The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 16.1450  Saturday, 3 September 2005

From: 		Herman Gollob <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>
Date: 		Thursday, 1 Sep 2005 12:14:15 EDT
Subject: 	Shakespeare by Another Name-- Mark Anderson

This review appeared in 8/21 issue of Minneapolis Star-Tribune.

Herman Gollob

Shakespeare By Another Name-Mark Andersen

The shocking revelation in Mark Anderson's SHAKESPEARE BY ANOTHER NAME: 
The Man Who Was Shakespeare is not its claim that the Shakespeare canon 
actually is the work of a nasty little nobleman named Edward de Vere, 
Earl of Oxford, but rather the endorsement of this dubious premise in a 
foreword by one of the most brilliant actors of our age, Sir Derek 
Jacobi.   However, Sir Derek has in the past opined that Hamlet's " To 
be or not to be" soliloquy actually is a speech that should be addressed 
to Ophelia, a concept so notably bereft of common theatrical sense as to 
suggest that his celebration of Mr. Anderson's "seminal work" may 
indicate a mind somewhat in disarray when it sets itself to theorizing.

The obsession with attributing Shakespeare's plays and poems to someone 
else is not a recent phenomenon.  No, we can't blame this aberration on 
the bloggers of the world.  The first person to claim in print that 
Shakespeare is not the true author of Shakespeare's work was an a 
madwoman named Delia Bacon who in 1856 had deciphered a code which she 
asserted proved that Francis Bacon, Walter Ralegh and several other 
contemporaries had written the plays.  But the first person to publish a 
book, SHAKESPEARE IDENTIFIED (1920), claiming Edward de Vere as the real 
Shakespeare was a gentleman named J. Thomas Looney (no snickering please).

Mr. Andersen painstakingly lays out in exhaustive (if not exhausting) 
detail the standard anti-Stratfordian, pro-Oxford case, which in essence 
is sheer snobbery:  only an aristocrat such as de Vere could have 
written the plays.  Shakespeare lacked the university education, the 
background, the imagination that only de Vere possessed. Edward de Vere 
was a courtier (ward of Lord Burghley, Queen Elizabeth's principal 
advisor, and ultimately Burghley's son-in-law); a soldier (he served 
without distinction during a rebellion in the North and as commander of 
a small garrison at Harwich during the war against the Spanish Armada);a 
patron of a company of players; and a scholar (he was well-tutored in 
Burghley's household and matriculated at Cambridge).

He was also, according to Mr. Anderson, also "at times a cad and a 
scoundrel...and a notorious teller of all tales [i.e., a liar]." For 
example, while married he seduced and impregnated one of Elizabeth's 
ladies-in-waiting, a sure way of incurring the Queen's wrath.  For a 
time he secretly embraced Catholicism and along with his friends Henry 
Howard and Charles Arundell, plotted insurrections and outrageous 
schemes to return Britain to the Catholic fold.  But fearing that his 
reputation and his paramour's would not survive the revelation of her 
pregnancy, he thought to ingratiate himself to his monarch by confessing 
to his clandestine Catholic dealings and squealing on h is companions. 
All three were imprisoned in the Tower, but de Vere was released after 
three months.

To Mr. Anderson, the canon "charts an artistic path intrinsic to the 
flawed but fascinating life of the artist and uncovers new levels of 
autographical meaning in the greatest works of English literature." 
HAMLET, for instance, is Shakespeare's most autobiographical play: in 
France, de Vere once encountered a Teutonic prince parading his troops; 
later, he was on a ship that was overtaken by pirates, who left him 
naked on the English shore.   Here we have the inspiration for 
Fortinbras and for the pirate ship episode in HAMLET.  And the story of 
Bertram in ALL'S WELL THAT ENDS WELL merely retells deVere's experiences 
as a snobbish young lord forced to marry a woman he doesn't love. 
deVere had three daughters who inherited their alienated father's family 
seat while he was still alive.  And on and on.

Why was de Vere forced to use a pseudonym?  To conceal the personal 
elements in his work.  Although you might ask, how was it possible in 
the parochial worlds of court and theatre for this ruse to be effective?

And why, years after de Vere's and Shakespeare's deaths, did the First 
Folio bear Shakespeare's name?  Again, politics were in play: the de 
Vere estate feared that a marriage between King James's son, Prince 
Charles to the Spanish Infanta would ultimately bring about a Catholic 
regime in England, very bad news indeed for anyone involved in the 
publication of a collection of plays ardently promoting the Protestant 
cause (Clare Asquith's provocative new book, SHADOWPLAY, makes a 
provocative argument for the plays as hidden messages of support to 
England's beleaguered Catholics!).

The Oxfordian premise has been in recent times, I think, effectively 
demolished by Jonathan Bate in THE GENIUS OF SHAKESPEARE and Irvin Matus 
in SHAKESPEARE IN FACT.  The education Shakespeare received in 
Stratford's grammar school would daunt many college graduates today.  As 
a member of the Lord Chamberlain's Men, Shakespeare was often exposed to 
life in court; perhaps he knew de Vere, and being a man on whom nothing 
is lost (as Henry James's Lambert Srether advises young Chad Newsome in 
THE AMBASSADORS), used him as a source.

Further, these plays could have been written only by a man of the 
theatre, an actor as well as a playwright and part-owner of the 
enterprise, a professional who lived and breathed his craft.  Northrop 
Frye once observed that all of Shakespeare's plays were essentially 
about the theater.  Case closed.

Except for this: a matter of character.  Carolyn Spurgeon, in 
SHAKESPEARE'S IMAGERY, concludes that five words sum up the essence of 
Shakespeare's character as seen in his images-sensitiveness, balance, 
courage, humor and wholesomeness.  Try applying these words to Edward de 
Vere, Earl of Oxford, as the true test of the real Shakespeare.

As the feller said, The plays are the things wherein we'll capture the 
character of the Bard.  The man from Avon.  William Shakespeare.
S H A K S P E R: The Global Shakespeare Discussion List
Hardy M. Cook, This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
The S H A K S P E R Web Site <http://www.shaksper.net>

DISCLAIMER: Although SHAKSPER is a moderated discussion list, the 
opinions expressed on it are the sole property of the poster, and the 
editor assumes no responsibility for them.

Subscribe to Our Feeds


Make a Gift to SHAKSPER

Consider making a gift to support SHAKSPER.