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Home :: Archive :: 2010 :: November ::
Q: Academic Response to Anonymous
The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 21.0431  Friday, 10 November 2010

[1]  From:       John A Mitchell <
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     Date:      November 5, 2010 1:41:48 PM EDT
     Subj:      RE: SHK 21.0427  Q: Academic Response to Anonymous
 
[2]  From:      Justin Alexander <
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     Date:      November 5, 2010 4:23:47 PM EDT
     Subj:      Re: SHK 21.0424  Q: Academic Response to Anonymous
 
[3]  From:      Bob Grumman <
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     Date:      November 6, 2010 4:45:44 AM EDT
     Subj:      Re: SHK 21.0427  Q: Academic Response to Anonymous
 
[4]  From:      Donald Bloom <
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     Date:      November 6, 2010 9:11:35 AM EDT
     Subj:      Re: SHK 21.0427 Q: Academic Response to Anonymous
 
[5]  From:      Duncan Salkeld <
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     Date:      November 5, 2010 7:27:57 AM EDT
     Subj:      RE: SHK 21.0424  Q: Academic Response to Anonymous
 
[6]  From:      Jack Heller <
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     Date:      November 6, 2010 2:02:22 PM EDT
     Subj:      Re: SHK 21.0427 Q: Academic Response to Anonymous
 
[7]  From:      Arlynda Boyer <
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     Date:      November 7, 2010 2:10:36 AM EST
     Subj:      Re: SHK 21.0427 Q: Academic Response to Anonymous
 
[8]  From:      David Kathman <
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     Date:      November 7, 2010 2:30:11 AM EST
     Subj:      Re: SHK 21.0427  Q: Academic Response to Anonymous

[9]  From:      Janet Costa <
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     Date:      Wed, 10 Nov 2010 06:01:48 -0800 (PST)
     Subj:      Re: SHK 21.0427  Q: Academic Response to Anonymous
 

[1]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:         John A Mitchell <
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Date:         November 5, 2010 1:41:48 PM EDT
Subject: 21.0427  Q: Academic Response to Anonymous
Comment:      RE: SHK 21.0427  Q: Academic Response to Anonymous

When the authorship question comes up, I have a discussion with my students about 
the state of higher education in the 16th Century. It seems to me that those who 
doubt Shakespeare's self-education forget that a university education at the time 
consisted largely of a more intensive course of Classics and theology than that 
afforded in any Edward VI or otherwise Grammar School. It did not include, in the 
modern sense, any study of the sciences (so, for example, Shakespeare's demonstrable 
knowledge of botany would not have been obtainable at Oxbridge anyway) and many 
other fields that are now considered standard components of a Liberal Arts higher 
education. Indeed, with the exception of Law, there was little specialization at 
all. The exponential explosion and branching of human knowledge would come during 
and after the Enlightenment (and with it, ever more specialization). In short, the 
sum total of what was considered "learned" at the time was so much smaller in scope 
than it is for us, and I am convinced that anti-Stratfordians have missed this 
because it was possible, given the level of skill and intelligence that the author 
of these plays obviously gives ample evidence of, for a person to BE fully self-
educated to the available knowledge (perhaps especially literary knowledge) of the 
day. Everything one needed was to be found in the bookstalls outside Paul's, the 
libraries of one's colleagues and patrons, and the shop of Richard Field.

John A. Mitchell
Oakland Community College

[2]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:         Justin Alexander <
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Date:         November 5, 2010 4:23:47 PM EDT
Subject: 21.0424  Q: Academic Response to Anonymous
Comment:      Re: SHK 21.0424  Q: Academic Response to Anonymous

If you're engaging in a discussion with someone who's curious or perhaps even 
somewhat persuaded by Oxfordian arguments, consider this inverted approach:

(1) Ask the person you're talking with to select any contemporary fiction author 
they don't personally know and prove that they did, in fact, write whatever works 
have been ascribed to them.

(2) They want to cite the name on the cover? Oxfordians say that doesn't count. They 
want to cite reviews? Oxfordians say that doesn't count. They want to cite 
contemporaries who say so-and-so wrote the books that they wrote? Oxfordians say 
that doesn't count.

I've achieved a fair degree of success in giving people a visceral understanding 
that the only evidence with any actual weight to it is the exact sort of evidence 
that the Oxfordians want to ignore.

The other branch of Oxfordian "scholarship", of course, is the drawing of parallels 
between Oxford's life and the content of the plays. This is also fairly easy to 
trivialize: Just start pointing to all the characters who don't have parallels with 
Oxford's life and demand to know who wrote them. (Oxford wasn't black, so he 
couldn't have written Othello. He wasn't a woman, so Rosalind in As You Like It 
can't have been his work. And so forth. Particularly effective if you start 
dissecting plays: Okay, Oxford definitely wrote Hamlet's bits since he shares so 
much in common with him. But he's basically got nothing in common with Ophelia, so 
those lines must have been somebody else's. And Oxford was never executed as part a 
diplomatic embassies, so Rosencrantz and Guildenstern must have been some third 
person's effort.)

For those who are still interesting, point them in the direction of Shapiro's 
Contested Will or Matus' Shakespeare, IN FACT.

If engaging with someone who is a dedicated Oxfordian, ask them this: "What evidence 
would convince you that Shakespeare from Stratford wrote the plays?"

Shockingly, many of them will ask for evidence which actually does exist. Simply 
provide it. For those who actually cite some sort of evidence which doesn't exist 
for Shakespeare, ask them to provide the same evidence for Oxford. They obviously 
won't be able to.

It may not change their mind. But it will certainly stump them.

Justin Alexander
American Shakespeare Repertory
http://www.american-shakespeare.com

[3]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:         Bob Grumman <
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Date:         November 6, 2010 4:45:44 AM EDT
Subject: 21.0427  Q: Academic Response to Anonymous
Comment:      Re: SHK 21.0427  Q: Academic Response to Anonymous

Tom Reedy doesn't believe there's "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'm not so sure of that, but I do know that I certainly have no irrational belief a 
hundredth the size of the delusional system believed in by those who refuse to 
accept William Shakespeare of Stratford as the author of the works attributed to 
him, or "a cognitive blind spot" that could cause me to. For instance, I don't 
believe in an conspiracy theory, nor in any theory for which no hard evidence at all 
exists.

--Bob

[4]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:         Donald Bloom <
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Date:         November 6, 2010 9:11:35 AM EDT
Subject: 21.0427 Q: Academic Response to Anonymous
Comment:      Re: SHK 21.0427 Q: Academic Response to Anonymous

Concerning cold, hard facts:

When I would do my introduction to Shakespeare, either for Brit Lit 1 or the 
seminar, I would summarize the issue in a form like this.

There was a man named William Shakespeare, who was born in Stratford-on-Avon.

There was a man named William Shakespeare, who was a member of the leading company 
of actors and of the company that owned two theatres, during the reigns of Elizabeth 
I and James I.

There was a man named William Shakespeare who was the published author of some 37 
plays, 154 sonnets, and two long poems. There are some other poems that are 
generally attributed to him, as well as some plays that he may have helped write or 
re-write.

There was a man named William Shakespeare who died and was buried in Stratford. They 
are all evidently the same man.

Everybody at the time -- including the members of his company, his some-time friend 
Ben Jonson, and several publishers -- all assumed that the author of the works 
attributed to William Shakespeare was their friend, colleague and client, William 
Shakespeare. So did later writers, such as John Milton, Sir William Davenant, John 
Dryden and so forth.

Nobody at the time states that anyone else wrote the plays.

The Earl of Oxford, like Christopher Marlowe, was dead long before Shakespeare quit 
writing plays.

These are the cold, hard facts.

Some less cold and hard:


The facts presented by the Ox-friends are pseudo-facts manufactured by assuming 
something that needs to be proved and then proving something else by twists of false 
logic. Anyone who looks at them objectively can see this.

There is nothing in the state of your birth or your father's occupation that makes 
you more or less likely to be a literary genius.

There is no academic vested interest in assuming that the glover's son of Stratford 
wrote the plays. Valid interpretation does not depend whether the author being 
interpreted was a professional actor who was the son of a small-town businessman or 
a nobleman or something else. There is, however, a demand that any biographical 
information about an important author be historically accurate and assembled in a 
rational manner.

I usually presented this in a rather more abbreviated fashion for a class, but I 
felt that it handled the situation. I could regret it, but not change it, if they 
got seduced by the Oxfordian (or Marlovian, or Baconian) rubbish.

Cheers,
don

PS: As a side note, involving people in cults and conspiracy theories (like selling 
them cars or persuading them to vote for a certain candidate) depends on getting 
them excited -- frightened, greedy, lustful, vain, filled with hate, whatever. 
Preachers, prophets, salesmen, admen, demagogues and conmen all operate on the same 
basis. Not all of them are by any means crooked or deceitful. Indeed, some of them 
are saints and patriarchs. But they all work from emotion, though the best also have 
logical and moral consistency, while the worst have none. The difference lies in the 
message rather than the method.

[5]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:         Duncan Salkeld <
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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 
acqaintance 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
University of Chichester

[6]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:         Jack Heller <
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Date:         November 6, 2010 2:02:22 PM EDT
Subject: 21.0427 Q: Academic Response to Anonymous
Comment:      Re: SHK 21.0427 Q: Academic Response to Anonymous

I've tried several times to figure out how I want to say this, and I doubt this will 
be right either, but I am going to send this one and invite your correctives.

I am fully convinced that William Shakespeare born in Stratford in 1564 wrote or co-
wrote the plays and poems commonly ascribed to him for the past 420 years.

Yet there are people willing to accept that conclusion who seem fully as committed 
to equally foolish conclusions about William Shakespeare of Stratford as the anti-
Stratfordians themselves. I see little difference between the kinds of arguments 
used to construct the anti-Stratfordian positions and the kinds of arguments used to 
construct Shakespeare as a recusant Catholic spy or a Jew or someone like the 
character in that previous movie Shakespeare in Love.

Once we conclude that Shakespeare is Shakespeare, the door is wide open for more 
nonsense.

Jack Heller

[7]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:         Arlynda Boyer <
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Date:         November 7, 2010 2:10:36 AM EST
Subject: 21.0427 Q: Academic Response to Anonymous
Comment:      Re: SHK 21.0427 Q: Academic Response to Anonymous

Tom Reedy wrote:

>"I doubt there are 3,000 committed hardcore anti-Stratfordians in the
>entire world."

Any how many Tea Partiers were there five years ago? [And does reasoned, polite 
education convince them?] Movements can explode overnight over the littlest 
stimulus; imagine what a big-budget movie might do for a fringe group.

I understand Tom's position, I truly do. I'm not generally a mean person (heck, I'm 
Buddhist!) and I am appalled at the junkyard-dog fights and gutter tactics of the 
news channels. But please, read "Two Men and a Newsstand," in October's Vanity Fair 
about Rupert Murdoch's war on the New York Times. [A bit of it is here: 
http://www.vanityfair.com/online/daily/2010/09/rupert-murdochs-war-on-the-new-york-
times.html]

The short version is that Murdoch is determined to either own the New York Times or 
destroy it trying, and the Times is being defended by Arthur O. Sulzberger, who, 
being the author of an etiquette book, literally wrote the book on politeness and 
civil conduct. _Nobody_ in the media world expects Sulzberger to win, and what will 
it mean for journalism if (or rather, when) the Times is owned by the same guy who 
owns Fox News?

The tactics we would prefer to take may not work, and the stakes are too high to 
risk that. I'm only a grad student, and as such I rarely comment here, and never 
before with such passion. I'm still a little star struck by some of the names I see 
in this listserv, and ordinarily I wouldn't dream of challenging any of you. I'm 
nowhere near your colleague yet, merely a student learning at your feet. So I ask 
your pardon, but I beg you to at least consider my position. Otherwise, I fear the 
day when my yet-unborn grandchild comes to me and says, "Grandma, you did English 
Lit stuff, right? Can you help me with my report on de Vere? We're reading Romeo and 
Juliet."

And when I sigh heavily and say, "What idiot told you he wrote that?" my grandchild 
will look up at me with wide innocent eyes and say, "Don't be silly, Grandma -- the 
New York Times says so."

[8]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:         David Kathman <
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Date:         November 7, 2010 2:30:11 AM EST
Subject: 21.0427  Q: Academic Response to Anonymous
Comment:      Re: SHK 21.0427  Q: Academic Response to Anonymous

Arlynda Boyer wrote:

>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.
>
>(snip)
>
>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.

As someone who has dealt with anti-Stratfordians off and on for more than 15 years, 
I think this is a little simplistic. I agree that it's generally not a good idea to 
"debate" Oxfordians one-on-one in public forums, which legitimizes them and makes it 
look like there are two equally valid viewpoints ("Stratfordian" and Oxfordian) for 
people to choose from. Nevertheless, I did participate in several such "debates" 
back in the 1990s, because they were going to happen anyway, and I figured I might 
as well use my knowledge of Oxfordian arguments to defend Shakespeare. I generally 
avoid such things now, partly due to personal preference and partly because I'm so 
busy with other things, but other Shakespeareans, notably Alan Nelson, have debated 
anti-Strats and gone to their conferences in recent years.

I also agree that anti-Stratfordians should be mocked and satirized, though there 
can be a fine line between mockery and ad hominem abuse. A lot of Shakespeareans get 
understandably frustrated with Oxfordians and their ilk and resort to cheap shots, 
which just feed the martyr complex that so many Oxfordians revel in. They *love* to 
get called names by academic Shakespeareans, because it allows them to say 
triumphantly, "See? These professors don't have any answers to our arguments, so 
they just get abusive and call us names!" Of course, if you ignore them, then they 
say, "See? These professors don't have any answers to our arguments!" The trick is 
to be civil while mocking your opponents when they deserve to be mocked, and making 
it clear that you don't respect their arguments. That's more or less what I tried to 
do in those "debates" I participated in 10 to 15 years ago. Of course, such events 
have very little to do with determining "truth"; they're performances in which witty 
one-liners and being quick on your feet are paramount. I think I've been able to 
acquit myself reasonably well when I've participated in authorship "debates", thanks 
in part to my background in improv comedy, but it's not something I want to make a 
habit of.

By 1996, I was already getting tired of engaging directly with Oxfordians and other 
anti-Stratfordians, because I kept having to make the same arguments over and over 
and over again, and realized I was wasting a lot of time. So Terry Ross and I 
started the Shakespeare Authorship web site that year, as a way to address anti-
Stratfordian claims without having to constantly argue with anti-Stratfordians 
themselves. On that page, we've tried to act as I described above: we're civil in 
the sense that we're not abusive, but we make it clear that anti-Strat views aren't 
deserving of respect, and we mock them (without ad hominem name-calling) when they 
deserve it. (For example, see http://shakespeareauthorship.com/bacpenl.html.) Within 
those parameters, we explain in some detail why anti-Stratfordian claims are wrong. 
Despite what Arlynda says above, there is an audience for this type of thing; I know 
because I get e-mails from people thanking me for the page, and for taking on 
Oxfordians. It's especially gratifying when I get an e-mail from somebody who was 
thinking there might be something to this Oxfordian stuff, but realized there wasn't 
thanks to our site; or from a high-school student who used our site for a project on 
the Shakespeare authorship question (a popular topic for teachers, it seems) and got 
an A. In several cases I know of, people have used the material on our site to 
prepare for Shakespeare authorship "debates", and have done very well.

Of course, there's still plenty of room for more direct mocking and satirizing of 
anti-Stratfordians, but there's definitely a place for the type of thorough 
debunkings that appear on our site. Balance is key.

Dave Kathman

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[9]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:         Janet Costa <
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Date:         Wed, 10 Nov 2010 06:01:48 -0800 (PST)
Subject: 21.0427  Q: Academic Response to Anonymous
Comment:      Re: SHK 21.0427  Q: Academic Response to Anonymous

Enough stuff and nonsense (probably an allusion in there somewhere).
 
Janet Costa

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