The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 13.1502  Friday, 7 June 2002

From:           Dennis Taylor <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>
Date:           Friday, 7 Jun 2002 09:04:29 -0400
Subject:        Bearman, Hoghton, Titchfield

Robert Bearman's argument [in the recent SQ] against the Lancaster
hypothesis that young Shakespeare spent time at Hoghton Castle is
substantial but not conclusive. Bearman develops Douglas Hamer's earlier
objections and documents a large number of Shakeshaftes in the Preston
area; he also argues that Lord Hoghton's bequest of 2 pounds to
Shakeshafte would imply an older servant.

But imagine a parallel scenario, a William Shakeshafte showing up in the
will of a prematurely deceased Earl of Southampton at Titchfield House,
Hampshire; then the case would look very compelling indeed--even if
there were a multiplicity of Shakeshaftes in Hampshire.  Any excessive
size of the bequest would be explained in both cases but the high regard
for a fledgling genius.  And a local scribe might have confused the two
names, precisely because of the local predominance of Shakeshaftes.

So the Lancaster hypothesis will remain because of the large number of
coincidences supporting it.  There is no smoking gun but a lot of smoke,
in the Stratford-Lancaster connections, via John Cottom, Lord Strange,
Edmund Campion, and so on, as documented by Honigmann and others.

What the Lancaster hypothesis helps answer is how young Shakespeare
picked up his urbanity and familiarity with aristocratic ways.  If he
imbibed these things in a reclusive Catholic enclave preserving some of
the sophisticated Catholic humanism like that in academies on the
continent (think LLL), that would be interesting indeed.   Other critics
have tried to fill this lacuna--with Titchfield for example.  The
Lancaster remains speculative but has not been refuted.
Any thoughts about this?

Dennis Taylor
Boston College

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