Shakespeare Electronic Conference, Vol. 5, No. 0497. Sunday, 6 June 1994.
(1) From: Mark Anderson <
Date: Saturday, 04 Jun 1994 15:14:04 -0400 (EDT)
(2) From: Pat Buckridge <
Date: Monday, 6 Jun 1994 09:29:36 +1000 (EST)
From: Mark Anderson <
Date: Saturday, 04 Jun 1994 15:14:04 -0400 (EDT)
I am one of the 600-odd "Stratfordians" from Mr. Cook's recent census who would
just like to add one bit of information to the discourse. Ms. Nina Green, a
researcher in British Columbia, has done some incredible work which I hope
interested parties will consider spending a postage stamp to look at.She is an
English teacher who has, among other things, compared Edward de Vere's
vocabulary and style (in the letters and poems) with that of Shakespearean and
apocryphal Elizabethan Literature.
One recent example is her study of the Shakespeare lexical vocabulary compared
with that of de Vere. For instance, she applied Elliot Slater's Shakespeare
Rare Word test to de Vere's prose and found that 27% of the time de Vere wrote
with "Shakespeare Rare Words" (words found less than a dozen times in
Shakespeare). It should be noted that Shakespeare employed these so-called Rare
Words with a similar frequency. She found de Vere coining many words before the
OED claims they came into being. (More than once do we find de Vere's writings
using words Shakespeare supposedly coined years later.) And her discovery that
the overall Shakespeare and de Vere vocabularies overlap by 95% is especially
interesting when you consider that the number of lexical words in the
Shakespeare canon still only constitutes less than a tenth of the OED.
Ms. Green's work is not an end in itself, but it asks and begins to answer some
of the most interesting questions that I have seen in Elizabethan Literary
research today. Since this posting will undoubtedly have the "Authorship" flag
affixed to it, many SHAKSPERians didn't even read this... er... tripe. (?) For
those who did, though, I recommend sending a postcard to Ms. Green asking her
to send along her newsletter. (The Shakespeare/de Vere lexical vocabulary
issues are Numbers 57, 58 and 59.)
Her address is:
Ms. Nina Green
Edward de Vere Newsletter
1340 Flemish Street
Kelowna, BC V1Y 3R7
I'm sure she'd appreciate a few dollars to cover Xerox and postage costs, but
from what I understand such donations are not necessary to receive the
From: Pat Buckridge <
Date: Monday, 6 Jun 1994 09:29:36 +1000 (EST)
I hope the editor is willing to accommodate a couple of responses to points
made last week in support of the Stratford claim:
1. The matter of the canopy in Sonnet 125. Not having canvassed the
heterodoxies quite as assiduously as Dave Kathman, I confess I didn't know that
the Derby-ites had made a similar claim for their man; however it doesn't
surprise me. The royal canopy, a rather weighty contraption no doubt, was
normally carried by six nobles anyway, but the fact that carrying it was a
designated duty of Oxford's exclusive hereditary position as Lord Great
Chamberlain arguably gave it a special significance for him.
I was more surprised by Dave's insistence on a metaphoric reading for the
canopy in the sonnet. He is obliged to try this one on, of course, because
nobody but A. L. Rowse (or perhaps Marchette Chute) could imagine a
circumstance in which Shakspere of Stratford would have been bearing a real
ceremonial canopy. But I really don't think the metaphoric reading will wash.
Yes, I know there are metaphoric canopies elsewhere in Shakespeare, but
metaphoric function is defined by context: the metaphoric force of Hamlet's
'most excellent canopy, the air' is thus clearly defined by the apposition.
Equally clearly (I'd have thought) the canopy in the sonnet is a literal one.
Here's the poem for those who don't have it to hand.
Were't aught to me I bore the canopy,
With my extern the outward honouring,
Or laid great bases for eternity,
Which proves more short than waste or ruining?
Have I not seen dwellers on form and favour
Lose all and more by paying too much rent,
For compound sweet forgoing simple savour,
Pitiful thrivers in their gazing spent?
No, let me be obsequious in thy heart,
And take thou my oblation, poor but free,
Which is not mix'd with seconds, knows no art,
But mutual render, only me for thee.
Hence, thou suborn'd informer! a true soul
When most impeach'd stands least in thy control.
Dave Kathman's reading of the first two lines (that the poet is 'asking whether
it would make any difference if he did elaborate things for his nobly-born
young friend, such as bearing a canopy...') could only be sustained if there
were an 'if' after 'me' in the first line (and also, surely, 'a' instead of
'the'). But there's not. The statement 'I bore the canopy' is, I'm afraid,
irremediably declarative. This is what he did, not what he might do. The
question is: Did it mean anything to him (the poet)? Hell, no! he says (with
the wisdom of a life spent in court politics), I've seen what happens to people
who get so fixated on their public image and their prospects of advancement
('dwellers on form and favour') that they sacrifice the joys of personal
relationship ('forgoing simple savour'). If I'm going to be an obsequious
functionary for anyone, it may as well be you.
Now this doesn't seem to me a particularly strained reading. I honestly can't
see how else it can be read. I admit I don't understand the final couplet, and
I don't know whether 'la[ying] great bases for eternity' is metaphoric or a
second literal ceremonial act: I suspect the latter, but can't identify it -
yet!). In any case, what could any of this have had to do with Will Shakspere
of Stratford? Answer: nothing. (By the way, I'm persisting in my spelling of
the Stratford man's name, not to annoy Dave Kathman, or even to make a point,
but simply to avoid confusion).
2. In response to Tad Davis, I for one am happy to tackle, head-on, the matter
of Oxford's death in 1604. I hope I can do so without being tiresome. The
general point to make is very simple: there are no records that tell us when
*any* of Shakespeare's plays were first written or first performed. There are
records that tell us when some of the plays were first printed and published;
and there are some records of performances (none of them known to be first
performances). Oxfordians believe most of the plays were first written and
performed in the 1580s, and subsequently revised in the 1590s and early 1600s;
and there is no documentary evidence I am aware of that renders this
The fact that much scholarly effort has been expended on dating the plays, and
that a broad consensus exists is, frankly, neither here nor there. All
dominant paradigms generate work, and they all, by definition, command apparent
consensus. It doesn't make them true, though it can make them hard to shift
(at least until they collapse under the weight of their own internal
contradictions). The idea that human knowledge advances in a linear,
incremental fashion, by the patient accumulation of detail, is a fiction, long
recognised as such. That's a description, rather, of how dominant paradigms
(e.g. Stratfordianism) are elaborated; it's also how oppositional paradigms
(e.g. Oxfordianism) are developed, within the limits imposed by their
marginality. I really don't think it's a good idea for Shakespearean
scholarship to pretend it's not subject to the wider dynamics of
knowledge-production in the world.
A few specific comments, finally, on the six factors Davis thinks should be
taken into account when attempting to assign dates to works:
1. Topical references. Few, if any of these have ever been conclusively
'pinned down' in Shakespeare's plays. History is teeming with people and
events, and you can find *at least* as many plausible topical references in the
1570s and 1580s as in the later decades - many more, in fact. (See Eva Turner
Clark, _Hidden Allusions in Shakespeare's Plays_). I know that particular
arguments have been advanced to connect _King Lear_ and _The Tempest_ with
events or documents from after 1604, but these have been persuasively refuted,
in my view. Generally speaking, the striking fact about topical references in
Shakespeare's plays is that there *seem to be* so few of them by comparison
with the works of his contemporaries. Why is that, I wonder?
2. The 'broad pattern of theatrical fashion' over Shakespeare's career. This is
surely very nebulous, and largely premised on Stratfordian assumptions about
the nature and chronology of Shakespeare's career.
3. Records of printing. As argued above, these are simply not relevant to
questions of composition and first performance.
4. References to the plays. Again, to be useful, wouldn't these have to
indicate whether a given performance was a 'premiere'? I know of none that do.
Henslowe's diary is no use for Shakespeare in this regard.
5. Internal patterns of development. *Notoriously* determined by subjective
assumptions about the author and lots of other things, as any textual scholar
will attest. (See Schoenbaum, _Internal Evidence and Elizabethan Dramatic
6. Patterns of influence. Notoriously ambiguous as to the direction of
influence. Even if a significant connection can be established between two
texts (e.g. _The Winter's Tale_ and Greene's _Pandosto_), how do we know who
I think I've probably said more than my allowance for this time. I'll leave
the matter of being a 'practicing theater person' to another day.