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Home :: Archive :: 2000 :: June ::
Re: Article of Interest
The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 11.1172  Wednesday, 7 June 2000.

[1]     From:   David Lindley <
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        Date:   Tuesday, 6 Jun 2000 15:40:51 GMT
        Subj:   Re: SHK 11.1167 Re: Article of Interest

[2]     From:   Carol Barton <
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        Date:   Tuesday, 6 Jun 2000 11:16:10 -0400
        Subj:   Re: SHK 11.1167 Re: Article of Interest

[3]     From:   Richard Nathan <
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        Date:   Tuesday, 06 Jun 2000 15:21:15 +0000
        Subj:   Re: SHK 11.1167 Re: Article of Interest

[4]     From:   Douglas Chapman <
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        Date:   Tuesday, 6 Jun 2000 12:59:40 EDT
        Subj:   Re: SHK 11.1167 Re: Article of Interest

[5]     From:   Andrew W. White <
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        Date:   Tuesday, 6 Jun 2000 13:18:18 -0400
        Subj:   Article of Interest

[6]     From:   Kevin De Ornellas <
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        Date:   Tuesday, 06 Jun 2000 17:29:36 GMT
        Subj:   Re: SHK 11.1167 Re: Article of Interest

[7]     From:   Sophie Masson <
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        Date:   Wednesday, 7 Jun 2000 09:20:44 +1000
        Subj:   Re: SHK 11.1167 Re: Article of Interest

[8]     From:   Sean Lawrence <
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        Date:   Tuesday, 06 Jun 2000 17:50:18 -0700
        Subj:   Re: SHK 11.1167 Re: Article of Interest

[9]     From:   Tim Richards <
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        Date:   Wednesday, 07 Jun 2000 19:59:42 +1000
        Subj:   Re: SHK 11.1167 Re: Article of Interest


[1]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:           David Lindley <
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Date:           Tuesday, 6 Jun 2000 15:40:51 GMT
Subject: 11.1167 Re: Article of Interest
Comment:        Re: SHK 11.1167 Re: Article of Interest

I too, find the authorship debate sterile and unproductive.

But if the identity of the author doesn't matter, why is there so much
concern at the moment to 'prove' Shakespeare's Catholicism?  The
argument is not one about the 'Catholicism' of the plays - or, rather,
if such an argument is advanced it always begins from the biographical
premise.

David Lindley

[2]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Carol Barton <
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Date:           Tuesday, 6 Jun 2000 11:16:10 -0400
Subject: 11.1167 Re: Article of Interest
Comment:        Re: SHK 11.1167 Re: Article of Interest

Robert O'Connor raises "that" question again tangentially, which Hardy
notes is acceptable because he is asking why it matters who wrote the
plays, since, "that the issue - if there is one - . . . is ultimately
irresolvable." Robert continues:

> I really do not understand how something as unproveable as who wrote
> what can engage the attention of so many scholars, and for so long.
> What, exactly, is the appeal?  I can only begin to comprehend it myself
> as a highly specialised form of iconoclasm.

Robert, at times, answering questions of authorship is analogous to
trying to hack an "invincible" computer program, or break into an
"impregnable" fortress: the lack of an answer is a challenge some people
can't resist, in terms of knowledge for its own sake, or solving the
riddle of the Sphinx, or climbing Mount Everest: they do it because it's
there.

In other cases, such as the provenance of "Milton's" _De Doctrina
Christiana_, whether or not the putative author is the actual author is
an important one: for almost four hundred years, people have believed
that the theology of the Christian Doctrine informs (or subverts) the
theology of _Paradise Lost_, and it is thus critical to know whether all
of the ideas expressed in both documents are actually Milton's.
Questions of authorship can be meaningful, and tools are available in
terms of textual and lexical analysis to help us get closer to the
truth, but we will never "know" by those means for certain. Another
important authorship issue, that of who wrote _Eikon Basilike_ (the
posthumous "King's Book" attributed to Charles I), has been pretty well
resolved by means of the Anglesey Memorandum and subsequent modern-era
"finds": we have pretty well established that it was Bishop Gauden, more
than likely assisted by Bishop Duppa, possibly based in part on things
Charles really did write himself: but the importance of such a forgery
to English history alone makes the question of who wrote that document a
crucial one).

As for the Bacon/deVere/Elizabeth/man-in-the-moon question, I couldn't
care less, either, unless someone can proof-positive establish an
identity for the author of the Shakespearean canon, and it is someone
other than Will himself. The likelihood of that is, as you suggest, slim
to none; but whoever he (or she?) was, the work that person produced is
wonderful enough to have fascinated me (and countless others) for a
lifetime. Rather than knowing his/her "actual" identity, I would love to
know what made him the genius he was: imagine being able to "bottle" the
Shakespeare or Tchaicovsky or Milton or Da Vinci or Wren genius gene for
mass distribution??

Perhaps that's what intrigues us, about Shakespearean authorship-though
we *do* know who the others were, and so far, we haven't cloned them . .
.?

All best,
Carol Barton

[3]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Richard Nathan <
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Date:           Tuesday, 06 Jun 2000 15:21:15 +0000
Subject: 11.1167 Re: Article of Interest
Comment:        Re: SHK 11.1167 Re: Article of Interest

I completely understand your not wanting to open up the authorship
debate.  However, I've heard that the Old Globe in London has several
new exhibits, including one showing Shakespeare wrote Shakespeare.  In
anyone has any information regarding this exhibit, I would love to hear
about it.  I'd be happy to receive this information on private e-mail if
it would help keep the authorship debate off this discussion group.

[4]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Douglas Chapman <
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Date:           Tuesday, 6 Jun 2000 12:59:40 EDT
Subject: 11.1167 Re: Article of Interest
Comment:        Re: SHK 11.1167 Re: Article of Interest

In a message dated 6/6/2000 9:20:08 AM, Rob O'Connor writes:

>I really do not understand how something as unproveable as who wrote
>what can engage the attention of so many scholars, and for so long.
>What, exactly, is the appeal?  I can only begin to comprehend it myself
>as a highly specialised form of iconoclasm.

Bravo! Bravo! And I'm quite sure I hear others chiming in.

Tutti Bravi!!

And another bravely done to Hardy. I agree this whole discussion is best
left off list. But on occasion this is valid as a stimulus for us.

Douglas Chapman
[5]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Andrew W. White <
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Date:           Tuesday, 6 Jun 2000 13:18:18 -0400
Subject:        Article of Interest

In response to Rob O'Connor, the authorship question doesn't bother me
nearly as much as how it is handled in the mainstream press.  The
coverage is often ignorant, and this lack of basic knowledge is
contagious.

Example:  Last year, a Washington Post article stated, as a fact, that
both Shakespeare and his father were illiterate.  With this article in
hand, a certain partisan group got vital funding for a 'documentary'
which shall no doubt gain wide distribution as a 'factual' account of
the authorship question.

No mention was made in this article that John Shakespeare was a public
servant for nearly 30 years, elected by his peers, or that his son would
have been entitled to a free education in Latin, etc.  When I asked the
Post's author for proof of the Shakespeares' illiteracy, he gave me
nothing but smart-ass retorts.  When I offered him ample evidence drawn
from Sam Schoenbaum's _Documentary Life_ of John Shakespeare's service
in Stratford, he clammed up and I haven't heard from him since.
Obviously he hadn't done any reading, because he didn't even bother to
give me Ogburn's standard interpretation of the evidence!

Because it was published in the Post, it was laughingly assumed that the
Post checked its facts.  And because the Post refused my repeated
efforts to publish a rebuttal, the distortions of that article are still
out there, masquerading as authoritative, unimpeachable fact.  Let's at
least admit that the evidence is debatable, please!

I'm happy to debate non-Stratfordians on the evidence, and find such
engagements lively and educational.  But when the press muddies the
waters with distortions based on flat-out _ignorance_ of the evidence,
it makes reasonable debate difficult if not impossible.

Andy White
Arlington, VA

[6]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Kevin De Ornellas <
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Date:           Tuesday, 06 Jun 2000 17:29:36 GMT
Subject: 11.1167 Re: Article of Interest
Comment:        Re: SHK 11.1167 Re: Article of Interest

>Is anyone else out there also hugely uninterested in the authorship
>issue?

Yes!

Kevin De Ornellas

[7]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Sophie Masson <
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Date:           Wednesday, 7 Jun 2000 09:20:44 +1000
Subject: 11.1167 Re: Article of Interest
Comment:        Re: SHK 11.1167 Re: Article of Interest

First of all, let me say to everyone on the list that I was not aware of
the history of this dispute on the list, and apologise if people have
been annoyed by my ignorance of this.

To go then to Robert O' Connor's interesting post, it is true enough
that the whole question of authorship should not, in an ideal world,
matter one jot. The work is what matters. Unfortunately, we do not live
in an ideal world; and scholars are not the only people interested in
Shakespeare. My own impetus for writing the piece came because I am a
creative writer, and because, through long experience in the world of
literature, I know that there is a growing tendency to attempt to
formulate rules for creativity and creative people. After the article
was published, I had a long conversation which absolutely exemplified
all I was saying in the article-it was with a very well-respected
Australian documentary film-maker, who has worked in film for many, many
years, has been head of the (Public broadcaster)ABC TV Documentary Unit,
has won prizes for many of his docs, etc, etc, and who is making a
documentary 'proving' Marlowe really wrote Shakespeare. To do this, he
had to, as I pointed out, mutilate everything not just about Will, but
Kit too. He is a firm believer in this proposition, and his whole thing
is built on the most extraordinarily naive and offensive conception of
how a writer works, what lies behind the creative urge, and much else.
And he said he was basing it on 'science' and 'rationality' and informed
me I was both irrational and unscientific: the fact that he'd made up
his mind from the beginning about what his documentary was going to
prove did not seem to figure highly in his depiction of scientific
method.

Now why should that matter, you might ask? Well, this documentary is
going to be aired on ABC TV, and with an internationally-known name such
as his, may well sell elsewhere. And this is the exposure most people
get to Shakespeare, beyond the plays and sonnets. It is not the
exhaustive and intelligent research conducted by scholars, it is the
work of people whose familiarity with the work is so great that they
solemnly inform you The Merry Wives of Windsor is set in Shakespeare's
own time; that the 'great man' cared a lot about education and was
trying to bring it to the masses; that a working actor could not
possibly have written plays because he was so busy, that Shakespeare in
Love 'proved' that the life must match the work!  Again, who cares?
Well, let's compare it to the evolution vs creationism 'debate'. It
should not matter-why shouldn't  people believe what they want? And to
an extent, that's certainly true. I'm not after some kind of
police-state in which no-one is allowed to speak their mind. But the
metaphorical power, the rich symbolism, the psychological truths , the
poetic depth of religious myth are all debased by creatonist literalists
who insist on _not_ allowing others to both feel that the Theory of
Evolution describes natural processes rather well, _and_that this does
not negate religious thinking, or sacred space. Far from it. Why should
God be some kind of literal-minded pedant? In a similar spirit-and here
I must stress I am not being blasphemous, or falling into the idea that
WS was any kind of  divine being-a literal-minded reading of his work,
an insistence that it must match life 'facts', debases and devalues not
only the metaphorical power of his work, but by extension that of anyone
who works in fiction. Or indeed any creative work of literature. Why
then should people spend their lives studying this work? Could it not
lead to philistine or economic-rationalist (perhaps an oxymoronic
distinction) governments decreeing that Shakespeare studies are
worthless, because they are not 'true'? Is it not difficult enough for
scholars as it is, without making things more difficult?  As to why
there are so many things connected with WS appearing in newspapers, on
screen, in novels, etc-in my opinion, it is part of a certain shift in
metaphoric consciousness which is beginning to occur in Western
societies. We have been through-are still going through-stages of
destruction and alienation, but this is slowly and in a subtle change of
gears, changing. And here I must stress I'm speaking again as a creative
writer, with radar out, rather than a scholar or a scientist. WS for
many people (unfortunately, I feel, in some ways) is a kind of symbol of
Western culture-and what we are seeing now is a kind of attempt at
re-integration, with Will as the great healer(in my own university town,
last week, there was a public lecture entitled just that). Conversely,
it could also mean, of course, the last brilliant lot of fireworks
before the whole show fizzles out! Who knows? But it is a vastly
fascinating subject. We certainly live in interesting times.

Incidentally, I wonder if my feeling on the provenance of much
'authorship' debate-that it occurs outside of England, or even the
United Kingdom, itself, is true? Or is that only this century?

Sophie
Author site: http://members.xoom.com/sophiecastel/default.htm

[8]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Sean Lawrence <
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Date:           Tuesday, 06 Jun 2000 17:50:18 -0700
Subject: 11.1167 Re: Article of Interest
Comment:        Re: SHK 11.1167 Re: Article of Interest

Robert F. O'Connor asks,

> I really do not understand how something as unproveable as who wrote
> what can engage the attention of so many scholars, and for so long.
> What, exactly, is the appeal?  I can only begin to comprehend it myself
> as a highly specialised form of iconoclasm.

Apart from the fact that authorship attribution is one of the staples of
bibliographic criticism, and that, in fact, the balance of evidence is
pretty clear on this issue, making it as provable as anything in the
epistemologically murky world of literary criticism, I tend to think of
the fascination of the authorship controversy as flowing from certain
specific cultural prejudices, worth investigating in themselves.

With respect to Sophie, whose article I read and enjoyed, I don't think
that the primary fascination of authorship is any longer classism, or a
romantic view of the author as an inspired genius.  On the contrary, it
has something to do with how naturopaths (in their worser moods) seem to
portray the medical establishment as a conspiracy that gets rich by
keeping people sick, the left-wing sees the IMF as a conspiracy to keep
people poor, the right-wing sees the UN as a conspiracy to keep people
unfree, Baconians see Shakespeare studies as a conspiracy to keep their
man out, and various people see practically everything as a conspiracy
caused by the establishment.

The conspiracy has become a dominant mode of thought (sic) in this
post-enlightenment age.  The traditional descriptions of the world have
been called into question, but we still assume that we should be able to
understand everything, irregardless of our own ignorance, or that the
real explanation might not be the sort of thing that can inspire a
knowing sneer.

Think how good it must feel to be amongst the illuminati who realize the
'true' authorship, despite the efforts of a Shakespearean establishment
to keep it down, and despite one's own inability to read Elizabethan
secretary?

Cheers,
Se

 

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