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Home :: Archive :: 1991 :: October ::
More Responses: Lone Women, Authorship Controversies
Shakespeare Electronic Conference, Vol. 2, No. 246. Wednesday, 2 Oct 1991.
 
 
(1)	Date: 	Wed, 2 Oct 1991 12:17:00 -0400
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	Subj: 	Re: SHK 2.0243  Responses: Lone Women
 
(2)	Date:	Wed, 2 Oct 1991 21:30:00
	From:	Ken Steele <
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	Subj:	Re: Authorship Questions and the Atlantic
 
(3)	Date: 	Wed, 2 Oct 1991 22:04:33 -0400
	From: 	Steve Urkowitz <surcc@cunyvm.bitnet>
	Subj:   Re: SHK 2.0244  Authorship Questions
 
 
(1)------------------------------------------------------------------------
 
Date: 		Wed, 2 Oct 1991 12:17:00 -0400
From: 		<
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Subject: 2.0243  Responses: Lone Women
Comment: 	Re: SHK 2.0243  Responses: Lone Women
 
     Wrong!  Lady Macbeth *does* appear on stage with another woman.  How
could you forget the handwashing-sleepwalking scene.  There's a nurse there,
who has brought the doctor...
 
 Kevin Berland
 Penn State
 
(2)-----------------------------------------------------------------------
 
Date:		Wed, 2 Oct 1991 10:30:00
From:		Ken Steele <
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Subject:	Re: Authorship Questions and the Atlantic
 
 
I'm certainly not the best-qualified person to discuss authorship
controversies, as I don't really find them terribly interesting, but I
don't want Victor Bennison to be left thinking that SHAKSPEReans are
avoiding his question, so I'll at least try to explain *why* I don't
find them interesting, and perhaps why many reputable scholars don't
either.  (Although perhaps some reputable scholars would care to put
in their two cents' worth...).
 
The fact is that authorship questions *are* the subject of serious
scholarly investigation: questions of collaboration, canonicity,
revision, etc. address these matters, and tools range from source
study to computerized analysis.  No-one takes for granted that William
Shakespeare wrote all of the plays attributed to him, or that we have
uncovered all of the plays he wrote.
 
The insistence that Shakespeare was not Shakespeare, however, is an
authorship question of a different order.  The documentary evidence
that William Shakespeare was a player and sharer in the King's Men,
born, married, and buried in Stratford, is overwhelming: Samuel
Schoenbaum collects over 200 such documents in his remarkable
biography, *William Shakespeare: A Documentary Life* (which I highly
recommend to anyone interested in Shakespearean biography).  Subtle
acronyms and flimsy hints just can't stack up to this body of
historical evidence, and I suspect most Shakespeareans grow weary of
proving a case which already seems proven.
 
The other primary objection to Shakespeare as Shakespeare is the claim
that William Shakespeare of Stratford was inadequately schooled to
write the greatest works of the English language.  Now, aside from the
obvious bardolatry which gets in the way there, the fact is that the
average Elizabethan schoolboy knew more Ovid and Plutarch than most
graduate students today, and that anyone intellectually alive in
Elizabethan England would have been steeped in Holinshed's Chronicles,
contemporary drama, the Bible, and all the other demonstrable sources
which have now become only dusty references in tiny footnotes.  The
snobbishness which insists that only an aristocrat could have written
*Hamlet* is little better than the snobbishness which suggests that
only a scholar can appreciate it.  It's also as misguided as the many
arguments that Shakespeare must have been a lawyer, soldier, doctor,
or courtier to write about lawsuits, battles, injuries, or courts.
 
So I suspect most scholars resist the anti-Stratfordian arguments
because they are weaker than the pro-Stratfordian arguments, and they
are generally presented in an unscholarly way.  It's also true that
the precise identity of the author is to some extent irrelevant to the
study of his works: most of what we can know about Shakespeare's inner
mental and spiritual life has to come from the plays and poems
themselves anyway.  Even if we say that from now on, when we say
"William Shakespeare" we really mean "X" the author of the plays
ascribed to William Shakespeare, we can go on discussing the imagery,
prosody, themes, plotting, characterization, philosophy, and even
textual revision just as we always have.  Only scholarship making
direct use of William Shakespeare's biography is at bottom affected by
the authorship controversy; the poetry and dramaturgy we're studying
is not.
 
I will certainly agree that a little popular controversy is a good
thing if it gets people to read Shakespeare (or to see him in the
theatre).  I'm not so ready to agree that it's a good thing if it merely
gets them to read more of the controversy itself.  The fact is that bad
news is always more appealing than no news (just check out the tabloids
in the supermarket) and I suspect that most people who will eagerly read
an Oxfordian treatise on the conspiracy to disinherit the rightful
author of Shakespeare's plays will probably not read Schoenbaum
at all.  I hope I'm wrong.
 
					Ken Steele
					University of Toronto
					
(3)---------------------------------------------------------------------
 
Date: 		Wed, 2 Oct 1991 22:04:33 -0400
From: 		Steve Urkowitz <surcc@cunyvm.bitnet>
Subject: 2.0244  Authorship Questions
Comment:      	Re: SHK 2.0244  Authorship Questions
 
Dear Victor Bennison,
 
That inside-the-club/outside-the-club sense seems to get generated by most
any group: expert skate-boarders, new-cuisine chefs, Shakespearean textual
scholars.  The raised eyebrow and the exasperated "Oh, are we back there
again?" sigh shouldn't be taken as a permanent put-down.  It just means
that there are momentary pauses as anyone in such a knowledge-group shifts
from his or her reading glasses to the distant vision lenses.
 
I myself find the authorship question upsetting mostly because of what I
read as a class bias: "how could this low class churl develop that elegant
style and knowledge."  That's how I read at least the Oxford clan, and it
troubles me because I'm just such a low class churl, even with my U of Chicago
PhD.  And when a new acquaintance learns I'm a Shakespeare scholar and
inevitably asks about whether he really wrote the plays, then I lean back
and talk about the English educational reforms of the 1550s and the dexterity
that one gains when working a high skill day in and day out for years in a
supportive environment.
 
But I remain sad, not so much because of the continuing question of authorship,
but rather because too often in academic or theatrical environments people
who spend a lot of time professionally engaged with Shakespeare act cruelly
towards one another or towards new voices of good Will.  Ah, well.  Hey,
let me fix that: I don't remain sad.  Not hardly ever.  We have all these
e-friends.  We dance.  We giggle.  We get some low-price electronic texts
newly available.  Not bad.  Better than not bad!  I'll even go out and see
if the Atlantic is at my corner newstand.
 
					As ever,
 
		      			Steve Urkochurlowitz
 

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