An Oxfordian Journal – “Conspiracy” Theory, Continued…

My problem with the idea that “Shakespeare” might have been someone else was fairly specific.  How could some other guy walk around London claiming to be Shakespeare when the real author was right there, writing the plays and working with actors at the playhouse?  No, such a scenario was ridiculous.  And over the next couple of days, after my writer-actor friend had made his offensive suggestion, I never went beyond that stumbling block of two men simultaneously in the same place claiming to be Shakespeare.

Page770 of “The Mysterious William Shakespeare: The Myth & The Reality” by Charlton Ogburn Jr. (1984, 1990, 1992) CLICK ON THE IMAGE FOR A LARGER, READABLE VIEW

Then in the mail from my friend (Charles Boyle) came copies of pages in The Mysterious William Shakespeare by Charlton Ogburn Jr., published three years earlier in 1984.  This section, entitled CHRONOLOGY OF THE PRINCIPALS IN THE CASE OF WILLIAM SHAKESPEARE, listed the years (from 1550 onward) in the far-left column and, for each year, presented separate columns for four different categories.


The overall idea of “Shakespeare” being someone else was still disturbing to me, but here was a clear and simple answer to my specific problem.  Rather than postulate two men in London claiming to be Shakespeare at the same time, this chart presented an entirely different picture.  In the first place, it involved not two but three separate entities: (1) the Earl of Oxford, (2) the pen name “Shakespeare” and (3) the fellow Shakspere from Stratford upon Avon.

Ogburn’s chart made clear that such a monumental deception might actually be possible, with these hypotheses:

= That the true author, Oxford, had been born in 1550, some fourteen years earlier than the Stratford man.

= That Oxford originally created virtually all the relevant works from 1575 to 1590.  His plays had been aimed at aristocratic audiences at the private Blackfriars Playhouse, prior to presentation for Queen and court; and in the 1580’s other plays, mostly histories, were performed around the countryside by two troupes of the Queen’s Men, aimed at rousing nationalistic unity in the face of the coming invasion by Spain.

= That this roughly fifteen-year period immediately preceded the Stratford man’s career as told by traditional accounts; by 1590 the Earl of Oxford was forty years old, having written all the original versions of his great works.

= That Oxford withdrew from public life in 1590 and became a virtual recluse over the next decade, revising works for publication; then he began to use the “Shakespeare” pen name, in 1593.

= That whatever William of Stratford was doing in London (we don’t know how long he was in town at any given time), all that existed of “Shakespeare” was the printed name – first on Venus and Adonis in 1593, then on play quartos starting in autumn or winter 1598.  (It’s remarkable to think that the public had no idea of “Shakespeare” as a playwright until so late in the game; if the Stratford man were the dramatist, why had he remained anonymous till then?)

= That during the 1590’s, and even right up to his death in 1604, Oxford continued to revise many works, notably Hamlet, Prince of Denmark.

= That upon Oxford’s death in June 1604, the full quarto of Hamlet appeared for the first time, but then all authorized printings of heretofore unpublished “Shakespeare” plays abruptly ceased.  The silence continued until an Othello printing in 1622 and then in 1623 the Folio contained thirty-six plays, eighteen of them previously unpublished.

Looking at this history, it occurred to me that until the Folio there had been no need for any “conspiracy,” elaborate or otherwise.  The man from Stratford never claimed authorship of the works, not during his entire lifetime.  When he died, no one outside Stratford even noticed; he left behind no papers claiming his authorship of anything.

“My name be buried where my body is,” the true author wrote in Sonnet 72.

“I, once gone, to all the world must die,” he wrote in Sonnet 81.

And in the words he gave to Prince Hamlet, “The rest is silence.”

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  1. Hank,

    It seems that we have to push toward the threshold of what was referred to one hundred years later by Leibniz as the “identity of indiscernibles” or the two Shakespeares theory. If we demonstrate its impossibility or contradiction we make the stronger case.


    Identity of indiscernibles
    From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
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    The identity of indiscernibles is an ontological principle which states that there cannot be separate objects or entities that have all their properties in common. That is, entities x and y are identical if every predicate possessed by x is also possessed by y and vice versa; to suppose two things indiscernible is to suppose the same thing under two names. It states that no two distinct things (such as snowflakes) can be exactly alike, but this is intended as a metaphysical principle rather than one of natural science. A related principle is the indiscernibility of identicals, discussed below.

    A form of the principle is attributed to the German philosopher Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz. It is one of his two great metaphysical principles, the other being the principle of sufficient reason. Both are famously used in his arguments with Newton and Clarke in the Leibniz–Clarke correspondence. Because of its association with Leibniz, the principle is sometimes known as Leibniz’s law. (However, the name ‘Leibniz’s Law’ is also commonly used for the converse of the principle, the indiscernibility of identicals (described below), which is logically distinct and not to be confused with the identity of indiscernibles.)

    Some philosophers have decided, however, that it is important to exclude certain predicates (or purported predicates) from the principle in order to avoid either triviality or contradiction. An example (detailed below) is the predicate which denotes whether an object is equal to x (often considered a valid predicate). As a consequence, there are a few different versions of the principle in the philosophical literature, of varying logical strength – and some of them are termed “the strong principle” or “the weak principle” by particular authors, in order to distinguish between them.[1]

    Willard Van Orman Quine thought that the failure of substitutivity in intensional contexts (e.g., “Sally believes that p,” “It is necessarily the case that q”) shows that modal logic is an impossible project.[2] Saul Kripke holds that this failure may be the result of the use of the disquotational principle implicit in these proofs, and not a failure of substitutivity as such.[3]

    Associated with this principle is also the question as to whether it is a logical principle, or merely an empirical principle.

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