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Home :: Archive :: 2000 :: June ::
Re: Article of Interest
The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 11.1188  Thursday, 8 June 2000.

[1]     From:   Marcus Dahl <
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        Date:   Wednesday, 7 Jun 2000 13:23:25 EDT
        Subj:   Re: SHK 11.1172 Re: Article of Interest

[2]     From:   Larry Weiss <
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        Date:   Wednesday, 07 Jun 2000 14:18:50 -0400
        Subj:   Re: Article of Interest

[3]     From:   Melissa D. Aaron <
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        Date:   Wednesday, 07 Jun 2000 16:31:10 -0700
        Subj:   Re: SHK 11.1172 Re: Article of Interest

[4]     From:   Sophie Masson <
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        Date:   Thursday, 8 Jun 2000 10:19:52 +1000
        Subj:   Re: Article of Interest


[1]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Marcus Dahl <
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Date:           Wednesday, 7 Jun 2000 13:23:25 EDT
Subject: 11.1172 Re: Article of Interest
Comment:        Re: SHK 11.1172 Re: Article of Interest

Re: Shakespeare Authorship and evidence.

Evidence must be the foundation of any empirical proposition. There is
plenty of good evidence concerning Shakespeare's life and times -
(Schoenbaum -Documentary Life, EK Chambers - Life of WS / The
Elizabethan Stage, Walter Greg -Dramatic Documents, etc -these are just
the beginning).

There is substantial direct and circumstantial evidence but no
unimpeachable evidence about William Shakespeare of Stratford's
authorship of any of the plays (though there is I think rationally no
other author of the two major poems Venus/ Rape) attributed to him
(notably in his time  -e.g. from "The Birth of Merlin" to "King Lear" or
"Loves Labours Lost"). John Shakespeare was an Alderman of Stratford and
his signature appears on numerous records to that effect.  (e.g. 15th
Feb 1566 Shakespeare Birthplace Trust Records Office, Council Book A,
pp.11-14. Transcript: MA,i.148-52.) One of your other contributors does
make a good point about ability to read 16th century secretary hand -
sometimes you have to trust the experts - but the documents themselves
are there to be seen and checked by anyone with the time and patience.

Many of the kinds of questions asked on this forum do directly hinge
upon complex questions of date and character (ie James vs Elizabeth) or
authority (A Shrew/the Shrew - Good quarto / bad quartos etc) and if
scholarship is to be a systematic and rational procedure anyone arguing
a case about a given author ought to know at least the basic facts (and
arguments) as to who that author was, what he wrote and what he didn't.
If it wasn't for the hard work of scholars such as Chambers, Greg etc
who systematically edited, published and interpreted (though of course
not always with complete certainty) 3/4 of all the known Shakespearean
documents known to modern scholars - none of the other base arguments
concerning 'Shakespeare's' works would stand the tide of dissenters
(ignorant or otherwise). Somebody sometime has got to do the hard work
of facts, dates, spell checking -cross referencing etc. We cannot all be
Jacques Derrida et al -though sometimes I suspect many modern 'critics'
would like to be.

Yours,
Marcus.

ps:
Wee wondred (Shake-speare) that thou wnet'st so soone
from the worlds Stage, to the Graues-Tyring-roome.
wee thought thee dead, but this thy printed worth,
Tels thy Spectators, that thou went'st but forth
To enter with applause. An actors Art,
Can dye, and liue, to acte a second part.
That's but an Exit of Mortalite ;
This, a Re-entrance to a Plaudite.

I.M.

(From the First Folio 1623)

[2]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Larry Weiss <
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Date:           Wednesday, 07 Jun 2000 14:18:50 -0400
Subject:        Re: Article of Interest

I find the authorship debate inherently uninteresting, and strained
given the usual state of what passes for scholarship on the issue.  But
I cannot accept that it would be without importance if, in fact, there
were real evidence that some other identifiable person wrote the works.
Such a discovery (and I do not believe anyone has come close to making
it) would have at least two significant consequences:

1.  If the author is known to have written other works, the Canon would
be expanded and what we now consider the "complete works" (or as
complete as we can now get them) would have to be re-evaluated as part
of a larger whole.

    2.  If there were biographical information about the
non-Stratfordian writer, that would cast the works in new lights.  We
would have a field day explaining cruces, reinterpreting text and
applying entirely different critical assumptions.

[3]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Melissa D. Aaron <
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Date:           Wednesday, 07 Jun 2000 16:31:10 -0700
Subject: 11.1172 Re: Article of Interest
Comment:        Re: SHK 11.1172 Re: Article of Interest

Carol Barton wrote:

>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.  <snip>
>
>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?

I am reminded of a parallel situation in another field of study, worth
(I hope) mentioning here.  At one point in my checkered pre-grad-school
career, I lived near the University of Chicago and was friendly with a
good number of people who worked at the Oriental Institute.  I filled in
at one point as a receptionist, and in between answering the phone and
typing the occasional document was invited to read a large file referred
to jocularly as the "nut file."  In which was filed letters from people
who believed that they alone had the secret of reading hieroglyphics, or
that they were the reincarnation of some Egyptian high priest, or that
the lost records of Atlantis lie buried under the Great Pyramids of
Giza, etc.

Important disclaimer: I do NOT think Oxfordians can be categorized as
"nuts." (Or Oxonians, for that matter, though as a Cantabridgian I have
my doubts).

What I did learn from the experience is that Egyptology and Shakespeare
studies alike can be categorized as attractive nuisances.  They both
exert a powerful influence on the popular imagination.  And this, most
of the time, is a good thing.  It keeps hundreds of Shakespeare
Festivals going and paperbacks in print and helps fund the National
Geographic Society.  What goes along with popularity is that there's
bound to be some misunderstanding and misapplication and misinformation
disseminated widely on TV and the movies.  I gave up being irritated by
this a long time ago.  The best way to handle this is to present
whatever point of view we as scholars have arrived at, to our students,
and if requested, to the wider media, politely, clearly, intelligently,
and respectfully.

Very politely and respectfully yours,
Melissa D. Aaron
California Polytechnic State University at Pomona

[4]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Sophie Masson <
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Date:           Thursday, 8 Jun 2000 10:19:52 +1000
Subject:        Re: Article of Interest

It's funny-the guy who is making this Marlovian doco said to me that the
exhibit at the Globe 'proves' that the authorship question can be taken
seriously, and that Marlowe is top of the list for contenders! Which is
the same as interpreting (something else he's done) Dickens's comment
that he hoped the mystery of WS would never be solved as an admission
that he wasn't who he was! How can you argue with someone like that?
Invincible ignorance is right indeed.

Re Sean's comment about the love of conspiracy and anti-orthodox points
of view being one of the mainsprings, I think that's right, though I
think WS attracts more of this than other authors because of the breadth
and splendour of his work: people simply can't cope with the idea. I
thought list members might be interested to read what one of the recent
theorists, Joseph Sobran, said about his own raison d'etre, as it were
(from The Daily Oklahaman, in 1988 sometime): "..to do your own thinking
is always to risk appearing eccentric to people who follow the herd. In
this respect, I'd rather be an eccentric than a centric-a person who
assumes the conventional must always be correct.'

Sophie
 

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