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Shakespeare the Grain-Dealing Tax Evader

 

The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 24.0204  Thursday, 25 April 2013

 

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

     Date:         April 24, 2013 10:06:02 PM EDT

     Subject:     Shakespeare Businessman 

 

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

     Date:         April 25, 2013 12:55:41 AM EDT

     Subject:     Re: SHAKSPER: Businessman 

 

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

     Date:         April 25, 2013 1:06:29 AM EDT

     Subject:     Re: SHAKSPER: Businessman 

 

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

     Date:         April 25, 2013 12:42:59 AM EDT

     Subject:     Re: SHAKSPER: Businessman 

 

 

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

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

Date:         April 24, 2013 10:06:02 PM EDT

Subject:     Shakespeare Businessman

 

Larry Weiss and Peter Grove challenge my claim that The Oxfordian has been described as “the leading academic journal of its type in the world.” They are right, and I apologize. Actually The Oxfordian is just “the best American academic journal covering the authorship question.” according to William Niederkorn, formerly of the New York Times, in his review of Will in the World. (http://www.brooklynrail.org/2010/04/books/ absolute-will). I’m willing to settle for that.

 

Weiss goes on: “This line reminds me of an email you sent me early in the Woodstock process, in which you said that your thesis “is slowly gaining acceptance.”  

 

It is. Here’s a recent comment in Hamlet Made Simple and Other Essays (New English Review Press, 2013) pp 196-7, by David P Gontar. He compares Richard II, Part One with King John, concluding that Woodstock rather than Faulconbridge is the first true manifestation of Harold Bloom’s “invention of the human” Gontar notes:

 

“The definitive work on the Woodstock play is Michael Egan’s four-volume The Tragedy of Richard II, Part One: A Newly Authenticated Play by William Shakespeare published with extensive commentary by The Edwin Mellen Press (2006). A fine summary and review of Egan’s masterpiece is “Richard II.1 Another Early History Play is Added to the Shakespeare Canon,” by Ramon Jimėnez [http://www.shakespearefellowship.org/ Reviews/jimenez.woodstock. htm].

 

“Egan’s avowed purpose is the demonstration in over 2,100 pages of painstaking scholarship that the anonymous Woodstock is the real McCoy, one of the very first plays by the author Hamlet and Macbeth.

 

“‘The core of Egan’s case for Shakespeare’s authorship,’ writes Jimenez, ‘is the swarm of images, thoughts, words, phrases, and the rhetorical and dramatic devices found in Thomas of Woodstock, of which there is some sort of echo, parallel or strong resemblance of Shakespeare’s plays. There is no Shakespeare play without them and Egan cites more than 1600.’ Jimenez then adds this Parthian shot: ‘It is hard to imagine that there will be much more to be written about Thomas of Woodstock than what Egan has included in these 2100 pages.’”

 

Prof. Gontar and I have never met nor corresponded. Weiss sneeringly continues, about The Oxfordian:

 

“Is it peer-reviewed the same way your publisher, Edwin Mellon Press, is peer-reviewed—i.e., the author designates the reviewer?”

 

First, it’s The Edwin Mellen Press, and second neither this distinguished publishing house (check its list, http://mellenpress.com/) nor The Oxfordian asks its authors to designate their own reviewers. That’s stupid and ridiculous, which I suppose is the point of this baseless allegation. When I submitted my MS to EMP, it was anonymously reviewed before acceptance, nor was I invited to designate a reader. 

 

Subsequently, as a peer reviewer for EMP, I have recommended or not recommended perhaps 25 MSS for publication. In no case did I know the authors or they me. This scurrilous canard is put out by ignorant and/or ill-intentioned individuals who frankly deserve to be sued. I hope Larry Weiss is first in line.

 

Finally Clark C. Holloway “finds it amusing that someone would actually go to Verona to verify the accuracy of a Shakespearean pun.” Well, sir, it’s called research, and you’ll recall that in addition to the sycamore grove west of Verona mentioned in Romeo and Juliet I noted The Duke’s Oak in Sabbionetta (referred to in Midsummer Night’s Dream) and the identity of Prospero’s island, including the origin of “Caliban” and “Ariel.” Laugh at these. I think they are major scholarly discoveries and there are many more such nuggets in Richard Roe’s The Shakespeare Guide to Italy: Retracing the Bard’s Unknown Travels (Harper Perrenial 2011). Together they prove beyond doubt, if I may use the phrase, that Shakespeare must have visited Italy. 

 

The difficulty is this: William Shakespeare of Stratford never made that trip. So how did he get all his Italian details right? Please read the book before claiming he was wrong to describe Milan as a port, or that he provided Old Gobbo with a horse in Venice, etc. 

 

By the way, nor did Shakespeare visit Scotland, and yet Macbeth is based largely on an obscure Scottish manuscript, a translation of Hector Boece’s Historia Gentis Scotorum (History of the Scottish People) by one William Stewart. Written in almost impenetrable Scots vernacular, Stewart’s Croniclis of Scotland, contains many of the play’s most famous elements, in­cluding the role and nature of Lady Macbeth. In Holinshed, she’s barely mentioned.

 

The importance of this is that Stewart’s hand-written manuscript went unpublished until the 19th century. Until then it was in the private possession of the nobil­ity. How did Shakespeare get to see it, read it and use it?

 

Michael Egan

 

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

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

Date:         April 25, 2013 12:55:41 AM EDT

Subject:     Re: SHAKSPER: Businessman

 

>it is nice to learn from Larry that Shakespeare was doing 

>the citizenry a favor by withholding his Lucky Charms.

 

I suppose the inevitable time has come when it is needful to explain why time arbitrage of commodities (i.e., “hoarding”) is a socially useful practice.  Don’t worry, I will keep my homily short and use words easy enough for most lit professors.

 

No one has ever made a sou by refusing to sell scarce commodities to people who needed them. What the commodities speculator (“hoarder”) tries to do is to purchase a commodity (say, corn) when it is plentiful, store it at his own cost and risk until it ceases to be abundant and then sell it at a higher price than he paid. Consider the opposite strategy, which the “Shakespeare as hypocrite” advocates seem to think was his method: Under that scheme, Shakespeare (no doubt wearing a top hat and black cape and emitting a sinister laugh from time to time) would buy all the corn he can lay his hands on during a famine, then incur the cost of storing it in a dry barn, providing security to protect it from thieves and hiring a large family of cats to kill the vermin who would also like to feast on it. Then, when the famine is over and the corn no longer needed as much, he would sell it to people who by then are enjoying a grain glut. What do you think happens to the market price of the corn from the time WS buys it during the scarcity to the time he sells it when it is abundant? That’s right, following the laws of supply and demand, the price drops precipitously, and Shakespeare cannot realize any but a small fraction of what he paid (not counting what he laid out to store the stuff until it lost its value). This buy high, sell low strategy is not calculated to make anyone rich, unless, of course, it is done in high volume.

 

On the other hand, buying corn when it is plentiful and the price is low, and then saving it until there is a greater need for it, is calculated to make the trader wealthier (unless he doesn’t guess right about the future availability of the corn, or his profits are eaten up by the storage costs, or the grain is stolen or destroyed in a natural disaster, or someone else takes his custom, or something else happens which dashes his hopes of gain). If the project works according to plan, the speculator will make a return on his investment sufficient to compensate him for the risks he ran, and, as an incidental benefit to his customers, he makes scarce corn available at a time of shortage, thus mitigating what might otherwise be a famine. Where is the evil in that?  Is the grasshopper more admirable than the ant?

 

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

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

Date:         April 25, 2013 1:06:29 AM EDT

Subject:     Re: SHAKSPER: Businessman

 

>if M. Egan is playing both ends against the middle, well, 

>wouldn’t Shakespeare?

 

I don’t know.  I rather doubt it, but I don’t know. No one does. We do know that Shakespeare was capable of creating characters who took positions opposed to each others’, as shown by the few speeches I quoted in my last post. Any one of us could have quoted hundreds to illustrate that point.  But that doesn’t say a word about what Shakespeare’s own views (if any) were.

 

[4]-------------------------------------------------------------

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

Date:         April 25, 2013 12:42:59 AM EDT

Subject:     Re: SHAKSPER: Businessman

 

>After all, it address disparate elements in “Romeo and Juliet” 

>and unifies them. Does he have a better way to explain the 

>odd features of the play? Was Shakespeare not capable of 

>intricate and devious allegory? Was London not polluted by 

>coal smoke?

 

What odd features? In any case, there are many ways of explaining the features of R&J (odd or otherwise) without resorting to the notion that Shakespeare was inveighing against a heavy Elizabethan carbon footprint. 

 

But, to answer Ms. Kimura’s last question, which perhaps moots the rest of them: No, London was not polluted by smoke in the 1590s, certainly not coal smoke (I say nothing about tobacco). The popularization of coal as a source of energy and heat did not occur until the Industrial Revolution; the “Great Smoke” was in 1952. Wood was burned as the principal source of heat in Elizabethan London, which explains why the price of wood in London rose 266% from 1500 to 1610 (see www.forgreenheat.org/resources/history.html).  

 

That is not to say that Ms. Kimura has not hit upon an intriguing scenario.  Perhaps Shakespeare had invested in Solyndra or some other solar panel manufacturer and was trying to boost sales in case his grain speculations went south.

 
 

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