James Shapiro & Shakespeare Authorship

James Shapiro, author of 1599: A Year in the Life of William Shakespeare (2005), attended my performance of SHAKE-SPEARE’S TREASON at the Globe in London on Thursday night November 20th.  Mr. Shapiro is working on a book about the Shakespeare authorship question and has been doing some research at Brunel University, which has a new MA program in that field.

He has written to me privately to say he enjoyed the show but left before we had a chance to speak because his policy is to avoid discussing the authorship topic – at least, I assume, during his process of research and writing.  I wish him well!  He’s a very good writer and, yes, his research is also good.  But – but – we intend to show how he would do so much better if he realized that the true author of the “Shakespeare” works was not that fellow from Stratford, but, rather, Edward de Vere, 17th Earl of Oxford (1550-1604).

Yep, we’re going to keep up with him and not let him off the hook when we think he’s wrong!  In the preface of his book on the year 1599, on page xvii, he states that “we don’t know very much about what kind of friend or lover or person Shakespeare was.”  Hmmm!  How is it we know so much about the character of Ben Jonson but not that of the creator of Prince Hamlet?  How is it that we have not a single account by anyone of any personal encounter with the flesh-and-blood man known as Shakespeare?  How is it that we have not a single personal letter written by him?  How could he not have written many, many letters to various friends and none of them have kept a single scrap?

This lack of knowledge about “Shakespeare” author has “opened the door to those who deny that Shakespeare wrote his plays,” Shapiro writes.  No, no, no, we must correct this kind of statement here and now, folks.  No one denies that Shakespeare wrote his plays!  The point is that “Shakespeare” was a pen name.  No one denies that the man who used that name (as a printed signature) did most certainly write those plays!  The whole point is that “Shakespeare” and the traditionally assumed author from Stratford upon Avon are two separate entities – one entity a glorious pen name suggesting a warrior shaking his spear (the spear of his pen!), and the other entity a very real man who was a money lender, grain dealer, property owner and apparent Globe shareholder.

So the statement by Mr. Shapiro, made by many others before him, simply begs the question; that is, it assumes the truth of the very point being raised!  It assumes, at the start, that “Shakespeare” was in fact the man from Stratford, when in fact that’s the very assumption whose truth is being questioned!

This lack of information about “Shakespeare,” writes Shapiro, has led the deniers to attribute the plays instead to “Christopher Marlowe or Francis Bacon, or the latest candidate, the Earl of Oxford.”  And, he continues, “It’s unfortunate, because even if we don’t know much about his personality, we know a great deal about Shakespeare’s career as a writer” – whoa, whoa, there!  The author’s “career as a writer” is in fact the career of the printed name of Shakespeare, not of the man from Stratford!  Here again Shapiro, like so many others before him, is begging the question – big time!

Sure we know a great deal about the printed name (which, I argue, is a pen name), but that’s a separate subject and it has no physical body attached to it. What we do know about William of Stratford has nothing to do with any kind of writing, much less the greatest writing of the English language.  That set of documents is also a separate subject.

If we’re going to discuss the authorship question with any degree of honesty, let’s try to avoid such circular reasoning.  That’s an old trick; it may even be used unconsciously, and not deliberately, for all I know.  But as others have done before me, I point it out.  I raise a penalty flag.  I mean, come on, no court of law would allow it for a second.

More on all of this soon enough.

Published in: Uncategorized on November 25, 2008 at 12:52 pm  Comments (2)  


Mark Anderson’s book is a literary biography….of course!

And Now those Links…

Our first post on this blog, several hours ago, included links that failed to link; so here we go again, this time, we hope, inserted correctly:

SHAKE-SPEARE’S TREASONThe True Story of King Henry IX, Last of the Tudors: by Hank Whittemore and Ted Story, our one-man show presenting the story preserved in the Sonnets for posterity.

THE MONUMENTShake-Speare’s Sonnets by Edward de Vere, 17th Earl of Oxford, my 900-page edition that reveals the structure, language and story of the 154 consecutively numbered verses.


CONCORDIA UNIVERSITY – Portland, Oregon – where Dr. Daniel Wright hosts the Shakespeare Authorship Studies Conference each April and heads up the new Shakespeare Research Study Centre.

BRUNEL UNIVERSITY – London – the home of a new Shakespeare Authorship Studies MA program headed by Dr. William Leahy.

SHAKESPEARE BY ANOTHER NAME – The literary autobiography of Edward de Vere, Earl of Oxford, who adopted the “Shakespeare” pen name, by Mark Anderson

Maybe the above links will actually link this time.  If not, we’ll keep trying.  Meanwhile there are many more websites to be listed on this blog as we go along.  Already it should be clear that the authorship question surrounding Shakespeare is serious.  But guess what – the matter will be taken up and settled, we predict, not by the Literature and Drama departments but by the History Department!  Why?  Because the folks committed to finding true history don’t have so much at stake that will prevent them from puncturing the Shakespeare-of-Stratford legend.  They will be the ones to accept the true history and put the record straight.  And we mean to help them get on with it.

Cheers from Hank

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