The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 24.0187  Wednesday, 17 April 2013


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

Date:         April 16, 2013 7:57:55 PM EDT

Subject:     Shakespeare Businessman 


Hardy Cook says in his editor’s note: “the so-called ‘authorship question’ [has] been banned on this list since 1994, and I do not appreciate backdoor attempts to introduce [it] again.”


I am making no such attempt. The issue naturally arose as a result of the Aberystwyth researchers pointing out that there is a contradiction between what Shakespeare said and what he did. I ask only how these two Shakespeares are to be reconciled.


Various attempts have been made to do this, from “it’s old news” to “it’s not true,” to “even Shakespeare had to pay his bills,”  “Anne Hathaway dun it,”  “it’s irrelevant” and so forth. These all bear in the direction of exculpation not explanation.


We have no difficulty recognizing the hypocrisy of Jimmy Swaggart preaching against prostitution and then running down to the red-light district, or the anti-gay politician caught in bed with a boy. And yes, I am saying the moral issues are equivalent.


Tad Davis raises some specific points, most notably whether Shakespeare ever visited Italy. We know he did because of the local detail his Italian plays contain, much more than might be acquired from some drunken sailor in a tavern. There is for example the sycamore grove just west of Verona, fleetingly al­luded to in Ro­meo and Juliet, Act 1, when Benvolio tells Lady Montague that he has just seen Romeo “un­derneath the grove of syca­more / That westward rooteth from [Verona’s] side.” It’s still there.  


A Midsummer Night’s Dream is conventionally set in Athens, though actually its true locale is Sabbionetta, a provincial Italian town known in its day as “Little Athens,” after the obsessive Hellenic interests of its Duke and his entourage. At Sabbionetta we find il Quercia dei Duca, “the Duke’s Oak,” precisely the place where Quince and the rude mechanicals first meet to rehearse Pyramis and Thisbe.


We may also identify Prospero’s island as Vulcano, just off the coast of Sicily. Its geographic and topographical details echo the world of The Tempest, among them its “yellow sands”—the sulphur from Vulcano’s bubbling springs and fissures coats everything with a mustardy dust—and the equally “filthy-mantled pool” of  IV.i. The “scamels” or sea birds mentioned in II.ii, still flourish there. It also turns out that in the local Italian dialect “Caliban” means “outcast or pariah,” and “Ariel” a “mischievous air or water spirit.” We may even identify Vulcano’s Grotto del Cavallo as the “deep nook” where Ariel hides the ship.


Finally, Larry Weiss wants to know whether I am an “Oxfordian masquerading as a Stratfordian in the hope that the Shakespeare community will accept him as one of their own and not reject his Woodstock attribution out of hand, or is he really an orthodox Stratfordian who lends his name and rhetorical talent to the Oxfordian heresy for the financial gain that offers?”


The answer is neither. I don’t expect my attribution to Shakespeare of the anonymous Richard II Part One to be accepted for any other reason than the force of its evidence.  The idea that I edit The Oxfordian for money is laughable,


What is remarkable, however, is this. First, that the Oxfordians appointed me their editor despite my agnosticism on the so-called Authorship Question. It was enough for them that I am independent and open-minded. This is more than could be said for the majority of Stratfordians who will not even countenance the question (except when they are speaking). And second, it is even more extraordinary that a small band of amateur scholars should have been able to produce enough evidence for the great and the good in the Shakespearean world to demand their silence.


Michael Egan


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