The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 16.1630 Tuesday, 27 September 2005
From: Hardy M. Cook <
Date: Tuesday, September 27, 2005
Subject: Editing SHAKSPER
I received many e-mails complaining of my posting of Ben Alexander's
claim that "The Sonnets were written under a pseudonym, and are the
poetical correspondence of two lovers, Mary Fitton, Sonnets 1-126, and
her lover, William Herbert, Earl Pembroke, 127-152" in the "BBC
Shakespeare This Autumn" thread.
"How did this slip through moderation?"
"How did this post get under the radar?"
"Have you changed your policy regarding posts from anti-Stratfordians?"
"If we now have to argue that Shakespeare wrote Shakespeare, I'm leaving!"
"I was under the impression that SHAKSPER was to be blessedly free from
such grotesque 'authorship' fantasies. R. K., however, who seems to
post quite frequently, never writes about anything else."
And so on . . .
Tom Pendleton, I am sure, spoke for many when he wrote the following:
First, I--and I suppose the huge majority of SHAKSPER list members-find
Ben Alexander's positions preposterous.
Second, I am surprised to find this posting on SHAKSPER. Alexander's
teams of writers who put together the plays as Christmas entertainments
for a "highly intelligent and probably inebriated" audience, not to
mention his First Folio intended as a birthday present for Mary Sidney
from her boys, is the sort of eccentric anti-Stratfordianism that I
understood had long ago been ruled out of bounds for SHAKSPER. If this
kind of thing is to be communicated, then there ought to be at least an
occasional post that says that the evidence (especially the will, the
Stratford Monument, and the First Folio) that Shakespeare of Stratford
wrote the plays is abundant if not overwhelming.
Third, I find it offensive that Alexander implies that the Birthplace
Trust, by displaying only the first page of the will, is hiding what
they know to be evidence of its falsity. And I find it greatly more
offensive that Alexander questions "the integrity of what academics have
taught us." Anti-Stratfordians far too often and far too casually
intimate that those who do not share their odd position know it to be
true, but from craven self-interest conceal, evade, and outright lie to
fend it off. This kind of boorishness has no place in scholarly
discourse nor in any civil discussion, and it should not have been
admitted into SHAKSPER.
I am very reluctant to criticize Hardy, whom I know, like, and respect,
and whose labors on SHAKSPER are either heroic or masochistic or both,
but this one calls for it. If Hardy replies that he couldn't stay
focused on the absurdities Alexander was promoting and didn't quite
realize what was being said, I'll accept the excuse.
The only excuse that I can offer is that making decisions about what to
post and what to reject is not easy.
Alexander began his post with the confident statement "The Sonnets were
written . . . ": a statement that is absolute in its contention -- no
doubt -- no room for disagreement -- this is how it is, period. But how
many posts begin with similar prologues? How many members have
discovered the ultimate meaning of this play or that poem?
I imagine in retrospect that I should not have sent this post out. The
first time Alexander expressed his views
[http://www.shaksper.net/archives/2005/1341.html] I wrote in preface this:
Editor's Note: Once again, let me remind members, old and new, that I do
not permit postings on the so-called "authorship" question. If you wish
to contend that William Shakespeare of Stratford was not the author of
the plays and poems generally associated with him, then you have
subscribed to the wrong list. Other authorship issues are acceptable,
including apocrypha, collaborative writing, and possible misattributions
such as <I>A Lover's Complaint</I>. This is an academic list and I as an
educator have a responsibility not to distribute posting that I view as
misleading or scholarly unsound. A number of years ago, I gave
Anti-Stratfordians the floor to air their arguments. The ensuing
discussions threatened to consume the list, so I ended them. There are
plenty of places to have such discussions; SHAKSPER is just not one of
them. I will regard any (and please I am overburdened and in a great
deal of pain and physical discomfort as it is) responses to this
Editor's Note as PERSONAL e-mail to me and I will NOT post them or
respond to them. They will be quietly deleted.
That was then, this is now.
My objection to Alexander's post involved not only its outrageousness
but also its essentialist claim to discovering the one truth. To counter
such thinking, I normally begin my undergraduate Shakespeare courses by
having my students read Laura Bohannan's "Shakespeare in the Bush":
I am deeply suspicious of true believers, conspiracy theorists, and
those in possession of universal or absolute truth. But I don't feel as
though I should, therefore, suppress every post that I would consider
expressing one of these positions. My hope is that members will respond
I suppose I slipped here, but this is not an apology, just random
thoughts about the sorts of things I think about as I edit the daily
S H A K S P E R: The Global Shakespeare Discussion List
Hardy M. Cook,
The S H A K S P E R Web Site <http://www.shaksper.net>
DISCLAIMER: Although SHAKSPER is a moderated discussion list, the
opinions expressed on it are the sole property of the poster, and the
editor assumes no responsibility for them.