Make a Donation

Consider making a donation to support SHAKSPER.

Subscribe to Our Feeds

Current Postings RSS

Announcements RSS

Home :: Archive :: 2010 :: November ::
Q: Academic Response to Anonymous
The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 21.0427  Friday, 5 November 2010

[1]  From:      Bob Grumman <
 This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it
 >
     Date:      November 4, 2010 4:58:39 PM EDT
     Subj:      Re: SHK 21.0424  Q: Academic Response to Anonymous 

[2]  From:      Arlynda Boyer <
 This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it
 >
     Date:      November 4, 2010 5:59:05 PM EDT
     Subj:      Re: SHK 21.0425 Evidence of Authorship
 
[3]  From:      David Kathman <
 This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it
 >
     Date:      November 4, 2010 7:37:04 PM EDT
     Subj:      Re: Academic Response to Anonymous
 
[4]  From:      William Godshalk <
 This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it
 >
     Date:      November 4, 2010 8:11:40 PM EDT
     Subj:      RE: SHK 21.0424  Q: Academic Response to Anonymous
 
[5]  From:      Tom Reedy <
 This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it
 >
     Date:      November 4, 2010 11:54:40 PM EDT
     Subj:      Re: SHK 21.0424  Q: Academic Response to Anonymous
 
[6]  From:      Lyn Tribble <
 This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it
 >
     Date:      November 5, 2010 3:53:13 AM EDT
     Subj:      Re: SHK 21.0424  Q: Academic Response to Anonymous
 
[7]  From:      Duncan Salkeld <
 This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it
 >
     Date:      November 5, 2010 7:27:57 AM EDT
     Subj:      RE: SHK 21.0424  Q: Academic Response to Anonymous
 

[1]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:         Bob Grumman <
 This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it
 >
Date:         November 4, 2010 4:58:39 PM EDT
Subject: 21.0424  Q: Academic Response to Anonymous
Comment:      Re: SHK 21.0424  Q: Academic Response to Anonymous

"Believe me, Milton's God has more chance of subduing Satan than we do of convincing 
'Oxfraudians.'"

The possible need, though, as Dave Kathman points out, is to help newcomers realize 
in reasonable detail why the anti-Stratfordians are wrong. With the same kind of 
evidence we would use to demonstrate (not "prove," because nothing in history can be 
proven) beyond reasonable doubt that Julius Caesar existed and did some things in 
Gaul. 

Of the many things that could be done is the publication of a statement that the 
authorship question is not worth studying like the statement in the news last year, 
or the year before, that the question was worth studying, which was signed by a 
number of theatre people and even academics. Frankly, I'd like to see a statement 
circulated stating that the question is insane, but realize that few believe in 
candor in such matters.

The weaker statement could state in brief why Shakespeare was undoubtedly the author 
of the works attributed to him, and what's wrong with the arguments for other 
candidates (like a list of the many famous cultural figures who had as little or 
less formal education than Shakespeare had). 

A list of relevant books and Internet articles (such as the one I have at 
http://poeticks.com/personal-literary-evidence-for-shakespeare/websites, which 
delves into the issue of proper and improper literary-historical evidence) and books 
should be provided, including, I would hope, mine. Challenges to debate should be 
issued like Randi's to pseudo-scientists. No one has taken up mine, but given a 
distinguished venue for the debate, I'm sure there'd be takers. I need not be the 
representative of Stratfordianism, but whoever is should be an authorship expert, 
which leaves out most Shakespeare scholars.

--Bob 

[2]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:         Arlynda Boyer <
 This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it
 >
Date:         November 4, 2010 5:59:05 PM EDT
Subject: 21.0425 Evidence of Authorship
Comment:      Re: SHK 21.0425 Evidence of Authorship

This [SHK 21.0425 Evidence of Authorship] is precisely what I am arguing against. 
You are correct. Everyone you cite is correct. But this is _not_ a college 
classroom. It's FOX News. And your arguments will be seen as long-winded, pedantic, 
confusing, and boring.

Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert _could_ take apart the right piece by piece. They 
both have the intellectual ability and the facts at hand to do it. But that's not 
how they became, not only famous, but influential. They don't engage; they satirize. 
Leftist Christians have engaged right-wing Christians for decades. Radio Pacifica 
and similar outlets have engaged the political right for years. And look at the 
position they are in -- weak and unheard, while that which they would destroy has 
become more and more powerful ... (I'm sorry to "shout," but I must) BECAUSE WE GAVE 
THEM LEGITIMACY BY ENGAGING WITH THEM. And we wind up the unheard side because our 
arguments, while true, are long-winded, pedantic, confusing, and boring to many 
millions of people. Factual and nuanced don't win people over in the internet age. 
That's why the Comedy Central team shot to fame virtually overnight while leftist 
Christians and commentators drifted into obscurity.

Do NOT engage. Scoff. Mock. Satirize. I know -- it goes against every fiber of your 
being to have all these facts available and not use them. It goes against the 
scholarly ethos of mutual respect and courtesy. But please, do it anyway.

Get your smartassiness on. Surf the snarkiest internet sites (try 4chan or Fail 
blog) to get the idea. Watch Stewart and Colbert. Or take this example from Vanity 
Fair's profile of Sarah Palin: she was making her usual preening entrance into a 
room, center of attention, until one man yelled out, "Oh my god, it's Tina Fey! I 
love you on Saturday Night Live!" When the room filled with derisive laughter, 
Palin's face froze and she wheeled around and stalked out. A dozen words, no 
engagement, total victory.

Arlynda Boyer

P.S. Also, "Very Demotivational"

[3]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:         David Kathman <
 This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it
 >
Date:         November 4, 2010 7:37:04 PM EDT
Subject:      Re: Academic Response to Anonymous

[Editor's Note: In a private exchange, Dave Kathman pointed out that I had 
misleadingly formatted his submission of yesterday:

This isn't a huge deal, but when you were formatting my post in today's digest, you 
made it look like only the first paragraph was a quotation from Joe Egert, and that 
the paragraph starting "One could, however,..." was the beginning of my response. 
But that second paragraph was also written by Egert; my response started with the 
following paragraph, beginning "This presupposes...". Not that it's too big a deal, 
because that second paragraph by Egert didn't include anything I really disagree 
with; I just didn't write it.

Here is how his posting should have looked:

From:         David Kathman <
 This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it
 >
Date:         November 4, 2010 1:15:35 AM EDT
Subject: 21.0422 Q: Academic Response to Anonymous
Comment:      Re: SHK 21.0422 Q: Academic Response to Anonymous

Joseph Egert wrote:

>This position merely pushes the problem one step backward in that 
>anti-Stratfordians may/will question the validity of the standards 
>themselves or any evidentiary rules yielding 'facts' inconvenient 
>to their favorite's candidacy.
>
>One could, however, study a 'random' set of, say, one hundred historical 
>controversies, whose ultimate resolutions are no longer contested by 
>the bulk of both Strat and anti-Strat populations. Which scholarly 
>methods early on were ultimately vindicated, as evidence accumulated 
>toward a final uncontroversial resolution? Wouldn't such methods then 
>prove the most fruitful in evaluating current controversies? Perhaps, 
>such studies have already been done and have already demonstrated the 
>superiority of 'orthodox' scholarly standards. Though past is not 
>always prologue, it's still the way to bet.

This presupposes that anti-Stratfordians are driven by logic or reason, which they 
are not, as others have pointed out. They are driven by a visceral, emotionally-
based conviction that William Shakespeare of Stratford could not possibly have 
written those plays and poems; that the real author was a dashing, classically 
romantic tragic hero (the earl of Oxford, or whoever); that dark, sinister forces 
(Lord Burghley, in many Oxfordian scenarios) covered up the hero's authorship of 
these great plays and poems, and denied him the fame that he deserved; that later 
dark, sinister forces (the academic Shakespeare industry) continues to cover up "the 
truth" in a desperate effort to save their jobs; and that anti-Stratfordians are 
heroic seekers of truth, struggling against these dark forces to give their romantic 
hero the credit he was denied 400 years ago. This is basically the plot of Charlton 
Ogburn's "The Mysterious William Shakespeare", and it has a powerful emotional 
appeal to a significant subset of people who are exposed to it. Once this set of 
convictions takes hold, all "facts" and arguments are bent to fit it, and attempts 
to argue for the traditional attribution to William Shakespeare of Stratford are 
often seen as obstacles in the way of giving the hero his due.

Still, it's worth arguing against this sort of thing for the benefit of third-party 
observers and others who are just curious whether there's anything to this Oxfordian 
stuff. Much as Joseph Egert suggests above, I often defend the methods used by 
Shakespeare scholars by pointing out that they are the same basic methods used for 
any other historical question from 400 years ago. The evidence for attributing the 
plays of Christopher Marlowe and John Webster to those two men is actually much 
weaker (I would argue) than the evidence for attributing Shakespeare's plays to the 
Stratford man, but those attributions are uncontroversial; indeed, there is a group 
that believes that Marlowe wrote the works of Shakespeare after faking his death in 
1593. I also point out that the methods used by Oxfordians, if applied consistently 
and taken to their logical conclusion, leads one to the inevitable conclusion that 
Oxford wrote essentially all early modern English literature. This may seem like a 
reductio ad absurdum, but it is more or less the position taken by Michael Brame and 
Galina Popova in their book "Shakespeare's Fingerprints". (See Tom Veal's amusing 
review of this book here: http://stromata.tripod.com/id408.htm.) Similar arguments 
were used against Baconian ciphers a century ago, and have been used more recently 
against neo-Baconian ciphers (e.g. by Terry Ross here: 
http://shakespeareauthorship.com/bacpenl.html).

Arlynda Boyer wrote:

Jon Stewart and his predecessor "Jon" Swift have it right ... the 
best way to defeat an argument is to make it ridiculous. And in 
this case, that won't be hard.

As I understand it, the movie "Anonymous" is based on the "Prince Tudor 2" theory, a 
particularly ridiculous strain of Oxfordianism that is also behind Charles 
Beauclerk's recent book "Shakespeare's Tragic Kingdom". In this scenario, Edward de 
Vere, 17th earl of Oxford, was secretly the son of Queen Elizabeth and her 
stepfather Thomas Seymour, born in 1548 to the 15-year-old Elizabeth and secretly 
placed two years later in the home of John de Vere to be raised as his son. (The 
two-year gap is needed because Seymour died in March 1549 but de Vere was not born -
- or "born" -- until April 1550.) Under many versions of this "theory", Elizabeth 
had numerous other sons, who were raised as various other noblemen. Then, once 
Oxford came of age, he became his mother Elizabeth's incestuous lover, and their 
son, born in 1573, was placed with the Wriothesley family and raised as the earl of 
Southampton. Meanwhile, Oxford wrote the plays of Shakespeare to tell his woeful 
tale to posterity, since he could not do so openly. In the 1590s he dedicated Venus 
and Adonis and The Rape of Lucrece to his son/half-brother Southampton, and wrote 
the Sonnets to convince Southampton to beget a royal heir.

I'm sure that many of you think I'm joking, but I'm completely serious -- this is 
what some Oxfordians believe, including, apparently Roland Emmerich, the director of 
"Anonymous". The above scenario developed from the plain "Prince Tudor" theory, in 
which Oxford was either Elizabeth's son or her lover (with Southampton being their 
son), but not both. This theory caused a rift in Oxfordian ranks in the 1950s, and 
modern iterations of it have caused more recent rifts, between Oxfordians who 
embrace the Prince Tudor scenarios and those who think it's ridiculous, easily 
falsified claptrap that makes Oxfordians look bad. It's been my experience that 
Prince Tudor proponents are particularly immune from documentary evidence, and 
particularly dependent on internal "evidence" from the plays. The scenarios I've 
described above are wildly at odds with the documentary evidence, of course, but 
Prince Tudor proponents literally couldn't care less -- the only evidence they use 
is their interpretations of the Shakespeare plays and poems (especially the sonnets 
and narrative poems), which they are convinced contain messages from their hero that 
they need to bring to light.

Dave Kathman

 This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it
 

[4]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:         William Godshalk <
 This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it
 >
Date:         November 4, 2010 8:11:40 PM EDT
Subject: 21.0424  Q: Academic Response to Anonymous
Comment:      RE: SHK 21.0424  Q: Academic Response to Anonymous

James Allston is correct. Sinners can repent, but stupid is forever.

[5]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:         Tom Reedy <
 This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it
 >
Date:         November 4, 2010 11:54:40 PM EDT
Subject: 21.0424  Q: Academic Response to Anonymous
Comment:      Re: SHK 21.0424  Q: Academic Response to Anonymous

Look: It doesn't do any good to call anti-Stratfordians stupid or to call them 
names. They've heard it all before, and if it worked they all would have been 
converted long ago. Besides that, I know some very intelligent Oxfordians who are 
good people and are very good company. The beliefs they have may be illogical, 
wrong-headed and impervious to reason, but I daresay there's not a person on this 
listserv who doesn't have an irrational belief or a cognitive blind spot that can be 
easily detected by others. (I must confess I have searched my own beliefs and found 
myself remarkably clear of such nonsensical characteristics. Mysteriously my wife 
doesn't agree, even though she is quite perceptive in other areas.) 

It should be unnecessary to say this, but treating others with respect and decency 
is always appreciated by one's interlocutors and any curious bystanders, and doing 
so weakens one's case not a whit. I've seen quite a bit of shabby treatment by those 
who otherwise pride themselves on tolerance and respect for their fellow beings, and 
I've been guilty of it myself. It's not a productive reaction and causes others to 
wonder why all the vitriol is necessary if Shakespeare's attribution is so secure.

If it's any comfort, the traditional attribution is in no danger of being overthrown 
by Oxford or anyone else, so passionate outbursts of rage against The Other are 
overdone. I doubt there are 3,000 committed hardcore anti-Stratfordians in the 
entire world. Their latest cooperative PR promotion, the Internet signing petition 
"Declaration of Reasonable Doubt about the Identity of William Shakespeare" 
(http://doubtaboutwill.org/declaration), has garnered a whopping 1,860 signatures in 
the three years since its inception--hardly a shocking number in this day and age 
when Internet penetration approaches 90 percent in the U.S., Canada, Western Europe, 
and Australia. To put that into perspective, if every signature represents 1,000 
silent anti-Stratfordians, their number would comprise six-tenths of one percent of 
the population of the United States, so the new paradigm shift is still a few months 
away. More people believe in alien abduction than the idea that someone else wrote 
Shakespeare's works.

Perhaps the establishment of a rival Web site sponsored by the SAA or the Folger or 
some other group would be a good resource to answer the most common questions about 
Shakespeare's authorship and educate the public about the particulars of authorship 
attribution. Several similar Web sites are online, but none of them are as 
sophisticated, organised, and attractively designed as the anti-Stratfordian sites. 
I know that if I had such a site, on the home page I would pose the same question I 
pose to all Oxfordians and anti-Stratfordians: if the evidence for Oxford (or 
whomever) is so convincing, why have 75 different individuals been nominated as the 
True Author using the exact same evidence? Invariably their answer is that the other 
74 got it wrong.

Tom Reedy

[6]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:         Lyn Tribble <
 This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it
 >
Date:         November 5, 2010 3:53:13 AM EDT
Subject: 21.0424  Q: Academic Response to Anonymous
Comment:      Re: SHK 21.0424  Q: Academic Response to Anonymous

I've been reading this material with great interest. I agree that Shakespeareans 
need to be able to address the issue for the sake of our students and for the 
curious; I also agree that it's a complete waste of time to engage directly with 
'Oxfordians.' (My cousin's wife is an avid Oxfordian; after one bitter debate at a 
family gathering, the topic was banned). 

I think it's important to simplify the issue and to carefully explain the basics. As 
soon as we start debating Oxfordian minutiae, we are on enemy territory. In fact, 
it's necessary to engage with very few of the Oxfordian arguments, for the simple 
reason that they fail to reach any threshold of plausibility that would warrant 
debating any other particular candidate. 

At base, Oxfordians (as well as proponents of other writers) argue that the inherent 
implausibility of a man of Shakespeare's background and talents writing the plays is 
sufficient to cast into doubt the evidence that Shakespeare indeed wrote the plays. 

To examine this argument, we need to look first at the evidence for Shakespeare's 
authorship of the plays attributed to him. 

First, we have documentary evidence such as court records, wills, title pages, and 
the testimonies and attributions of members of the King's Men after Shakespeare's 
death. There is ample documentary evidence linking Shakespeare to the plays.

Next, we have plausible inferences based upon existing evidence. For example, since 
the records for the grammar school at Stratford are lost, we do not have direct 
evidence that he attended. But his attendance is a plausible inference based upon 
his family's status in the community, documented attendance at grammar school by 
others of Shakespeare's background or even below (e.g. Jonson), and the familiarity 
shown in the plays with grammar school education (e.g. Merry Wives). Here by the way 
is a role for internal evidence from the plays -- not to shore up speculation about 
emotional states, but to demonstrate knowledge about a particular subject. 

Third, we have responsible speculation. All Shakespearean biographers have to employ 
responsible speculation. An example here might be the question of what Shakespeare 
was doing between 1585 and 1592. We can reasonably infer that he must have been in 
London writing plays for at least a year or more prior to 1592 in order to attract 
Greene's envy. Responsible speculation about his activities prior to that would take 
account of the avenues opened to a young man in Shakespeare's situation. Because he 
was married, some paths such as university and apprenticeship were closed to him. 
Others, such as becoming a courtier, are highly implausible. Schoolteacher or player 
are both responsible speculations, but we have to acknowledge the limits of our 
knowledge here. 

Fourth we have wild speculation and special pleading. I certainly wouldn't deny that 
some biographers of Shakespeare indulge in this, but generally it is kept within the 
framework of what we do NOT know about Shakespeare -- that is, it is not generally 
used to explain away actual documentary evidence. 

Of these categories, what do the Oxfordians have? No documentary evidence and no 
plausible inference, as far as I can tell. If they use responsible speculation, I 
don't know of any. Wild speculation and special pleading we have in abundance. 

Because the evidence is on Shakespeare's side the burden of proof is on the 
Oxfordians. They fail to show that it is truly implausible that a man of 
Shakespeare's background and talents could write the plays. To the contrary, 
Shakespeare's background is absolutely typical of other playwrights of the period. 
Since it is not implausible, they must have convincing evidence of their own to 
counter the evidence of Shakespeare's authorship. But they do not, so their argument 
fails, and there is absolutely no point in engaging with any of the specific 
arguments until the burden of proof is met.

It's always worth asking the question, "What would make you change your mind?" As 
was said earlier in the thread, if we're operating in an evidence based rather than 
belief based system, it must be at least possible to reconsider one's views. Here I 
would say that the standards would be extremely high for the Oxfordians. In the 
light of the overwhelming documentary evidence and the plethora of plausible 
inference about Shakespeare's authorship, to be persuaded otherwise, I would need 
holograph manuscripts of plays attributed to Shakespeare in Oxford's hand, an 
account book documenting all the payoffs and transactions necessary to maintain the 
ruse, and preferably some correspondence between 'Shakespeare the actor' (via a 
scribe if 'the actor' was indeed illiterate) and the Earl's secretary. I'd also have 
to be persuaded based upon independent evidence that these documents were not 
forgeries. 

If you do happen to debate with an Oxfordian, it might be worth asking him or her 
the same question. 

Lyn

[7]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:         Duncan Salkeld <
 This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it
 >
Date:         November 5, 2010 7:27:57 AM EDT
Subject: 21.0424  Q: Academic Response to Anonymous
Comment:      RE: SHK 21.0424  Q: Academic Response to Anonymous

Qadir H. from Iran talks a great deal of sense.

Henry VI Part 3 mentions localities (not in the sources) that show strong 
acquaintance with Warwickshire, the Induction of The Taming of the Shrew mentions 
the Hackets of Wincot, Willm Fluellen and George Bardolph were listed as recusant 
alongside John Shakespeare in 1592 (case closed), Shakespeare's will leaves money to 
Heminges, Burbage and Condell, Jonson called him 'Sweet swan of Avon' and so on ad 
media nox ... Or, if you prefer -- the truth, I can now reveal, is that Shakespeare 
was a 'mask' for Oxford, but Oxford was a mask for Bacon, but Bacon was a mask for 
Walsingham, but Walsingham was a mask for Aemelia Lanyer, but of course Lanyer was 
really a mask for Elizabeth ... who was really ...

Duncan Salkeld
Senior Lecturer in English
Department of English
University of Chichester


_______________________________________________________________
S H A K S P E R: The Global Shakespeare Discussion List
Hardy M. Cook, 
 This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it
 
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.
 

©2011 Hardy Cook. All rights reserved.