Part Two of My Reply to James Shapiro’s Column in the New York Times

This is the second of three parts of my response to an Op Ed column (“Hollywood Dishonors the Bard”) in the New York Times by Professor James Shapiro of Columbia, who is defending the Bard of Tradition against the forthcoming movie “Anonymous” from Roland Emmerich, portraying Edward de Vere Earl of Oxford as the true author of the great poems, plays and sonnets.  Shapiro  is referring below to John Thomas Looney, whose book “Shakespeare” Identified in 1920 introduced Oxford’s candidacy.

The Bard of Tradition ... The Bard of Our Dreams

SHAPIRO:  “Looney also showed that episodes in de Vere’s life closely matched events in the plays.  His theory has since attracted impressive supporters, including Sigmund Freud, the Supreme Court justice Antonin Scalia and his former colleague John Paul Stevens, and now Mr. Emmerich.”

WHITTEMORE: Yes, indeed.

SHAPIRO:  “But promoters of de Vere’s cause have a lot of evidence to explain away, including testimony of contemporary writers, court records and much else that confirms that Shakespeare wrote the works attributed to him.”

WHITTEMORE:  This is the classic mix-up of two separate entities.  The name “William Shakespeare” or just “Shakespeare” or “Shake-speare” was well-known and other writers referred to the great author by that name.  But they never described his physical person in any way, not during his lifetime; they never reported talking with him, breaking bread with him, working with him, drinking with him; they knew him as a name.  On the other hand, those “court records” had nothing to do with writing or poetry or the drama; such documents involved the man from Stratford and his very separate life.

James Shapiro -- Defender of the Bard of Avon

SHAPIRO:  “Meanwhile, not a shred of documentary evidence has ever been found that connects de Vere to any of the plays or poems.”

WHITTEMORE:  Well, for starters, Edward de Vere was connected personally in the 1560’s, 1570’s and 1580’s to virtually every writer whose work would become known as a “contemporary source” for the great author “Shakespeare” in his writings that appeared under that name for the first time in 1593.  Oxford’s poetry and other public writings can be viewed as part of what Looney called “the long foreground” of apprenticeship that has been missing from all so-called biographies of Shakespeare.  By contrast, Will of Stratford had no such foreground of prior work and there’s no record from his lifetime that he had any kind of relationship with any other writer.  Ben Jonson’s testimony comes way after the fact, in the Folio of Shakespeare plays in 1623; and even in Ben’s own 1616 folio, he merely listed “William Shakespeare” as an actor while never mentioning him as a writer – even though Will of Stratford had died only a few months earlier that year, without a single eulogy or even mention of him.

SHAPIRO:  “As for the argument that the plays rehearse the story of de Vere’s life: since the 1850s, when Shakespeare’s authorship was first questioned, the lives of 70 or so other candidates have also confidently been identified in them.”

Roland Emmerich, Challenging Tradition with his movie "Anonymous"

WHITTEMORE: Well, now, there are more parallels between the single play of Hamlet and various aspects of Oxford’s life than we could find such parallels between all the Bard’s thirty-seven plays and the lives of those other seventy candidates combined.  Trying to put Oxford in the same category is another cheap shot.  No, sir, his credentials are different.  Anyone who looks at his life — as poet, playwright and play producer; as patron of writers, play companies and musicians; as scholar, traveler, etc. – will see the vast difference.  This would be true even if a thousand candidates had preceded Looney’s identification of him.

We’ll continue next time with the third and final installment…

The URI to TrackBack this entry is: https://hankwhittemore.com/2011/10/21/part-two-of-my-reply-to-james-shapiros-column-in-the-new-york-times/trackback/

RSS feed for comments on this post.

One CommentLeave a comment

  1. Has Shapiro ever read the work of Marcy North on early modern anonymity? No? How about the work of John Mullan on anonymity? No again? Well, then how about the recent book on early modern anonymity edited by Starner and Traister? No yet again? Oh. That would explain his naive assumption that the printed pseudonym “William Shakespeare” referred to a person by that name.

    Could anyone clue Shapiro in on the ubiquity of early modern anonymity?


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: