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Home :: Archive :: 1994 :: November ::
Authorship
Shakespeare Electronic Conference, Vol. 5, No. 0940.  Monday, 21 November 1994.
 
(1)     From:   Bradley S. Berens <
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        Date:   Sunday, 20 Nov 1994 19:12:55 -0800 (PST)
        Subj:   Re: SHK 5.0937 Authorship
 
(2)     From:   David Evett <
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        Date:   Monday, 21 Nov 94 11:54:12 EST
        Subj:   [Authorship]
 
 
(1)----------------------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Bradley S. Berens <
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Date:           Sunday, 20 Nov 1994 19:12:55 -0800 (PST)
Subject: 5.0937 Authorship
Comment:        Re: SHK 5.0937 Authorship
 
Greetings all,
 
I would like to issue a mild complaint regarding the continual existence of the
thread on authorship-- mild because I have taken to surfing past these postings
and this requires no especial effort on my part, but a complaint nonetheless
because at the moment both sides seem locked in an endless standoff from which
there is neither utility nor extrication.  I thus have two questions, or sets
of questions, that I posit in order to, perhaps, drag the discussion to a
different level.
 
Question #1.  Have either Dave Kathman or Pat Buckridge read the first chapter
of Leah S. Marcus's book PUZZLING SHAKESPEARE?  If I have missed references to
this book already posted, I apologize.  However, in Chapter One, Marcus has
some interesting things to say about a potential relationship between such
things as the introductory apparati of the First Folio, New Historicism and the
authorship controversy.  I am curious about both Kathman's and Buckridge's
respective responses to this chapter.  The full citation is
 
Marcus, Leah S.  PUZZLING SHAKESPEARE.  Berkeley & Los Angeles: University of
California Press, 1988.  Vol. 6 of the series THE NEW HISTORICISM: STUDIES IN
CULTURAL POETICS.
 
If neither of you has read the chapter, please do so and let us know.  I
realize that this may sound cavalier, and if it does I apologize.  I merely
think it is time to consider the controversy qua the controversy.
 
Question #2.  What is the utility of settling this question?  If Pat Buckridge
is correct, and that Oxford did write the plays, so what?  How will this new
fact be of any use to anyone interested in the plays? Will it make them better?
 Will it render them, somehow, magically, more determinate?  Is that a good
thing?  Similarly, Dave, how will settling the authorship question advance the
cause of mainstream Shakespearean scholarshiop?  Or, since you are a Linguist,
how will it advance the field of Linguistics?  Are we all just spinning our
wheels on this one, looking for something to write yet another article about in
the quest for a job/funding/tenure/a better job/more funding?  This debate has
now been going on for so long that I have lost my grip on both the point of
entry and the point in general.
 
Sincerely yours,
Bradley S. Berens
Dept. of English
UC Berkeley
email: 
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(2)----------------------------------------------------------------------------
From:           David Evett <
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Date:           Monday, 21 Nov 94 11:54:12 EST
Subject:        [Authorship]
 
Dear Pat Buckridge, et al.,
 
I am bemused by the fact that first the Baconian and later the Oxfordian
movements have flourished so much more vigorously in officially egalitarian
places like Australia and the U.S. than in the class-bound U.K.: how odd that
descendents of criminals, remittance men, Irish or Polish peasants, who have
themselves succeeded in becoming lawyers or professors of English, should be so
ready to insist that aristocratic upbringing is a necessary preparation for
authorship of the Shakespearean canon.  Argument by analogy is always risky, to
be sure, but I have long been struck by similarities in the biographies of
William Shakespeare the theater man (of which more later) and John Keats.  "No
major poet [presumably including W.S., with or without hyphen] has had a less
propitious origin," begins the headnote to Keats in the Norton anthology.  His
father, you will recall, was a mere stableman, who got to head the business
when he married the boss's daughter; like Shakespeare, Keats was better
connected on his mother's side.  He went to a small private school, very like
the Stratford grammar school in both the social backgrounds of its teachers and
students and in its curriculum.  On leaving school he very conspicuously did
not go to Oxbridge, but stayed in London as an apprentice in an essentially
mechanical craft, that of apothecary-surgeon, which required educational
preparation and carried social status similar to those of actors.  In London he
began to associate with the popular rather than the elite group of London
literati--Kyd and Dekker and Chettle, if you will, rather than Greville or
DeVere; indeed the literary establishment initially rebuffed him, though there
were signs of more appreciation toward the end.  A passionate but unsystematic
reader of the acknowledged classics of his culture (books mostly borrowed from
friends), he demonstrated a remarkable ability to incorporate salient features
of Homer, Chaucer, Shakespeare, Milton, and Dryden (read Ovid, Plutarch,
Chaucer, Montaigne) into his own writing without being overwhelmed by them, and
to refresh and refresh again all the forms in which he worked, from the sonnet
to the epic.  Only if we consider what he had already accomplished when he died
at 26 as his <Errors> and <Titus> and <2 Gents> can we appreciate what was
presumably still in store. If Keats could do this in the 18teens, why not
Shakespeare in the 1580s and 90s?
 
By the way, Pat Buckridge, why can you concede that Ben Jonson was an
auto-didact and not extend the same concession to his colleague, albeit with a
different set of tastes and a markedly smaller need to blow his own horn?  All
education is finally self-education; people mostly manage to get as much of it
as they insist on having, and most of us have known some remarkably
well-informed and literate assembly-line workers, night watchmen, plumbers,
even actors.
 
With regard to the matter of theatrical training, the argument is not so much
that working in the theater is any more necessary to success as a dramatic
writer than university education, as that intensive exposure to theatrical
experience in some form is: in general, in order to write for the commercial
theater you must submit yourself to the commercial theater, as the unsuccessful
efforts of those notable non-professional dramatic writers-- Greville, Daniel,
Addison, Samuel Johnson, Coleridge, Wordsworth, Keats, Tennyson--suggest.  Life
as a man of the theater is a good way to account for mastery of the crafts
aspects of the work, even though other explanations must be sought for mastery
over language, psychology, and so on.
 
 
Autodidactically,
Dave Evett
 

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