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Home :: Archive :: 1994 :: May ::
Re: Authorship
Shakespeare Electronic Conference, Vol. 5, No. 0448.  Sunday, 22 May 1994.
 
(1)     From:   John Mucci <
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        Date:   Friday, 20 May 1994 12:37:02 -0400
        Subj:   Polonius/Authorship
 
(2)     From:   William Godshalk <GODSHAWL@UCBEH>
        Date:   Friday, 20 May 1994 20:23:00 -0500 (EST)
        Subj:   Another Poem by Oxford?
 
 
(1)----------------------------------------------------------------------------
From:           John Mucci <
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Date:           Friday, 20 May 1994 12:37:02 -0400
Subject:        Polonius/Authorship
 
Although the debate on Polonius/Burghley is one which could easily go on for
another few weeks, it is interesting to me that our SHAKSPER members respond so
viscerally to it, and that what I thought was an interesting discussion becomes
the defense or attack of a mere *equation*: Corambis = Polonius = Burghley =
Oxford wrote Shakespeare. Great Scott, no matter what the most ardent Oxfordian
might wish, no one is saying that.  As Father Francis Edwards says in my
videoconference *Uncovering Shakespeare:*
 
      "One has to resist any emotional upsurge on one side or
      the other, and of course it has to be admitted that
      sometimes certain Oxfordians or Stratfordians have
      taken the thing up in the spirit of a religious
      crusade, which it is not.  It is a purely intellectual
      question, and emotion should be left out of such
      things, as they ideally should be left out of all
      attempts to solve the problems of history."
 
What David Joseph Kathman has called the "triumphant" tone of my calling
attention to the connection between Burleigh and Polonius seems to be a
misinterpretation.  It is a connection which I feel ought not be overlooked or
rejected out of hand, as so many prominent Shakespeare scholars have.  For
example, Samuel Schoenbaum's explanation for the similarity between Burleigh's
*Preceptes* and Polonius' *Preceptes* is that if Shakespeare did not see them
in manuscript, there always are "cunning parallels...between literature and
life" --that is, it's a mere coincidence!  Both of Schoenbaum's options seem
rather lame and unconvincing to me.  The idea that Shakespeare was a person who
listened to the upstairs/downstairs servants and read everything "in
manuscript" from *Beowulf* down to *The Sun Also Rises* is certainly a
possibility.  But eventually these explanations ("he had an absorbent
personality..." "he was a good listener...") become more like making excuses
than anything else.  When Mr. Kathman says I incorrectly posit that
"Shakespeare of Stratford would have been tossed in jail if he had dared to
satirize someone like Burleigh; thus the author msut have been a well-connected
nobleman," he is telling only half the story. There are just as many reports of
actors having their ears and hands cut off and indeed being thrown into prison
for much less than satirizing Burghley. I will be glad to enumerate if asked,
but am loath to waste space at this point.  The main issues, I think, are these
three: in order to effectively satirize someone of that station you need to
have 1) intimate knowledge of them, 2) motivation, and 3) enormous daring.
Shaksper of Stratford had no motive. Edward de Vere had a tremendous one, in
that he *hated* Burleigh. In a letter to Burleigh, de Vere agrily wrote: "I
mean not to be your ward or your child. I mean to follow her majesty, and I am
that I am."  --where have I heard that last phrase before?  (Oh, yes, the book
of Exodus.)
 
As to Mr. Thomas Ellis' quotation of a de Vere poem to obviously be compared
with any one of Shakespeare's, I can only say I think he picked a terrible,
juvenile example!  Remember that when Oxford's writing abruptly stops being
published, that of Shakespeare appears. If I may quote another poem by de Vere
from 1588:
 
      "Were I a king I might command content;
      Were I obscure, unknown would be my cares,
      And were I dead no thoughts should me torment,
      Nor words nor wrongs, nor love, nor hate, nor fears;
      A doubtful choice of these things which to crave,
      A kingdom or a cottage or a grave."
 
That's what keeps me interested.  It's not a crusade.  We are all united in the
love of Shakespeare's works.  No matter what the outcome of the authorship
question is (and I don't think there will be a conclusion), that love is
unchangeable.
 
John Mucci
GTE Stamford, CT
 
(2)----------------------------------------------------------------------------
From:           William Godshalk <GODSHAWL@UCBEH>
Date:           Friday, 20 May 1994 20:23:00 -0500 (EST)
Subject:        Another Poem by Oxford?
 
Who taught thee first to write such awful drivel?
Who taught thee oft so plaintively to snivel?
Who filled your mouth with words of bitter smart?
Who gave thee pain that went right to thy heart?
 
As the Earl himself later said, "I'll rhyme you so eight years together,
dinners and suppers and sleeping-hours excepted."  The above is just a taste of
what can be done when you abandon your mind to it.
 
Yours, Duke Godshalk
 

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