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Home :: Archive :: 1995 :: March ::
Shakespeare Portrait; Wilson Bio; Picard's Books
Shakespeare Electronic Conference, Vol. 6, No. 0222.  Friday, 17 March 1995.
 
(1)     From:   James Schaefer <SCHAEFEJ@GUVAX.BITNET>
        Date:   Thursday, 16 Mar 1995 19:33:14 -0500 (EST)
        Subj:   Shakespeare Portrait
 
(2)     From:   David Kathman <
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        Date:   Thursday, 16 Mar 1995 22:53:48 -0600
        Subj:   Re: Ian Wilson's Biography
 
(3)     From:   Amy Ulen <
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        Date:   Friday, 17 Mar 1995 00:37:04 -0800 (PST)
        Subj:   Shakespeare in ST:Generations
 
 
(1)----------------------------------------------------------------------------
From:           James Schaefer <SCHAEFEJ@GUVAX.BITNET>
Date:           Thursday, 16 Mar 1995 19:33:14 -0500 (EST)
Subject:        Shakespeare Portrait
 
SHAKSPERians may find interest in the article, "The Art Historian's Computer,"
in the April issue of *Scientific American*.  (It has arrived for subscribers,
but may not be on the newsstands yet.)  In her article, Lillian Schwartz
provides interesting visual evidence to suggest that Martin Droeshout's
engraving of Shakespeare from the First Folio was based on a tracing of George
Gower's portrait of Queen Elizabeth.  She also suggests that the *Mona Lisa*
bears striking reseblences to da Vinci's self-portrait.
 
While you're at it, don't missing their annual April collection of off-the-wall
letters on p. 10.
 
Jim Schaefer
Georgetown University
 
(2)----------------------------------------------------------------------------
From:           David Kathman <
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Date:           Thursday, 16 Mar 1995 22:53:48 -0600
Subject:        Re: Ian Wilson's Biography
 
With regards to David Reinheimer's query about Ian Wilson's recent biography of
Shakespeare:  a couple of months ago (January 23, to be exact), I posted a
reviewlet of the book in response to another query.  For whatever it's worth,
the following is what I wrote, with some additional comments added:
 
>With regard to Tad Davis' query on Ian Wilson's book *Shakespeare: The
>Evidence*:  I just finished reading this a couple of weeks ago, and I can't say
>I was all that impressed.  I, too, was led by the title to think he would deal
>with anti-Stratfordian claims, but his one chapter on that consists mainly of a
>brief summary of Baconian, Oxfordian, Derbyite, etc. claims, all of which he
>dismisses without any actual arguments to speak of. The book as a whole is
>basically just a biography of Shakespeare, with the underlying purpose (more or
>less explicitly stated in the preface) of arguing that Shakespeare was a closet
>Catholic.  Thus, he dwells on John Shakespeare's Testament of Faith, but as far
>as I remember he doesn't say anything that isn't in Schoenbaum's *Documentary
>Life*; he also dwells on the Catholic connections of Ferdinando Stanley (Wilson
>assumes, a little too easily for me, that Shakespeare started out as a member
>of Strange's Men) and the Earl of Southampton.
 
Other recent authors with less of an axe to grind (e.g. Peter Thomson in
*Shakespeare's Professional Career*) have cast a more skeptical eye on the
question of Strange's and Southampton's religious views.  The evidence is
ambiguous, but you wouldn't necessarily know it from reading Wilson.  Both
Strange and Southampton had lots of definite or probable Catholics in their
families, but both of them were publicly very anti-Catholic; some people think
they were truly staunch Protestants, others think they were overcompensating
publicly for their private Catholicism, and which of these you accept depends
basically on what you want to believe.
 
>                                                The level of scholarship is,
>I'm afraid, nothing special; by his own admission, Wilson seems to have relied
>mainly on the biographies of A. L. Rowse and Samuel Schoenbaum, and while these
>are both fine scholars, there were many times when some variation would have
>been helpful.  Wilson's admiration of Rowse, and his concomitant subtle digs at
>Schoenbaum, are almost embarrassing at times; his chapter on the sonnets
>consists mainly of a summary of Rowse's positions on the identity of the Fair
>Youth (Southampton), the Dark Lady (Emilia Bassano-Lanier), and the Rival Poet
>(Marlowe), interspersed with approving comments and a rather patronizing swipe
>at Schoenbaum's agnosticism in this area.
 
Wilson also accepts Rowse's identificaton of Mr. W.H. as William Hervey or
Harvey, third husband of the Countess of Southampton, though it must be
admitted that Schoenbaum also calls Hervey "most plausible of all" the
candidates.  I might also add that the editor (whose name I unfortunately
forget at the moment) of a very recent edition (within the last year) of Emilia
Lanier's poems does not look very favorably on Rowse's claim that she was the
Dark Lady.  And although Wilson makes it sound as if Marlowe is the only
possible candidate for the Rival Poet, Chapman is probably a more popular
candidate these days.
 
>                                           There are a few morsels in the book,
>such as some new (as far as I know) information about John Heminges' connection
>with the Company of Grocers,
 
though unfortunately, Wilson does not fully document this information, making
it hard to determine to what extent it is, in fact, new;
 
>                             but there are also lacunae (Wilson's summary of
>the Elizabethan theatre scene makes no mention of the Boar's Head playhouse,
>for instance).  I wanted to like this book more than I did; it's not a bad
>summary of a lot of issues, but it's rather one-sided as well, and Wilson's
>prose style is not particularly to my liking.
 
Any bit of evidence which supports Wilson's thesis is described as
"fascinating", which becomes a little tiresome.
 
Wilson does uncover some interesting information about the history of the
Blackfriars Gatehouse which Shakespeare purchased in 1613; apparently it
contained many secret doors and passages and had been suspected, several
decades before, of being a hiding place for Catholic priests.  He also suggests
that the John Robinson who witnessed Shakespeare's will, identified by most
biographers with a Stratford laborer of that name, was instead the John
Robinson described in the body of the will as residing in the Gatehouse.  (I
find nothing that would make this identification impossible; the identification
with the laborer is based on probabilities rather than unambiguous evidence,
though the name John Robinson was so common that any identification is open to
doubt.)
 
As for the research being "up to the minute", well, I don't know; there are
some bits of new information scattered here and there, but they do not seem to
be very numerous, and large parts are basically summaries of other biographies.
 
This is all just my opinion; I'd be interested to hear other people's
opinions.
 
Dave Kathman

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(3)----------------------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Amy Ulen <
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Date:           Friday, 17 Mar 1995 00:37:04 -0800 (PST)
Subject:        Shakespeare in ST:Generations
 
Picard and Riker were searching for Picard's photo album at the end of
Generations.  We had a tremendous discussion on the Star Trek news groups after
the film was released about this oversight.  Many of the fans believe that
Picard would have at least mentioned the Folio.  Oh well, it's just a movie!
 
Amy Ulen
 

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