Shakespeare Electronic Conference, Vol. 5, No. 0764. Sunday, 2 October 1994.
Date: Thursday, 29 Sep 94 14:26:16 CDT
All right, I wasn't going to get into this on the net unless others did, but I
feel I should rebut the tentative endorsement of Looney's *Shakespeare
Identified*. I will admit that Looney's book may seem persuasive to the
uninitiated if read in a vacuum, but despite his confidence and glib writing
style, his arguments are baseless. (The same is true of Charlton Ogburn's more
recent and comprehensive *The Mysterious William Shakespeare*.)
I don't want to seem to be making ex cathedra pronouncements that anyone who
believes these books is crazy, but I will say the following with confidence:
1) Looney/Ogburn attempt to show that William Shakespeare was unknown during
his lifetime and too uneducated to write the plays. However, the same
arguments they use on Shakespeare can, if used consistently, be used to "prove"
that most Elizabethan playwrights were unknown and uneducated, including at the
very least Christopher Marlowe, John Fletcher, and John Webster, to name some
of the most prominent. The double standard used by Looney and Ogburn on this
point is truly mind-boggling.
2) Looney/Ogburn also attempt to show that Oxford's life is reflected in the
plays. However, the life of virtually any other given nobleman of the time is
also reflected equally well in the plays. The events of *Hamlet*, for example,
match the lives of the Earl of Essex and King James I at least as well as they
supposedly match Oxford's life. Thus virtually any random Elizabethan nobleman
can be "proven", by Looney and Ogburn's methods, to have written Shakespeare's
or most any other Elizabethan plays.
There have been a number of decent rebuttals to Oxfordian claims; among the
most useful in terms of direct counterarguments are:
Irvin Matus, *Shakespeare, In Fact*, published this year by Continuum.
R. C. Churchill, *Shakespeare and His Betters* (1958), which rebuts a
variety of anti-Stratfordian claims.
J. M. Robertson, *The Baconian Heresy* (1913), old but still useful.
No one of these books says all that can be said, but together they do a pretty
good job. I don't have time to get into this whole discussion again right now,
but anyone who reads Looney or Ogburn should also read the above books.