“Shakespeare and the Problem of Biography” – Historic Conference at the Folger Library – Does it Signal that the Current Paradigm is in Trouble?

Dozens of Shakespeare scholars and students will be in Washington, D.C., at the Folger Shakespeare Library this week for a two-day series of lectures that may come to be seen as truly historic. The topic of the conference, after all, is Shakespeare and the Problem of Biography

Did we know that the orthodox community has acknowledged a “problem” in the first place? The Folger’s online blurb calls the conference a “rigorous investigation of the multiple – and conflicted – roles biography plays in the reception of Shakespeare today.”

The Folger Shakespeare Library - Washington, D.C.

The Folger Shakespeare Library – Washington, D.C.

Some one hundred and forty persons have reserved seats to attend the lectures, to be held inside the Folger’s Tudor-style theater; and at this point enrollments are closed. The collaborative research conference, funded by the National Endowment for Humanities (NEH), will begin Thursday evening with Brian Cummings, Anniversary Professor of English at the University of York, delivering Shakespeare’s Birthday Lecture 2014, entitled Shakespeare, Biography and Anti-Biography.

According to the overview of his talk, “The biography of Shakespeare is a paradox. Is he our greatest author precisely because we know so little about him, and his life remains a mystery? Shakespeare is at once a figure of cultural saturation and an indefinable enigma,” the overview continues. “We see him everywhere, yet we keep on looking for more … Do we feel our lack of knowledge so painfully because it relates to a figure we care so much about?”

Folger Theatre

Folger Theatre

Professor Cummings will discuss “the problem of writing the life of Shakespeare in terms of documentary history and its haunting sense of missing links,” suggesting that perhaps “the reading of a writer creates a life of its own, somewhere between writer and reader, in the mystery that constitutes the act of literature.”

This may be an unspoken acknowledgment that life inside the paradigm of tradition is becoming increasingly uncomfortable. My only comment right now is that, in my view, escaping this purgatory will require its inhabitants to step outside the current paradigm. Only then will it be possible to look around to see what’s in the new landscape.

A conference schedule posted in December (but which I can no longer find at the Folger website) states that the goal is to pursue “a fresh critical evaluation of the aims and methods of literary biography.” An acknowledged problem is that “textual analysis” within the academic establishment “often denies biography and explanatory force, while popular conceptions of Shakespeare look to biography precisely for insight into the works. In the standoff, the genre of literary biography is lost as a subject of serious inquiry.”

Edward de Vere 17th Earl of Oxford

Edward de Vere
17th Earl of Oxford

Here we might discern some pressure from those of us who view Edward de Vere, 17th Earl of Oxford as the true author – pressure to find new ways of using the Stratford paradigm to gain explanations and insights. We can predict some interesting attempts in the coming years to achieve such results – for example, attempts to bring in more writers with whom Shakespeare allegedly “collaborated” on his plays. When the real-life stories of these writers are added to the wholly inadequate life of William Shaksper, think of the possibilities for more and different “traditional” biography!

“A cadre of influential scholars, many of whom have written biographies of Shakespeare, will focus discussion” on topics such as:

• The distinctions between authorship and agency
• The interpretations of documentary evidence
• The impact of methods of dating texts on an understanding of Shakespeare’s life
• The broadened context for that life of a more robust understanding of theatrical activity
• The possibility that biography is itself a form of historical fiction

All this is certainly interesting for anyone involved in the authorship question, and we owe thanks to the NEH and the Folger Shakespeare Library for holding the conference. In my view, however, these lectures signal that the current biographical paradigm is beginning to fall apart – whether or not the participants realize or acknowledge it.

Within the current paradigm there are too many anomalies – things that don’t make sense — too many holes. I believe that, without anyone saying it aloud, we are moving away from the orthodox view and into a turbulent but healthy (and long overdue) middle period of chaos, argument, confusion and shifting views — to continue for probably a long time until a new paradigm is finally adopted.

On Friday there will be talks on:

The Genre of Literary Biography
(Lawrence Goldman, Professor of History at the University of Oxford; and Ian Donaldson, Emeritus Professor of Culture and Communication at the University of Melbourne)
The History of Biographies of Shakespeare
(Jack Lynch, Acting Senior Associate Dean of the Faculty of Arts and Sciences at Rutgers University; and Joseph Roach, Sterling Professor of Theatre and English at Yale University)

Graham Holderness

Graham Holderness

Rethinking the Documentary Evidence
(Graham Holderness, Professor of English at the University of Hertfordshire, speaking on “Everyone and No-one: Fact, Tradition, and Invention in Shakespeare Biography”; and Lena Crown Orlin, Professor of English at Georgetown University)

Stephen Greenblatt

Stephen Greenblatt

On Saturday there will be talks on:

Biography, Theater, History
(Lois Potter, Emerita Ned B. Allen Professor of English at the University of Delaware; and Margeta de Grazia, Emerita Sheli Z. and Burton X. Rosenberg Professor of the Humanities at the University of Pennsylvania)
Who Are We Looking For? (Portraiture)
(Tarnya Cooper, Curator of Sixteenth Century Collections, National Portrait Gallery; and Julia Reinhard Lupton, Professor of English and Interim Chair at the University of California, Irvine)
What Do We Expect of the Author?
(John Drakakis, Professor of Literature and Language at the University of Stirling; and William H. Sherman, Professor of English at the University of York)

Katherine Duncan-Jones

Katherine Duncan-Jones

Where Are We Now?
(Katherine Duncan-Jones, Professor of English at the University of Oxford, with a talk entitled “Full Circle: Biography and Literature”; and Stephen Greenblatt, John Cogan University Professor of the Humanities at Harvard University, and author of Will in the World (2004), whose topic is “Stories about the Dead”)

I’ll report back any answers to “Where are we now?”

But just to have the question put forth in this setting is, as mentioned, truly historic.

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  1. Thanks for drawing attention to this conference, Hank. I’m looking forward to attending it.

    I just returned from the annual meeting of the Renaissance Society of America in New York. I believe I heard all but one of the many panels on Shakespeare. It was striking that the life of the author didn’t come up a single time in any of the presentations or discussions afterwards. For that matter, the identity of the author didn’t come up either.

    Perhaps this reflects a shift that is underway– a transitional period of de-emphasizing the significance of the author even more than has been done in the past. As Bruce Danner did in his chapter on “The Anonymous Shakespeare” in the Starner and Traister book a couple of years ago.

    Some people at the Folger, as well as leaders of the Shakespeare Association of America, seem to feel obliged to be more aggressive in fighting off any challenges to the traditional authorship theory.

    • Interesting, Richard. I suppose that’s one reaction — the de-emphasizing of author significance; but the Folger conference seems to predict other reactions in the mix. Was it Schopenhaur who said about any shift — First they ignore (or mock), then they fight, then they accept as a given. We are in that middle period, or entering it. Earlier attempts included the Catholic angle, taken to some extreme by Michael Wood — who, if I recall, actually went through each and every Oxfordian strong point and attempted to turn it around to Shaksper’s advantage. I found that amazing. Look forward to seeing you in D.C.

    • Richard,

      The opening you suggested with history professors is I believe very important and should be pursued vigorously. These Literature dupes are the worst. They are beyond political (quasi religious) in their calculations, worthy of Shakespeare’s villains.

  2. They’re surely very busy nowadays. Say David Kathman haven’t had the time to answer to my documents within 10 weeks… too bad.

  3. A visitor from Mars would see this conference as a kind of Monty Python parody.

  4. You’ll be the spy who came in from the cold of Far Outer Doubletalkistan. I wonder if one of the attendees would ask how Shapiro made out bad-mouthing the biographies of Emerson, Freud, Clemens, James, Keller, Stritmatter, and Justice Stevens. If that worked, deleting Shakspere’s might too. Like the fox covering his paw somehow seized in the trap.

    best of luck, Bill Ray

  5. Hank! Thanks for this commentary! Oberon did a post on the forthcoming Folger conference in January that includes a quote from conference organizer and Folger director Kathleen Lynch. See http://oberonshakespearestudygroup.blogspot.com/2014/01/folger-presents-conference-on.html.

    • Linda, that’s a splendid report you did on the Oberon blog and I’m sorry I missed it! I certainly would have picked up on it and linked to it from here. I love your reactions along the way. (I tried to keep a bit more of a straight face:-) So we’ll report on this conference as it develops.

  6. Fingers crossed 🙂

  7. ” An acknowledged problem is that “textual analysis” within the academic establishment “often denies biography and explanatory force, while popular conceptions of Shakespeare look to biography precisely for insight into the works. In the standoff, the genre of literary biography is lost as a subject of serious inquiry.”


    Or relationship to historical forces.

  8. Please, oh, please, after the conference ends and they have made their “results”–is that the right word?–public, please let us know what you think. I have no doubt they will hold a news conference with all the world’s major newspapers and television stations to ensure everyone on the planet hears their earth-shattering conclusions. My breath is baited (among other things).

    I do wonder what the conference might conclude about anything.
    Have Stratfordians recently found autograph source documents (that predate the printed folios) which fill in all the gaps in their knowledge? Are they now using radiometric dating on them to determine the dates of composition of the plays? Fingerprints? DNA? Have they found his memoirs? Not: What can they _hope_ to achieve?, but: What can they achieve at all? They are just re-arranging the few things they think they already think know, trying to polish them up a bit I suspect. I think they will just dust off their ivory towers a bit, check the caulking and grouting a little but make no real changes or advances in anything. Perhaps the conference will identify problems; I doubt it will propose solutions. How can it? I cannot imagine what such solutions might be other than new-fangled “more of the same”. It really is quite astonishing to read modern biographies of Shakespeare and to count how many times an author will use a phrase like “and then he probably…” or “it is likely…” or “obviously…” (when it isn’t obvious at all). And those books find almost no connection between the Author and the content of his works. How could the conference change this? (Will the big news from the conference be the suggestion authors should use more modern euphemisms for “we don’t know”?) Mark Twain, in chapter III of the essay he wrote on Shakespeare about a hundred years ago, compiled all the known facts about William Shakespeare. (It’s about two pages long.) Have Stratfordians extended the list at all? Have they found out anything since the last conference? (When was the last conference? Last year? Last decade? Last century? Why hold such a conference now? What is the rush? At least they should tell us that. “Publish or perish” is not a legitimate reason in this context.) How can they speak of new strategies, new solutions, new paradigms, new ideas, new this or that in biography–how can they speak of any biography at all? And it isn’t the _writing_ of biographies of an individual which is the real problem, is it? The real problem lies elsewhere: in who that individual might be.

    Sure, maybe Oxfordians are scrutinizing the ground under their favorite lamp post because it is easier to see what’s there; and yes, that Oxfordians have an enormous amount of source material does not prove he is the Author; and yes, that the enormous amount of material they have is consistent with the content of the works is not proof; and yes, that William may not be the Author in no way proves Edward is; and yes, no one has yet found in a priest hole four hundred year old autograph originals of all of the works in de Vere’s hand–but of course we have but six _signatures_ of the other guy–or have they found a seventh? (I am always a little behind the times); etc. etc. etc. etc. etc. There are weakness in the Oxfordian position too. It isn’t perfect. But at least Oxfordians are steadily improving their case. Stratfordians seem embalmed–no: dessicated. Wouldn’t it be interesting for the people at this conference to use Mr. Whittemore as a devil’s advocate? No, not as a heckler; and no, perhaps not as a full participant. The conference is after all about Will Shakespeare, not about Edward de Vere and there is no need to gate crash. That would be rude. (Reciprocity: Oxfordians wouldn’t want Stratfordians to heckle them at their conferences, would they?) The Catholic Church uses a devil’s advocate to point out everything which might call into question a person’s elevation to sainthood. Perhaps the people at the conference could use you, not as a direct advocate for de Vere, but kind of like an amicus curiae (in this case a friend of logic and truth, of actual evidence rather than supposition, etc.), to point out every flaw, every missing or non-existent piece of evidence or every unwarranted assumption in their reasoning? Offer your services. (Heck, with modern technology–Skype, etc.–you wouldn’t even need to be sitting there.) I would think they’d be happy to have you (you can show them your bona fides)–they do say they are looking into other possibilities! Let us know what they say. I am a disinterested observer in this conflict. I am not suggesting literary criticism and historical investigation should become a spectator sport, but it is fun, isn’t it?

    Thank you. Sorry about the length.

    P.S. I notice you are within reach of your 100th Reason. After this series concludes, will there be a second series (i.e. 101-200)? I suspect you have enough material for a few more hundred reasons.

    • Thanks for this, Jeff. Will let you know what happens. What they are doing, it seems to me, is trying to figure ways to make their traditional paradigm actually work. But it doesn’t work, and will never work, and at some point they — or rather the next generation — will decide it needs to change … and needs to be replaced. I used to think the change could happen rather quickly. I’m no longer so sure. But that doesn’t stop me, and others, from continuing to explore and try to achieve greater understanding of Oxford’s life in relation to the Shakespeare works and what happened to him. Shorthand: a Machiavellian force, in the person of Robert Cecil, won the chess game with a man who told truth to power and forced him into a bargain that included his silence. And so the official history is what we wound up with.

      And yes, sure, there are many more “reasons”:-)

    • “There are weakness in the Oxfordian position too. It isn’t perfect.”

      At risk of belaboring the obvious to the readership here: The sort of virtual disclaimer above badly understates the reality. I cringe a little every time I see its variation. The question of Shakespeare author identity is not analogous to the question of a _perfect proof_ in, say, geometry, or in anything. For example, it cannot even be _perfectly proven_ that any given contemporary author, say, Stephen King, or, say, Philip Roth, wrote every single work attributed to him, or even the bulk of the works. This would be true even if such authors put in writing under oath that they wrote their works, and produced manuscripts in their handwriting. Similarly, it cannot be _perfectly proven_ that several hundred years ago, under cover of a pseudonym, in a highly politically charged environment, Edward de Vere wrote the works of Shakespeare. That no perfect proof exists is irrelevant. The overwhelming evidence, and lack thereof, points decisively both a) to de Vere as author and b) away from anyone else. No perfect proof required, possible, or relevant. The argument for de Vere is sound, thorough, exhaustive – inordinately persuasive both in logic and in evidence – especially given that all arguments for anyone else are hopelessly flawed or absurdly emaciated. de Vere did not write the works of Shakespeare? Might as well argue that King and Roth did not write their works, a proposition only somewhat more obviously insane. The academic implications of all this are unpleasant and worse where not comic. Climate change deniers have nothing on these professors currently genuinely disgracing intellectual realms. Oh to be an honest graduate student under the tutelage of these professional dissemblers, much esteemed, bravo. What a performance.

      • I thank you for your comment: it is accurate but perhaps irrelevant to my tone and to my point. I was being a little sarcastic and I apologize for not using a emoticon. (I thought the tone of my comment was fairly consistent throughout but I now sense I was wrong. But I do notice you follow up my “embalmed” and “dessicated” with your own “emaciated”. Curious.)

        And as to what one might think I was “disclaiming”: sir, all I ask is that calm and reasoned investigation continue until the truth is manifest to all! 🙂 Utopian? Absolutely. 🙂 (That’s enough emoticons.) And you might doubtless read into that another disclaimer which I do not intend to be taken literally. OK, so then I scale it down to a Bronowskian* tiny hope that one day we Earthlings will have enough evidence and sufficiently detailed, cogent arguments that our understanding of this issue will reach some kind of consensus among not only partisan Stratfordians and Oxfordians but among nonpartisans, among all those who are intelligent and thoughtful (not easily swayed by propaganda or dogmatic assertions or intellectual bullying or snobbery or … from any side but who can evaluate evidence and arguments) and who watch from the sidelines disinterestedly.

        A reasonable–but obviously not infallible–measure of the success of your position, your evidence and your argument is: how many from the other side have defected to it? Yes, success (i.e. a straw poll) is not everything (just ask Pres. Dewey): one man with knowledge is better than a thousand idiots, but even so, TC, how many have you convinced? Cite names please. Why is the list so short? Is it because you need more evidence? Then find it. Is it because you need to sharpen and deepen your arguments? Then sharpen and deepen them. Oxfordians occupy the minority opinion–show the world it is wrong. There _are_ weaknesses in the Oxfordian position. You know what they are. Fix them. Do not attack your opponents–convince them. Do not pontificate you are right–demonstrate it. Clearly. Effectively. Relentlessly.

        I recall an analogous discussion I had years ago with an atheist who was sure that once the theists heard his arguments and saw his evidence they would defect. He said they were “getting nervous”. I reminded him that preaching to the choir (from either side) is not equivalent to success by any standard and asked him how many of those he had discussed it with had changed to his view point. He did not answer. Well, Oxfordians are hopefully in a better position to begin with and the identity of an author would not seem to be a dogmatic issue based upon faith. But how will you cut through the blind dogma of Stratfordianism? You preach to your side; they preach to theirs. They claim they have their reasons; you know you have yours. You need to show THEM that your arguments and evidence is better for your champion than theirs is for that guy from Stratford.

        I have no bones to pick with anyone. I deny nothing here. I simply wish to goad the investigators to get off their butts, to work harder, to find more evidence and to make their arguments more sound and complete _ON BOTH SIDES_. (I think I pointed out one or two failings with the Stratfordians, did I not? Yes, it’s not going to happen but I’d love to see a hand written copy of Hamlet by Edward OR William!–wouldn’t we all?)

        I thank Mr. Whittemore for the opportunity to enter this discourse.

        *See his Ascent of Man, chapter 11: “Knowledge or Certainty” (the book or the TV series). The ending of that episode is for me the most powerful and gut wrenching thing I have ever seen on TV. Yes, TC, I do know the difference between knowledge and certainty, between perfect and probable, between faith and reason, etc. The discussion about the author of these four hundred year old works is not subject to mathematical proof–we all know that.

        P.S. Spleen venting has its place but ad hominen arguments anywhere about anyone during such discussions turns me off. (And I hate it when I use them, even mild epithets.) Calling Stratfordians names does not advance de Vere’s claim. Evidence and argument, not name calling.

        And anyway–and here I mutter only to myself (everyone else should stop reading at this point)–only illiterate, stupid, dumb, idiotic morons use ad hominen arguments. Oops: I almost forgot to include the requisite 🙂 lest one lose sight of the fact I am using using an ad hominen argument to humorously(?) and self-referentially criticize ad hominen arguments. OK?

  9. As to the next 100, as far as I know Hank:
    “There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio,
    Than are dreamt of in your philosophy. ”

    And I should add my humble results, as well. This year will be a breakthrough.

  10. Sorry, didn’t mean to come across so critically to your passing comment. You overall tone and point did seem clear, so I thought my remarks toward the one splinter of your long comment wouldn’t seem much critical toward you. I meant the vast bulk of the criticism to direct generally against not only the Stratfordian argument, which you clearly don’t accept, but also against the position of those who might think, if not Stratford then the actual identity can never be proven due to lack of absolute certainty, which, again, there’s no evidence you hold, though your use of the word “perfect,” even in passing and even given the overall context, might confuse the issue generally, at least for those not already convinced by the Oxford argument. Will moving toward an ever more conclusive argument convince anyone new? It’s possible, and wouldn’t hurt. Though I think far more likely to effect change will be the continued lively and diverse presentation and repetition of the central and already highly detailed known knowns, especially as the old guard passes on into history.

  11. To Jeff K,
    If one lived in Stalinist Russia, how open would discourse, dissent, communication be. I’m sorry to draw such an analogy but it is pertinent. Stritmatter has told me horror stories of anyone within most English or Literature departments who until very recently dared to even entertain publicly an authorship question. Advancement, even job security is deeply threatened.

    You wrote “all I ask is that calm and reasoned investigation continue until the truth is manifest to all!”

    You’re joking, right?

    You also wrote “Yes, TC, I do know the difference between knowledge and certainty, between perfect and probable, between faith and reason, etc.”

    The problem here is twofold. First, Stratfordianism IS a faith. My experience is the hysteria from the traditionalists that precludes ANY discourse on the many manifest contradictions in the biography and history of the man and the period mirrors Creationist hysteria over the Theory of Evolution. Second, as I mentioned above, very real credible inquiry into these contradictions is suppressed, virulently. God forbid the academic in these departments who goes against the grain.

    I am deadly serious. Thus in the face of tremendous scholarship by the likes of Hank, Robert Brazil, Stephanie Hughes, Stritmatter and Kositsky, Katherine Chiljan and many others, there is no room for debate or the “calm and reasoned investigation” you assume is possible at the present moment. Yet there is a vast territory that needs mining, started mostly by Oxfordians, that the STratfordians will not deal with.

    The point Hank made in posting this essay was the glacier is moving and has been moving for a while. If you read earlier threads, history departments are not nearly so loathe to address the question.

    You ask who has moved to “our side”. Since actors are less intimidated than academics, Jacobi, Rylance, Redgrave, York, many others, most well known Shakespearean actors or directors themselves have publicly embraced the Oxfordian case or joined the legion of doubt and call for inquiry.

    Because the traditional biography can not stand as it is under the rigors of modern scrutiny, the biographical ship is slowly coming apart at the seams. Thus we get the Orwellian phrase, “biography as fiction”.

    Please know your subject better before you comment.

    • P.S. Stephen Greenblatt, who wrote one of the most outrageous, and I mean OUTRAGEOUS fantasy biographies ever about Shakespeare (Will in the World) which was feted, I mean exalted by the literary community, demonstrated the Bizarro world of Stratfordianism. That didn’t stop him from comparing is to “Holocaust Deniers”.

      I presented a critique of Will in the World (state of the debate) at a conference in Baltimore. Alan Nelson, a biographer of Oxford and a very strong Stratfordian agreed with me totally and thought I had made an outstanding presentation.

      They can’t have it both ways.

      I suggest you read some of Stephanie Hughes’ work, especially on Richard III at http://politicworm.com/2013/07/26/the-importance-of-being-richard-the-third/

      These issues are highly germane but have been ignored by scholars.

      I remember the famous quote by Northrup Frye, considered one of the greatest literary critics of the twentieth century. “My friend (to a student), NOTHING in Shakespeare bears any relationship to anything outside the plays.”

      This is the abysmal level of ignorance we are working against.

    • Mr. Kaplan,

      Thank you for your comment. Yes, the “manifest to all!” line was a joke. The emoticon failed in its purpose utterly. (Perhaps it did not display on your screen?) Using sarcasm or even humor with strangers in any discussion, let alone one of his type, is fraught with peril. I know that. I will do my best not to use it here again but I will probably fail because it is part of my nature to use humor.

      You politely suggest I “know more” before I comment. I think everyone should learn every day. I thank you for reminding me that no one knows everything. Are we agreed?

      You seem to imply you know more than I in certain areas. I do not doubt that at all. I think I know more than you in others. (Symmetry is neat. Hurrah for SU(n)!) Yet each of us is equipped to evaluate the other’s assertions through our intellects. No one has a monopoly on that.

      I think I know much more about the way sociology interacts with psychology; more about faith; more about science (its history and day to day practice); and more about the relationship between the two. I assert this because of my evaluation of your above comments. I directly address some of them below. I do not think you are seeing several aspects of this issue clearly. (Or were you trying to be funny? I saw no emoticon.) That puts me in an excellent position to evaluate both the forests and the trees in your assertions concerning the Statfordian dogma. As long as this message may seem, I cannot address every issue you raised to the depth I’d like and which your comments deserve. Sorry.

      You assert Stratfordianism is tantamount to (or is an actual) faith and you imply that Oxfordianism is scientific (well, rational, consistent with the facts, etc.) Fine. But then you state academia will not listen, etc.

      Well, then use your knowledge of shifts from faith to science, from certainty (which is illusory) to knowledge, etc., in other domains to proceed.

      There was a time when the theory of caloric held sway as a way of describing the objective phenomenon of heat. No one uses that idea any more. It is a worthless and wrong idea compared to what we now know.

      There was a time when the theory of the luminiferous ether dominated the discussion, to the exclusion of all other theories, as a way to describe the objective phenomena of light. No one uses that idea any more. It is a worthless–an almost funny idea–now. (Yet it does seem strangely similar to the Higgs field in some odd respects–who’d have thunk it? Would you care for me to go through some of the pertinent equations?)

      Flat earth, any one? Witches and their burning? etc. etc. I will not multiply these examples unnecessarily. In each case an academic establishment and/or vast majority of laymen and/or in some cases a religious cadre, eager and willing to imprison and kill people controlled thought and action. You yourself bring up an outstanding example: Stalinst Russia. Thank you. (I was greatly puzzled why you would provide me with ammunition in this discussion. But you are obviously intelligent, kind and helpful.)

      You graciously provided it–may I use your analogy further? Has Stalinist Russia not fallen? How did it fall? Why not use the knowledge of that series of momentous events and of all of these other examples? Do you not understand why and how each of them fell? Do you not understand how caloric and ether were dethroned? Would I risk seeming rude were I to quote your “Please know your subject better before you comment.” line? I intend no disparagement at all. (You grabbed an example off the cuff and ran with it or used a word without parsing every possible nuance which could be drawn from it or used a word sarcastically and assumed a reader would understand the “obvious” intent or etc. etc.–I sometimes do the same. Yes, you and I are so very different!) We all know that dictatorship fell. Don’t we? Surely it is not still with us? What conclusion shall I draw from your analogy? That Stalinst Russia will continue to exist long into the future as will the Stratfordian dogma? Was that your point? I assert your logic is askew if not faulty. I know tons about logic–shall I go through Russell and Whitehead with you? Godel? Quine? Tarsky? Zermelo? Or would you prefer qal vahomer and the middot? What do you know of logic? Your comments compel me to ask. Was your point the Stratfordian dogma is doomed to fail, just as Stalinst Russia? But if it is doomed to fail, how can you claim these academics will not–indeed will never–give you a fair hearing, etc. etc.? Oh, it is only today they do not but tomorrow they will? And why will that happen? Oh, they will not listen to you tomorrow but will the day after that? (Induction, anyone? Sorites paradox? etc.?) Or will it fall of its own weight, from internal dissensions which have nothing to do with de Vere? Then why bother to lift a finger to champion de Vere? You are trying to have it both ways over and over again: you castigate the Popean dunces for never listening to you and yet you wish to claim a future and inevitable victory in which they will listen to you? And how will that happen? It Stratfordianism fails, it can only be because the Oxfordians will eventually get a fair hearing, etc. What other possibility is there? (Bloodshed? Emigration? The arising of “a generation who knew not Joseph”? A miracle?) Your analogy is profoundly illogical and inapt. I thank you for it. Yes, Mr. Kaplan: creationism was for centuries the only game in town in all of those same hallowed halls; now academics hold it in contempt. Thank you for that analogy too. Evolution won. Do you understand how and why? So how will you go about getting that fair hearing for your position? What will change? If not now, when? If not you, who? (My apologies to R. Hillel.)

      You seem content to assert you are right. It is not that you do not care what positions others hold but seem somehow satisfied or accepting of the premise that change will not happen, that the obstacles are too great, that pessimism rules the land–at least for others and at least for now: they are doomed to never learn or accept the truth even if your position becomes the majority position. And you daydream during the day of what might have been even as you dream at night (I am attempting but failing to be poetic here) of your inevitable success. I don’t understand. This is Orwellian doublethink. I thought you wanted more. I do. I am obviously mis-reading your intent–you do want your position to become the majority position, don’t you?

      Well, then how will you proceed? I see no game plan from you. “More of the same”? Isn’t that the motto of the Stratfordians?

      And as to the two lists you provide: again, I thank you for the roll call of those steadily making progress for the Oxfordian position. Thank you also for the list of actors (and for the plausible reason for why they are not imprisoned in the amber of dogma); but I think you failed to perceive the gist of my question (as to whom you had convinced with your argument). It was aimed at those in academia (yes, those who will not listen to you). It was my fault for not being more clear. I restate it: who in academia have you convinced? If locked doors and heads in sand are any indication, I posit the answer is: few, very few. That too is illogical, as if you again want things both ways. Do you see why? Recall that Marx thought the industrialized nations of the world would naturally accept communism first; he would never have dreamed that countries like Russia and China would grab for it first. I.e. I would have thought the first and greatest numbers of people to accept Oxfordianism would be those very people in academia whom you claim lock the doors and stick their heads in the sand! They are in the best position and the best trained to evaluate evidence and arguments for and against. But you supply a list of wonderful actors which implies those who have an intense and fulfilling day to day encounter with the words but virtually _no scholarly and academic insight and training into them whatsoever_ are the ones who are with you and that the ones who have the scholarly and academic training are not. Very peculiar. (May I again quote your line about what one must know? No, not in reference to the academics but the actors! Apparently these actors do NOT know what they should. And yet you hold them up as examples we poor ignorant fools (I speak only for myself) should follow: academic skills are apparently of little value in this discussion, right? It is decades on the boards which counts! China and Russia. least prepared among nations, should have rejected communism but had not the requisite knowledge; what should we conclude about these non-academic and presumably unknowledgeable actors (regardless of how many letters they have before or after their names), least prepared to deal with the complexities of academic literary, historical, etc., analysis? They are not scholars who have intense and fulfilling day to day encounters with the literary and historical issues and yet you praise their ability to evaluate them. Hallelujah. Your argument again does not work and comes close to refuting itself.) But OK, forget all appeals to logic. What is to be done? Will you use this resource, these wonderful actors, to break down the doors and wring those necks out of the sand? Great. How will you go about that?

      Mr. Whittemore, if I have not outstayed my welcome may I point out a few areas for improvement? This may be the last time I submit a comment anyway. I will be happy to continue to read and never type another word. I read not just the plays and sonnets but books and blogs too.

      There are problems in the Oxfordian position.

      You (collectively) are trying to finish the revolution begun by Looney (and Twain and …).

      Perhaps you are unaware of the task ahead of you. This revolution will probably not end in any of your lifetimes. A tide may turn, but it may turn only one water molecule at a time. You think you are right but do not expect a miracle. But you must still try. And you must not blame your failure on others. If the system is “wrong” (monolithic, stifling, not conducive to your views, etc.), then work to change it. Or go outside it. What is your plan?

      There are general and specific problems.

      There are issues of position, process and structure; of the Author’s style; of the writing quality; issues of the plays’ contents; of logic and probability, evidence and argument; of the plays’ chronologies (no,not the 1604/Macbeth issue/etc.), etc. etc. etc.

      Off the top of my head, and in no particular order (and I truly do not wish to wax Talmudic):

      1. fractured position non-Stratfordians: You need a unified front. Not everyone who doubts with good reason William is the Author thinks Edward is. There are Baconians, Stanleyists (sic?), Marlowians (sic?) …. Do you accept their theories? These splinter groups–any splinter–group dilutes the power of the Oxfordian position. Perhaps a good place to start is simply to demonstrate to a well-known Baconian in academia–who already accepts the proposition Shakespeare is not the Author–his position is much less sound (if not abjectly, absolutely and, yes: “perfectly” wrong–excuse the silly hyperbole, Mr. Kaplan) and that the Oxfordian position is better (more logical, has more evidence, etc.). If you cannot do this, what hope do you have of convincing a Stratfordian? Get your own house in order, get ALL non-Stratfordians on the same page, obviously not by intimidation or shouting the loudest but by discussing the evidence and arguments. It is obviously not necessary to get 100% of the non-Stratfordian people on your side (you seek knowledge, not certainty), but you need to make significant progress. These other non-Stratfordian dogmas must become extinct for Oxfordianism to succeed. I suspect they must vanish before you have a shot with the Stratfordians. (That is one small reason of process evolution prevailed.) How do you plan to do that?

      2. mission creep non-Stratfordians: e.g. S.F. Hughes presents on her website (and others on their websites and books) a good case for de Vere (not exactly the same as Mr. Whittemore’s). But then she tries to go far beyond that. She theorizes that all or most other well-known Elizabethan writers (e.g. Jonson, Marlowe, etc.) had fronts too. Do you accept that theory? If not, you need to convince her to put aside those more general ideas and concentrate on firming up arguments for Edward vs. William–pr jump on board with her. Do not multiply missions unnecessarily. (Other academics actually think the Author also wrote Don Quixote! Yes, Mr. Kaplan, you do not need to tell me they are wrong.) In my opinion her mission creep will make it more difficult for the Oxfordian position to succeed for several reasons …. It is not necessary to get 100% of the non-Stratfordian mission creep people on your side, but you need to make significant progress. They will dilute the argument for de Vere in academia and in the public. Their fleas may–indeed, should– make others, who in other circumstances would be quite willing to listen to your position, unwilling to even be in the same room with you because of its implications for all of those other writers–as if the Author issue here wasn’t contentious enough. If you cannot succeed here, how can you possibly convince a Stratfordian about just one authorship issue? That her position is similar to Mr. Whittemore’s in so many other ways is going to cause headaches. What is your plan here?

      3. fringe argument non-Stratfordians: you need to separate yourselves from the eh, uh, lunatics. (There I go again, using an ad hominem attack. I apologize to all lunatics. You know who you are. Oops, humor: that’s a no-no too.) The Stratfordians will cut you to ribbons if you allow them to tie these people to you. (Just think of how they use the ad hominen puns upon Looney’s name.) You need to convince the people with the fringe arguments to give them up. We all know that will never happen of course. Your freedom to argue for your (currently) fringe ideas is no less than their freedom to argue theirs. What to do? You will have to find a forthright way to deal with them, emphatically make certain the Stratfordians cannot even dream of tying you to these fringe ideas. And what way will that be? Or will you ignore them and hope the Stratfordians will not yoke them to you? But they already do. Check out their arguments. Know them as well as you know your own. You must assert and demonstrate _your_ position is the orthodox one, the scientific one, the one that belongs in academia for the same reason evolution, etc., belongs there: simply because it better fits the facts. You can politely and fairly tie them and their motives and lack of self-examination to analogous fringe groups without impugning their character. Just as people at S upon A and the Folger lIbrary make money from William having a fictional writing career, people at Loch Ness make money upon a certain fictional creature. Lucre is not evidence or knowledge. Earning it is not sinful. But this idea has had the field, was found wanting and now it must give way to a clearly better one. Demonstrate it.

      4. quality: I have read much of the available and extant works of de Vere which exists under his own name. Quality is subjective yet this issue needs to be forthrightly addressed. I am no expert but I do not rate the quality of his work highly. Yes, the works of the Author are not all of equal quality to me and I know others hold the same opinion. (E.g. Titus Andronicus is not the equal of Hamlet.) Whomever wrote the works currently attributed to the man Shakespeare, that Author had massive talent. We do agree that Author was the greatest of all writers in the English language, correct? If one did not know of those works–if they did not exist–I do not think de Vere would be entitled to that position due to works written under his own name. And since we do know those works, I find it hard to understand how a man went from writing good but not great works under his own name suddenly to great works under someone else’s name. Yes, people grow, polish their talents, etc. One can claim that of de Vere. But one can also claim that for Shakespeare! See the problem? The Stratfordians love to point out these things. You need to do a better job of showing a connection between the quality of the works under his own name with those under the Shakespeare name. What is your plan to do this?

      5. style: Similarly, style is subjective. But it is not enough to point out all the many puns on “vere” and all the many incidents in the plays which might reflect his life (and by contrast, point out all the incidents in the plays which could not possibly reflect Shakespeare’s life). (After all, “vere” is not the only word punned upon in the Author’s works. That would be cherry picking as may be the reasons for the puns. I.e. any pun on “vere” you can cite as evidence for your position; any pun on “speare” is evidence too.) One would like some facts here. Perhaps a computer analysis of vocabulary, grammar, syntax, etc. might help, but something is sorely lacking here. In my opinion, the works de Vere wrote under his own name infrequently exhibit the same style as those of the Author. That they are both Elizabethans guarantees similiarities of all sorts, but the same would be true for all Elizabethan writers. It is not enough to show de Vere and the Author both created works in an Elizabethan style; you must demonstrate the two styles are for all intents identical, or rather that one is a reasonable outgrowth of the other; lacking that, then demonstrate de Vere’s style (vocabulary, grammar, syntax, semantics, displayed knowledge, etc.) is the most similar to the Author of anyone else who might be the Author. And you need to confront the style difference and not simply attribute it in some bland way to growth. Looney started this–complete it. That will be a much tougher task than finding isolated puns, etc. (however relevant and important they are individually and collectively). What is your plan to do this?

      6. content: Yes, there do seem to be many connections between de Vere’s life and the contents of the plays. Certainly the Stratfordians have nothing even remotely close in quantity or quality. But remember that before the modern theory of heat, scientists thought the caloric theory was great–no one had anything remotely close to it too. It is an insufficient criterion. You need to do a better job of making them aware of the nonexistence of this evidence–you need to politely prod them: e.g. “Well, if there is virtually no connection between Shakespeare and the content of his plays, how did he come to write them? Authors do not live in vacuums–perhaps we should _together_ investigate that hypothesis and other hypotheses. Putting our heads in the sand does not advance knowledge and isn’t that why you are in academia? What have you to lose? If a hypothesis is demonstrably not as useful and inconsistent with the evidence as it should be, find one that is.”) But a critic can justly contend the connections between his life and the plays is not the result of a pure heart either. It sometimes appears to be–whether or not it actually is–cherry picking. You need to fully and forthrightly address this. There are plenty of characters and incidents which seem to have no connection whatsover. Stratfordians will and do rip you apart on this. You need to do a better job of explaining why some characters and incidents do and some do not reflect de Vere’s life. A simple “artistic temperament” or “idiosyncracy” or “irrationality” or–best of all– “just because, that’s just they way he wrote it” will not do. They will laugh at you. They do laugh at you. They won’t need to lock the doors to keep you out–you will fear the inevitable ridicule and never approach the doors in the first place. You live by the “logical” connections; you die by the absence of connections. (A moor–a black man–in Othello? Which man in his life was de Vere describing? Was the skin color (and thus ethnicity) irrelevant, just one possible artistic choice among many? Is it significant only inside the play, or is it significant outside of the play and inside de Vere’s life too? Does it correspond to a real black man de Vere knew, or a man “dark” in some other way (that really narrows it down, doesn’t it)? All of those questions Stratfordians will ask. How will you answer?) See the problems? Sure, Ophelia may represent de Vere’s wife. But de Vere was married to her; Hamlet was not married to Ophelia. Why the divergence? “Artistic temperament”? (See how quickly that sounds inspid? Stratfordians harp on inconsistencies like this and well they should. Fix it. Figure it out.) Oh, Gertrude is Elizabeth, Leicester is Claudius, Elizabeth’s ward de Vere is Hamlet, Burghley is Polonious? Fine. Great. Except it ignores all of the details those initial correspondences are inconsistent with, it cherry picks: e.g. Gertrude is married twice. Elizabeth was never married. Sure, one may identify Leicester as her second “husband”. Fine. But then who is her first husband? More importantly, if the play mirrors reality, then Gertrude’s second “husband” murders her first–who would that be? “Artistic temperament”. Oh, “murder” is just as symbolic as “husband”? Fine. “Artistic temperament” again to the rescue. (When is a choice not do to temperament? Is this not ad hoc?) Worse again: Hamlet kills Claudius. Did de Vere kill Elizabeth’s second “husband” to avenge the first? Oh, it is all symbolic–unless it is literal. I mean it is all literal–unless it is symbolic. Cherry picking. Heads you win, tails we lose. (Yes, Macbethian equivocation.) Worse still: Elizabeth is the “virgin queen” and the play gives Gertrude a literal son, not a mere ward. (Yes, ever more “temperament”.) Would that not be a horrible public affront on stage to Elizabeth? (“My queen, you pretend to be a virgin but are not! Slut!” I.e. Hamlet should have said “Get thee to a nunnery” to Gertrude, not Ophelia.) Worse yet again: Hamlet is the literal son of Gertrude and the step-son of Claudius–not his real son. Hamlet’s biological father is dead, represented in the play by a ghost. This seems to be de Vere claiming or implying he is symbolically the son of a virgin queen and a ghost–that he is claiming he is an incarnation of God. Do you not see this? (Or is it all a coincidence? Your coincidence is someone else’s temperament–see the problem?) Would that not offend all Elizabethans? (An earlier comment of mine (to Reason 76) pointed this out but I think those who kindly commented upon it, including Mr. Kaplan, missed the point. I assume that was my fault. Perhaps I am clearer here.) What will Stratfordians make of this, how will you answer them? One posits de Vere wrote under a pseudonym so he could write more freely, but this kind of conclusion would be offensive no matter the author–why wasn’t William Shakespeare dragged all the way from Stratford into court for blasphemy (and many other sins) and then beheaded? Why was the play ever permitted to be staged? You need to do a better job of forthrightly dealing with all of these issues, the ones which do or do not correspond to the reality de Vere knew. The Stratfordians stick their heads in the sand frequently. You need to make sure yours is never in it even inadvertently.

      etc. etc. etc. etc. etc.–Ii haven’t finished even just stating the general problems, I haven’t even begun the specifics …. But you are all smart people. You know what you need to do.

      Enough. (If I go on much further, the internet will run out of ink.)

      Thank you, Mr. Whittemore. And best wishes to you all.

      • Thank you for your post. You clearly have some insight into the problem. I tend to react impulsively so I will address a couple of things. But first I have to clarify my position for which at times I get some blow back on (gently). i an not as fervently convinced Oxford wrote the plays and poems. Many of the contradictions you cite bother me. As one example, Steven May, in the Tennessee Law Review on the subject strongly confronted Oxfordians on the emerging Jacobean style of the author which seems evident in the progression of the plays, (seemingly) well after Oxford’s death. I have asked the larger community on several occasions if anyone had a response to May’s challenge. I have not seen it. Maybe it is there but if not, imo the subject has been avoided. To me this is a very large problem and must be addressed. So I agree with some of your exposition of problems from the Oxfordian position. However:

        1) If you were being humorous about a “genteel ” approach with mainstream academia, then I apologize for that initiated my response. I was trying to point out simply, without the perhaps unnecessary (to me) tangents, that there are profound questions those outside of the traditional paradigm have raised *that strongly undermine that foundation* and point to other dynamics (Richard Field’s relationship to Oxford) that are highly legitimate but are suppressed as grounds for discussion.

        A good example is Stritmatter and Kositsky’s work on Tempest which totally undermines the Stratfordian timeline of the play and possibly the traditional arc of writing. True they have presented at conferences, but the implications of their work gets limited because to fully acknowledge those is to engage in a slippery slope that gets very dangerous for traditionalists. Similarly Ramon Jimanez work on the relationship between the Queen’s Men’s plays, especially the histories and their reworking by Shakespeare shows such a close correlation that it calls completely into question the issue of Shakespeare the “borrower” and points strongly to revision by the same author. No one knows at all who the playwright was for the Queen’s Men. Sams went down this road but he made a case that the young Shakespeare was the author. Who was or wasn’t isn’t the point at this juncture. Its that Sams was marginalized, perhaps not by some direct fiat, but by a culture that maintains a prevailing narrative and will not allow it to be sullied. Thus we get the abominations of “Will in the World” and “Contested Will”. Literary professors are good at literary analysis. Thus I liked 1599. Shapiro did a fine job deconstructing for lay people the revisions in versions of Hamlet. But there is a disconnect on so many levels between new evidence historically about Shakespeare that just isn’t allowed.

        One of my biggest examples that blew my mind years ago. Desper wrote this article
        http://www.shakespeare-oxford.com/?p=2210 and I was never the same. The depth of a political Shakespeare revealed here goes so far beyond the conventional paradigm that it calls the entire narrative of the author into question.

        You have every right to say we are the pot calling the kettle black. But given my position as more neutral and having a love of history I tend to castigate those with authority and power more than those fighting it. It just astonishes me the closed doors to evidence which might allow us a greater understanding of who this person was, and what was his relationship to his time.

        As an analogy, as an American I do not buy into the prevailing narrative of American Exceptionalism. I despise it and it is apt for this narrative in its strong contradiction to the deep shadow and truth of the many atrocities America has visited on others for decades, mostly third world people. Yet this narrative prevails, not only in the general population but in the halls of power and in most of media.

        Thus the idea of a nice “sit down” kind of set me off. Power generally is not relinquished easily and if there has been movement despite the resistance of the likes of Greenblatt and Shapiro, it comes because things don’t add up. MY issue is not who wrote it *definitively*, but where is the honesty in breaking open this log jam where things just don’t jibe to examine them fully?

        I think you’re way off base on Hamlet. And to be honest being coy. The demand for literalness in the play to the life of Devere irks me as the depth of correspondence of “biographical echoes” is exceptionally strong. I understand you’re trying to make a point, but from my point of view, there is too much there, on many levels. If you read the Bedingfield letter, you can see the many connections to Hamlet just in the text alone of Cardan’s work. That Oxford brought into English translation and *in the only writing we have from him published under his own name (at 23)* we have so many allusions to motifs of Shakespeare (the use of murder in the figurative 20 years before first attribution to Shakespeare in V and A) that scholars back off looking at it because again, the implications are too dangerous. Just as they now disingenuously are backing off Polonius as Burghley (Shapiro by assertion in Contested Will for example).

        You are quite right to ask the question of why the author was not dragged away for that portrayal supposedly penned a year after Burghley’s death. Very interesting that a flood of plays came out under the Shakespeare name right after Burghley died and stopped suddenly in 1604. But that is a question (why the author was not reprimanded) non traditionalists have asked for decades, only to be brushed aside by the likes of apologists such as Shapiro. Or why the author apparently had it in for Burghley in the first place. BTW, Shapiro imy dishonestly took credit for the Wilmott forgery for I was at the Oxfordian conference a decade before when John Rollet first discovered it. Shapiro technically gave credit bu putting it in his notes but its a little like claiming you conquered Everest when someone else beat you to it. And to the Oxfordian community’s credit, it was not in their best interest to reveal it, but they did.

        I think your questions to the Oxfordian community are very right on. There are very hard issues that I agree have not been addressed adequately.

        My ultimate issue is intellectual honesty and imo the lack of integrity of the Statfordian community. For I believe we can put a “name” to the works, and know nothing about the person, the works and their time So of what value is it, whether its Will of Stratford, Oxford or Stanley or whomever? And this is where we started. That there is a conference that from this perspective, is revealing deep tensions that have persisted for years over these contradictions and have surfaced primarily by the work of those such as Whittimore.

        Thanks truly for your time and effort.

      • Wow, I have to print this out and read carefully! Thanks so much, Ken, for the thoughtful comment here.

      • Thanks Hank. I think Jeff deserves credit for his knowledge and honest challenge to the Oxfordian community.

  12. The problem in all this is that as soon as the debate is entered into it’s over. Shakespeare author identity study isn’t like multicultural studies and the like which can be added marginally or piecemeal to the existing canon as supplement or partial replacement. If the Edward de Vere as author of Shakespeare argument is allowed, then the obvious has finally entered the room and the entire Shakespeare as William of Stratford canon is dispatched entirely. That’s the problem.

    Regarding your points, 1-6:

    1) It doesn’t matter that there be a “unified front” around Edward de Vere as author. How often is that achieved on any issue? It’s not even intellectually advisable – for a variety of reasons.
    2) It doesn’t matter that there is “mission creep” concerning related intellectual issues. Such curtailing of intellectual exploration is scarcely possible, nor, again, intellectually advisable. I find it repugnant.
    3) It doesn’t matter if separation from baseless or absurd “fringe arguments” is ultimately achieved or not. The lunatics and the desperate will glom on and vilify till the end.
    4-5) It’s not faintly an issue that Edward de Vere’s writing may have changed drastically as he matured, or as he otherwise changed his mind. Great leaps in “quality,” for the good and the bad – let alone drastic shifts in style – can be found in countless great author’s works. It would be more surprising _not_ to find great leaps and shifts in the works of the very greatest authors.
    6) And to your final point, “content,” the extensive amount of biographical detail and imaginative extrapolation of Edward de Vere’s life in the works of Shakespeare as compared to any details of William of Stratford’s life in the works, well, once again, to enter into the discussion is to end it.

    All of your six ideas strike me as great ways to waste time and effort and yet think that one is actually accomplishing something. It’s as if you are a plant of the Stratfordians, unwitting or otherwise. You seem to have been exquisitely trained.

    • I thought I was spent. I am spent. But I feel I must deal forthrightly with a few issues TC brings up. No more from me after this. Ever. Promise.

      First. “Unified fronts” work wonders. I know from personal experience that being a voice in the wilderness on contentious intellectual issues may build character but it doesn’t always achieve results–even when one has the delusional and hyperbolic “perfect and infallible god-like certainty” (or the more usual and mundane and un-hyperbolic triple checked equations, plenty of raw and analyzed supporting data, etc.) on one’s side. One needs partnerships, coalitions, supporters, etc., and the more the better. (Doesn’t Solidarity, the Polish trade union, ring a bell? You think Lech Welesa and a few buddies did it all? When did Christianity triumph and take over the Roman Empire–when it was composed of a dozen or so people or when it had a critical mass of millions of believers? And how does one have a critical mass if one does not do the work of reaching potential members and discussing the issues? You sound like you wish to do this–and can do this–alone.) Sure, there will always be holdouts, e.g. Einstein vs. Bohr on quantum mechanics. But that isn’t the point. They discussed the issues. Bohr won–we human beings won–because he convinced enough of his colleagues. Yes, he formed a coalition against what amounted to several of (egad!) Bacon’s idols. Today we do not much trouble with Galileo and have plenty of evidence and reasons to know the Earth moves but back then his lone voice is not what turned the tide. Do you think Darwin conquered all by himself? Did Rosa Parks do all the work herself? What view of history do you have? (Do you subscribe to the “great man of history” theory discussed at the end of War and Peace?) Is this a cause and effect issue?. Think about the possibilities. Will winning (because you are right) convince the world or will convincing the world mean you will have won (because you are right)? Which comes first? (I could have gone into other specific post hoc, ergo propter hoc aspects too but this is my last.)

      Second. “Repugnant”? Indeed. (Something is repugnant.) Yes, “curtailing of intellectual exploration” is repugnant. Where did I make or even intimate such a suggestion? Did I not write about the e.g. repression of thought by religious cadres? (Whose side did you think I was on–the cadres?) Did I not reinforce that with the Stalinist analogy? Where did I suggest you or anyone to follow suit, to “curtail” anything? Freedom, more freedom. (Even freedom to be right, freedom to be wrong and stubborn but, even so, to be free, free to be Oxfordians, Baconians, Stratforians, …. How does discussing Oxford with Baconians or Stratfordians curtail anything, including their right to be wrong? CONVINCE them, do not curtail them. Was I not clear?) Didn’t I suggest–too subtly?–one should DISCUSS the issues with Hughes? (And with others, including the Baconians, etc. And the Stratfordians.) Oh, but you say they will not listen to you. I’m beginning to understand why. Yes, something is very repugnant here.

      Third. I know the argument well. E.g.: We shall always have the poor with us; thus we should not lift a finger to help them. I understand the argument. But I reject the argument. The Straftfordians make the exact same argument against you: that Oxfordians are clearly wrong but will never go away, so why should they bother to talk to you? Do you understand how powerful the symmetry of that argument is and how relevant it is to your own point that they will not open the doors for you? How does that make you feel? I asserted in black and white it was not possible to make those on the fringe go away; but I also asserted they should still be part of the dialogue. I say: convince them or at least be on good terms with them as you go up against the Stratfordians. You reject that? You would “curtail” their participation in this discussion, like the bishops at the early councils who locked out their “fringe” opponents?

      Fourth-FIfth: “Great leaps”–a wonderful euphemism for an ad hoc argument–or rather for the absence of argument and evidence. Oh, I do not deny such leaps at all–Pomes Penyeach to the Wake in one lifetime? Amazing. Yet scholars can and do trace detailed and wonderful connections of content and form from Joyce’s early works to his later ones. Why is it so unreasonable to hope the same should and will happen for Oxford? Why is it reasonable to think such analyses are not useful or necessary? I did not assert a leap was impossible; I asserted I thought it worthwhile to do the necessary detailed work required here (if necessary to document it in all of its glory so that the Stratfordians could not use its absence against the Oxfordians). I intuit you think a phrase like “great leaps” is all you need to justify your championing of Edward over William. We obviously disagree. Is that a form of sticking one’s head in the sand, of ending all discussion–yet another form of “curtailing” debate? I want evidence to show the Stratfordians; you are satisfied to hurl slogans at them (or at their locked doors). (But to do it really, really meanly and in their general direction.) Yes, that will unlock the doors and get their heads out of the sand. Sure. Do you have any previous personal experience here you can share with us about the many successes of that strategy?

      Sixth: “to enter into the discussion is to end it”–a wonderful phrase. I am sure, with the obvious spin put upon it, Stalin would have enjoyed it. It cuts off–“curtails”–debate. It also cuts off finding more evidence (completing the task) and the polishing of argument (e.g. making it beautiful and comprehensible for the layman, etc.–surely not an initial step but a final one, yet a step nonetheless someone sometime in the future might take). (Oh, those things will come _after_ you win the discussion, in some kind of mopping up operation. Why? Why would anyone bother then if the problem has already been solved to your satisfaction? Why work on it at all if we can take your word for it?) It implies no _more_ evidence is needed, that you are satisfied with what you have now. (Neither a scientist nor an inquiring mind are you. Scientists and most people welcome data. It is, as usual, not a question of “perfection” or certainty but of acquiring knowledge, of doing the work, of learning. 300 trillion proton-proton collisions at LHC and they want more. They must be fools, right, when only one collision would have done?) The truth is manifest–anyone who does not accept your position _for your reasons, based upon the evidence you have today_ is unworthy of talking to. End of story. But Stratfordians too are satisfied with what they have. (Symmetry, remember? But I thought the Oxfordian position was manifestly better? You imply both positions have the same _theoretical_ and phenomenological foundation, even if they differ on their facts. He who shouts loudest and is best at keeping the doors locked from his side wins.) You sound just like a Stratfordian–I apologize for the potential insult. (I will not inquire if you are a witting or unwitting Stratfordian shill (a person who contends Oxfordians already have enough arguments and evidence and have no need to find more or to discuss them because we can take your word for it), for that would be a contemptuous aspersion.) And how will you enter into the discussion and thus end it? Chickens and eggs. I asked this in my previous message. You did not respond. What is your plan? You are hoping the current generation will just pass away into that good night and you can take over? You seem a tad out of touch. Further, you say they are not willing to discuss it–but of course Messrs. Whittemore and Stritmatter did exactly that with them. I understand their position and applaud their work. I do not understand yours. (Perhaps it is not all Oxfordians they will not listen to but only a few.) It will take time to change minds but how else will one do this but by discussion? (One needs to negotiate with one’s enemies.)

      “Wasting time”? Is that what dealing with issues is? I note at no point do you deal with any of the specifics I listed (however poorly). Your choice. Your time is too valuable and did not wish to waste it. Fine. You are not sticking your head in the sand and ignoring them or the other issues, but I intuit you are just hoping they will pass away. Will wishing make it so? Is that not the Stratfordian position? I thought hard work, doing due diligence, finding more evidence, creating and exploiting more avenues to be heard, using all available resources, etc., was the answer and not by becoming what one abhors. Oh, but you say the facts are already plain but you cannot make headway only because your opponents will not listen to you. I don’t hear Mr. Whittemore suggest that. He knows the issues and discusses them with others, friends and opponents. Why do you think he bothers?. I sense you don’t think discussion is worthwhile or necessary, people should just roll over and accept your position. (“Curtailing” indeed.) But I must be wrong, correct? Perhaps you and he should discuss this.

      “Exquisitely”? Praising me with faint damnation? (Or were you trying to be funny?) Perhaps I was wrong when I thought having one’s eyes open to reality, to the good and to the bad in a position, was to one’s advantage, a way of setting out the path toward improvement, a peaceful and intelligent way used by so many other minority positions in the past to become the majority position in other domains (one or two of which I have hands on experience with). I do heartily support the Oxfordian position. But I do not share the dream that one day the scales will fall from their eyes and the Stratfordians will suddenly and miraculously throw open the doors and welcome you, TC, as a conquering savior into their midst. People like Mr. Whittemore and Mr. Stritmatter are doing good works for all of us.

      “Trained”? TC, how could you think of me thus? (Et tu, TC?) And, yes, “trained” was the dagger. Economical and precise word choice. Beautiful. I, a witting Stratfordian shill? No. An unwitting shill? No. If I am with you, why such beautiful venom against me? If I am against you, then how is it I AM politely listening to you, evaluating your arguments, etc., essentially on your side in almost everything but what I have demonstrated is your peculiar frame of mind? Much of the above and in my previous message is the kind of stuff I do when I discuss and evaluate the positions of my colleagues at work (and when they evaluate mine): we discuss things. But you, TC, seem to have other ideas. I wonder how you go about the day to day work in your profession. I sense something I do not like. I will not give it a name.

      But you will doubtless think I doth protest too much–nothing I write could convince you I should be allowed anywhere near this website. I do not feel the need to write again. I am not benefiting from writing my words and you are not benefiting from reading them. You not only do not value my words; you ignore them; when you do not ignore them, you contort them, wittingly or unwittingly subvert them or contend they hide something, read into them meanings they could not possibly contain. (“Curtailing”? Really?) Fine. You were here first–discretion is the etc. etc. I withdraw.

      I make enough mistakes of all kinds and am imperfect in enough ways without having to be called out on ones I did not make or for people to invent more imperfections for me. If this is how you discuss issues, perhaps the reason you have not as yet conquered evil as a lone superhero is because the fault is not in the Stratfordians or in your stars but somewhere else. (It certainly is not in Mr. Whittemore.) A sour note to end upon. I apologize. I also apologize that this message had so little to do with the issue which this website extolls and instead dealt with personality issues of another kind.

      Now I am done–or, as TC would have it: undone.

      • First I want to appreciate your time and energy on this. I think you bring up many good points. I agree about unified front. I asserted that imo you did not know the case well enough to fully comment on it. That does not mean you should not comment, but certain core assumptions are wrong. One of the main ones is this.

        “But Stratfordians too are satisfied with what they have. (Symmetry, remember? But I thought the Oxfordian position was manifestly better? You imply both positions have the same _theoretical_ and phenomenological foundation, even if they differ on their facts.”

        This is a misleading assumption. Both sides have neither the same facts nor more importantly the same version of the author and his relationship to his times.(theoretical foundation) I brought up the Stalin analogy, which you keep belittling, because certain facts HAVE been in evidence but are continually suppressed or in denial by the traditional establishment. That’s why they got their asses kicked all over the yard in Harpers in 1999, one of the first big breakthroughs (other than the Supreme Court moot trial).

        I read your invitations as an “inside-out” approach, which feels literary based. Its like we have to go from A-Z because is about “who wrote it”. IMO this is the wrong approach. The right approach is more subtle. Work from outside in. The foundation crumbles and the logical conclusion is what is going on here? This was the approach of Stritmatter-Kositsky who met the Strats on their own turf and undermined a key position, origin and dating of the Tempest.

        So I will give you just two pieces of evidence that if we start asking, “this is here and what is going on?”, it creates credibility rather than attacking the center and undermines the traditional narrative. Why play Pickett at Gettysburg.

        The first piece is the Bedingfield letter. You claim there is no good writing from Oxford. Have you read it? Are you aware of its relationship to Hamlet? Joe Sobran devoted a chapter to it in “Alias Shakespeare” but it stands on its own for several reasons.

        You can check out the full story here http://www.sourcetext.com/sourcebook/library/bowen/18bedingfield.htm

        but many key points stand out. First is the apparent relationship to the play and to the most famous soliloquy in the English language. It is reason # 10 on Hank’s list and can be read here https://hankwhittemore.wordpress.com/2011/04/13/reason-no-10-why-oxford-shakespeare-he-introduced-the-english-translation-of-hamlets-book/

        Two highlights
        “CARDAN: “In holy scripture, death is not accounted other than sleep, and to die is said to sleep … better to follow the counsel of Agathius, who right well commended death, saying that it did not only remove sickness and all other grief, but also, when all other discommodities of life did happen to man often, it never would come more than once … Seeing, therefore, with such ease men die, what should we account of death to be resembled to anything better than sleep …

        HAMLET: “To die, to sleep – no more; and by a sleep to say we end the heartache and the thousand natural shocks that flesh is heir to: ‘tis a consummation devoutly to be wished. To die, to sleep — to sleep, **perchance to dream**; ay, there’s the rub; for in that sleep of death what dreams may come when we have shuffled off this mortal coil must give us pause.”


        CARDAN: “For there is nothing that doth better or more truly prophecy the end of life, than when a man **dreams that he doth travel and wander into far countries** … and that he travels in countries unknown without hope of return…”

        HAMLET: “But that the dread of something after death, the undiscovered country, from whose bourn no traveler returns…”


        CARDAN: “Only honesty and virtue of mind doth make a man happy, and only a coward and corrupt conscience do cause thine unhappiness.

        HAMLET: “Thus conscience does make cowards of us all, and thus the native hue of resolution is sicklied o’er with the pale cast of thought, and enterprises of great pitch and moment with this regard their currents turn awry, and lose the name of action.

        But the problem for Statfordia only BEGINS here. Because -WHO- was behind this translation into English, against the wishes of the translator.

        Edward Devere, at age 23.

        Devere writes an extremely elegant and eloquent preface describing why he had to publish this translation. Devere loved metaphor, its in his first piece of wring we have (at 11 I think-in French) and here he makes liberal use of it. But he does something astounding. He uses an extremely sophisticated version of *murder* in the figurative. In describing why he went against Bedingfield’s wishes he writes

        “And because next to the sacred letters of divinity, nothing doth persuade the same more than philosophy, of which your book is plentifully stored: I thought myself to commit an unpardonable error to have **murdered the same in the waste bottoms of my chests**; and better I thought it were to displease one than to displease many; further considering so little a trifle cannot procure so great a breach or our amity, as may not with it little persuasion of reason be repaired again

        The OED gives first attribution of this motif to Shakespeare 20 years later in Venus and Adonis (“She hath murdered his heart”.) But here, Devere uses it in the sophisticated sense we find much later (“Macbeth doth murder sleep”.)

        I was on a very hotbed authorship site for years, humanities.literature,authors.shakespeare and the Strats knew their stuff. This was one piece I researched a little. I went through concordances of Marlowe, Jonson, and Spenser (I think Bacon too.) None of them used this. But Shakespeare uses murder in the figurative about 8% of the time he uses the word. I did find that Drayton users it like V&A in 1593 and he may have read that first and copied it. A more thorough search would be useful.

        So I challenged them to find anyone, ANYONE whom had an earlier modern usage than Devere. And they came up empty.

        This is important for it demonstrates Devere’s literary prowess. But he follows with

        “And herein I am forced, like a good and politic captain, oftentimes to spoil and burn the corn or his own country, lest his enemies thereof do take advantage.”

        Shakespeare: “But if the first heir of my invention prove deformed, I shall be sorry it had so noble a godfather: and never after **ear so barren a land, for fear it yield me still so bad a harvest.**

        Hank’s reason 11


        He then says
        “”Wherefore, considering the small harm I do to you, the great good I do to others, I prefer mine own intention to discover your volume, before your request to secret the same; wherein I may seem to you to play the part or the cunning mediciner or physician, who although his patient in the extremity of his burning fever is desirous of cold liquor or drink to qualify his sore thirst, or rather kill his languishing body: yet for the danger he doth evidently know by his science to ensue, denyeth him the same.”

        The correspondences go on and on but one is especially striking.

        “What doth avail the tree unless it yield fruit to another? What doth avail the vine unless another delighteth in the grape? What doth avail the rose unless another took pleasure in the smell? Why should this tree be accounted better than that tree but for the goodness of his fruit? Why should this vine be better than that vine unless it brought forth a better grape than the other? **Why should this rose be better esteemed than that rose, unless ill pleasantness of smell it far surpassed the other rose?**

        I think I read that somewhere else. Where was it?

        Again the full comparisons are here

        This is all from one piece of literary output, one of two **written for publication** by Devere. Anyone looking at this has to take pause. The question is not does this prove Drvere wrote Shakespeare,
        “What is the relationship between these two people and why does it appear Shakespeare leaned so heavily on Devere and what he brought into translation for the composition of Hamlet? Shakespeare did NOT, did NOT bring murder in the figurative into the language in modern usage. Devere did.

        WHAT’S GOING ON? That’s the question.

        You can see why they are scared witless by the Oxfordian challenge.

        If this were the only piece of evidence, we could dismiss it, but its one of dozens, if not hundreds.

        I wrote before about Desper’s discovery of an incredibly seditious passage by Shakespeare on the trial of Edmund Campion hidden in the dark house scene between Feste and Malvio in Twelfth Night.
        To me the allusions, which scholars thought were gobbledy gook, and have been denied by idiots bring up very serious questions.

        That the author so deftly hides this scathing criticism, which would have cost him his head, in a comedy, demonstrates his greatness. It also contradicts the long held assertion that Shakespeare wrote solely for the stage for the barbs come too fast for the audience to pick up. But there’s another more important question.

        Why is the author hiding a savage critique of the crown’s treatment of a renowned Catholic martyr in 1581 in a play supposedly new in 1602? Huh? This brings into question two things.

        The belief that Shakespeare was not political or overly concerned with contemporary events.
        Again, the entire dating arc of composition of the plays.

        Do you now see that “You imply both positions have the same _theoretical_ and phenomenological foundation, even if they differ on their facts.” is not correct?

        We could go on. The denial of Polonius as Burghley would be laughable if it weren’t so dishonest. Mark Alexander accepted the Strat challenge and wrote a seminal piece on Polonius as Burghley.


        You can see Terry Ross’ hysterical failed attempt to deal with this here. Ross is famous for taking a small item and attempting to use it as the main argument.

        I called Ross on this numerous times that whether Burghley was called “Polus” was one small part of a much larger picture (as Alexander demonstrated-and HE left out “fishmonger-alluding to Burghley’s attempts to control the fish trade) but his denial was so deep he could not see it.

        Shapiro repeats this denial in “Contested Will”. This question of why the author escaped the wrath of the state over this portrayal is glossed over by Shapiro. “Polonius could not be Burghey because the authornever would have gotten away with it”

        End of story. Argument by assertion and begging the question..”Nothing to see here. move along”. How little integrity Shapiro has, especially since his book was a complete straw man argument anyway. By not dealing with the very issue he raises, Shapiro shows us again how Statfordia is thrown on its heels when the question becomes “what is going on here? This does not fit the narrative you have constructed”.

        There is so much more. Books and blogs and everything under the sun have pointed this out. I brought up Russia because there is a deep suppression going on of truly credible question and evidence. Because its too slippery a slope.

        You are right to propose a united front and imo present these key pieces of evidence as “what is going on here?” History professors will be more open than their literary counterparts.

        One last thing.


        “Throughout the scene (Cleopatra’s death) the poisonous asp is referred to not as an asp, or a snake, or a serpent.

        Shakespeare refers to it repeatedly as a “worm.” That is an unusual word for a serpent, but it is the first and now archaic meaning in the Oxford English Dictionary; it comes from the Old Saxon. The dictionary uses a line from the clown scene to illustrate that meaning. Shakespeare could have used any of the other synonyms in his vocabulary, including “serpent,- ‘-snake-’ or –viper”; but he used “worm.” (Incidentally, Shakespeare never used the word “asp,– but Thomas Nashe did, and in connection with Cleopatra. Alexander Pope put it into a stage direction in Antony and Cleopatra.)

        More surprising is that the word “Worm” appears nine times in just thirty- six lines in the clown scene–far more than in any other play. It occurs only once or twice in about half of the other plays, sometimes to mean a serpent, usually to mean an earthworm or maggot, as in “the worm of conscience” (Richard III, Much Ado About Nothing). This unusual frequency in thirty-six lines in Antony and Cleopatra bears examination.”

        The essay is quite complete.

        Devere’s first written letter we have is in French.
        What is the French word for “worm”.


        Think about it.

      • Thanks again! Jeff, too, and others. The more dialogue the better!

  13. I am struck by how persistently you personalize these matters.

    Where we disagree widely should be clear, at least to others.

    Where we agree may be less clear but is also less important.

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