More Answers to a Reader:

Continuing with the final three points made by Jim, a reader:

Two: Regardless of the authorship question, not even the makers of “Anonymous” can say the film is entirely truthful. The director, Roland Emmerich, admits in interviews that details like the writing of “Midsummer” when de Vere is 9 and de Vere’s later affair with Queen Elizabeth are false, part of creating a cinematic mood rather than documenting history.

Roland Emmerich, director, and John Orloff, screenwriter, of "Anonymous"

(If memory serves, screenwriter John Orloff DOES claim the whole script to be factual.) Historical films usually take some liberties with fact — this is to be expected — but in this case the liberties are rather large, and for a film that already faces a good deal of automatic skepticism, the decision not to hew closer to history is perplexing.

Some of my colleagues have expressed the same or similar feelings.  But I believe John Orloff may have made some confusing statements before clarifying.  For example, here’s a link to his recent article in The Wall Street Journal entitled “Why I Played with Shakespeare’s Story” — which sort of speaks for itself.

Evidence indicates that Oxford and Elizabeth may well have had a sexual affair; but no, it’s not certain.  I would refer you to my book The Monument for evidence in the Sonnets that Oxford regarded Southampton as his son by the Queen and, therefore, as her rightful successor.

Three: For every dubious clue that the sonnets contain indicating concealed authorship, they contain several straightforward clues indicating Shakespearean authorship. Puns on “will” are commonplace in the sonnets. Shakespeare’s wife, Anne Hathaway, is referenced once or twice. Did de Vere insert these references to make the Shakespearean ruse more convincing? It seems unlikely, because…

Well, now, those uses of will and Will are interesting, but I’d say that more likely they refer to (1) the Queen’s will or command as a monarch, and (2) the pen name William Shakespeare.  If the author’s real name happened to be William or Will, in my view he’d never use it that way – too obvious, too direct, especially for Shakespeare.

The line in Sonnet 145 is “I hate, from hate away she threw,” – and forgive me, but I’d say it’s an absurd stretch, a desperate stretch, to find a deliberate reference to Anne Hathaway … really … more of a stretch than most of what you find Oxfordians doing.

Four: If de Vere wrote the sonnets, there was no reason for him to hide it. Playwriting MAY have been inappropriate for a noble of his stature (though I am not sure of this — some of the Earl’s peers wrote court masques for Queen Elizabeth), but the writing of poetry certainly was not. Sir Philip Sidney is an excellent example of a high-ranking courtier whose poetry was accepted and influential. Coincidentally, Sidney also wrote at least one court masque.

Sir Philip Sidney (1554-1586)

I believe Sidney’s poetry was published under his own name only after his death, as expected.  But in my view the sonnets were private poems by Oxford, who did not write them to be published in his own lifetime.  And also in my view, they recorded Southampton’s royal status and the story of how Oxford made a deal with Robert Cecil to spare Southampton’s life and gain the promise of his eventual liberation by James.  In that context this was a hot book, claiming that James had stolen the throne from a rightful English heir.

Henry Wriothesley, third Earl of Southampton (circa 1595)

By contrast, those who got the Folio published managed to depict the author as a theater man, an actor and a playwright, while wiping away any mention of the poetry dedicated to Southampton or the sonnets written to and about him.

To summarize, I don’t see a strong motive for de Vere to conceal his authorship, and without that motive, evidence such as the name references in the sonnets and the traditionally accepted dates for the plays persuasively indicate Shakespeare as author.

Again, I’m not trying to troll or be rude — just to have a conversation!

Again, thanks.  Next I’ll put up my take on Sonnet 145 as set forth in The Monument.

Ongoing Work on “The Tempest” by Lynne Kositsky and Dr. Roger Stritmatter

It’s long past time for this blog to direct readers to the website of Dr. Roger Stritmatter and his colleague Lynne Kositsky — SHAKESPEARESTEMPEST.COM, with links to five articles on various aspects of Tempest sources, chronology, and literary themes, as follows:

From page 1 (after the introductory matter) of the First Folio of Shakespeare plays in 1623 -- with some markings added later

O Brave New World: The Tempest and Peter Martyr’s De Orbe Novo.”  Critical Survey 21:2 (fall 2009), 7-42.

Pale as Death: The Fictionalizing Influence of Erasmus’ ‘Naufragium’ on the Renaissance Travel Narrative.” Festschrift in Honor of Isabel Holden,  fall 2008, Concordia University, 141-151.

The Spanish Maze and the Date of The Tempest.”  The Oxfordian, fall 2007, 1-11.

Shakespeare and the Voyagers Revisited.”  The Review of English Studies, September, 2007 (published online June, 2007), 447-472.

How Shakespeare Got His Tempest:  Another “Just So” Story,” Brief Chronicles I(2009), 205-266, print edition.

There’s much more on their site and I recommend that readers keep in touch with it as they continue to develop this important story.


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