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Home :: Archive :: 2007 :: April ::
Shakespeare Authorship Survey
The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 18.0259  Monday, 2 April 2007

From: 		Thomas Pendleton <
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Date: 		Tuesday, 27 Mar 2007 19:50:25 -0400
Subject: 	Shakespeare Authorship Survey

[Editor's Note: Tom Pendleton, co-editor of the Shakespeare Newsletter, 
was moved to respond to the request he received to complete the so-call 
authorship survey. Below is that response.]

Dear Mr. Calame:

I have recently been invited to participate in a survey by the New York 
Times Education Life to determine what college professors think of the 
Shakespeare Authorship question.  I am sorry to see this silliness 
dragged our yet again since it has been demonstrated repeatedly that 
there is not the least scrap of evidence that anyone other than William 
Shakespeare of Stratford wrote the Shakespeare plays.

The fact that the survey is being conducted under the supervision of 
William J. Niederkorn, who has for at least the last five years operated 
as the Times resident Oxfordian, is, I think, reason to suspect that the 
outcome of the survey will in some way end up supporting Mr. 
Niederkorn's own views in this matter. Indeed, on August 30, 2005, Mr. 
Niederkorn had suggested that "authorship studies" be made part of "the 
standard Shakespeare curriculum"-an idea that makes little sense unless 
one is already committed to the belief that the job of being Shakespeare 
is now open for applications.

I am aware that Mr. Niederkorn has portrayed himself as neither an 
Oxfordian nor a Stratfordian, but as an impartial seeker after the 
truth.  His supposed impartiality is, however, well demonstrated by his 
assertion that "On both sides of the authorship controversy, the 
arguments are conjectural" (Aug. 30, 05).  What "conjecture" means in 
regard to the orthodox position is the assumption that the surviving 
contemporary testimony is likely to be reliable, especially when it 
co-relates with other surviving testimony.  Thus, that the Shakespeare 
who in his will named Hemings and Condell as his fellows is the same 
Shakespeare whom Hemings and Condell seven years later identify as their 
"friend and fellow" who wrote the plays of the First Folio. On the other 
hand, "conjecture" for the Oxfordian means starting from the conviction 
that Shakespeare lacked the education, social status and life experience 
necessary to have written the plays, and then dismissing any evidence 
that contradicts this conviction as fraudulent or mistaken or meaning 
something other than it says.

To present the all but universally accepted evidence of Shakespeare's 
authorship as merely an indifferent option to the Oxfordian position is 
to misrepresent grossly the historical and literary situation.  And this 
is what Mr. Niederkorn's previous publications in the Times have done, 
and what-it is reasonable to expect-his reflections on his survey will 
continue to do.  As I understand your function at the Times, it is to 
assure that your readership is presented with reliable and properly 
researched information and analysis.  I do not suggest that Mr. 
Niederkorn's survey be scrapped-this would probably be inappropriate-but 
I do suggest that when the results of and reflections upon the survey 
are published, the Times-as it has not done in the past-also present in 
some detail the evidences on which the orthodox case it based; not just 
a two or three line disagreement from some orthodox spokesman that will 
be buried among Mr. Niederkorn's biographical fantasies.

If the Times is serious about its reputation for accuracy and 
reliability, it really cannot allow Mr. Niederkorn to continue to speak 
for it on this matter.

Please feel free to make what use of this e-mail seems best to you. 
Thank you for your attention.

Thomas A. Pendleton, Ph.D.
Professor of English, Iona College
New Rochelle, N.Y. 10801
914-633-2156

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