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Home :: Archive :: 1994 :: November ::
Authorship
Shakespeare Electronic Conference, Vol. 5, No. 0929.  Friday, 18 November 1994.
 
From:           David Joseph Kathman <
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Date:           Wednesday, 16 Nov 94 18:00:35 CST
Subject:        Authorship
 
We've obviously had some crossing of messages, and for some reason I seem to be
getting my SHAKSPER messages much later than other people.  (I know my last
authorship post must have gone out, since I got a response to it this morning,
but I haven't seen it yet.)  I lack the time and energy right now for a full
response to Pat Buckridge's latest, but I do have some things to say, which I
hope I can manage to keep brief.
 
Pat, I think sometimes you're reading too much into what I say.  Did I ever say
that Marlowe's authorship is "self-evident"?  Did I ever say that I assume you
accept Marlowe's authorship?  If you can find where I said that, I'll give you
a Snickers bar.  What I did say is that *if* you accept Marlowe's authorship
but not Shakespeare's, *then* you're being wildly inconsistent.  I had no idea
what you actually thought about Marlowe; I was really trying to get you to
admit that there is nothing unusual about Shakespeare in this regard, and that
your methodology forces you to question the authorship of Marlowe's plays as
well as Shakespeare's.  You have done that, so I'm satisfied.  I assume that if
we went through the same routine for Webster, Fletcher, Kyd, Dekker, Day,
Tourneur, etc., we'd get the same result, because the evidence for their
authorship is of a comparable nature. So where does that get us?  Were the
works of all these people written by various noblemen?  They can't all have
been written by Oxford, because a lot of them wrote long after his death.  Or
maybe he faked his death and continued to write --- some of the more outre
Baconians believed (and apparently there are those who still believe) that
Bacon faked his own death and continued to write most of the literature of the
seventeenth century.  There were Baconians who thought Bacon wrote *Robinson
Crusoe*, and at least one Baconian in the early 20th century believed that
Bacon was still alive somewhere in the English countryside.  Is that the
direction you're headed?  Obviously that's an extreme example, but your foot is
in the door.  I'm not sure why you're so keen for a general amnesty on all
authorship attributions, because it wouldn't help your case a bit.  If we took
all the pre-Restoration playwrights and put them on a scale according to the
solidness of the evidence for their authorship of their works, Shakespeare
would be toward the high end.  There are a few for whom the evidence is better
than for Shakespeare, such as Ben Jonson, but even Ben had plenty of
characteristics that Oxfordians find incredible in Shakespeare (e.g. there's no
record of his ever going to school, no manuscripts of his plays survive, and he
killed at least two men in his lifetime, which I think is a little worse than
hoarding some grain).  All the people I mentioned above, plus Marlowe and many
others, would be lower than Shakespeare on the scale, and I'm prepared to argue
that for any one of them. I'm just sick of hearing Oxfordians talk about the
"Shakespeare mystery", implying that there's something mysterious or unusual
about chararcteristics that Shakespeare shared with most of his contemporaries.
 If you want to go and argue about the authorship of Marlowe's or Webster's
plays, be my guest.  Have a ball.  I frankly have better things to do with my
time.
 
Before I go, a word on the Foster study:  I assume I speak for Don Foster when
I say that if Pat Buckridge or anybody else can come up with an alternate
explanation for the rare-word patterns which can account for all the facts I
noted a couple of postings ago, by all means, let's have it.
 
Dave Kathman

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