Professor Helen Gordon Cites “Six Lies” of James Shapiro in the New York Times

Following is a letter to the New York Times, replying to Professor James Shapiro of Columbia University, from Helen Heightsman Gordon, M.A., Ed. D., an English professor emeritus of Bakersfield College, California, and author of The Secret Love Story in Shakespeare’s Sonnets [2008].

Dear NY Times:

If you fact-checked the column by James Shapiro (Oct 17) you would do your readers a great favor.  Here are some of the lies in that column that any responsible reporter would have questioned:

Lie #1- The lesson plans by Sony Pictures are being distributed to literature and history teachers “in the hope of convincing them that Shakespeare was a fraud.”  

Not true.  These plans are being provided to teachers to inform them about the authorship controversy, which has been subject to much censorship in the academic world, and to encourage students to think for themselves on this controversial issue.

Lie #2 – J. Thomas Looney [pronounced LONE-ee] “loathed democracy and modernity” and argued that “only a worldly nobleman could have created such works of genius.” 

Not true.  Looney was a schoolmaster who was dissatisfied with teaching the traditional biography of Shakespeare, who argued that the Bard’s marvelous works revealed characteristics that we would expect to find in the author. These traits included a superior education, knowledge of several languages, familiarity with European courts and powerful aristocrats, some ambivalence about women, and so forth.

Shapiro’s ad hominem attack attempts to paint this sincere, dedicated teacher as a snob.  That oft-repeated accusation has been decisively refuted by many brilliant non-snobs who question whether the Stratford businessman had the background necessary to have produced works of such profound knowledge and literary talent as Shakespeare produced.

Lie #3“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.” 

Not true. These supposed records either refer to non-literary court records about the Stratford man’s legal problems or they refer to the author by his pen name, “William Shakespeare” — like saying “Mark Twain wrote Mark Twain‘s work.”  They do not in any way “confirm” that the Stratford resident is the same person as the author.

The writings of William Shakspere of Stratford-upon-Avon: six known signatures

Lie #4 “Not a shred of documentary evidence has ever been found that connects de Vere to any of the plays or poems.” 

This one is REALLY a whopper!  Demonstrably untrue.  Many scholars have provided documentary evidence of de Vere’s writing talent in letters and published poetry.  There is also printed evidence that he was regarded by his peers as being a talented playwright and poet.  Many scholars have provided evidence that de Vere had the background necessary to write the plays, including ability to read classic Greek and Latin works that had not been translated into English, evidence of travel through Italy in places accurately described in the plays, and so forth.

Researchers are somewhat frustrated by the fact that de Vere’s malicious father-in-law suppressed or destroyed evidence that might have proved one way or the other that he wrote the plays and the sonnets.  Ironically, it is the Stratford-worshippers who have never produced one single piece of writing in Shakespeare’s hand, and no documentary proof that Mr. Shakspere (that’s how he spelled his own name) attended the Stratford Grammar School (those records have been destroyed).

Lie #5“The greatest obstacle facing de Vere’s supporters is that he died in 1604, before ten or so of Shakespeare’s plays were written.” 

This might be convincing if it were true.  The truth is that nobody knows when the plays were written.  We only know when they were performed and when they were published (sometimes in pirated quartos as “anonymous” work).  Dr. Shapiro cannot explain why Mr. Shaxpere (another way that he spelled his name) did not edit his own plays for publication during his years of retirement, if indeed he were the same person as the famous author.

The First Folio was not printed until 1623, long after Mr. Shagspere’s death (another way that he spelled his name).  And the Sonnets were published in 1609, while Mr. Shakspere was alive, yet the Dedication refers to the author as “ever-living” — which means that the author is dead, but his works are still immortal.

Lie #6“Later de Vere advocates . . . claimed that de Vere was Elizabeth’s illegitimate son and therefore the rightful heir to the English throne.” 

There are only two strong advocates [Paul Streitz and Charles Beauclerk – HW] for the “incest theory,” and the movie does not give this theory any credence (the subject is mentioned and then dismissed as a lie).  On the other hand, there is considerable evidence that Elizabeth had a love affair with Edward de Vere, and at least one noted historian reports a rumor that they had a love-child who was being raised as the Third Earl of Southampton.

Those Oxfordians who find that to be a credible scenario would consider Southampton the possible heir to the throne.  The first seventeen sonnets are addressed to the “Fair Youth” that a consensus of Shakespeare scholars believe to be Henry Wriothesley, the Third Earl of Southampton.   That makes a lot of sense when you read those sonnets as being from a loving father to the son that he cannot acknowledge, as he says in Sonnet 36:

I may not evermore acknowledge thee

Lest my bewailed guilt should do thee shame,

Nor you with public kindness honor me,

Unless thou tak’st that honor from thy name.

So let us indeed stop telling lies to school children.  Let’s give them the facts — all the facts, not just those carefully selected by the traditionalists who have maintained a taboo over the subject of the authorship for decades.  Students can learn to think for themselves, and Roland Emmerich will give them much more to think about than Dr. Shapiro has done.

[Thanks to Helen Gordon for permission to reprint — with a few copy edits by me]

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