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Home :: Archive :: 1994 :: November ::
Authorship
Shakespeare Electronic Conference, Vol. 5, No. 0898.  Monday, 7 November 1994.
 
(1)     From:   David Joseph Kathman <
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        Date:   Saturday, 5 Nov 94 16:29:11 CST
        Subj:   Authorship
 
(2)     From:   Skip Shand <
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        Date:   Sunday, 06 Nov 1994 15:12:31 -0500 (EST)
        Subj:   Re: SHK 5.0899  Authorship
 
(3)     From:   David Joseph Kathman <
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        Date:   Sunday, 6 Nov 94 15:07:14 CST
        Subj:   Re:  SHK 5.0899  Authorship
 
(4)     From:   Pat Buckridge <
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        Date:   Sunday, 6 Nov 1994 23:06:26 +1000
        Subj:   Authorship
 
 
(1)----------------------------------------------------------------------------
From:           David Joseph Kathman <
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Date:           Saturday, 5 Nov 94 16:29:11 CST
Subject:        Authorship
 
Just a few more authorship comments.  Those who are still reading by this point
have my thanks for your patience.
 
1) Regarding E.L. Epstein's query:  Yes, the Oxfordians have tried to
appropriate Kyd's work for Oxford, though I don't know about Marston, since he
was a bit later.  I think Charlton Ogburn has tried to claim (without any
substantive evidence that I'm aware of) that Oxford was the "lord" for whom Kyd
and Marlowe were working when they were arrested in the weeks leading up to
Marlowe's death.  I don't know of any non- Oxfordian who thinks it likely that
Oxford was the lord in question, but even if you do accept that, it has nothing
to do with whether Oxford wrote the *Spanish Tragedy*.  Ogburn got the idea
from his parents, Dorothy and Charlton Sr., whose 1200-page *This Star of
England* is, I believe, the longest Oxfordian tome ever written.  (Interested
parties may want to check out Giles Dawson's scathing 1953 review of this work
in *Shakespeare Quarterly*.)  The senior Ogburns are curtly dismissive of Kyd's
qualifications, declaring that "it would have been a miracle if a scrivener's
son could have gained the specialized knowledge of court life and Italian
society required to write [the Spanish Tragedy]" (or words to that effect; I'm
quoting from memory).  The senior Ogburns wrote in an extremely condescending,
virulently anti-populist style (they never tired of applying the adjectives
"base" and "coarse" to Will "Shaksper" and Stratford, and they wrote of Oxford
with almost religious veneration) which makes their writings rough sledding for
me.  Their son at least shows some wit once in a while.
 
2) In my reply to Pat Buckridge, I forgot to mention one other piece of
evidence besides the will and the coat of arms which explicitly links William
Shakespeare of Stratford with the London theater scene: the documents relating
to his purchase of a Blackfriars gate-house in 1613. The deed explicitly
identifies him as William Shakespeare of Stratford, and the house is mentioned
in his will, so we know we're dealing with the right guy.  One of the three
trustees involved in the purchase (sort of like cosigners of a loan, as near as
I can tell) was John Heminges, Shakespeare's fellow from the
Chamberlain's/King's Men and co-editor of the First Folio.  Another of the
trustees was William Johnson, owner and host of the Mermaid Tavern, the famous
hangout of Elizabethan literati. (Leslie Hotson proved that this is the right
William Johnson by finding a receipt for a keg of wine for the Mermaid, with
Johnson's signature being identical on both documents.)  A more indirect piece
of evidence is the fact that Shakespeare's youngest brother Edmund became an
actor in London; it doesn't prove anything by itself, but it sure makes a lot
more sense if Edmund's brother was prominent in London theater and could open
doors for him.
 
3) On the question of hyphenation, I can't resist one more observation, due to
Irvin Matus.  Oxfordians make a big deal out of the fact that in around half of
the Quarto title-pages, Shakespeare's name is hyphenated as Shake-speare.  Now,
I've already noted that this has nothing to do with pseudonyms, but merely
reflects the fact that the name could be broken down into two English words,
like Old-castle.  Another factor is the idiosyncracies of individual printers,
some of whom were fond of hyphens and some of whom rarely used them.  Out of
the fifteen quartos in which Shakespeare's name is hyphenated, thirteen of
these were printed by Andrew Wise or by the man who took over the rights to
Wise's books after his death, Matthew Law.  When a printer printed a number of
books or edition by the same author over a number of years, he often left
title-page information intact with only minor changes, even after it had become
obsolete.  (Matus gives some examples of this in his book.)  Most likely, the
hyphenation in all these quartos merely reflects the fact that Wise happened to
hyphenate Shake-speare the first time he put it on a title page (in Q2 *Richard
II* or Q2 *Richard III*, both published in 1598) and then he (and later Law)
just never bothered to change it for later quartos. The two non-Wise/Law
quartos with the name hyphenated are Q1 *Hamlet* and Q1 *Lear*; the first of
these is notoriously problematic in any number of ways and hardly seems the
place for conspirators to put a clue even if hyphens *did* indicate pseudonyms,
and the second of these has the name as "Shak-speare" (without the first e), a
spelling which according to Oxfordian dogma should denote the man from
Stratford rather than the noble author Oxford.  So, in summary, the so-called
"evidence" from hyphenation is quite simply utterly baseless, and I wish
Oxfordians would stop trotting out this non-argument.
 
Dave Kathman

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(2)----------------------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Skip Shand <
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Date:           Sunday, 06 Nov 1994 15:12:31 -0500 (EST)
Subject: 5.0899  Authorship
Comment:        Re: SHK 5.0899  Authorship
 
Dear Bradley S. Berens:
 
Right on re the space, letter, or hyphen between kerns. I certainly hope that
Stallybrass, when you heard him in 1991, was mentioning Randall McLeod, who
did brilliant work on the subject in a 1978 conference paper published as
"Spellbound: Typography and the Concept of Old-Spelling Editions,"
*Renaissance and Reformation*, n.s.3 (1979), and reprinted in *Play-Texts
in Old Spelling" (1984), the belated papers from the conference where the paper
was first presented.
                                        Skip Shand
 
(3)----------------------------------------------------------------------------
From:           David Joseph Kathman <
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Date:           Sunday, 6 Nov 94 15:07:14 CST
Subject: 5.0899  Authorship
Comment:        Re:  SHK 5.0899  Authorship
 
I'm really sorry, but I have a few comments on the latest authorship postings.
Apologies for the tedium.
 
1) Bill Godshalk asks what would happen if both sides in this argument gave up
faith in favor of skepticism.  Well, obviously that's a loaded question, and I
think you know what my answer would be.  Rather than going on a tirade, I'll
just say this:  Stratfordians look upon their own ideas *much* more skeptically
than Oxfordian do upon theirs.  Any new idea in the historical/biographical
area of Shakespeare scholarship is examined and cross-examined, possible
objections are raised, and only if it passes long-established standards of
historical evidence does it become generally accepted.  Oxfordians, on the
other hand, do not examine their own theories very critically at all, and
accept new ideas based mainly on whether they advance the Oxfordian agenda,
even when those ideas can be shown to be patently false.  A couple of examples.
 Hand D in the manuscript of the play *Sir Thomas More* is now almost
universally accepted by Shakespeare scholars as being in Shakespeare's hand.
The idea that this was Shakespeare's writing was first proposed in the
mid-1800s, and was met with a lot of skepticism.  In the early 1900s people
started seriously arguing that this was an example of Shakespeare's writing,
based on a variety of evidence:  the handwriting itself as compared to
Shakespeare's known signatures (yes, the signatures are a very small sample,
but they contain some very unusual features, such as a "spurred a", which also
occur in the *More* addition), the idiosyncratic spelling of certain words in
the *More* addition compared to the quartos which were set from the author's
foul papers and thus preserve unusual spellings (the spelling "scilens" for
"silence" occurs in the *More* addition and in Q *2 Henry IV*, and no other
examples have been found in any Elizabethan manuscript), and the similarity of
images and language between the *More* fragments and certain Shakespeare plays
such as *2 Henry 6* (not by itself a very reliable test for authorship, but
significant when combined with the other evidence above). There were still
skeptics who rejected the identification, but their objections were met, and
today there is almost universal agreement that this is Shakespeare's
handwriting.  The few skeptics who still exist today say that while the
addition is consistent with Shakespeare and is almost certainly not the work of
any playwright for whom we have sufficient evidence to judge, it's not
impossible that there was some minor playwright who happened to have
handwriting and spelling idiosyncrasies and imagery just like Shakespeare's.
The idea that these three manuscript pages were written by Shakespeare has
withstood intense scrutiny over more than a century and is now accepted as
virtually a fact, with a very impressive array of evidenc to back it up.  Now,
not to beat a dead horse, but compare this with the Oxfordian idea that
hyphenation indicated a pseudodym in Elizabethan times. This is almost always
just asserted by Oxfordians as if it were an established fact; occasionally
they bring up as evidence Martin Marprelate, a pseudonym which was usually
*not* hyphenated, but occasionally was.  If you take the time to systematically
look *skeptically* at all the evidence, it quickly becomes apparent that
hyphenation had nothing to do with pseudonyms, as I've noted; the reason
"Mar-prelate" was occasionally hyphenated was because it could be divided into
the words "mar" and "prelate" (and those two words were the obvious basis of
the pseudonym).  The hyphenation-pseudonym connection was not examined at all
skeptically by Oxfordians, in stark contrast to the intense skeptical scrutiny
the Shakespeare-*More* thesis received (and survived).
 
2) Regarding Bill's other question: yes Meres did list Oxford among the best
for comedy along with Shakespeare.  Oxfordians have a variety of explanations
for this; pick your favorite. (1) Meres didn't know that Oxford was
Shakespeare; (2) Meres was paid by the conspirators to publicize the
Shakespeare pseudonym and was told to mention Oxford so as not to arouse
suspicions; (3) Meres knew Shakespeare was a pseudonym but didn't know Oxford
was behind it; and so on.
 
3) Regarding Bradley S. Berens' posting about spelling and hyphenation: I
wouldn't say that the spelling "Shakespeare" was "invented" by typesetters,
since it occurs all over the place in handwritten documents referring to Will
and his relatives; it is in fact the most common spelling in documents
explicitly referring to the Stratford man, almost all of which are handwritten.
 Maybe you could say that typesetters preferred it out of the various possible
spellings, but there are plenty examples of typesetters spelling the name
"Shakspere" or something similar.  And in case anybody is tempted to point out
that the man from Stratford spelled his own name "Shakspere" in his surviving
signatures, let me point out in reply that the Earl of Oxford signed his name
"Edward Oxenforde", though he was usually referred to in print as "Oxford".
 
Dave Kathman

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(4)----------------------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Pat Buckridge <
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Date:           Sunday, 6 Nov 1994 23:06:26 +1000
Subject:        Authorship
 
I never know how seriously E.L.Epstein wants his contributions to the
authorship debate to be taken.  Anyway, no, I'm quite sure nobody has ever
thought Oxford wrote Marston's plays.  However, speaking of Marston, you might
note how neatly it solves the problem of the relationship between Shakespeare's
_Hamlet_ (Stationer's Register Entry 7/26/1602) and Marston's very similar
_Antonio's Revenge_ (SRE 10/24/1601) if we suppose that Shakespeare's play was
in fact *the same as* the play _Hamlet_ which is mentioned by Nashe ( in1589),
Henslowe (in 1594), and Lodge (in 1596).
 
I can't imagine, finally, what the 'unexaminable motives' Epstein darkly
attributes to Oxfordians and others might be, and I forbear to speculate.
 
To Todd H. Lidh:
 
William Shakspere's will proves only that the man of that name who lived in
Stratford, and *a* man of that name who lived in London (there were several),
were one and the same.  No Oxfordian has any problem with that, since what the
will doesn't prove (or indicate, or imply, or even so much as hint) is that
this man ever wrote a play, a poem, a letter, or indeed anything at all other
than six signatures.
 
I welcome the fact that young scholars-in-the-making are at least becoming
aware that there is a debate on this question.  I would not expect you or
anyone else to be convinced by what they read on this list.  The volume of
evidence and argument in support of the Oxford case is very large, and it would
be neither courteous nor feasible to clog up the list with any more of it than
we do.  The hope is simply that some people might find their curiosity
sufficiently aroused to get hold of some of the relevant books and read them.
That's where you'll find the evidence you're looking for. Ogburn is the obvious
recommendation, but there are several others.  Read them in secret.  There are
worse vices.
 
And so to Dave Kathman, whose main thrusts I shall attempt to parry, seriatim:
 
1. Dave is caricaturing my position on the revision process in suggesting a
scenario in which Oxford rewrote a 'poulter's measure' _Merchant of Venice_ in
blank verse (pentameters, presumably?) line by line.  Actually, I'm not sure
what's supposed to be so implausible about that: 'fourteeners' strike me as
eminently compressible.  But it needn't have been like that anyway. For one
thing, the earliest versions may well have been in pentametric blank verse
already - _Gorboduc_(1565) is, after all.  And for another, I imagine the
process usually involved several revisions, not just one, no doubt for
different performances stretching over more than a decade in some cases.
 
2. Dave is being at least as selective as I was in what he says about Frederick
Fleay.  Fleay was in fact much better known for his method of 'metrical
analysis' than for his interest in verbal parallels.  His metrical tests of
authorship are clearly a precursor of modern 'stylometrics', and had similar
scientific pretensions.  The fact that he used them to disintegrate the canon
whereas Ward Elliot uses it for the opposite purpose is not relevant.  And by
the way, who knows what 'an author's level of conscious control' is?
 
3. The Foster study.  Going by Dave's summary, there seem to be two assumptions
built into Foster's analysis which as far as I can see completely destroy any
claim it mught make to 'proving' the Stratford authorship.  The first is that
it assumes a known order of composition for the plays.  *But we don't.*
Therefore, Foster's comparisons between earlier and later plays in terms of a
development from less uniform to more uniform distribution of rare words among
characters could just as reasonably be read in the reverse order in any given
instance.   The pattern of distribution may not be meaningless, but the meaning
Foster assigns to it is arbitrary.  The other assumption of the study, of
course, is that the author of the Shakespeare canon was indeed an actor and a
playwright.  Without that founding assumption the proposed mechanism by which
these rare words get absorbed into the author's working vocabulary makes no
sense.  But hold on a minute!  Isn't that assumption the very thing Foster's
study was supposed to have *proved*.  It's called 'begging the question', Dave.
 A textbook example if ever I saw one.
 
4. Following my mention of phlogiston, I seem to be on the verge of being
compared with David Irving.  Could this be one of the 'unexaminable motives'
E.L.Epstein had in mind?  Remind me never to mention this mythical substance
again!
 
5. The London/Stratford link.  I've already said that the will establishes that
link, and no, I'm not suggesting they were different people.  I'll admit that
I'm rather fascinated by the very different lifestyles and identities the man
inhabited in his two milieux, and not entirely satisfied by the usual
explanations.
 
6. Hyphenation.  I might hold fire on this until I've seen the Matus book.
 
7. Dave writes, after evoking for us the scarcity of direct evidence for
Marlowe's authorship, that 'anyone who accepts that Christopher Marlowe of
Canterbury wrote plays but refuses to accept that William Shakespeare of
Stratford did is applying a double standard of the most blatant and monumental
order'.  But the point is there is no particular reason *not* to accept
Marlowe's authorship.  From what we know of his education and way of life there
is an evident 'fit' between the man and his writing, and further more there is
no alternative candidate clamoring for attention.  (None of this is true of
Shakespeare).  Now I'm not saying that any of this proves Marlowe's authorship.
 If new facts came to light which led us to doubt it - a signed manuscript of
_Faustus_ in Ralegh's hand, for example - then Marlowe's claim to that play, at
least, would suddenly look more vulnerable.  Authorship inferences in this
period are in many cases just that - inferences.  So what?  Does Dave want a
general amnesty on all attributions that lack a direct textual warrant?  Fine.
That would be music to Oxfordian ears, because then Oxford would be competing
for the authorship of the Shakespeare canon on equal terms with William
Shakspere, which, for historical reasons, he certainly isn't now.  But since we
live in the real world that isn't going to happen, and we may as well accept
that the strength or otherwise of authorship claims is going to remain largely
a measure of what's at stake in challenging them.
 
Cheerfullly,
 
Pat Buckridge,
Griffith University,
Brisbane.
 

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