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Home :: Archive :: 1994 :: November ::
Authorship
Shakespeare Electronic Conference, Vol. 5, No. 0921.  Tuesday, 15 November 1994.
 
From:           David Joseph Kathman <
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Date:           Monday, 14 Nov 94 20:01:00 CST
Subject:        Authorship
 
The authorship traffic seems to have tapered off, but for the sake of
completeness I thought I'd post my replies to some of Pat Buckridge's comments
that crossed my last posting in cyberspace.
 
1) I was not, despite Pat's implication, saying that the Oxfordian explanations
for Meres' listing of both Oxford and Shakespeare are "self-evidently absurd";
I was just tired and didn't feel like editorializing right then. I should say,
though, that the "ignorance" scenario (Meres didn't know that "Oxford" and
"Shakespeare" were the same) makes it harder to explain why Meres mentioned
Shakespeare's "sugard sonnets among his privat friends", a phrase which
certainly implies that Meres had some kind of knowledge of a real person named
"Shakespeare" who had friends.  This pretty much forces you into the "paid by
conspirators" scenario (Meres knew the "truth" but was paid and/or coerced by
the conspirators to insert both Oxford and Shakespeare into his list in order
to avoid suspicion), which as far as I can see is the most common one accepted
by prominent Oxfordians.  Your tolerance for accepting this scenario depends on
your tolerance for conspiracy theories, which in my case is not particularly
high.
 
2) On the *Sir Thomas More* manuscript, I won't go into this at length, but
will refer anyone who's interested to the excellent collection *Shakespeare and
Sir Thomas More: Essays on the Play and its Shakespearian Interest*, edited by
T. H. Howard Hill, and the relevant chapter in Samuel Schoenbaum's *William
Shakespeare: Images and Records*, which gives a more concise summary of the
reasons for attributing Hand D to Shakespeare.  My main point on *More* was not
directly its relevance to the authorship question, but rather the way orthodox
Shakespeareans are much more critical of their own conclusions than Oxfordians
are.  Pat Buckridge asserts that the *More* manuscript is a transcription,
which is not quite right; it contains the handwriting of either five or six
people, one of which is a playhouse scribe whose handwriting is found, I
believe, in another surviving playhouse manuscript. The others include Anthony
Munday, Henry Chettle, Thomas Heywood (probably), and Hand D, the last almost
certainly Shakespeare.  Hand D is not that of a playhouse scribe, or if it is,
it's like no other scribe we know of; the handwriting is kind of messy (scribes
were always very neat) and flowing, and seems to have been written quickly,
though despite this there are very few corrections ("his mind and hand went
together"; "we have scarce received from him a blot in his papers"; hmmmm...).
I won't try to go into all the evidence, but this handwriting does not match
that of any other playwright for whom we have writing samples, and it is
consistent in every way (including some unusual features such as a "spurred a")
with the six signatures (and the words "by me") of William Shakespeare of
Stratford. There are quite compelling reasons for believing that the person who
wrote Hand D also wrote the Shakespeare quartos which were set from the
author's foul papers, and the same reasons effectively rule out other potential
candidates (such as John Webster) for whom we don't have writing samples. It's
not conclusive, but in my view it's pretty significant evidence in favor of
Shakespeare.  (Oxford's handwriting, by the way, was nothing like Hand D.)
 
3) Finally, hyphenation.  All right, Pat, "utterly baseless" may have been a
bit harsh, and there may well be other factors involved in hyphenation that I
haven't mentioned.  But the evidence we have will simply not support a claim
that hyphenation commonly indicated a pseudonym in Elizabethan times, and I'm
unaware of any non-Oxfordian who claims that it did.  Let's consider some
facts.  First of all, all the instances of hyphenated names I've encountered
occur in printed sources, as opposed to handwritten ones. This includes the
Stationer's Register entries for Shakespearean plays published with the name
hyphenated on the title page; thus, the handwritten SR entry for Q1 *Lear*
spells the name "William Shakespeare", while the printed title page spells it
"Shak-speare" (without the first e but with a hyphen).  This, to me, indicates
that the printer had at least something to do with hypehnation, though I won't
rule out other factors if someone comes up with some evidence.  Now, almost all
the records of William Shakespeare of Stratford (apart from the mentions of
William Shakespeare as a playwright/poet, which is what's under dispute) are
handwritten, consisting as they do of mostly legal documents (and one letter to
Shakespeare, which abbreviates his name as "Sh" or "Shak").  As it happens,
though, there are two unequivocal printed mentions of Shakespeare the actor
(who even Pat admits is the same as the Stratford man); these are in the cast
lists in the 1616 edition of Ben Jonson's *Works*.  In the list for *Every Man
In His Humour*, the name is given as "Will. Shakespeare"; in the list for
*Sejanus*, it is given as "Will. Shake-Speare".  What do you know about that!
Those bungling conspirators used the hyphenated form to refer to the illiterate
Stratford yokel instead of the noble genius Oxford!  Or could it be that the
name Shakespeare was just hyphenated sometimes because it could be divided into
two words that formed a little phrase with heroic connotations, and was thought
to derive from such a source?  Let's ask William Camden, the famed antiquary.
In his *Remaines* of 1605, he talks about the etymology of names and says that
men took their names "from that which they commonly carried, as Palmer, that
is, Pilgrim, for they that carried palm when they returned from Hierusalem;
Long-sword, Broad-spere, Shake-speare, Shotbolt, Wagstaffe..."  Sounds like
he's talking about real people's names there, and note that he hyphenated
"Shake-speare" in addition to a couple of others.  If the conspirators were
trying to use hyphens to indicate a pseudonym, they were sure erratic about it;
in Leonard Digges' poem in the First Folio, the name is spelled "Shakespeare"
in the title, but "Shake-speare" in the text of the poem.  Wouldn't the title
be a more prominent place to put an authorship "clue" --- I thought that's why
the conspirators hyphenated the name on title pages?  Oh, but I guess we can't
question the ways of the conspirators --- after all, they did such a good job
covering their tracks that nobody uncovered their secret until 1920, when J.
Thomas Looney exposed the whole sordid affair.
 
Sorry for the excessive sarcasm.  I'm all tuckered out, and have to rest. If I
can find the time sometime, I may whip up a posting about the overwhelming
evidence that *The Tempest* was written no earlier than 1610, and that
Shakespeare of Stratford had multiple and intimate ties with a couple of men
who could have given him access to the unpublished letter which was the basis
of much of the plot details and language of the play. Oxfordian writings on
*The Tempest* are, I almost hate to say it, particularly bad, and have never
addressed any of this evidence.
 
Good night,
Dave Kathman

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