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Home :: Archive :: 2013 :: February ::
In the Case of Egan vs. Elliott: A Reply to Larry Weiss et al.

 

The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 24.0092  Tuesday, 26 February 2013

 

[1] From:        Ward Elliott < This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it >

     Date:         February 25, 2013 5:29:55 PM EST

     Subject:     RE: SHAKSPER: Egan/Elliott 

 

[2] From:        MacDonald P.  Jackson < This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it >

     Date:         February 26, 2013, 3:40:04 AM EST

     Subject:     Michael Egan on Woodstock 

 

[3] From:        Michael Egan < This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it >

     Date:         February 26, 2013 11:34:33 AM EST

     Subject:     The Two Extons 

 

 

[1]-----------------------------------------------------------------

From:        Ward Elliott < This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it >

Date:         February 25, 2013 5:29:55 PM EST

Subject:     RE: SHAKSPER: Egan/Elliott

 

Michael Egan is seeking to revive his oft-repeated claim that Shakespeare wrote Thomas of Woodstock and to challenge the unanimous verdict of Larry Weiss’s 3-judge panel, convened at Egan’s own insistence, that he had failed to make his case.  The good news is that Egan, like many hyperstratfordians and antistratfordians, really cares about Shakespeare authorship and has invested heavily in it. Now he has finally managed to cut his case statement from 2,000 sprawling pages to a more manageable 40.  The bad news is that his case is still weak and unconvincing. The 40 pages say little new; their “unique resemblances” are not unique; they get Larry Weiss’s and MacDonald Jackson’s arguments and evidence badly garbled; they are not always temperate; and they don’t address the many gross stylometric discrepancies we found between Woodstock and the core Shakespeare canon. We took Shakespeare’s measure in 152 tests, old and new.  In 62 of these, Woodstock fell outside Shakespeare’s range.  That means we found 24 more Shakespeare rejections in Woodstock alone than we found in our entire corpus of 29 single-authored, core-Shakespeare plays combined. The odds that Shakespeare would produce that much discrepancy from his own norms by chance in just one play are lower than the odds of getting hit by lightning. 

 

Fuller discussion of the Egan bet, of our evidence against Woodstock, and some pros and cons of settling factual disputes with a bet, may be found in our original 2011 SHAKSPER posting, http://shaksper.net/archive/2011/303-september/28127-thomas-woodstock- , and in our brief: http://www.cmc.edu/pages/faculty/welliott/E&V%20brief%20211.htm.  Our evidence is still good, and still unanswered.  Egan has never taken us up on our original bet, nor paid up on his own bet, for which the Weiss panel was convened, and which he lost.  That’s not nearly enough to call for yet another detailed response from us.

 

Our deep thanks again to the panel, of Larry Weiss, Dale Johnson, and Will Sharpe, for heroically slogging through all 2,000 pages of Egan’s four-volume opus, and for coming to what seems to us exactly the right verdict.  One of the ironies of this controversy is that Larry Weiss, of all people, has for years been the one most willing and able to find ways to accommodate Egan’s demands for a blue-ribbon panel to pass a formal judgment on his wager.  No good deed goes unpunished. Our thanks, also to Hardy Cook for many years of making controversies like this both possible and, in this case, resolvable.  It wouldn’t be the only one.

 

Ward E. Y. Elliott and Robert J. Valenza

 

[2]-------------------------------------------------------------

From:        MacDonald P.  Jackson < This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it >

Date:         February 26, 2013, 3:40:04 AM EST

Subject:     Michael Egan on Woodstock

 

I’d like to reply to Michael Egan’s posting of 25 February, before withdrawing from this debate and repeating that anybody can compare Michael’s counters to my arguments about Woodstock/1 Richard II with the arguments themselves in the articles listed in my posting of 18 February. 

 

I have already explained that, when David Lake published his Notes and Queries piece in 1983, he simply accepted the then-orthodox view that Woodstock/1 Richard II had been composed in the early 1590s, and so interpreted his evidence regarding contracted and colloquial forms as showing that the manuscript had been transcribed in the seventeenth century by a “creative copyist” (whom he identified as Samuel Rowley), but that he later came to realize, before encountering my MaRDiE article (2002), that the play was more probably Samuel Rowley’s  own seventeenth-century composition. I still have the letter dated 10 January 2003 in which he stated: “my evidence really proves that Samuel Rowley was the author of Woodstock, not a reviser.” Of course Lake may have been mistaken, but it’s what he thought, and it’s what I think. 

 

Despite what Michael says about i’th’, o’th’, and a’th’ in some Shakespeare plays written in or before 1600, he will find no English play, whether by Shakespeare or another, that (a) was composed in the early 1590s and (b) contains a similar range and number of contracted and colloquial forms and expletives to those in Woodstock/1 Richard II and Samuel Rowley’s When You See Me You Know Me. Nor will he find a single extant play by anybody at all that so closely matches Woodstock/1 Richard II in these respects as When You See Me. The overall pattern is what matters.

 

In ROMARD 46 (2007): 69-72, I have answered every one of Michael’s arguments about “lyneing,” “country” for “county,” “Intendiments,” noun-verb discords, blasphemies, act and scene divisions, and the masque. I don’t know how, for example, he can continue to suppose that an instance of “country” to mean “county” furnishes evidence of the play’s early 1590s origin when OED amply records that this usage persisted right into the eighteenth century. 

 

Michael asserts that “interest in history plays faded rapidly after 1600.” Maybe, but Samuel Rowley’s When You See Me is dated 1605 in Annals of English Drama, and under the same year we find Sir Thomas Wyatt by Dekker, Webster, and others, and Heywood’s If You Know Not Me You Know Nobody. All are rightly categorized as histories.

 

MacDonald P.  Jackson

 

[3]-------------------------------------------------------------

From:        Michael Egan < This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it >

Date:         February 26, 2013 11:34:33 AM EST

Subject:     The Two Extons

 

I apologize to Gerald Downs for missing a previous posting from him.

 

He raises an extremely interesting and revealing point, the matter of the two Extons who appear in 1 Richard II, I.i.111-129.

 

Downs observes that the sdd. clearly direct the entry of a small procession of torch bearers, Woodstock with his mace of office borne before him, the Lord Mayor of London and others, including a court functionary called Exton. That’s a name to make anyone sit up and take notice in this context. The MS reads:

 

Enter Thomas of Woodstocke In Freese: The Mace <   .> h< 

The Lord Mayre & Exton, & others wth lightes afore them<

 

So first the lights, then the Lord Protector’s Mace, then Woodstock and his entourage including the Lord Mayor and Exton and others. The repeated “&s” make it clear that Exton is a distinct individual and meant to be there. He is later specifically named. The scene’s objectives are to show the king’s Protector conscientiously running the country, one of the issues in the early part of the play. He greets his brothers, then turns back to confer briefly with Exton before sending him off on some business: “Hie thee, good Exton!” After that, a quick word with the Lord Mayor:

 

Woodstock:  Ile speake wth you anan:

                     hye thee good Exton

                     good lord mayre I doe beseech ye prosecute wth yor best care . . .        

                     pray be carefull     

       

 Mayre:        yor ffreends are Greate in London. good my lord   ____

                     Ile front all Dangers, trust it on my word           {Exitt L: May<

 

 

There’s no problem at all with this scene which works perfectly well. The question of whether the Lord Mayor and Exton are one or two people only arose when A.P. Rossiter claimed in his 1946 edition that the copyist must have made a mistake. His reasons: The Lord Mayor of London in 1386 was Sir Nicho­las Exton (Holinshed mistakenly calls him Richard) and there is no stage direction for Exton to leave. But “hie thee!” is clearly a farewell and it was common for Shakespeare to omit the sd. “Exit” when one was obvious. Feuillerat (The Composition of Shakespeare’s Plays) records 16 instances in the Quarto of 2 Henry VI alone, while Chambers observes “many [exits], clearly required by the action, remain unnoted. Actors might be trusted to find their own way off the stage.” (Facts and Problems, 120.)

 

Further, Rossiter’s scholarship is at fault. In fact there were two Extons in Richard II’s day: Sir Nicholas Exton, Sheriff of London in 1385, Lord Mayor in 1386, appointed Constable of Northampton Castle in 1387 by the king himself, and “one called Sir Piers of Exton,” probably a close relative. (Holinshed III, p. 14). 

 

The removal of Exton is not a minor editorial point. I demonstrate at length that Richard II, Part I is filled with doublings, twinnings, pairings, parallel scenes and lines. It bears comparison with Hamlet in this regard.  The doubling of Extons in an early scene is completely consistent. Their collapse into a single character  is one of the ways the text has been mutilated and a piece of authorship evidence removed. Only Shakespeare doubles in this way—it’s a hallmark.

 

The other subtlety of course is to include someone who might just be Sir Pierce of Exton in the employ of Richard’s subsequent victim. It's a sweet irony. Exton does not reappear again until the king’s own murder at the end of 2 Richard II.

 

Downs raises a number of additional and equally interesting points I shall try to answer at another time.

 

Michael Egan

 
 

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