Here’s a “Smoking Gun” that brings together Edward de Vere (Oxford) and Henry Wriothesley (Southampton) in the Context of the 1601-1603 Aftermath of the Essex Rebellion

I’d like to present a document that brings together Edward de Vere Earl of Oxford and Henry Wriothesley  Earl of Southampton within the context of the Essex Rebellion of February 1601 and its aftermath until the death of Elizabeth and the succession of James in March 1603.  I consider it a “smoking gun” in terms of evidence of a relationship between them in connection with those events and that time period – supporting the context put forth and expanded within THE MONUMENT, my edition of the Sonnets (and its companion synopsis-volume SHAKESPEARE’S SON and HIS SONNETS, not to mention ANONYMOUS, the forthcoming movie from Roland Emmerich, due for general release October 28th.

The document is Anagrammata in Nomina Illustrissimorum Heroum (1603) By Francis Davison – published online by the Philological Museum by Dana F. Sutton.

The Anagrammata was a single-page broadsheet with anagrams & epigrams on the names of the following lords: Thomas Egerton, Charles Howard, Thomas Sackville, Chrarles Blunt, John Fortescue, Gilbert Talbot, Henry Percy, Edward de Vere and Henry Wriothesley.

The work was compiled partially during the time of Southampton’s imprisonment in the Tower [1601-1603] and completed after the queen’s death on March 24, 1603.  It was published later the same year. The anagrams/epigrams for Oxford and Southampton are presented ninth and tenth, respectively, as the final two lords.

“In general,” Professor Sutton writes, “the epigrams are fairly predictable exercises in courtly flattery.  A couple, however, may merit more consideration.  The one addressed to Oxford congratulates him on his non-involvement in the Essex Rebellion.  One wonders why Davison thought this necessary.  Even more curious is the one for Southampton, which explicitly states that he had been convicted of treason on false testimony inspired by envy.”

EDWARD VERE by an anagram AURE SURDUS VIDEO (“DEAF IN MY EAR, I SEE”)

“Though by your zeal, Fortune, you keep perfidy’s murmurs and schemings at a distance, nonetheless I learn (at which my mind and ear quake) that our bodies have been deafened with respect to evil affairs. Indeed, I perceive men who come close to Catiline in deception, freeing other men’s fates by their death.”

HENRY WRIOTHESLEY  by an anagram THESEUS NIL REUS HIC RUO (“HERE I FALL, THESEUS, GUILTY OF NOTHING”)

“Justly you were able to pour forth this complaint from your mouth; your lot was harsh while a false accusation prevailed. “Lo, Theseus is guilty of nothing; here I fall by an unfair lot’s censure, betrayed by envy’s whim.” But now the complaint is to be altered, because of altered perils. Great man, do you take a fall with an innocent heart bearing witness?  Not at all.  The heir, wielding the scepter of rule conferred under Jove’s auspices, grants you to live free of this care.”

I submit that THE MONUMENT and its synopsis-book SHAKESPEARE’S SON AND HIS SONNETS contain the explanation that Professor Sutton is seeking.  No, it’s not “proof” of the Monument Theory of the Sonnets, but there’s no question that it brings Oxford and Southampton together in connection with the post-Essex Rebellion history.

THE MONUMENT attempts to demonstrate that the Sonnets tell the following story:  Upon the failure of the Essex Rebellion of February 8, 1601, followed by the sentencing of Henry Wriothesley, Earl of Southampton to death for high treason, Edward de Vere, Earl of Oxford made a bargain with Secretary Robert Cecil in order to save Southampton’s life.  Essex was executed six days after the trial.  Oxford’s aim was to spare Southampton from execution and gain the promise of his release upon the succession of King James of Scotland as King of England.  Once liberated, Southampton would regain all his lands and titles and receive a royal pardon, freeing him from the threat of being re-arrested for the same crime.  But the outcome of the deal depended on Cecil’s ability to bring James to the throne, so Oxford had no choice but to help him.  In effect, he was blackmailed.

One way Oxford may have helped is by becoming “40” in the secret correspondence between Cecil and James, behind Elizabeth’s back.  Also, shortly before the Queen’s death, he apparently acted to test Lord Lincoln’s loyalty to James.  In addition, having adopted the pen name “Shakespeare” in 1593, Oxford now agreed to take another step – to bury his identity in relation to Southampton after his death and for generations to come:  “I may nevermore acknowledge thee … My name be buried where my body is,” he testifies in Sonnets 36 and 72.

The Southampton Prince Tudor Theory is that, in addition, Oxford and Southampton agreed to bury their father-son relationship; and that Southampton agreed to forfeit any claim to the crown as the natural heir of Queen Elizabeth.   [Two Oxfordians who oppose the Southampton Prince Tudor Theory, Nina Green and Christopher Paul, are thanked by Dana Sutton for suggesting that the Philological Museum include Davison’s Anagrammata.]

OBSERVATIONS:

Davison was the son of William Davison, whom Elizabeth had blamed for transmitting the warrant for execution of Mary Queen of Scots.  W. Davison and his family were ruined.  Upon the death of Secretary Francis Walsingham in 1590, Essex urged Elizabeth to name W. Davison to replace him.  The post was left vacant until 1596, when the queen gave it to Robert Cecil.

In a work in which every element has a potential or actual meaning beyond what is on the surface, Davison deliberately placed Edward de Vere and Henry Wriothesley one after the other.   As stated above, such placement lends support to the theory of THE MONUMENT that, as expressed in the Sonnets, Oxford and Southampton were linked together at this crucial time.

OXFORD EPIGRAM:

Catiline: Lucius Sergius Catilina (108 BC – 62 BC), known in English as Catiline, was a Roman politician of the 1st century BC who is best known for the Catiline conspiracy, an attempt to overthrow the Roman Republic, and in particular the power of the aristocratic Senate.  [The name of Catiline was invoked in relation to Essex and his supporters at the joint treason trial of him and Southampton on February 19, 1601.]

“Freeing Other Men’s Fates by Their Deaths” – the final words of the epigram to Oxford could refer to Essex as one who went to his death in order to give Southampton a chance to live; but this epigram is for Oxford and therefore, I submit, it more likely refers to the bargain Oxford made with Cecil to figuratively die, as in Sonnet 81: “I, once gone, to all the world must die.”

SOUTHAMPTON EPIGRAM:

Theseus:  the mythical founder-king of Athens, son of Aethra, and fathered by Aegeus and Poseidon, both of whom Aethra had slept with in one night. Theseus was a founder-hero, like Perseus, Cadmus, or Heracles, all of whom battled and overcame foes that were identified with an archaic religious and social order.

“False Accusation … Betrayed by Envy’s Whim” – perhaps refers to Cecil betraying Southampton by falsely accusing him of trying to overthrow Elizabeth and kill her.

“The Heir, Wielding the Scepter of Rule” – appears to refer to King James, who ordered the release of Southampton; but, given the Prince Tudor Theory that Henry Wriothesley was the natural heir of Elizabeth and deserved to become King Henry IX, such language is certainly tantalizing and even, one might say, provocative.

“Another Hamlet” – New Book on Leslie Howard by Charles Boyle Includes Essay & Screenplay

"Another Hamlet" by Charles Boyle, now available at Amazon.com

I have been meaning to post up news of an exciting new publication ANOTHER HAMLET: The Mystery of Leslie Howard, by my friend and colleague Charles Boyle — actor, director, author and playwright.

Charles tells an amazing true story that includes the making of the film Pimpernel Smith, which Howard produced and directed and in which he played the starring role.  One of most successful British war films, it was a satire of Nazism making merciless fun of Hitler’s minister of propaganda, Josef Goebbels.  And Howard, as Smith, tells him: “I’ve been reading a book that proves conclusively that Shakespeare wasn’t really Shakespeare at all!  He was the Earl of Oxford.  Now, you can’t pretend the Earl of Oxford was a German, can you?”   [The book was undoubtedly Shakespeare Identified by J.T. Looney, 1920.]

Here is the quote from Charles Beauclerk, author of Shakespeare’s Lost Kingdom, on the back cover of the book:

“In Another Hamlet Charles Boyle has produced a riveting political thriller that explores the life and tragic death of actor and filmmaker Leslie Howard, a British patriot drawn into a deadly propaganda duel with the Germans.

“Deftly interweaving the behind-the-scenes politics of World War II with the decadent showbiz world of the 1930’s -1940’s, Boyle makes the tantalizing suggestion that it Howard’s growing conviction that the Earl of Oxford wrote Shakespeare which sealed his doom.

“From Leslie Howard himself to Humphrey Bogart, Merle Oberon, Winston Churchill, Anthony Eden, and Joseph Goebbels, Boyle brings to life a fascinating and often chilling cast of characters to tell the story of a maverick artist’s losing battle with the power-brokers of his age.”

Humphrey Bogart and Leslie Howard in "The Petrified Forest" (1936)

The book contains an introduction by his brother William Boyle, founding editor of Shakespeare Matters, the newsletter of the Shakespeare Fellowship, plus a newly revised and updated introductory essay by Charles and — the main attraction — his full screenplay version of the story, also revised and updated.

Maybe after the film ANONYMOUS from Roland Emmerich, we’ll see Hollywood grabbing hold of this one!

Some Reactions to the Debate in London

A couple of early reactions to the Debate in London yesterday:

From the BBC – DIRECTOR EMMERICH DEFENDS SHAKESPEARE AUTHORSHIP FILM

And this one is from THE AUSTRALIAN – Full Story at This Link

Oldest literary conspiracy theory trotted out again

A HOLLYWOOD film that claims William Shakespeare was an illiterate buffoon who passed off a nobleman’s plays as his own got off to a wobbly start at the Hay Festival in Wales when actor Ralph Fiennes described the premise as a “dead-end argument”.

Roland Emmerich, one of Hollywood’s most successful directors, presented clips of his film Anonymous to the public for the first time at the festival and answered questions about why he chose to portray the Edward de Vere, the 17th earl of Oxford as the true author of the plays.

But Fiennes, who has not seen the film, says he is puzzled by the obsession with giving credit to other authors. “Instinctively, I don’t buy it,” he says.

Fiennes, who was at the festival to talk about his forthcoming film adaptation of Coriolanus, says: “People say, ‘How could he have known about Italy and how could he have so much [knowledge],’ and I’m puzzled because he went to a grammar school, which were very good schools, and why couldn’t a unique individual be able to imagine and encompass a massive range of linguistic expression?  (Full Story at Link Above)

==

I remember having the same reaction that Fiennes expresses.  I put a lot of stock on good ol’ imagination, and still do — but when I dug a little deeper and discovered how much knowledge — and specific knowledge — gets into the plays, poems and sonnets, well, it boggles the mind and calls for some reassessment.  If you go to a good library and find the Shakespeare section, my goodness it seems there’s an entire book (or two or more) devoted exclusively to Shakespeare’s handling of every single subject such as law, heraldry, music, kingship, flowers, hunting, war, ships, Italy, France, the classics, astronomy, horsemanship, fashions, the bible — I mean, we are not talking just about some “good” or even “great” author but about some kind of amazing giant of whom there may have been no equal in all the rest of history before or since.

Investigation is required — or the result, which I have seen over and over, is what you might call “the dumbing down” of Shakespeare; that is, attempts to reduce him down to more normal size, so he can fit the framework of traditional biography.  I am not speaking of him as a god or a miracle, but, rather, a rare human being who must have had not only “nature” on his side but “nurture” as well — and this is also not about snobbery, please, and not even about who “could” have written these masterpieces but who “did” write them.

Reassessment … Investigation!

First Movie Poster for “Anonymous”

Here’s a look at the first poster for Anonymous, the film by Roland Emmerich about Edward de Vere as Shakespeare, due in theaters September 3o, 2011…

One official description reads:

Set in the political snake-pit of Elizabethan England, Anonymous speculates on an issue that has for centuries intrigued academics and brilliant minds ranging from Mark Twain and Charles Dickens to Henry James and Sigmund Freud, namely: who was the author of the plays credited to William Shakespeare? Experts have debated, books have been written, and scholars have devoted their lives to protecting or debunking theories surrounding the authorship of the most renowned works in English literature. Anonymous poses one possible answer, focusing on a time when cloak-and-dagger political intrigue, illicit romances in the Royal Court, and the schemes of greedy nobles hungry for the power of the throne were exposed in the most unlikely of places: the London stage.

More on this Exciting Year for Edward de Vere the seventeenth Earl of Oxford…

There’s much excitement in the “Oxfordian” community these days, with blogs and books and films — not to mention a new online “gallery” devoted to Oxford — pouring forth.  Much of this activity, intentional or otherwise, appears to be in anticipation of Anonymous, the first feature film about Edward de Vere as Shakespeare, with which I begin this partial listing:

ANONYMOUS – the movie from producer-director Roland Emmerich and SONY Pictures to be launched in U.S. theaters on September 23, 2011 (unless the date changes again).  The cast includes Rhys ifans as Edward de Vere, Vanessa Redgrave as Queen Elizabeth I, Derek Jacobi as Prologue, Mark Rylance as Gloucester and Edward Hogg as Robert Cecil.

Vanessa Redgrave as Queen Elizabeth I in "Anonymous"

The trailer is exciting!  In my view any publicity about the Shakespeare authorship question is good publicity, simply because those who control this issue within the academic world have ensured that the subject has been virtually unknown to the majority of teachers, professors and students – or else it has been ridiculed and ignored.

Now there will be questions, more and more of them.   Now the effort to intimidate questioners will not be so successful.  Now, at last, the investigations and the debates will begin on a wide scale.

What I know, also, is that Anonymous will be much closer to the truth than Shakespeare In Love, which, nonetheless, in my view, is a wonderful movie — which depicts the general truth that “Shakespeare” must have been motivated to write his plays by much more important personal matters than the box office.

Charles Beauclerk, author of "Shakespeare's Lost Kingdom"

THE EDWARD OXENFORD REVIEW: Notes Towards the Next Biography of Edward de Vere, 17th earl of Oxford – the blog from Marie Merkel, who is serving up some of the best current writing on the subject. See Marie’s thoughtful and challenging review of SHAKESPEARE’S LOST KINGDOM: The True History of Shakespeare and Elizabeth by Charles Beauclerk, issued this year by Grove Press.

WILLIAM NIEDERKORN’s reviews of Shakespeare-related books in THE BROOKLYN RAIL – the latest a terrific critique of DATING SHAKESPEARE’S PLAYS: A CRITICAL REVIEW OF THE EVIDENCE, edited by Kevin Gilvary with contributions of other members of the De Vere Society in England.

"Dating Shakespeare's Plays"

SHAKE-SPEARE’S BIBLE.COM – the blog from Roger Stritmatter, Ph.D., featuring, among many other fine essays, the series from an indomitable Stratfordian-minded fellow named Mr. Tom Weedy, who has been listing “Reasons Shakespeare was Shakespeare” – perhaps, if I may be so bold, in an attempt to frighten me into abandoning my “100 Reasons” for believing that Shakespeare was Oxford.  Well, we shall see!

THE SHAKESPEARE GUIDE TO ITALY: Retracing the Bard’s Unknown Travels, by Richard Paul Roe – due from Harper Perennial on November 8, 2011.  This book from the late Dick Roe is a ticking time bomb (or a “sleeping smoking gun,” if you prefer) that may well take the Stratfordian world by surprise.

"The Shakespeare Guide to Italy" by Richard Paul Roe

A privately printed edition was issued last year, shortly before the author’s death, and much of it reads like a good-old-fashioned detective story, with Roe tracking down gem after gem of discoveries about the personal experience of Italy that “Shakespeare” needed in order to write Romeo and Juliet, The Two Gentlemen of Verona, The Taming of the Shrew, The Merchant of Venice, Othello, A Midsummer Night’s Dream, All’s Well That Ends Well, Much Ado About Nothing, The Winter’s Tale and, yes, The  Tempest.

LAST WILL AND TESTAMENT – a documentary film on the Shakespeare authorship question, from producers Laura Matthias and Lisa Wilson.  It will take a look at the issue and the “Shakespeare” claimants with focus on Edward de Vere Earl of Oxford, providing additional information and insights to complement the film Anonymous by Roland Emmerich.

New Bust of the True Shakespeare

THE VERILY SHAKESPEARE GALLERYa new online store from Ben August of Houston, who commissioned a bust of Edward de Vere to replace the old (and incorrect) icons.

When I first jumped into this arena in 1987, it occurred to me that inevitably over the next two or three generations there will be more writings, more video and film, more books and other kinds of communication on this subject than on nearly every other topic.  Why?  Because once the true authorship and meaning of “Shakespeare” are generally accepted as fit for investigation and study, there will be the need for a massive revision of history and biography – on a scale that can hardly be measured at this point.

The biographies of William and Robert Cecil, of Queen Elizabeth and King James, of Philip Sidney and Ben Jonson – etcetera, etcetera, etcetera! – will have to be rewritten in order to perceive these individuals within a wholly different relationship to Edward de Vere.

Rather than depicting them as superior to the madcap, eccentric, scandal-plagued earl, they will be viewed when placed beside the genius who led the renaissance of English literature and drama (and thereby helped to rouse support for unity against Spain) before going on to revise his works into the masterpieces of “Shakespeare” that have filled our shelves and stages from then to now.

It’s quite a privilege — and lots of fun — to be around for this critical stage of the revolution.

“Anonymous” the Movie to Focus on the End Game of Elizabethan Politics, the Essex Rebellion and the Succession to Queen Elizabeth

Well, it’s good to see the trailer for Anonymous, due in September from Roland Emmerich, about Edward de Vere, 17th Earl of Oxford as Shakespeare; and in the view from this corner, it’s great to see that the film will apparently focus on the “end game” of political power struggles leading to the Essex Rebellion in February of 1601, the imprisonment of co-leaders Essex and Southampton, the execution of Essex and the succession to Elizabeth in March of 1603.

These, after all, were not only the Earl of Oxford’s concerns but those dramatized by “Shakespeare” in his plays of English royal history, which mirrored contemporary issues and helped to prepare citizens for the inevitable changes that would follow the Queen’s death.  Such is the concern of the Sonnets, as expressed in The Monument, which sets forth the political “story” recorded by Oxford using the language and form of the poetry of love.

Because of a single movie, this generation of students will be the first to learn there’s even a question about the authorship of the Shakespeare works – a fact which, I’d say, boggles the mind.

A “Makeover” for “The Monument” Website

In addition to being given a new look, the website of THE MONUMENT has been upgraded with more and clearer content within its many pages.  In an old-fashioned way, perhaps, there’s a lot of text — which, it seems to me, this topic deserves.

The change has been guided by my colleague and friend Bill Boyle, whose SHAKESPEARE ADVENTURE page is going strong.  We fully admit that this activity is in no small degree motivated by anticipation of the release of ANONYMOUS, the new feature film by Roland Emmerich, due in late September this year.  With the release of the very first major motion picture to feature Edward de Vere Earl of Oxford as “Shakespeare,” the all-important [that’s right] topic of “authorship” will be brought to many, many people who have never been told that any such question about the Bard’s identity has ever existed.  Well, that’s a relatively big step; after all, students can’t go trying to solve a mystery if they don’t know it exists.

Check out the new website (WWW.SHAKESPEARESMONUMENT.COM) and tell us what you think.  Comments, suggestions, criticisms — all welcome.  Cheers from Hank

2011 – The Big Year for Edward de Vere?

Happy New Year!  Many of my friends and colleagues (I include myself) in the “Oxfordian” world are starting to feel that this is going to be the “big year” for us — that is, for those of us who have concluded that Edward de Vere 17th Earl of Oxford (1550-1604) was the true author of the works printed under the name — the pen name, that is — of William Shakespeare.

Why has this ridiculously optimistic feeling come over us?  Well, let’s see…

First and foremost is that producer-director Roland Emmerich’s feature film Anonymous is set to open in theaters this fall — on Friday, September 23, 2011.  Here’s the idea of Oxford as “Shakespeare” finally on the big screen — for the first time in the ninety-one years since the earl was “identified” in 1920 (by British schoolmaster J. Thomas Looney) as the greatest writer of the English language.

Film director Roland Emmerich on the set of "Anonymous," due in theaters in September

Whatever any critic will say about this film, or however any individual viewer reacts to it, or to what extent it does or does not come close to the true history, is beside the point — which is simply that the Shakespeare Authorship Question itself will finally be brought out of hiding … out of the dark cave of censorship and suppression … into the daylight where everybody can see it and evaluate the subject for themselves.

You think this might be a bit of hyperbole?  A little over the top?  Well, when my friend Charles Boyle introduced me to the topic in 1987, I was stunned to hear about it.  Even though I’d gone through the University of Notre Dame in the Theater Department and the Great Books Program, no one had ever even mentioned that there might be a Shakespeare problem, much less that there had been a real-life eccentric, mysterious individual at the Court of Elizabeth the First who could have served as the model for Prince Hamlet.

Mark Rylance as Hamlet

How could not one of my professors or play directors have ever mentioned this to me?  Even if they thought the whole subject was nonsense, why wouldn’t they bring it up?  I ran to the public library (in Portland, Maine, where I lived at the time) and discovered to my shock that right there were at least a dozen books questioning the traditional attribution of Shakespearean authorship — and some fascinating books putting forth the theory that Edward de Vere was the true poet and playwright.

How could I not have known this before?  Over the ensuing years I would discover that many others had experienced the same wonderment — intelligent, educated, well-read men and women who had gone through more than half their lives without an inkling that William Shakspere of Stratford-upon-Avon (1564-1616) might not have been the writer known as William Shakespeare.

I recalled having played the part of Laertes in our production of Hamlet at Notre Dame, and how I’d stood in the wings watching and listening to the late great actor Richard Kavanaugh playing the lead role — and I remembered a specific moment when I heard these lines spoken by the Prince to his young girlfriend Ophelia:

“I am myself indifferent honest, but yet I could accuse me of such things that it were better my mother had not borne me.  I am very proud, revengeful, ambitious, with more offenses at my beck than I have thoughts to put them in, imagination to give them shape, or time to act them in.  What should such fellows as I do, crawling between earth and heaven?”

Right then it struck me that this was very candid stuff, and very modern in terms of the protagonist of a play, the so-called hero, being so self-critical.  More than that, within those words or behind them seemed to be the voice of the author himself, this great dramatist about whose identity and life I had never given any thought whatsoever!

And a few minutes later, during a break in rehearsals, I walked onto the stage and asked co-director Fred Syberg, “What do we know about Shakespeare?”

“Well,” Fred replied, “he was a guy who went to London and became an actor and started writing plays.  That’s about it.”

Uh-hunh, I thought.  Okay.  Sureand then pushed that little kernel of curiosity back into its cave, back into that darkness where it continued to be hidden from most of the world….

I’ll be back here soon, to continue the subject of why many Oxfordians feel that 2011 is going to be “the big one” for the Shakespeare Authorship Question … a year different from all the other years.  As Bette Davis tells the folks as Margo Channing at the party in All About Eve:  “Fasten your seatbelts.  It’s going to be a bumpy night!”

The Asbourne Portrait of "Shakespeare"

The so-called Ashbourne Portrait of Shakespeare (note the skull, as in the picture of Hamlet above) “was first brought to light by Clement Usill Kingston in 1847. The painting bore the date 1611 and purported to show William Shakespeare at the age of 47. Subsequently, it was widely reproduced during the 19th century, having entered the canon of Shakespeare portraits.  The identity of the artist is unknown.  It was subsequently altered to cater to
public demand for more pictures of the bard, and conform to 19th century ideas of Shakespeare.  In 1940, Charles Wisner Barrell made a searching investigation of the portrait using modern technologies and concluded the painting was a retouched portrait of Edward de Vere, 17th Earl of Oxford. Art historian William Pressly, who catalogued the Folger’s paintings, and directed the 1988 restoration of the work, states that the controversy surrounding the sitter’s identity was resolved in 1979, when restorative work on the painting revealed conclusively that it had been begun as a portrait of Sir Hugh Hamersley.  [Well, now … “conclusively”? – Hmmm– H.W.] The Folger Library dates the painting to 1612, and while stating that most researchers identify the painting’s subject as Sir Hugh Hamersley, notes that some Oxfordians contend it depicts Edward de Vere. It currently hangs in the Folger Shakespeare Library.”  (From Wikipedia – emphases added)

New Release Date for Emmerich’s “Anonymous”

A quick note that RAMA’S SCREEN reports that the release date of Roland Emmerich’s movie Anonymous has been changed from March 2011 to September 23, 2011.  We hear the movie will cover some of the “story” told in the Sonnets according to my book The Monument — basically with Edward de Vere, 17th Earl of Oxford as the author of the “Shakespeare” works and father of Henry Wriothesley, 3rd Earl of Southampton, a prince by blood whose involvement in the Essex Rebellion landed him in the Tower of London as a traitor.

I’ll be back later with any further details.  Cheers from Hank

Warning: Stratfordianism is a Religion!

It seems that most people who are annoyed and angered by the Shakespeare authorship question are quite certain that we “anti-Stratfordians” must be snobs or conspiracy nuts or wackos or all of those things combined.  But it also appears that these same folks have very little knowledge of, much less interest in, the biographical and historical evidence concerning “Shakespeare” and the age in which he lived.  It’s a paradox!

And this paradox can only be resolved by realizing that the identification of Shakespeare as a London actor from Stratford-upon-Avon must be sacrosanct … inviolable … not to be questioned … “above and beyond criticism, change or interference,” as my Random House dictionary suggests.  Doubting it is an act of sacrilege.  Trying to replace that man with another man (such as Edward de Vere, 17th Earl of Oxford) is sinful if not criminal.

The Folio Engraving of 1623 -- It's a Mask over his face -- see that line down the side -- and see the eyes of an unidentified man looking thru the eye holes...

We’re talking religion here, pure and simple.  We’re talking about a belief that’s rooted in some deep-seated human need.  It has nothing to do with honest inquiry and everything to do with blind faith.  The majority of people in England and America are devoted to an image of the Bard that presents him as a “man of the people,” as the saying goes — a man of the people who lifted himself up to the heights of glory.  He possessed the ability of a genius to transcend all limitations by the sheer power of his imagination and/or his fantasy.

I bring up this subject after reading the latest blog post from the Oberon Shakespeare Study Group by R. Thomas Hunter, PhD, a prominent Oxfordian whose comments on the authorship issue are consistently thoughtful and insightful.  I heartily recommend his Declaration of New Shakespeare Scholarship issued on this Fourth of July 2010, agreeing with him that “much of the real discovery about Shakespeare is still in our future” and that “the problem” has consisted of the various ways in which “our traditional concept of the Bard himself has limited our questions about his work.”

There it is, in a single sentence.  Regardless of opinions to the contrary, the fact is that the limitations imposed upon scholars by their restricted views of the author himself have necessarily imposed limitations upon their ability to explore his literary and dramatic works.  It’s the same way that some religious views have imposed limitations on science, impeding medical or educational advances and so on.

I recommend that you look at the Oberon group’s Declaration of New Shakespeare Scholarship and I share Dr. Hunter’s enthusiasm about the future.  The declaration is undoubtedly correct, but it also provokes me to point out the kind of uninformed religious fervor that lies behind “the problem” mentioned above.  The deeper problem is an incredibly strong belief in something that’s really irrational; and when such a belief is challenged, the response is a bitter anger that’s equally irrational.  That’s when you get the whipped-up emotions and the name-calling.  That’s when you get the potential for violence.

While joining Dr. Hunter in looking ahead to a new era of Shakespeare scholarship, therefore, I am also aware that such a future will not arrive easily or overnight.

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