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Home :: Archive :: 1994 :: December ::
Authorship
Shakespeare Electronic Conference, Vol. 5, No. 1007. Thursday, 15 December 1994.
 
(1)     From:   E. Pearlman <
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        Date:   Wednesday, 14 Dec 1994 09:15:53 -0600 (MDT)
        Subj:   Re: SHK 5.1002  Authorship
 
(2)     From:   Tom Dale Keever <
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        Date:   Thursday, 15 Dec 94 02:46:42 EST
        Subj:   Re: SHK 5.1002  Authorship
 
(3)     From:   John Owens <
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        Date:   Wednesday, 14 Dec 1994 10:15:33 -0800
        Subj:   RE: SHK 5.1005  Authorship
 
(4)     From:   Richard J Kennedy <
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        Date:   Wednesday, 14 Dec 1994 11:59:49 -0800
        Subj:   authorship
 
(5)     From:   Jean Peterson <
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        Date:   Wednesday, 14 Dec 1994 16:25:31 -0500
        Subj:   authorship list
 
(6)     From:   David Joseph Kathman <
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        Date:   Wednesday, 14 Dec 1994 17:36:59 -0600
        Subj:   authorship
 
(7)     From:   Richard J Kennedy <
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        Date:   Wednesday, 14 Dec 1994 20:26:46 -0800
        Subj:   authorship
 
(8)     From:   Richard J Kennedy <
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        Date:   Wednesday, 14 Dec 1994 21:27:33 -0800
        Subj:   authorship
 
 
(1)----------------------------------------------------------------------------
From:           E. Pearlman <
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Date:           Wednesday, 14 Dec 1994 09:15:53 -0600 (MDT)
Subject: 5.1002  Authorship
Comment:        Re: SHK 5.1002  Authorship
 
If there were a conference on evolutionary biology, it would not be
inhospitable or a denial of free speech to ask that creationists go elsewhere.
A conference on geography is not obligated to welcome the flat earthers.
Ichthyologists would hardly be expected to lay down the red carpet for those
who wish to discuss the Loch Ness monster. It is a fact that there are
individuals who hold eccentric ideas in defiance of generally accepted rules of
logic and evidence.  Can we ask that the self-styled anti-Stratfordians go
elsewhere?
 
E. Pearlman
 
(2)----------------------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Tom Dale Keever <
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Date:           Thursday, 15 Dec 94 02:46:42 EST
Subject: 5.1002  Authorship
Comment:        Re: SHK 5.1002  Authorship
 
Topic:  Authorship, a look back...
 
Like other fervent arguments, this latest wave of Authorship posts will, I'm
sure, subside.  I think many of us would miss the comic relief if it were gone,
so I hope Hardy will bear with it.
 
The casual reader of this thread may be forgiven his impatience if he knows
nothing of the background of the Oxfordian, or as I prefer to call it, the
"Looney-tic," movement.  As with cricket, which I made a long overdue attempt
to unravel this summer with my first trip to Lord's, a little time spent
learning the rules of this seemingly pointless and tedious game can make it
almost entertaining.  Though it hardly deserves its own C. L. R. James, this
contest, properly understood and placed in its historical context, can shed
valuable light on what Shakespeare means to this century, and might prompt
discussion of issues that deserve a place on this LIST, issues both weightier
and meatier than the silly quibbles about hyphens and obituaries that the
Looney-tics toss in our eyes by the fistful to disguise their lack of relevant
evidence.
 
The progress of Bardolatry was well along before the first suggestion arose, in
1769, the same year as Garrick's Jubilee, that this newly minted literary deity
sprang from an annoyingly common background. Observers since Euhemerus have
noted the need of simple folk to promote their culture heroes to super-mortal,
or at least more than common, status.  As Shakespeare rose in the popular mind,
with the energetic boosting of his chief acolyte Garrick, from talented
craftsman to "Immortal Bard," the age-old process set in.  Herbert Lawrence's
first printed nomination of Francis Bacon was largely ignored until the
mid-nineteenth century when it was picked up by Delia Bacon.  The
class-snobbery that normally seethes just beneath the surface of anti-
Stratfordian diatribes was unabashed in Bacon's screeds.  The "Stratford
poacher" was a "vulgar illiterate man"  who headed a "dirty, doggish group of
players."  In his place she suggested her namesake and a coterie of fellow wits
from better families.
 
The odd place of pseudo-British class snobbery in the colonial mind, springing
from our traditional feelings of cultural insecurity, may explain why the
anti-Stratford movement always found its most fervent followers across the
water.  (Note for instance the ".au" suffix of one of our own most energetic
Looney-tics.)  The next great step forward in their crusade was taken on this
side of the Atlantic when first Mrs. C. F. Ashmead Windle, inspired by Delia,
and then Ignatious Donnelly, following Windle's lead, started mining the
letters in the plays for the "ciphers" that, properly unjumbled, would point
the hard working initiate toward the GREAT TRUTH.  It took a British squire,
Sir Edwin Durning Lawrence, though, to take this method to its highest level,
revealing that the word "Honorificabilitudinitatibus," ( Love's Labour's Lost,
V, I ) could have no other meaning than "HI LUDI F. BACON NATI TUITI ORBI,"
thus proving that "these plays, F. Bacon's offspring, are preserved for the
world."
 
Though one might think that would have settled the matter there were some who
remained unconvinced and the anti-Stratford confession was soon rent with
schisms.  The most energetic and determined sect was born of a source almost as
humble as the Stratford man himself. An English school teacher named J. Thomas
Looney had the inspiration to attack the problem of replacing Shakespeare on
all those title pages from another direction.  Taking it as an a priori given
that the traditional candidate was too common for such an honor, he made a list
of all the qualities he would want to find in a man ( I know of no
anti-Stratfordian who has ever suggested a woman could have had a hand it any
of this ) who could produce such immortal works.  These pre-requisites included
wide travel in Europe, acquaintance with various foreign tongues, the best
education available at the time, and intimate familiarity with the Elizabethan
court.
 
Ignoring such obvious questions as why someone familiar with European geography
would land Antigonus and Perdita on the sea coast of Bohemia,  Looney scoured
the biographical literature of Elizabethan England in search of someone who met
his arbitrary requirements.  He auditioned various courtiers of the time before
lighting upon the dashing Edward de Vere, 17th Earl of Oxford. Though Oxford's
bio makes the guy sound to me like a whining jerk, Looney was hopelessly
smitten with this high-born adventurer who, like any self-respecting courtier
of the time, had composed a bit of lame and amateurish verse and who, someone
is reported to have said, had also written a couple dramatic entertainments,
thought lost, for the court.
 
Thus did de Vere become the leading anti-Stratfordian contender for the title
of "Greatest Dramatist of All Time," not because a shred of evidence connected
him with Shakespeare's or anyone else's plays, not because anyone had ever
reported seeing him in or near a playhouse, not because any line of verse or
prose of any literary value could be connected to him through any of the normal
means of literary attribution, but because, to Looney's mind, he fit the part.
In 1920 Looney was ready to announce his new discovery to the world and his
_"Shakespeare" Identified in Edward de Vere the Seventeenth Earl of Oxford_
appeared.
 
There were a few other problems with the new candidate, not least the
well-documented fact that he had slipped this mortal coil in 1604 and any
reasonable reading of the historic record led to the conclusion that new
"Shakespeare" plays continued appearing for another decade or so after that.
There was obviously much to do before the world would accept the new
revelation, but there were, oddly enough, others eager to lend a hand.  In a
melange of assorted anti-Stratfordians who called themselves "The Shakespeare
Fellowship"  the new Looney-tic faction became the dominant flavor in the stew
and seized the organizational means to spread their message.
 
Bernard M. Ward's _The Seventeenth Earl of Oxford, 1550-1604_, appeared in 1928
and became standard by default.  Ward encouraged the theory if only by not
denying it, thus boosting the Looney-tics cause and his own sales.  Percy Allen
took the lead as the Fellowship's most prolific and influential exponent, his
ground-breaking 1947 _Talks with Elizabethans Revealing the Mystery of "William
Shakespeare"_ taking the discussion to a new and, uh, shall we say, "higher"
plane.  To a stunned public he revealed, "Through the agency of a gifted
medium, of wide experience and of unimpeachable integrity, I have, for many
months past, been talking with the three above-named Elizabethans Oxford, Bacon
and Shakespeare, from whom I have obtained ... a final solution of the
Shakespeare mystery..." By these worthies he was vouchsafed the truth - Oxford
had done most of the writing and the other two had merely touched it up here
and there.
 
Since Allen the major work elaborating the Looney-tic gospel has been carried
out by the Ogburn clan, pere, mere, and fils.  From Charlton and Dorothy's 1952
_This Star of England: "William Shakespeare" Man of the Renaissance_ we learn
to our surprise that our hero fathered on The Virgin Queen herself
Shakespeare's patron Henry Wriothesley, Third Earl of Southampton (1573-1624),
often mentioned as a candidate for the honor of addressee of The Sonnets.  They
uphold proudly the tradition of class condescension that has been a hallmark of
the anti-Stratfordian cause since Delia Bacon and, like Dave Kathman, I find
their snotty tone gets up my nose pretty quick.  Its size testifies to
Calimachus' ancient observation "Mega biblion, mega kakon."  Their son's
recently reissued restatement of the Looney-tic dogma is easier to take, and
mercifully briefer.
 
That brings us up to the present day and the slings and arrows of Looney-tic
pseudo-history that we have all endured in recent weeks on this thread.  I hope
by putting them in the context of the tradition from which they spring some of
you who have lost patience with those of us who persist in standing against
them will understand what the true issue is.  Ultimately I don't care strongly
that someone from Stratford wrote the plays.  I know next to nothing about him.
 He may for all I know have been a nasty exploitative oppressive bully who kept
a stable of paid flunkies to write the plays that bear his name, though the
simpler and more likely explanation that he was a hard-working auto-didact and
entrepreneur is more appealing.  What I do care about is that ignorance and
intellectual dishonesty, fueled by anti-populist bile, not be allowed to
masquerade as scholarship.   I am sorry to hear that the Folger editors have
become so tolerant.  They had it right the first time.
 
Tom Dale Keever

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(3)----------------------------------------------------------------------------
From:           John Owens <
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Date:           Wednesday, 14 Dec 1994 10:15:33 -0800
Subject: 5.1005  Authorship
Comment:        RE: SHK 5.1005  Authorship
 
A complaint regarding complaints -
 
While I sympathize with those individuals who are dismayed at the large number
of postings to a topic they find uncongenial, I don't agree that a segregation
of authorship postings is any kind of useful answer. The authorship debate,
like it or not, is part of Shakespearean scholarship. Unless you are prepared
to eliminate all discussion of Shakespeare's life and times and how they apply
to the study of his plays, this debate must continue to periodically resurface,
like it or not. If you have an interest in additional topics, post your data
and discuss. The proper answer is not to censor postings on threads you find
irksome, but rather to introduce subjects you PREFER to discuss. This is more
positive than the lurk and complain methodology I have witnessed up to this
point. If all the letters of complaint were instead postings on Hamlet's
madness or Iago's motives, we would have alternative reading material to
satisfy our present needs for variety.
 
My own opinion is that the authorship debate has been rather entertaining and
instructive, at least as much so as any other topic on the listserv, if not
more so.
 
John Owen
 
(4)----------------------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Richard J Kennedy <
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Date:           Wednesday, 14 Dec 1994 11:59:49 -0800
Subject:        authorship
 
        REGARDING THE ELIMINATION OF THE AUTHORSHIP POSTINGS
 
Two-thirds of all the postings here are devoted to the direction and production
of the plays. Why should discussion about the author of the plays not receive
some due? Is one-third too much?  Without the "authorship" postings, there
would be *no* talk at all about the man who wrote the plays.
 
It's not only the Oxfordians who post to this discussion, nor only
anti-Stratfordians who are interested in the history and biography of the
Elizabethan age. There are also unorthodoxfordians, free- floating skeptics,
those of a naive but open interest, and those who are of an unguessed
allegiance, or none at all, who merely wish to know more about the man who
wrote the plays.  There is a sort of "love of biography", I think.  Some have
it, some do not.
 
The Stratfordians must defend their man, of course, if this sideposting
continues.  And they will find comrades at the battlements. And they will learn
from the parley and struggle over the "question".
 
There is little doubt that Stratfordians will be more and more asked to make
the man from Stratford plausible as the writer of the poems and plays.  If your
answer is that Oxford was dead when a lot of the plays were written, or that
Oxfordians are snobs, or that only idiots would ask the question, then the
first response is of no use anymore, the middle response speaks for itself, and
the last could get you punched in the nose.
 
So it's good for Stratfordians to be aware of some of the important questions
and answers.  The most critical question is, of course -- "Why is it that
beyond the "paper Shakespeare" there is no biographical man?  The name
"Shakespeare" is a facade.  The man behind the name cannot be found...can he?"
A Stratfordian should know the answer to that question, and this postbox is the
place to learn that answer.
 
It won't do anymore to say, "His name is on the plays, so forget it!" A
Stratfordian who studies a bit has very many and better comments than that.
You will hear those comments on this sidepost by and by, and you can repeat
them, and sound as if you understand the question, instead of saying something
dumb like the above.
 
There are those who don't want any part of looking for the author, don't give a
rap about his life, let him be the man from Stratford, Oxford, or whoever.
"Who cares," they say, and "What difference does it make?" They do not have
this "love of biography" I mentioned. But to satisfy them is easy.  Obviously,
this sideposting is like t.v. If you don't like it, change the channel.
 
But I think we should not be turned off.  It wouldn't look good. It would look
like censorship, like the Stratfordians were sensitive on the subject, like
they didn't have any good answers to the questions, and no champions ready to
come forward.
 
Hardy Cook, our editor, confesses that he was "tired of this discussion the
first time it came up."  We all get tired.  Some of us have for years been
inquiring into this, but it seems worth the time, and worth to all the small
space we take on this line, and your ease is to pay us no attention at all.
 
Kennedy
 
(5)----------------------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Jean Peterson <
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Date:           Wednesday, 14 Dec 1994 16:25:31 -0500
Subject:        authorship list
 
Just my $.02.
 
I think it's excessive and absurd to ask the "authorship" debate to jump ship
for its own list.  It's not my favorite topic, but I do tune in from time to
time; when I don't feel like reading about it, I delete the message, clearly
delineated by the subject heading.  What is wrong with the present system?
 
I found it quite satisfactory when first implemented, and still think it works
fine.  I can't take the adjective "mail-clogging" seriously--the "effort" it
takes to delete a message or two, even daily, before or after reading it, is
hardly strenuous.
 
Jean Peterson
Bucknell University
 
(6)----------------------------------------------------------------------------
From:           David Joseph Kathman <
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Date:           Wednesday, 14 Dec 1994 17:36:59 -0600
Subject:        authorship
 
A brief reply to Dom Saliani:
 
All right, maybe I should have clarified what I meant.  I'm well aware that
there were other William Shakespeares in England, and I said as much.  One of
them drowned in the Avon in 1579, but no matter; there were others.  What I was
trying to say is that none of these other William Shakespeares can be placed in
London between 1590 and 1610.  Now, it's certainly not impossible that one of
these other Williams came to London for a while, and that it is he who is found
in the St. Helens tax records, though the proximity of St. Helens to the
theaters makes it at least very likely that this is the right Will.  But other
than that, pretty much all the London records of William Shakespeare either
identify him as being from Stratford (and there was no other person of that
name in Stratford) or are connected with the theater, and I take it we agree
that at the very least the Stratford William was a man of the theater.
Scholarly caution is certainly a good thing, but based on what I know, there's
no particular reason to doubt that the records we have in London from 1590-1610
refer to the same man.
 
I'm getting tired of this thread, and plan to take a breather until things get
more civilized.  I'm all for the suggestion to branch off the authorship debate
into a separate but connected list, if the logistics can be worked out.
Flagging all the authorship postings does let people delete them if they so
desire, but Hardy does have to read everything that comes in, and he's made it
clear from the start that he finds the whole thing tiresome.  I know there are
people out there who have been enjoying the discussion, because some of you
have e-mailed me directly to tell me so, but the complaints have generally gone
out to the whole list, giving a somewhat distorted picture.  I hope we can work
something out.
 
Dave Kathman

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(7)----------------------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Richard J Kennedy <
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Date:           Wednesday, 14 Dec 1994 20:26:46 -0800
Subject:        authorship
 
                     THE STILL-VEX'D BERMOOTHS
 
George Lyman Kittredge, reflecting on the possibility that William Strachey's
1610 account of the shipwreck of the "Sea Adventure" in the Bermudas might have
given design for the shipwreck in *The Tempest*, came to a conclusion which
cannot float the current Stratfordian position.
 
   "Strachey's account of the wreck...is in striking contrast to
   what we find in *The Tempest*.  The "Sea Adventure" has
   sprung a leak and is in imminent danger of foundering.
   Crew and passengers, exhausted by four days' desperate toil
   at the pumps, are in raptures when they sight Bermuda,
   which, by good fortune, is on their weather. They lay their
   course for the shore, run the ship aground, and make a safe
   landing  -- a hundred and fifty of them -- in their boats.
   The situation in *The Tempest* is entirely different. There is,
   in fact, no wreck at all.  The sailors make every effort to
   weather Prospero's island, which is on their lee, for they can
   defy the storm if they have "room enough."  They do not
   succeed, but by the help of Ariel the ship is not dashed to
   pieces upon the rocks, but makes her way into a 'nook' or
   cove, where she rides in safety.  Shakespeare's handling of
   the vessel shows an accurate knowledge of seamanship
   which he cannot have learned from the Bermuda narratives.
 
A further note of a difference between the two adventures might be that nowhere
by anyone else were the Bermudas called the "Bermooths," as were the islands in
the play. That is the slight hold remaining to the Stratfordians that the
Bermudas have any part of the *The Tempest* drama at all.
 
But even if Bermooth can be contorted to mean Bermuda, George Lyman Kittredge,
applying the geography given to us in *The Tempest*, was vexed that anyone
could think to place the play anywhere except in the Mediterranean, and
Northrup Frye (intro. in the Pelican Shakespeare, edited by Alfred Harbage),
plots the island between Tunis and Naples.  At last, agreeing with E.K.
Chambers and Sidney Lee, Northrup Frye says that "no really convincing general
source for the play hasyet yet been discovered."
 
(I recently received by email an advertised essay that was offered to prove
that *The Tempest* was written at some date after 1604, the year that Oxford
died.  The above is in response to that essay.)
 
Kennedy
 
(8)----------------------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Richard J Kennedy <
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Date:           Wednesday, 14 Dec 1994 21:27:33 -0800
Subject:        authorship
 
                        CARDENIO
 
Regarding Charles Hamilton's *Cardenio* book.  He wishes to prove that the man
from Stratford who signed the *Will* also handwrote the *Cardenio* manuscript.
He has a method.
 
Hamilton's body of paleographic evidence is the *Will*, the *Signatures* of the
Stratford man, and the ms. of *Cardenio*.  His method is to snip out letters
from the *Will* and to suture them together to spell out "Shakspere" in a
script that looks much like the *Signatures*. It's a kind of surgery, you
understand.
 
His next operation -- the method -- is to cut and paste between the *Will* text
and the *Cardenio* ms., to prove that the hand that wrote the *Will* wrote the
*Cardenio* manuscript.  Hardly a scar shows.
 
Therefore, whoever signed his *Signatures* to the *Will* -- wrote *Cardenio.*
Q.E.D.
 
But Hamilton did not invent the operation.  The case for "Hand D" in the *Sir
Thomas More* manuscript is decided by dissection in much the same way, and with
less of a body to work on. Applying the same method, and with the use of a meat
cleaver, a scapel, and a glue pot, I could made a dog out of a cat.
 
Kennedy
 

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