PortraitGate! The Contest Begins!

In the future, the new Cobbe Portrait of Shakespeare (NOT!) promoted by Stanley Wells may well go down in history as the “tipping point” in the transition from Myth to Reality in terms of recognizing the true author (Edward de Vere, Earl of Oxford, who created his self-portrait in the character of Hamlet)…

Shakespeare scholar Stanley Wells with the Cobbe Portrait - Hazel Thompson for The New York Times

Shakespeare scholar Stanley Wells with the Cobbe Portrait - Hazel Thompson for The New York Times

And because this crucial event must eventually have a name, like Watergate, we’re holding a contest for it in advance.

First Suggestion: PortraitGate!

Give us your thumbs-up for this name (invented by John Shahan, who inspired and put together The Shakespeare Authorship Coalition and The Declaration of Reasonable Doubt About the Identity of William Shakespeare) — or send in your own ideas for it; and we’ll announce the winning name in a few weeks hence.

CobbeGate?  WellsGate? Or……….?

Published in: Uncategorized on March 31, 2009 at 3:59 am  Comments (2)  

Clobbering the Cobbe…

The “Cobbe” portrait of the Bard being promoted by Stanley Wells and the “Shakespeare Industry” may yet prove to be a turning point in the much larger debate over the true authorship of the great poems, plays and sonnets.  Among those exposing this new attempt to “humanize” the mythical figure of Will of Stratford is Jeremy Crick of the De Vere Society in England, with a letter published today in The Independent.

“Truth is truth to the end of reckoning,” Shakespeare wrote in MEASURE FOR MEASURE; and in this new portrait debate, all roads are leading to Edward de Vere, Earl of Oxford, who wrote, “Truth is truth, though never so old, and time cannot make that false which was once true.” [=40] Cecil Papers 99/161: Oxford to Cecil, 7 May [1603].   (See Nina Green’s THE OXFORD AUTHORSHIP SITE)

Here is the text of Mr. Crick’s letter of Monday, March 30:

Jansen Portrait

Jansen Portrait

Shakespeare “expert” Stanley Wells needs to brush up on his  scholarship if he wishes to retain that sobriquet (report, 28 March). By continuing to claim the Cobbe portrait as a genuine portrait of Shakespeare, it is understandable that his arguments must also accommodate the Folger portrait (otherwise known as the Janssen), because one of the paintings is clearly a copy of the other.

I can only assume that, as a scholar, Mr Wells has read the results of the X-ray analysis of the Janssen by Charles Wisner Barrell in the 1940s which proved that the age of the sitter – “A.E. 46” – had been overpainted on the original figure of 40, and that the date underneath of 1610 had been overpainted on the original date of 1590. These alterations, it is clear, were made by someone keen to fit them to the known dates of Shakespeare, as was the overpainting of the bald head, to increase the value of the painting.

Cobbe Portrait

Cobbe Portrait

Furthermore, Mr Wells should be able to recognise that the pattern of the ruff on the Janssen carries the Tudor rose design, common in 1590, and not the Scottish thistle which became the vogue on the succession of James I in 1603.

Barrell also performed a similar analysis upon another painting purporting to be of Shakespeare in the Folger’s collection, the “Ashbourne” portrait. Discovering a similar overpainted bald head and altered dates to fit Shakespeare, he also found the monogram of the painter, CK, and, together with a wealth of other information, concluded that the painting was actually the lost portrait of Edward de Vere, Earl of Oxford, by Cornelius Ketel.

Edward de Vere Earl of Oxford 1575

Edward de Vere Earl of Oxford 1575

Ashbourne Portrait

Ashbourne Portrait

What an irony that someone hoping to make a fast buck (in this instance, the Reverend Clement Kingston, who was later sacked by Ashbourne Grammar School) out of a new portrait of Shakespeare should have used a genuine portrait of the leading candidate in the Shakespeare authorship question. Jeremy Crick

Newcastle-under-Lyme, STAFFORDSHIRE

Published in: Uncategorized on March 30, 2009 at 6:08 pm  Comments (2)  

“Shake-Speare’s Treason” at the Next Door Theater in Winchester MA

We’ll be taking SHAKE-SPEARE’S TREASON: The True Story of King Henry IX, Last of the Tudors to Winchester, MA this weekend for a performance on Saturday evening March 28 at the Next Door Theater.  This is the New England premier of the 90-minute one-man show, written by Hank Whittemore (performer) and Ted Story (director).  The performance will benefit the documentary film project NOTHING IS TRUER THAN TRUTH produced and directed by Cheryl Eagan-Donovan of Controversy Films and based on the book Shakespeare By Another Name: The Life of Edward de Vere, Earl of Oxford, the Man Who Was Shakespeare by Mark Anderson.

Hank Whittemore performing SHAKE-SPEARE'S TREASON at Flathead Valley Community College in Kalispell, Montana - Photo by FVCC

Hank Whittemore performing SHAKE-SPEARE'S TREASON at Flathead Valley Community College in Kalispell, Montana - Photo by FVCC

If you’d like to learn more about SHAKE-SPEARES TREASON, you can email Hank Whittemore directly at hankw@optonline.net or take a look at our fledgling website for the show – which is a dramatization of the basic story told in Hank’s book on Sonnets entitled THE MONUMENT.

Below is the cover of our printed version of the script, which is offered for sale after each show:

The Cover of the Printed Script for SHAKE-SPEARE'S TREASON, using the original title page of the 1609 quarto.

The Cover of the Printed Script for SHAKE-SPEARE'S TREASON, using the original title page of the 1609 quarto.

Published in: Uncategorized on March 26, 2009 at 8:18 pm  Comments (3)  

Front Page of Contemporary Record of the Essex-Southampton Trial – with Edward, Earl of Oxford as Head of Tribunal

Here is a copy of a report on the Essex-Southampton trial held at Westminster Hall on February 19, 1600 [1601 New Style], from Folger V. a. 164, courtesy of scholar Christopher Paul.  Listed are the peers who had been summoned to sit on the tribunal in judgment of the earls; and prominently displayed is the name “EDWARD EARLE OF OXFORDE LORD HIGH CHAMBERLAIN OF ENGLAND”:

A Contemporary Record of the Essex-Southampton Trial

A Contemporary Record of the Essex-Southampton Trial

Published in: Uncategorized on March 19, 2009 at 8:23 pm  Leave a Comment  

“The Living Record” – Chapter 29 – “I May Not Ever-More Acknowledge Thee…”

Starting with Sonnet 27 upon the failed Essex Rebellion of February 8, 1601, when Essex and Southampton were taken to the Tower of London, I began to lay down the numbered verses beside the calendar dates (one sonnet per day)…

Within this radically new context, the lines came freshly alive and finally making sense, intellectually and emotionally.  Here was the beginning of a private record of Southampton’s tragedy and its aftermath, as set down by Edward de Vere, 17th Earl of Oxford…

I reached Sonnet 36 aligned with February 17, two days before Oxford would have to serve as senior judge at the treason trial and vote to convict both earls of high treason and condemn them to death…

But at the time it did not occur to me that this verse concludes an initial “chapter” of 10 consecutive and chronological sonnets…

Nor did it dawn on me that the entire post-Rebellion chronicle (27-126) contains 10 chapters of 10 sonnets each…

Nor did I realize that these chapters create a central sequence of exactly 100 sonnets leading to the death of Queen Elizabeth in 1603, when James of Scotland became King of England and immediately ordered Southampton’s liberation…

Here’s the way the first “chapter” of 10 sonnets appeared:

(1) Sonnet 27 – Feb 8 – The rebellion and imprisonment of Essex & Southampton, when the younger earl is a “jewel hung in ghastly night” as a prince who had been “the world’s fresh ornament” (in Sonnet 1) but is now a suspect-traitor confined in the Tower.

The Tower where Southampton is Imprisoned

The Tower where Southampton is Imprisoned

(2) Sonnet 28 – Feb 9 – Oxford is “day by night and night by day oppressed” by the tragic turn of events, indicating that he is writing one sonnet per day.

(3) Sonnet 29 – Feb 10 – Oxford shares Southampton’s “disgrace with Fortune [the Queen] and men’s eyes,” as well as his “outcast state” as a presumed traitor.

(4) Sonnet 30 – Feb 11 – Oxford is officially “summoned” to serve as highest-ranking judge at the “Sessions” or treason trial; and he echoes this situation in writing, “When to the Sessions of sweet silent thought I summon up remembrance of things past…”

(5) Sonnet 31 – Feb 12 – Fearing Southampton’s death, Oxford writes to him, “Thou art the grave where buried love doth live” — using “love” to refer to his royal blood that will be buried with him.

(6) Sonnet 32 – Feb 13 – Oxford sorrowfully wishes that Southampton, his royal son by the Queen, had been given “a dearer birth than this” — a birth that would have allowed him to “march in ranks of better equippage.” That is, he should have been named to succeed Elizabeth as King Henry IX.

(7) Sonnet 33 – Feb 14 – Oxford looks back at the birth of his “Sunne” (royal son) in 1574 and grieves that “the region cloud” (Elizabeth Regina and her dark cloud of shame and disgrace) took the infant prince from him after only one hour:  “Even so my Sunne one early morn did shine with all triumphant splendor on my brow, but out alack, he was but one hour mine, the region cloud hath masked him from me now.”

Southampton in the Tower

Southampton in the Tower

(8) Sonnet 34 – Feb 15 – Oxford tells Southampton, referring to his son’s act of treason and loss of the crown for England (and for Oxford himself, who would have been the father of a king):  “Though thou repent, yet I have still the loss; th’offender’s sorrow lends but weak relief to him that bears the strong offence’s loss [cross].”

(9) Sonnet 35 – Feb 16 – Anticipating his enforced adversarial role at the trial, Oxford also indicates he will work later behind the scenes as Southampton’s “Advocate” or lawyer, trying to bring in “sense” or rational arguments to counterbalance his son’s “sensual fault” or irrational crime.

Then he will try to strike a bargain with Secretary Robert Cecil to save his son’s life and ultimately gain his freedom with a royal pardon: “For to thy sensual fault I bring in sense; thy adverse party is thy Advocate, and ‘gainst myself a lawful plea commence” — indicating his need to make a personal sacrifice.

(10) Sonnet 36 – Feb 17 – The bargain requires complete separation of father and son: “Let me confess that we two must be twain, although our undivided loves are one … I may not ever-more acknowledge thee…”

Let us pause at the conclusion of this initial 10-sonnet “chapter” at a time when it appears certain that Southampton will be executed.  Next we’ll look more closely at Sonnet 36 and also at the next “chapter,” which begins with Sonnet 37 on the eve of the trial at Westminster Hall on Feb 19, 1601…

Published in: Uncategorized on March 19, 2009 at 6:43 pm  Leave a Comment  

From the NY Times: The Bard of Our Dreams

My, my, my…

Here’s the wind-up of a piece by Charles McGrath in the New York Times Week in Review of today, Sunday, March 15, about the new “Cobbe” portrait of “Shakespeare” being promoted by Professor Stanley Wells and the ever-vulnerable Shakespeare of Stratford Empire (with my emphases indicated):

“Even if Shakespeare didn’t actually sit for it, this is probably how he, like any other literary figure of the time, preferred to imagine himself: aloof, sexy, mysterious. And, more to the point, this is how most of us would prefer to imagine him too.

“That Droeshout engraving has always been a bit of a downer; if it is a likeness of Shakespeare, it’s a likeness of the cranky, worn-out Shakespeare who had stopped writing and retired to Stratford to carry on lawsuits. The Cobbe portrait … is of a young man full of himself in the best sense. We can believe he has the whole world stored inside that high, capacious forehead.”

Well, now, we’re back to square one: even with this anonymous portrait from about the year 1610, we have to “imagine” Shakespeare, the Bard of our dreams, the guy who is still the greatest writer of the English language.  So why, why, why is the painting anonymous?

In 1610 the name Shakespeare was at the zenith of its popularity and, regardless of the “disgrace” that the actual writer suffers for real in the Sonnets, there was no scandal attached to it.  So why, if the Earl of Southampton had the portrait in his possession, wouldn’t he label it proudly and display that “high, capacious forehead” for all to marvel at?

Other figures of the time were readily identifiable as well as identified; and in their pictures we find flesh and blood individuals.  For example, below is a portrait of fellow poet-dramatist Ben Jonson, followed by a portrait of fellow actor Richard Burbage.

Why isn’t the “Cobbe” portrait readily identifiable like these two examples below?  You already know the anwer, but I’ll whisper it here anyway:

Because “Shakespeare” was the pen name for someone else, used by a man the government needed to keep hidden, a tragic figure of a man who cried out in the Sonnets: 

“My name be buried where my body is … Your name from hence immortal life shall have, though I, once gone, to all the world must die…!”)

Ben Jonson

Ben Jonson

Richard Burbage

Richard Burbage

Published in: Uncategorized on March 15, 2009 at 5:20 pm  Leave a Comment  

Other Bards, Other Portraits, Other Faces … But Where’s the Beef?

Here’s a very good site to catch up on various images of that ghost-like figure we call the Bard.

The FLOWER portrait, the GRAFTON portrait, the CHANDOS portrait, the SANDERS portrait, the JANSEN portrait, the SOEST portrait….

Beware, however, because none — none! — have anything to do with William Shakspere, the money-lender and grain hoarder and businessman from  Stratford-upon-Avon.


Cheers from Hank

Published in: Uncategorized on March 13, 2009 at 8:46 pm  Leave a Comment  

Here’s to that “Shakespeare” Portrait…

Here are some of the doubts about the new “Shakespeare” portrait, being promoted by Stanley Wells and Alec Cobbe and the Shakespeare Birthplace Trust (of which Professor Wells is chairman), reported in the fabulous site Mr. Shakespeare’s Blog:

David Scott Kastan in The New York Times:

“…said by telephone that there were reasons to question the Cobbe portrait’s provenance — whether it was in fact once owned by the Earl of Southampton or commissioned by him, as the trust representatives believe — and to doubt whether the richly dressed man in the portrait was Shakespeare.

“‘If I had to bet I would say it’s not Shakespeare,’ Mr. Kastan said. But even if it was, he said, the traditions of Elizabethan portraiture meant that it would be unwise to conclude that Shakespeare actually looked like the figure depicted in the portrait. ‘It might be a portrait of Shakespeare, but not a likeness, because the conventions of portraiture at the time were often to idealize the subject,’ he said.

Charlotte Higgins in The Guardian:

“On the evidence adumbrated so far, it seems to me to be to be highly unlikely that the Cobbe portrait is a true lifetime portrait of William Shakespeare, as widely reported today.

“I’m assuming there’s something that Professor Stanley Wells, who has led the charge towards the identification, has something else up his sleeve – because so far the case seems rather unconvincing… Tempting as it is with portraits of this period to go for optimistic identifications, surely there has to be a bit more evidence on the table than this?”

Andrew Dickson, author of The Rough Guide to Shakespeare:

“The difference this time is that the person making the case for the Cobbe portrait is Professor Stanley Wells, chairman of the Shakespeare Birthplace Trust and one of the biggest names in the Bard business. Wells called Hammerschidt-Hummel’s findings “rubbish”, and he has been unmoved by other putative portraits. So why go for this one? Jonathan Bate, professor of Shakespeare at Warwick, is cautious.  ‘The case is very intriguing,” he says. ‘It’s a really interesting find, and a really interesting picture. But there are huge ifs.’..

“Michael Dobson, professor of Shakespeare Studies at Birkbeck College in London, believes wish-fulfillment plays a role:

“‘Even scholars can succumb to the craving for Shakespeare biography, some kind of direct contact. We want someone to feel grateful to.’

“Is he a skeptic when it comes to the Cobbe portrait?

‘I haven’t seen it yet, but yes. There’s been such a run of portraits supposedly of Shakespeare that my immediate reaction is to be skeptical. I do think it’s opportune and slightly optimistic – both because of [Shakespeare’s] birthday coming up and the Birthplace Trust being in a position to exhibit it. The whole thing has been very well managed, at the very least.'”

Professor Wells is pushing this portrait while expressing more and more frustration with that annoying “authorship” question.   Here are some of his remarks in The Stage magazine, in reaction to the creation of The Shakespeare Authorship Coalition and its Declaration of Reasonable Doubt about the Identity of William Shakespeare, which now has 1450 signatures:

‘In a career of over fifty years I have constantly read and re-read Shakespeare, studied and taught his life and his works, seen all his plays acted on stage film and television innumerable times, thought and written about their significance, and edited all of them both for Oxford University Press and for Penguin.

“During all this time, though I have never seen the slightest reason to doubt his authorship, I have frequently been confronted with the suggestion that they were written, not by William Shakespeare of Stratford-upon-Avon, but by, for instance, Francis Bacon, Christopher Marlowe, the Earl of Oxford…

“I have taken part in debates on the authorship, broadcast about it on radio and on television, and written about it in newspapers and in my own books. In general I have tried to be rational, courteous, and tolerant…

I hope I can still be rational and (up to a point) courteous about the subject, but the time for tolerance is over. There is no room for reasonable doubt that William Shakespeare of Stratford-upon-Avon wrote … the works traditionally ascribed to him...”

And now….the portrait!

Who is this Man?

Who is this Man?

Take that, you doubters!  Oh – and this fellow, below, well, we know who he is:

Edward Earl of Oxford - The Man Who Was "Shakespeare"

Edward Earl of Oxford - The Man Who Was "Shakespeare"

Published in: Uncategorized on March 13, 2009 at 3:31 am  Comments (4)  

Check out Boyle’s Adventure Page, too

My colleague Bill Boyle is justifiably energized over the Cobbe-Wells portrait story.  He, too, is on the case.  And I’d like to publicly thank him (again) for contributing his invaluable insights and, yes, discoveries in relation to The Monument.

So check out The Shakespeare Adventure

Published in: Uncategorized on March 12, 2009 at 8:44 pm  Leave a Comment  

Doubt About the Portrait? Yup!

For those intrigued by the new “Shakespeare”-portrait affair, I highly recommend MR. SHAKESPEARE’S BLOG.

If you scroll down somewhat you get to  their compilation of several reactions of orthodox Stratfordian scholars expressing their doubts.

In the 19th century there was a “feeding frenzy” for information about Shakespeare and, at the same time, scholars (such as John Payne Collier) turned to forgery.  They sensed that (1) the well of biographical information about “Shakespeare” was dry, not to mention empty; and that (2) they could “find” or “discover” (i.e., create by forgery) new writings and even whole documents, with no one readily able to challenge their authenticity.

These forgeries contributed largely to the myth of Shakespeare that endures to this day.  But the growing strength of the “authorship” movement — the challenge to the Stratford biography of “Shakespeare” — has sparked a similar frenzy … a frenzy to “find” and even MAKE UP new biographical information (i.e., Michael Wood, Stephen Greenblatt) that will feed the need to meet that challenge.

After all, the Earl of Oxford DOES happen to have a full biography that makes sense of the story behind the “Shakespeare” name; and the Shakespeare Establishment has become increasingly worried about it.

The same need to meet this challenge (the need for more flesh-and-blood on their man) has prompted Stratfordians — notably Stanley Wells, with this new “discovery” — to come up with new and more human-like portraits.

My goodness, Mr. Wells is even making Shakespeare into an aristocrat!  How long before he graduates to an earldom or even a dukedom?  Folks, it’s baloney.  It’s going to be exposed.  It’s being exposed as you read this.  And when the “Cobbe” portrait of Shakespeare is finally rejected, doubts about the whole legend of the Stratford man will grow accordingly.  In fact, the results may be even more sensational…

Take a look at those current doubters…

Cheers from Hank

Published in: Uncategorized on March 12, 2009 at 7:01 pm  Comments (2)  
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