The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 10.0552 Friday, 26 March 1999.
Date: Friday, 26 Mar 1999 09:58:05 -0500 (EST)
Subject: Who wrote, etc.?
>From The Chronicle of Higher Education for Friday, March 26.
MAGAZINES & JOURNALS
A glance at the April issue of "Harper's": Who was the real Shakespeare?
Was the author of Shakespeare's poems and plays William Shakspere, the
sometime actor and grain merchant from Stratford, or the Earl of Oxford,
Edward de Vere, an erudite and well-traveled aristocrat familiar with
life in Elizabeth's court? This issue of the magazine explores the
centuries-old debate with essays by 10 scholars, half of whom argue that
Oxford wrote the plays (these advocates are writers and independent
scholars), and half who think the traditional attribution to the man
from Stratford is correct (this team is dominated by academics). For Tom
Bethell, the Washington correspondent of the "American Spectator," "the
contrast between the life of the Stratford trader and the exalted verse
reaches the level of absurdity," and he concludes that no one but Oxford
could have written the plays. Joseph Sobran, the author of the book
"Alias Shakespeare," points to the biographical correspondences between
Shakespeare's sonnets and Oxford's life as irrefutable proof of their
authorship by de Vere. But Gail Kern Paster, an English professor at
George Washington University, scolds those who claim that the Shakspere
of Stratford couldn't have written the plays because of his humble
origins. The "anti-Stratfordian position," she says, "is pernicious
doctrine." The Yale professor Harold Bloom offers a joking theory about
the plays' author being Lucy Negro, "Elizabethan England's most
celebrated East Indian whore," but in the end, he seems to support the
traditional attribution of the plays to Shakspere of Stratford.
Interspersed with the scholars' essays are excerpts from actors and
writers-including Charlie Chaplin, Mark Twain and Walt Whitman-all of
whom doubt the plays' author was the grain merchant from Stratford. The
magazine's World-Wide Web address is http://www.harpers.org