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Home :: Archive :: 1994 :: December ::
Authorship
Shakespeare Electronic Conference, Vol. 5, No. 0994.  Thursday, 8 December 1994.
 
(1)     From:   David Joseph Kathman <
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        Date:   Wednesday, 7 Dec 94 19:31:29 CST
        Subj:   Authorship
 
(2)     From:   W. L. Godshalk <
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        Date:   Wedneday, 07 Dec 1994 21:08:28 -0500 (EST)
        Subj:   Re: SHK 5.0986  Authorship: Let's Have Some Legitimate Proof
 
 
(1)----------------------------------------------------------------------------
From:           David Joseph Kathman <
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Date:           Wednesday, 7 Dec 94 19:31:29 CST
Subject:        Authorship
 
Against my better judgement, I am actually going to respond to Richard J.
Kennedy, albeit briefly.  Mr. Kennedy asserts that a "Stratfordian conspiracy"
is necessary to account for the lack of any contemporary document saying
"William Shakespeare of Stratford-upon-Avon wrote Hamlet", which is what I take
it he demands as evidence for Shakespeare's authorship. I'm going to beat my
head one more time against this particular brick wall: the amount and type of
evidence linking William Shakespeare of Stratford with the plays which bear his
name is entirely typical for the time, and is considerably better than the
comparable evidence for most of Shakespeare's contemporaries.  Apparently Mr.
Kennedy was snoozing several weeks ago when I went through the tenousness of
the evidence linking Christopher Marlowe to the plays attributed to him (or to
any writing at all, for that matter).  Mr. Kennedy also says that "even when he
dies the secret is kept," and "no one says 'boo-hoo' when he dies, a reference
to the Oxfordian dogma that Shakespeare's death went unnoticed.  What the hell
do you call the Stratford monument?  I know, I know, part of the conspiracy.
And what about William Basse's memorial poem to Shakespeare, which explicitly
says that "he dyed in April 1616"?  It circulated widely in manuscript, as
evidenced by the fact that about 10 seventeenth century copies survive, and
though it didn't reach print until 1640, it was clearly around before 1623,
since Ben Jonson responds to it in his poem in the First Folio.  Oh yeah, I
forgot that Ben's poem is part of the conspiracy too, and I suppose Basse's
poem must be as well.  The fact is, Shakespeare's death was better memorialized
than those of just about any of his contemporary playwrights.  What do you
want, his obituary?  Sorry to burst your bubble, but there were no newspapers
then.  I could go through a long list of Elizabethan dramatists and poets whose
deaths passed with much less of a reaction than Shakespeare's caused.  We don't
even know what *decade* John Webster died in, for God's sake; he could have
died any time between 1625 and 1634.
 
I don't want to get into a long discussion of *The Return from Parnassus*. Dom
Saliani says that the passage I quoted doesn't connect the plays with
Stratford; well, no, but it does connect the actor Shakespeare with the plays,
and I thought we had established that the actor was the Stratford man.  Mr.
Saliani also says that the Cambridge students who wrote the plays were making
fun of the players; I can see that, and it's certainly in keeping with the
reputation of actors at the time.  My point on this passage is that it's
clearly being *asserted* that the actor Shakespeare was a playwright, rival of
Ben Jonson, etc., and that this assertion must have been widely believed, or
else the passage would make no sense. Whether you think the assertion was true
or not, it makes it impossible to claim, as Richard Kennedy did, that the
Stratford man was never connected with the plays during his lifetime (and
that's quite apart from his name appearing on all those title pages, plus other
pre-1616 allusions to the author being an actor and unlearned).  I'm not in the
mood right now to argue over the meaning of this passage; maybe some other
time.
 
Charles Boyle's comments are reasonable, and not unlike those I've heard from
other Oxfordians.  Shakespeare's plays are so great that we naturally want to
know more about the mind that produced them; what we know about William
Shakespeare, while entirely typical in both quantity and quality for the
playwrights of the time, leaves us thirsting for more.  Nature abhors a vacuum,
and believing in the Oxfordian theory allows some people to associate these
great works with a person whose life story is more in keeping with their idea
of who the playwright must have been.  If this required a conspiracy of
unprecedented vastness, never revealed by any of the hundreds or thousands who
must have been privy to it, so be it.  But you know what?  I'm sure if the
dramas of Marlowe and Webster were as widely read as Shakespeare's, people
would start questioning their authorship too; what we know of them (at least in
relation to the plays) is less than we know for Shakespeare, but their plays
are as rich and powerful as just about any of Shakespeare's.  Shakespeare is so
familiar that people identify with him, I think, and feel a personal interest
in authorship debates.  The passions aroused in this thread and elsewhere is
certainly real.  As I've said before, I don't want to shout anybody down or
suppress anybody's views; I just want to get the facts straight and in the
proper context.  Once this is done, I think the Oxfordian case is much less
compelling to the layman than it is as usually presented, but if someone still
wants to believe it, along with the attendant conspiracy, I won't stop you.  I
just don't see any reason either to doubt the attribution of these plays and
poems to William Shakespeare, or to believe that Edward de Vere wrote them; all
the external evidence we have says Shakespeare wrote them, and the alleged
internal evidence for Oxford is extremely weak when you look at the whole
picture.  Plus, the evidence that some of the plays were written after Oxford's
death is very strong.
 
I see this message is longer than I expected.  With regard to my last point,
I've written up a piece which summarized the very considerable evidence that
*The Tempest* was written no earlier than 1610.  It's very long, at least twice
as long as any of these Authorship postings, so I don't plan to post it; but if
anybody would like a copy, drop me a line and I can forward you one.  I think
it's pretty convincing, but what do I know?
 
Dave Kathman

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(2)----------------------------------------------------------------------------
From:           W. L. Godshalk <
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Date:           Wedneday, 07 Dec 1994 21:08:28 -0500 (EST)
Subject: 5.0986  Authorship: Let's Have Some Legitimate Proof
Comment:        Re: SHK 5.0986  Authorship: Let's Have Some Legitimate Proof
 
Early this year, I challenged the Oxfordians to offer one piece of legitimate
proof that Oxford wrote the plays of Shakespeare. I want the Oxfordians to
produce one manuscript document that clearly proves that Oxford wrote
Shakespeare's plays. I want them to produce one 16th century letter -- private
letter -- that mentions Oxford as the writer of Shakespeare's plays. Ben Jonson
very clearly thought that Shakespeare wrote his own plays. We Shakespeareans
have more than enough evidence for our case.
 
I do not subscribe to the conspiracy theory of history. I believe very firmly
in the human stupidity theory.
 
Yours, Bill Godshalk
 

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