenty of opportunity to converse with and learn from the Young Turks of his age.

Would you claim, for example, that the upper class Sir Humphrey Davies must have been the true source of the work of the "supposedly" self-educated lower-class (not even middle class) Michael Faraday (who educated himself by reading an encyclopedia as he rebound it in the bookbindery he was apprenticed in)? Faraday is considered to be one of the intellectual giants of 19th Century England, but he never attended school or had a formal tutor. Yet the amount of knowledge needed to be considered well educated, even principally within natural philosophy, was much greater than in Shakespeare's day (including, of course, a requirement to be conversant with the works attributed to Shakespeare).

As for the author's "upper class" attitudes -- the middle class has always sought to emulate and associate themselves socially and intellectually with the upper class. And, of course, Shakespeare (certainly Shakespeare the director -- someone who made his living in an area on the borderlines between the acceptably respectable and the morally questionable) depended on the good will and patronage of the elite, as much as the box office receipts from the poor. Keep in mind that the "middle class" was still a small group whose proper social status had yet to be settled.

It would be expected that an author in Shakespeare's position would tout the aristocratic party line. The 19th and 20th Century middle class revolutionary on behalf of the Proletariat (always a small minority, and arguably inspired in part by the 18th Century revolutionary aristocratic minority) was still two-hundred years in the future.

If the claim were that everyone who ever considered alternate authorship were "snobs" and that this was the sole reason for such an opinion then your citations of egalitarians who considered the possibility would be relevant. Of course, there are those who take that extreme view, but argument should always be addressed to the strongest forms of arguments, not the weakest. Even then, however, the argument would be far from decisive. People who support views contrary to the mainstream of their times frequently do not fully understand the full implications of their beliefs and frequently fail to intellectually rise above the habits of thought of their intellectual milieu. Here we are, heading towards 250 years after the American Revolution, after all, and yet the issue of whether individual liberty is compatible with enforced morality for the sake of morality is still a primary political issue.

And, of course, your citations are germane as proof that egalitarians might find some plausibility of the thesis, but the opinions of those you cite are not particularly authoritative or convincing as to the correctness of the claim itself. Being a noted author or poet does not create any credentials for the complex specialty of historical literary attribution.

Now, keep in mind, I am truly open to the possibility that Shakespeare's works were ghost written by someone else. I am no more a knee-jerk populist than I am a knee-jerk elitist, and I do not have an academic reputation based on his authorship. But I do not find the argument that Shakespeare did not have the background necessary to pen the works attributed to him of any weight. The argument is literally (as well as literarily) elitist whether it is true or not, justified or not, argued by an elitist or not. I do not find it either implausible or inappropriate to argue that some of those who find it a strong argument are biased in that direction by an elitist world view.

I've spent more time than I can afford right now writing this, so I'll try to stay out of any arguments about what I said -- although I will consider responding to questions if I've been unclear.

Here is some of what I attempted to post earlier concerning whether or not the author of Shakespeare exhibited so accurate a knowledge of courtly life that he could only have been a member of the aristocracy.

It was Dryden, who said that Beaumont and Fletcher were much better at representing the speech of gentlemen than Shakespeare. Here's another quote from Dryden, from his "Essay on the Dramatic Poetry of the Last Age" (1673): "I cannot find that any of them [the Elizabethan dramatists] had been conversant in courts, except Ben Jonson; and his genius lay not so much that way as to make an improvement by it." Dryden was writing only 57 years after Shakespeare's death, and was himself
quite familiar with Restoration Court life. But Dryden's view is supported by 20th-century scholars who have spent a lot of time studying Elizabethan Court life.

I would question the assumption that the writer of the Shakespeare plays must have been a member of the aristocracy. Muriel St. Clare Byrne (who read and wrote widely on Tudor social history) came to a very different conclusion. She was the author of *Elizabethan Life in Town and Country*, one of the standard Elizabethan social histories, and she edited the letters of both Henry VIII and of Arthur Plantaganet, Viscount Lisle, so she knew something about sixteenth-century court life. She wrote the chapter on "The Social Background" in the 1940 book *A Companion to Shakespeare Studies*, edited by Harley Granville-Barker and G. B. Harrison. In this essay, she illustrates that Shakespeare made numerous mistakes in the depiction of court life in the plays, and that his "court" households often bear a much closer relationship to a typical middle-class household than they do to an actual Tudor noble household. She also found that the accuracy of his depiction of noble households increased in the later plays, as though the author had gained knowledge and experience (by whatever means). For example, Ms. Byrne writes (pp.189-90):

"It follows, therefore, that the background of life in the plays is, and at the same time is not, the background of Elizabethan life. As an example -- old Capulet is an admirable picture of a testy Elizabethan parent, and his behaviour to Juliet in the matter of the match with Paris reminds us instantly of the perpetually quoted account that Lady Jane Grey gives of her own noble father and mother. The human reality is faithfully portrayed, and at the same time the detail of the portrait is contemporary. If, however, we go on lightheartedly to assume that old Capulet in his behaviour as a 'nobleman' bears any resemblance to an Elizabethan noble of similar standing we shall be hopelessly misled. If we compare him with the genuine article we realise at once that the intimate 'realistic', or Elizabethan, scenes in which he appears are purely 'romantic', or, if we prefer, untrue to the facts of contemporary noble life. Shakespeare may label Capulet the head of a noble household, who can treat Paris, 'a young Nobleman, Kinsman to the Prince', as his equal, and a proper match for his daughter; but when it comes to a scene like Act IV, Sc. iv, which shows the home life of this supposed nobleman, we realise that the setting is not Verona but Stratford, and that the most likely person to have sat for that very realistic portrait is John Shakespeare, or any of the good burgesses who were William's father's friends. They probably got in the way of all their busy servants and kitchen staffs on the occasions of daughters' weddings: but it is quite certain that an Elizabethan nobleman, with his retinue of anything from twenty to eight hundred gentlemen officers, and from a hundred to five hundred yeomen servants, did not come into personal contact with Antony and Potpan, Peter and Angelica, and did not himself have to issue orders for the quenching of fires and the turning up of tables. In these scenes Capulet is brother to Dekker's jolly shoemaker, Simon Eyre, not to Lord Burghley."

A little later (p. 199):

"The etiquette and ceremonial complications of regal life find but little reflection in the plays. What Shakespeare either did not know, or else deliberately rejected for dramatic purposes, was the circumstance and order of life in a royal household. By ignorance or design -- more probably a mixture of both -- he has given us a romantic picture. It was natural that he should seize upon as apt for dramatic purposes the popular aspect of royalty, with which Elizabeth's subjects were well acquainted: Shakespeare and his Queen both possessed a superb sense of the theatre. What is surprising, however, is that he should so entirely neglect the dramatic opportunities offered by the intimate-formal routine in Court life, had he been acquainted with it. *Henry VIII*, in which we must allow for the collaboration of Fletcher, is the only play which exploits it in any way, though the natural dramatic value of this carefully staged remoteness is enormous. But Shakespeare will have none of it. Court life in the plays is definitely a homely affair in comparison with Court life at Whitehall."

I find it hard to believe that de Vere was so good at keeping his secret that no one ever thought he could be the author until the 20th century.

In my view of the world, secrets are hard to keep, and people gossip a lot. In this case, a lot of people would have had to keep the secret: de Vere's side, and then the King's Men's side. Even if we grant that de Vere could keep a secret, I sure doubt that a bunch of actors could. Even if only one of the King's Men (such as an impostor Shakespeare) received the works, the rest of the actors were not idiots and would notice that they never saw Shakespeare working on them, that the manuscripts were not in his hand, etc. Rumors would fly.

Further, de Vere's contemporaries would have the (totally underwhelming) evidence for de Vere's authorship we have today: alleged references to his life in the plays, etc.

IIRC, there is not a single contemporary attribution to him of a Shakespearean work. Nor were the works attributed to anyone else, either. Moreover, nor was there anything contemporary in writing suggesting that Shakespeare's authorship was spurious or doubtful. Nor was than an oral tradition to this effect noted anywhere along the line in history.

That just doesn't fit my view of how things work. I find it analogous (though not so ludicrous) as Moon Hoaxism and Trutherism. One is asked to believe that such a secret could be kept. I don't.

I also don't believe that de Vere would have the motive to hide being the author of such appreciated works. At the very least, he published other poetry under his own name, so he could have admitted to being the author of the sonnets and other poetry, one would think.

I forgot to finish this paragraph:

Further, de Vere's contemporaries would have the (totally underwhelming) evidence for de Vere's authorship we have today: alleged references to his life in the plays, etc. If Oxfordians wish to aver that this evidence is all that good, then why didn't the people in Oxford's own time catch onto it?

If there was even the hint of doubt as to who wrote the plays at the time, you'd think that there had been all manner of theories as to who the author was, and people would be actively looking for signs in the plays. But we have no evidence that they were.

Well...I'm inclined to wait until I'm on the Other Side and can find out for myself. :)

Dominic, one of the points made in Richard Paul Roe's excellent Shakespeare Guide to Italy is that English travelers were amazed at how much casual interaction there was in Italy between the heads of households and their staffs, a situation very unlike English households. The depiction of the Capulet household would seem to be inspired by Oxford's extensive travels in Italy, during which he was hosted by many wealthy and aristocratic families. The Stratford man's father surely had no servants at all (the family was not well off), so how could he serve as the inspiration for such a scene?

The detail about the grain survey is interesting, though I'm sure you'll agree that almost all scholarly sources say the Stratford man was fined for hoarding grain. They may be wrong. I haven't looked at the document itself. There's also the odd fact that a contemporary depiction of the Shakespeare Monument in Stratford shows the deceased holding what appears to be a sack of grain, though the accuracy of this drawing is often questioned.

IIRC, the Stratford man's father was fined for usury, so apparently moneylending was an ongoing proposition for the Shaksperes.

In any event, William must have made his money somehow, because it cost a pretty penny to buy a share in an acting company. Playwrights didn't get rich in those days, nor did actors unless they were major stars.

Matt, there are many allusions to Shakespeare during his lifetime that suggest that people were in doubt as to the author's identity or knew a secret about it. See Chapters 12, 14, and 15 of Shakespeare Suppressed by Katherine Chiljan. A few examples are the character of Sogliardo in Every Man Out of His Humor, Crispinus in Poetaster, Gullio in The Return from Parnassus (Part One), W.S. in Willobie His Avisa, and Willy in The Tears of the Muses.

There are also uncomplimentary allusions to the Stratford man in Shakespeare's own works; see Chapter 13 of the same book. The character of Christopher Sly in the prologue of The Taming of the Shrew would be the most obvious example.

Topher, there's a world of difference between the 1500s and the 1800s. In the 1500s, printing was just getting started. There were no newspapers, no public libraries, no inexpensive books (though there were cheap pamphlets), and illiteracy was widespread. Books were costly items reserved for the wealthy. Moreover, Shakespeare's mastery of subjects like falconry and Italian geography speaks to personal experience, not book learning. The knowledge of the goings-on at court displayed in Love's Labour's Lost could have been obtained only by someone who was there. It might be argued that Shakespeare very early came under the patronage of aristocrats and was privy to all their gossip and learning (this is the tack taken by Eric Sams), but even this scenario would not explain the close parallels between the plays and the events off Oxford's life.

Michael, just a few points in rebuttal. Romeo and Juliet was taken from source material [The Tragical History of Romeus and Juliet by Arthur Brooke (1562) and Palace of Pleasure by William Painter (1582), so there was really no need for its author to have first-hand experience the relationships between Italian aristos and their servants in order for him to write the play. The fact that English travelers, in general, were amazed at casual interaction with servants does nothing to identify Oxford specifically as the author. In addition, the Shakespeare family was quite well-off if the court records showing the amounts paid out by John Shakespeare are any indication [there is some recent scholarship which suggests that John Shakespeare’s money was invested in procuring William’s share in the company]. Next, there is no way of knowing whether or not Shakespeare himself traveled to Italy [although the documents from the English College seminary in Rome referring to "William the Clerk from Stratford", recorded in the “missing years”, do provoke speculation]. Finally, there is more than enough evidence, of the Oxfordian kind, in the Parnassus plays to show that Shakespeare was intimately involved with English aristocrats [Southampton, in particular] and would have had ample opportunity to observe servants.

As to the allegation that Shakespeare was cited for hoarding grain, I wholeheartedly agree that some Stratfordian scholars have slipped into that corn maze as well. As I stated, I think all sides would benefit from restricting themselves to the documentary record rather than indulging in speculation. As for the monument, even quasi-Oxfordian Diana Price doesn’t buy that argument. As to the charge of usury against John Shakespeare that is another interesting topic. He was turned in by an unscrupulous government informant and he continued to do business with the man he was supposedly ripping off. My father was a doctor; I am not; to assume that “moneylending was an ongoing proposition” for the Shakespeares, father and son, is a fallacious argument, and one that is not supported by the evidence relating to William Shakespeare. In fact, if you will examine the court records concerning the lawsuits that may have been filed by William Shakespeare, you will find that there is no indication that he charged any interest whatsoever – a rather strange proposition if he was, in fact, in the business of lending money.

There is evidence that Shakespeare made quite a bit of money from writing plays and from his partnership in the Globe and the King’s Men. There is also evidence that he had an aristocratic patron, at least for a time.

Regarding the alleged “allusions to Shakespeare during his lifetime that suggest that people were in doubt as to the author's identity or knew a secret about it,” I would suggest that identifying Gullio as a representation of Shakespeare is so far off the mark as to be laughable. Could you inform me what evidence Ms. Chiljan summons for her identification of Gullio as Shakespeare. There is not enough space here to set out the argument, but there are copious references in the play, supported by the historical record, that make it clear that Gullio is a caricature of Southampton. If you are interested, I’ll be more than happy to list some of the many correspondences that identify Southampton in the character. In fact, there is a probable reference to Southampton’s relationship to de Vere in the play, but it isn’t complimentary to either of them, and it has nothing to do with authorship. Nowhere in the plays is there any indication that there is any question as to the identity of the author of the Shakespeare works.

As to supposed derogatory references to Shakespeare in his own works, such evidence, as subjective as it is and as dependent as it is on the unsupported premise that someone else wrote the works, is really no evidence at all.

I am not nearly enough of a scholar on these matters to debate further, but I am interested in the debate between Michael and Dominic. Cheers!

Dominic, your points are fascinating and well-taken, but I'd suggest reading The Shakespeare Guide to Italy for a detailed exposition, based on twenty years of first-hand research, showing that the author (whoever he was) was intimately familiar with Italy.

The trouble with filling the Stratford man's lost years with continental travel is that, in order to make him the author, we also have to fill those years with the study of law, mastery of multiple languages, experience in warfare, a university-level education, and other things.

Gullio might be Southampton, but he might equally well be the Stratford man posing as a gentleman and filching from Shakespeare's plays to aggrandize himself (this is the gist of Chiljan's argument).

To me, after spending several years looking into this question, it's just obvious that Oxford wrote the Shakespearean canon. I'm frankly surprised that anyone still doubts it - and yet I was an extreme doubter myself, five or ten years ago, so I understand the appeal of the orthodox position, and I don't expect it to change any time soon, if ever.

What clinches the Oxfordian case for me is that it makes the plays so much deeper and more meaningful, and also makes sense of things that are otherwise inexplicable. Problem plays like All's Well are not problematic when viewed through the prism of Oxford's life. The Sonnets start to tell a coherent story tied to real historical figures like Southampton, Queen Elizabeth, and Anne Vavasour. The motifs of the bed trick, a husband's jealousy, an abandoned daughter later reclaimed by her father, a spendthrift aristocrat, and many others take on new meaning. The devastating portrait of Malvolio in Twelfth Night comes into focus as a vicious satire of Oxford's rival, Christopher Hatton. Hamlet's relationship with Polonius and Ophelia takes on new dimensions as an exploration of Oxford's troubled relationship with his father-in-law and first wife. (And can there be any doubt that Polonius is Burghley, the feared spymaster? No commoner would have dared mock him on the stage.) Even offstage details like Hamlet's encounter with pirates or Prince Hal's robbery at Gad Hill become pointers to Oxford's escapades.

As a small example of what I mean, I recently reread the first act of Timon of Athens, certainly not one of Shakespeare's best plays, and one that seems to have been left in an unfinished state. Reading it from an Oxfordian perspective, I saw it with new eyes. Timon simply is Oxford - the aristocrat who gives his patronage and financial help to anyone who asks, selling all his lands, with no thought of tomorrow - until suddenly he finds himself in financial distress, essentially bankrupt, with his former friends indifferent to his plight. Nothing in the Stratford man's meager bio relates to this situation, so orthodox academics see it as merely an intellectual exercise. But everything in Oxford's life relates to it, and so the play becomes a deeply personal statement of both self-reproach and misanthropic bitterness.

The same holds true for Hamlet, All's Well, and others. There's an old joke that says Shakespeare's plays were not really written by William Shakespeare, but by someone else of the same name. But a better quip would be that if Shakespeare's plays weren't written by Oxford, then they were written by someone who exactly shared Oxford's background, education, life experiences, aristocratic biases, and temperament.

It's one of those things that are hard to believe until you see it. But once you see it, you wonder how you could have missed it. At least that was my experience. Your mileage may vary, of course!

Michael,

The trouble with this debate and for the Oxfordian side is that it's asymmetrical.

The kind of arguments that the Stratfordians wield are the kind that are going to satisfy people most easily: Shakespeare's names were on the plays, Shakespeare was a member of the King's Men, which performed the plays, and so on. Not very esoteric.

On the other hand, the kind of arguments that the Oxfordians wield require people to become scholars of the plays, de Vere's life, and Elizabethan history in order to agree. Your rebuttal to my points above is that I should read some books on the matter.

I'm someone who has gone and read Oxfordian and Stradfordian websites on the matter with interest, and that still hasn't qualified me to participate.

So that is one reason why the Oxfordian cause has failed and will fail. If you tell people they need to read a bunch of recondite books about textual and historical minutiae in order to see the light, very few are going to bother.

What will continue to cause the anti-Stratfordian position to fail is that it is built entirely upon speculation and the subjective ambiguation of unambiguous documents. There is no evidence for Oxford of a remotely similar nature to the evidence which supports William Shakespeare of Stratford as the author of the works. I can only hope that physical, documentary evidence will continue to prevail over speculation and assumption.

For myself, I don't need a back-story to render the works deep or meaningful. I don't require hearsay gossip from 50 years after Lord Oxford's death, to the effect that he was the victim of a "bed trick" [interesting that Oxfordians are so dismissive of "posthumous" evidence when it supports the Stratforidan claim while they are more than willing to accept it when they believe it supports their own claims], to make Shakespeare meaningful; in fact, I find such a tendency to make a Shakespeare play into a mere roman a clef, or a gossip sheet about court rivalries, to be anything but meaningful or deep. I think we'll have to agree to disagree. One final statement on this: biographical elements do not necessarily indicate autobiography.

As for Parnassus, I've just spent a couple of months studying it, and I am quite sure that Gullio is Southampton and is not Shakespeare. The correspondences between the character in the play and the historical person are reflected in the historical record, and don't require subjective interpretation such as that which appears to guide the argument in Shakespeare Suppressed.

What is Parnassus? A work attributed to Shakespeare?

The Parnassus plays were satirical works written for a university audience, poking fun at individuals who would have been known to them, but who are sometimes difficult to identify today.

Actually I agree that the Oxfordian position is likely to continue to fail, though not quite for the same reasons. I think it will fail because: 1) people find the Stratford story (poor boy makes good) emotionally appealing in a way that the Oxford story (pampered nobleman makes good) is not; 2) most academics are not original thinkers and are, in fact, likely to be ostracized and punished if they stray into "heresies"; 3) most academics grasp the creative process only in terms of theory, so they're always misreading it or attributing things to "genius" and "imagination' that no amount of genius and imagination can do (it's not a coincidence that some anti-Stratfordians were actual working creative geniuses like Mark Twain, Walt Whitman, Charles Chaplin, and Orson Welles); and 4) the weight of tradition is very hard to shake off. There are other reasons, too, such as our modern difficulty (in our information-drenched age) in appreciating how tightly information was controlled in Elizabeth's police state, and how easy it would be to suppress an author's identity if the authorities wanted it suppressed.

To clarify one point: I wasn't saying that Oxford's plays are romans a clef, but rather that they are the product of deeply felt personal experience and of his mediations on his own failings as a husband, father, and public figure. Some of the details, like Gad Hill, may have been put in as markers to his identity, but most of them crop up simply because he could not avoid revealing himself when he wrote. He knew it, too: "That every word doth almost tell my name ..." (Hmm. Why was he worried about telling his name anyway? I thought everybody knew his name?)

The one thing I don't quite get about the Stratfordians' position is how they can maintain that Love's Labour's Lost, a sophisticated play chock full of in-jokes and topical allusions pertaining to Elizabeth's royal court c. 1585 or earlier, could have been composed by a 20-year-old farm boy. I know, I know - "genius" and "imagination." But literary genius requires cultivation, and the raw material for imagination has to come from somewhere. If Shakespeare's fledgling efforts had been plays or poems about rural life, the Stratford man's candidacy would make some sense, but what ever could have prepared him to write a play like LLL?

For that matter, how could he have dared to lampoon Lord Burghley on stage as Polonius, or caricature Burghley's equally powerful son as the hunchbacked Richard III? Or to depict the Virgin Queen herself as a lustful seductress in Venus & Adonis? How did he get away with depicting an English king (Richard II) surrendering his crown, in a play that was performed just prior to Essex's rebellion, at the behest of Essex's partisans, specifically to stir up the crowd; and why did he suffer no consequences, when other playwrights faced prison and torture for much lesser offenses?

And why did he write, in the Sonnets, that his "powerful rhyme" would live forever while his name would be buried with his body? If his poetry was destined to be immortal and his name was on it, how could his name ever be forgotten?

Yet his prophesy has proved true. Oxford's "powerful rhyme" does live, but few credit him as the author. And this will probably be continue to be the case.

Does it matter? Not a lot. For me, it's enough to reread the works in the light of a new understanding of their author. I've found that it further enriches a body of literature that was already incomparably rich. But I'm not going on a crusade about it. One thing I've learned in blogging about the paranormal and other fringe topics is that you can't fight city hall. The conventional wisdom may not be omnipotent, but it's no pushover either - and it tends to go marching on ... and on ... and on.

Or as Edward de Vere himself put it, "Shall we their fond pageant see? Lord, what fools these mortals be!"

:-)

The thing is, if you're correct, then he tried to remain anonymous and succeeded. He clearly had a very elaborate system to keep everyone at the time fooled.

You can't really blame academics for de Vere's success in such a case.

"It's one of those things that are hard to believe until you see it. But once you see it, you wonder how you could have missed it."

Michael, it's fun to see your enthusiasm for this subject, and your arguments are persuasive. And while I myself have no horse in this race, and certainly don't know enough about the subject to place any bets, something puzzles me.

Based on your familiarity with the plays and Oxford's biography, you're saying that aspects of his life keep popping up in the plot lines. And you're saying these parallels are so obvious, it's hard to believe anyone with the requisite knowledge could miss them.

So here's my question. If *you* can see these correlations, then it seems to me many of Oxford's contemporaries should have seen them too. It doesn't seem that he made much of an effort to hide his authorship, if the parallels are as frequent and as obvious as you say.

Was Oxford well-known? If so, I'm trying to imagine a contemporary parallel. (It may not work at all, you'll have to tell me, based on your better knowledge of the specifics.)

But let's say a well-known politician, whose life story is often hashed out in the news, writes some plays in secret. And year after year, events in his life keep showing up in those plays for the whole world--and more importantly, his friends, acquaintances, and even enemies--to see.

Wouldn't the cat somehow get out of the bag?

"the aristocrat who gives his patronage and financial help to anyone who asks, selling all his lands, with no thought of tomorrow"

Items like this might not be, in themselves, specific enough to give away the truth, but if you start putting all the similarities together, doesn't it seem likely that some of his contemporaries might have had conversations like this:

"You know, the character in that Shakespeare play sure reminds me a bit of our mutual friend Oxford."

"Hey, I was thinking the same thing about the Shakespeare play we saw last month."

Third guy: "And how about the one we saw last year with the pirates and the robbery at Gad Hill?"

I mean, if you think it's so easy to connect the dots, why couldn't his many contemporaries do it, people who knew the details of his life better than you?

Is there any evidence that Oxford's contemporaries were wondering why his life kept popping up in Shakespeare's plays?

Yep, that's what I said above, Bruce. Great minds and all that. :)

Can one have it both ways? It's so obvious once you see it BUT no one at the time saw it. Hmm...

Matt, I read your points and they're good. I didn't see where you explicitly said that Oxford's contemporaries should have picked up the same clues as Michael did, specifically from the plots themselves. (Though you did say similar things.)

Sorry if I missed it! I know the misery of writing a good argument, then having someone repeat the same thing later in the thread.

Michael, here's a really silly question that I'm going to ask anyway: which do you feel more certain of, the afterlife, or Oxford's authorship?


Bruce,

I wrote,

Further, de Vere's contemporaries would have the (totally underwhelming) evidence for de Vere's authorship we have today: alleged references to his life in the plays, etc. If Oxfordians wish to aver that this evidence is all that good, then why didn't the people in Oxford's own time catch onto it?

You phrased it more clearly than I did, however!

Ahhh, now I see it Matt:

"Further, de Vere's contemporaries would have the (totally underwhelming) evidence for de Vere's authorship we have today: alleged references to his life in the plays, etc. If Oxfordians wish to aver that this evidence is all that good, then why didn't the people in Oxford's own time catch onto it?"

Yes, that was exactly my point. Though I asked it with a slightly different attitude, because, to be honest, I'm not convinced the evidence IS underwhelming. But then, I don't claim to know much about this subject.

Bruce,

See the Shakespeare authorship link above. :)

From Wikipedia [just because it is a good encapsulation]:
The Parnassus plays are three dramas produced at St John's College, Cambridge, as part of the college's Christmas entertainments towards the end of the 16th century. They are humorous accounts of the adventures of two students, Philomusus and Studioso. The first play The Pilgrimage to Parnassus is an allegory about student life. The other two plays, The Return from Parnassus and The Second Part of the Return from Parnassus, describe the two graduates' unsuccessful attempts to make a living.
The first part, The Pilgrimage to Parnassus, describes allegorically the four year journey to Parnassus of the two students, i.e. their progress, through the university course of logic, rhetoric, etc., and the temptations set before them by their meeting with Madido, a drunkard, Stupido, a puritan who hates learning, Amoretto, a lover, and Ingenioso, a disappointed student.
The play was doubtless originally intended to stand alone, but the favour with which it was received led to the writing of a sequel, The Return from Parnassus, which deals with the adventures of the two students after the completion of their studies at the university, and shows them discovering by bitter experience of how little pecuniary value their learning is. They again meet Ingenioso, who is making a scanty living by the press, but is on the search for a patron. They also meet as a new character, the sensation loving Luxurioso. All four now leave the university for London, while a draper, a tailor and a tapster lament their unpaid bills. Philomusus and Studioso find work respectively as a sexton and a tutor in a merchant's family, while Luxurioso becomes a writer and singer of ballads. In the meanwhile Ingenioso has met with a patron, a foolish poetry-lover named Gullio, for whom he composes amorous verses in the style of Chaucer, Spenser, and Shakespeare, the last alone being to the patron's satisfaction. Gullio is portrayed as a great admirer of "sweet Mr. Shakespeare". He says he will obtain a picture of him for his study and that "I'll worship sweet Mr Shakespeare and to honour him will lay his Venus and Adonis under my pillow, as we read of one - I do not well remember his name, but I'm sure he was a king - slept with Homer under his bed's head".[1]
A further sequel, The Second Part of the Return from Parnassus, Or the Scourge of Simony, is a more ambitious, and from every point of view more interesting, production than the two earlier pieces. In it we again meet with Ingenioso, now become a satirist. On the excuse of discussing a recently-published collection of extracts from contemporary poetry, John Bodenham's Belvedere, he briefly criticizes, or rather characterizes, a number of writers of the day, among them being Spenser, Constable, Michael Drayton, John Davies, John Marston, Christopher Marlowe, Ben Jonson, Shakespeare, and Thomas Nashe; the last of whom is referred to as dead.
+++++++++++++++++++++++

The second and third plays are the ones that have implications for the authorship question, as they comment on the disdain that the university wits had for the common players and the authors of plays for the public theatres. The Oxfordians either contort themselves to make the relevant passages say something favorable for their position or basically ignore the issue altogether. For instance, Ogburn uses a passage which is critical of Kempe and Burbage, basically calling them upstart idiots, to contend that Shakespeare [who isn’t even a character in the scene] is guilty by association and is equally pilloried. Anderson at least recognizes that Gullio is a caricature of Southampton and cites the relevant reference to de Vere in the play, but he fails to address the issues raised by the plays other than to assert that they are evidence that the university and literary set in London knew of de Vere’s “secret identity” as “W.S.”.

It is widely accepted that the character Ingenioso represents Thomas Nashe. The evidence is equally clear, imho, that the character Gullio represents Southampton [with the possibility that it is a composite character referencing Southampton and some of his coterie]. As just one example of the correspondences which exist between actual, historical persons and the characters in the plays, Inegnioso [Nashe] claims to have written a pornographic poem in an attempt to secure patronage from Gullio. Nashe did, in fact, write such a poem [known as “Nashe’s Dildo”] and seek patronage from Southampton. Nashe did not obtain such patronage and made bitter attacks on Southampton, while Southampton turned to “Mr. Shakespeare” [note the use of the honorific “Mr.” which William Shakespeare of Stratford was entitled to by the grant of a coat of arms]. There are many more correspondences, some of them quite humorous. Just as the Oxfordian case depends [almost exclusively] on identifying allegedly biographical elements in various literary works, the Parnassus plays reveal a scenario that matches the real-life circumstances of Southampton and the poet/playwright William Shakespeare, a story confirmed in the Sonnets. I'll be more than happy to provide more of the correspondences if anyone is interested.

Bruce & Matt: Excellent point, and I thought you both made it quite well.

Bruce, I have no doubt that Oxford's acquaintances in his social circle knew full well that he was Shakespeare. It was an open secret among them. An excerpt from an essay by Charles Beauclerk, which appears in the coffee-table book that accompanied the movie Anonymous, explains it concisely:

"These are court dramas written by a court insider who had suffered a fall from grace, and was using the theatre to tell his story in much the same way that Hamlet does [referring to the scene where Hamlet stages a play for the court in order to shed light on the usurpation of the crown]. And what a tale he had to tell! Murder and incest in the highest places. No wonder he was silenced, Soviet-style, his name swept from the records. Rather than arguing for a widespread conspiracy in Elizabethan London, I propose that the mysterious silence surrounding Shakespeare's life and identity reflects the social mores of an insular and self-serving court, of which the playwright was a prominent member.... Exposing the author would have meant exposing his satires of them and their Queen. To those at court, then, Shakespeare's identity was an open secret, rather like President Kennedy's philandering, which, while it was common knowledge amongst the White House staff, never leaked into the press."

So the idea is not that Oxford wanted to remain anonymous - the Sonnets make it clear that the prospect of never being properly credited left him despondent. Sadly, he had no choice in the matter, having been consigned to anonymity by the highest powers in the government.

Of course in those days the doings of the elites weren't splashed all over the pages of magazines (there were no magazines), so those outside of the upper classes would not have known much about Oxford's personal life. Those in the know would have easily gotten the references; the rest (the vast majority) would not.

Oxford's feelings in the matter are summed up, I think, by the dying words of his stand-in, Prince Hamlet: "... what a wounded name, things standing thus unknown, shall live behind me!"

"Michael, here's a really silly question that I'm going to ask anyway: which do you feel more certain of, the afterlife, or Oxford's authorship?"

Hmm. Oxford, I guess. Super-psi might explain the afterlife ...

I'm never 100% sure of anything, of course, including Oxford. Heck, maybe the Stratford man was a psychic who channeled all the plays by tapping into Oxford's unconscious! (No, I don't believe that, but it would be a super-psi "explanation.")

I also think that both issues will remain unresolved for a long, long time. I don't anticipate any smoking-gun breakthroughs in either case. And maybe that's just as well. After all, if these things were finally resolved once and for all, what would we have to talk about?

"Ingenioso [Nashe] claims to have written a pornographic poem in an attempt to secure patronage from Gullio."

It' a good point, but just to illustrate how hard it is to pin down these references after 400 years, note that Shakespeare also wrote a pornographic poem in what could be seen as an attempt to secure patronage from Southampton - namely, Venus and Adonis, which was considered racy and even indecent in its day.

Now, I don't think the author of V & A was actually trying to secure anyone's patronage, since Oxford was a patron himself. But the poem was presented to Southampton as a gift, and the dedicatory page could be interpreted as a request for patronage by those who didn't know the circumstances.

"See the Shakespeare authorship link above."

That's a good site for Stratfordian arguments, but looking at it exclusively is like relying only on JREF for info on the paranormal. Their approach is very lawyerly - they marshall all possible arguments for their side, while ignoring or denigrating any contrary arguments. For balance, it would also be good to look at the Oxfordian case. I've linked to some sources in the main post.

Websites can take you only so far in this area, as I think Dominic would agree; to go deeper, you really do need to read actual books, which supply a level of detail that even the best websites lack. (The same is true of the paranormal, IMO.)

Hmm. Thinking about it further, I think I would change my answer above. I think I'm more convinced of the afterlife. That's because evidence for life after death is ongoing in the form of NDEs, past-life memories, and mediumistic communications that are happening now. OTOH, any evidence for the authorship question is necessarily limited to the past. And because it is in the past, it is not as easily subjected to testing and analysis. If it were unambiguous, of course, it would not require testing and analysis; no one has to test and analyze the proposition that the Battle of Gettysburg took place. But as we can see, it's not unambiguous. Various interpretations are possible, and since all the players in our drama are dead and most of the documents have been lost, we are left having to decipher clues from incomplete sources.

"To those at court, then, Shakespeare's identity was an open secret, rather like President Kennedy's philandering, which, while it was common knowledge amongst the White House staff, never leaked into the press.""

OK--this deals nicely with the point Matt and I made, and makes your argument a LOT more plausible, I think. As I said, I don't know enough about this matter to take a stand either way. But it's fun to see how deeply you've thought about it yourself.

Also interesting--this certainly is not equivalent to a conspiracy theory on the order of 9/11 or the Kennedy assassination. But because the Oxford claim demands a great secret well-kept by so many, it is just a TINY bit like those things, and knowing how conspiracy theories generally irk you (as they do me), it's fun to see you wade into these waters at all.

"You phrased it more clearly than I did, however!"

Nah--I just used more words to do it. :o)

I appreciate your remark that we are looking at these referces 400 years down the road...I only wish that more Oxfordians would keep that in mind. As to the Nashe poem, it is far more pornographic than V&A, and was considered so at the time. And,as I said, it is widely recognized and accepted that Ingenioso in the play represents Thomas Nashe. If Gullio is supposed to be Shakespeare how is it that Ingenioso is seeking patronage from him, or are you saying that Ingenioso is also Shakespeare and is sekking patronage from himself? Maybe I am missing your point as to V&A...

As I've also stated, there are many other correspondences betwen Gullio and Southampton. For instance, in one scene, Gullio recounts his visit to the household of an unidentified earl [plausible deniability] who wishes Gullio to marry his daughter. Gullio declines and pays money to the household upon departing. This corresponds to Southampton's refusal to wed Oxford's daughter and his payment of a fine therefor.

Another correspondence:

Ingenioso I dare sweare youre worship scapt knightinge verie hardly. [Southampton had recently returned from Ireland, just as Gullio is said to have done, where Essex handed out knighthoods like they were m&m's.

Gullio Thats but a pettie requitall to good desertes, he that esteems mee of less worth than a knight is a peasande & a gull. Giue mee a new knight of them all, in fencschoole att a Nimbrocado or at a
Stocado. Sr Oliuer, Sr Randal - base, base chambertearms: I am saluted euery morninge by the name of, Good morow captaine, my sworde is at youre seruice.

This is an obvious reference to Southampton's Ireland dalliance with
Piers Edmunds. In 1599, during the Nine Years War (1595-1603), Southampton went to
Ireland with Essex, who made him general of his horse, but the queen insisted that the appointment be canceled. Southampton remained on in personal attendance upon the Earl, rather than as an officer. During
his time in the Irish wars, it was reported to Cecil that he saw most of his active service in bed with a Captain Piers Edmunds - he would "cole and hug" his captain in his arms, and "play wantonly" with him. This is some excellent sword play involved here [pun intended]. The
sword that was always at Southampton's service belonged to his Captain and saluted him every morning.

The fact that Southampton was a graduate of St. John's College and the Parnassus plays were written for its students is telling. As I've said there are numerous other correspondences but I've already spent more than enough time on this.

Speaking of the dedications to V&A and to Lucrece can you really see Oxford writing such obsequious pieces to the young Southampton. Michael, may I ask if you are an adherent of one [or all] of the Prince Tudor theories?

Bruce,

It *is* like a conspiracy theory because you have to twist your mind in a pretzel in order to cover all of the evidence against the case.

For example, de Vere died before Shakespeare stopped writing plays. But wait! That's OK because [insert recondite reason]. And so on and so forth.

It's like the Copernican revolution in reverse: instead of going with what's easy to understand and imagine, one has to get into Ptolemaic epicycles and all kinds of fancy calculations.

By the way, I think the people who argue against the paranormal are the conspiracy theorists. I mean, they literally need to accuse experimenters of cheating in order to justify their position. They are the ones who have to dance around the mountain of evidence and imagine a world in which millions of people experience phenomena--but they're all wrong!

So I don't find Oxfordianism and skepticism to share the same flawed epistemology.

That doesn't mean I find Oxfordianism idiotic. I do see how, when one gets into it, it seems to be more and more true. But this is more the world of interpretation and opinion than of fact.

Michael,

I'm glad you said you find evidence of the Afterlife more compelling than evidence of Oxford's authorship. For a second there I thought we were all doomed. :)

"By the way, I think the people who argue against the paranormal are the conspiracy theorists."

It seems that way to me too!

Er, that should be:

I find that Oxfordianism and skepticism to share the same flawed epistemology.

In contrast, people who support the existence of the Afterlife are going with the flow of evidence, not against it.

I've read Oxfordian websites too. I've certainly looked at both sides.

In the Shakespeare authorship site, I think this essay provides a pretty good summary of evidence against the Oxford position:

http://shakespeareauthorship.com/whynot.html

Dominic, you make very good points about Gullio and Ingenosio.

"For example, de Vere died before Shakespeare stopped writing plays. But wait! That's OK because [insert recondite reason]."

It's not recondite, Matt. The dating of the plays is highly uncertain. All we really know is when they were published. Half of them weren't published at all until 1623, in the First Folio, which is after both Oxford and the Stratford man were deceased. (So if we go by publication dates, the Stratford man died too early also.) The others were published earlier, mostly within the lifetimes of both Oxford and the Stratford man. Publication says nothing about dates of composition or first performance (except to set an end date).

The Tempest and Macbeth are usually cited as plays that had to be written after Oxford's death. But recent research by Roger Stritmatter challenges this assumption about The Tempest. I look forward to his forthcoming book:

http://oberonshakespearestudygroup.blogspot.com/2011/12/kositsky-and-stritmatters-tempest-book.html

Macbeth has been dated late because, for certain reasons, it was thought to be a play written in tribute to King James. Actually, Oxford lived long enough to witness the early months of James's reign, so this is not a problem for Oxfordians. In any case I'm doubtful that a play about the murder of a Scottish king (James was Scottish) was really intended as a tribute to James. A few scholars believe Macbeth was inspired by the Gunpowder Plot, which took place shortly after Oxford's death, but this is a minority view, and prejudice against Jesuit "equivocators" (exhibited in the porter scene) predated the Gunpowder episode by several decades. (As an aside, I personally think the porter scene was a later interpolation, along with other scenes usually attributed to Thomas Middleton. But this is neither here nor there.)

There's also the existence of many early plays -- too early for the Stratford man -- that cover the same subject matter as the acknowledged Shakespearean plays (plays about King Lear, King John, and Hamlet, for instance). This means that either Shakespeare starting writing much earlier than generally assumed, or he was an incorrigible plagiarist.

Unfortunately, relying on David Kathman's site is like relying on James Randi as an authority on psi. A balanced perspective requires looking at both sides. But I agree that if one limits one's reading to Kathman and his allies, one will naturally take the Stratfordian side.

Bruce, to me the biggest difference in terms of conspiracy theories is that our modern society makes it almost impossible to keep secrets, especially secrets held by thousands of people (as would be required if 9-11 were an inside job, or if the moon landings were hoaxed). Elizabethan England, OTOH, was a whole different ball game, when only a tiny minority of the population was literate, and even fewer were privy to the secrets of the rich and powerful. Combine this extremely small in-group with intense social pressure to toe the line and with the ever-present threat of being sent to to Tower, or tortured, or beheaded, any of which could be done at the Queen's whim, and you have a situation in which people held their tongues, at least in public. What they gossiped about in private we will never know.

Anyway, it's been an interesting discussion. Special thanks to Dominic Hughes for sharing his obvious expertise, educating me on the Parnassus plays, and showing great patience in participating in what I'm sure he found a wearily frustrating exchange of views.

Michael,

It's still recondite, even if it's true. It goes from a matter of just saying when the plays came out and when Shakespeare died to a very lengthy explanation of how the dating varies from consensus opinion. At this point one really must bow out if one is not a scholar on these specific points.

In contrast, arguments about the paranormal tend to be pretty straightforward, and the disadvantage usually falls on the skeptics, who have to come up with elaborate explanations of how experiments were poorly set up or fraudulent or how so many people could be wrong about things they experienced themselves. About the worst thing we have to deal with is discussions of meta-analysis, which are difficult whether one is pro or con paranormal.

Michael: Thank you for the opportunity to engage in the dialogue here. I did not find it frustrating in the least. In fact, it was beneficial in that it helped me to clarify some of the issues I've been considering regarding the Parnassus plays. It was also a much more polite and respectful discussion than is sometimes encountered regarding the SAQ -- which I greatly appreciate. As you indicated earlier we should all approach this question with an open mind and a return to a consideration of the works themselves -- including, I think, those that are contemporaneous to the Shakespeare canon. Thanks again.

Looking over the comments, I realized I'd forgotten to answer this question posed by Dominic:

"Michael, may I ask if you are an adherent of one [or all] of the Prince Tudor theories?"

To me, the Prince Tudor idea is an example of a beautiful theory slain by an ugly fact. The ugly fact, which was pointed out to me by Mark Anderson (author of Shakespeare By Another Name), is the startling resemblance between Southampton (Henry Wriothesley) and his mother, Mary Brown Wriothesley. Leaving aside the age difference, the two of them could have been twins. This makes it exceedingly unlikely, in my opinion, that Southampton was the child of anyone other than Mary Brown.

Some version of the Prince Tudor theory could perhaps still be salvaged if we were to speculate that Oxford had an affair with Mary Brown that resulted in the birth of Southampton. This is not altogether impossible, since, as I understand it, the elder Southampton was imprisoned in the Tower at the time when the younger one must have been conceived, and it is not clear if he was allowed conjugal visits. If he was not, then the child must have been a bastard, though of course this doesn't prove that he was Oxford's bastard.

To make it work, though, we would have to go even further, and assume that Oxford himself was the illegitimate son of Queen Elizabeth. If this were the case, then the younger Southampton would have had royal blood by way of his paternal grandmother and could have been seen as a possible successor to the throne.

This is a little “recondite” even for me! It does make for interesting speculation, however. The only reason I would consider it at all is that some version of the Prince Tudor theory would help to make sense of the Sonnets and of certain cryptic references in the plays (see Charles Beauclerk's book Shakespeare's Lost Kingdom; Beauclerk is tendentious and not always reliable in his facts, but his literary analysis is interesting). It could also help to explain why the authorship of the plays was concealed long after Oxford himself was dead.

The whole thing would be much simpler and more convincing if only Southampton didn't resemble his mother quite so much! Talk about an inconvenient truth …

Happy New Year, Sylvia! Your blog has been a highlight of my Shakespearean year!I share links rlaeugrly on my Facebook page, Mrs Shakespeare.All the best for 2012,Yvonne HudsonNew Place Collaborations, LLCPittsburgh, PA USA

Just to say how much I enjoy reading your blog. I love all hngtis to do with Shakespeare and it always gives me food for thought. Many thanks,Jan Kellett

Well done my friend first on the blog post again and esocndly and most importantly, on sharing your dreamscapes the most magnificent art pieces i've seen in awhile ! but you know how much i LOVE them xx

Roos!wanted to tell you you that i saw the stumptown ceoffes in my fav mag while having a delicious cup of the rich rich french french neighbor that i aero-pressed to perfection on monday.they are giving some away if you can tell them in Blake Nelson's new novel,PARANOID PARK is named after which real portland park?

The comments to this entry are closed.