Sunday, June 17, 2018

The Problem with Stratfordian Theory Anomalies

Lately, I’ve been watching a course from The Great Courses on Science Wars: What Scientists Know and How They Know It by Professor Steven L. Goldman. In lecture 17 he discusses Thomas Kuhn’s Structure of Scientific Revolutions. Goldman summaries the problems of anomalies in regard to theories. This should have as much relevance to an historical theory such as regarding Shakespeare’s Authorship as it does to the typical scientific theory. Here are a couple of the summaries:

Kuhn’s theory:
1.      Some anomalies need to be addressed, and if they can’t be addressed by the theory—if the community is not satisfied that the theory can handle the anomaly—you’ve got a crisis.
2.      The way to resolve the crisis often is a conceptual revolution in which a new paradigm comes in and replaces the old paradigm, and the new paradigm does answer the anomalies.

So we can conclude that a really good theory should have no anomalies. At least it shouldn’t have many and whatever few there may be should have adequate or reasonable hypotheses that someday can be resolved.

If there are many anomalies or a few, or even one that is a serious one and can’t be explained by the current dominant theory, then there’s a serious problem with that theory.

So following is a sampling of many of the anomalies that have been cited for the Stratfordian theory of Shakespeare’s Authorship. I haven’t spent a lot of time putting this together. Mostly I picked and gleaned from Steven Steinburg’s I Come To Bury Shakespere and from the website. It’s not a complete list nor are the items described in full as I wanted to make the list fairly simple for posting here.

Anomalies in the Stratfordian Theory of the Shakespeare Authorship Question:

  1. Mr. Shakspere’s thoroughly illiterate family background.
  2. The obvious limitations of a 5-7 year of dubious rural grammar school education. Read also the Debunking of his supposed great Grammas School education:
  3. The illiteracy of his wife and two daughters.
  4. Why no family member or descendant ever said he created any literary works.
  5. Why does not anyone who knew or must have known him seem not to have associated him with the author?
  6. His demonstrated miserliness contradicting Shake-speare’s theme of generosity.
  7. In spite of searches through millions of records, he seems to have owned no books, notebooks, manuscripts, furniture or instruments associated with or required by an author, or left behind any record of such activities.
  8. Shakspere is said to have been a full-time actor, appearing in several different plays a week, outdoors in English weather and on annual extended tours all over England. He was a theater shareholder, responsible for the business. He maintained two households three days apart, commuting over poor Elizabethan roads. Yet he also supposedly wrote thirty-seven plays over twenty years, nearly all requiring extensive research, often in foreign languages, using three hundred books that have been identified – many rare and expensive. It is not possible. There is no other example of a dramatist doing so many different things at the same time.
  9. There is no record showing that any William Shakespeare ever received payment, or secured patronages, for writing. No record shows that he and the earl of  Southampton ever met.
  10. How did he remain a nearly invisible public figure despite his extensive social connections, intellectual achievements, and popular success?
  11. That he seems neither to have written nor received any letters.
  12. Almost uniquely among Elizabethan poets, Shakespeare remained silent following the death of Elizabeth.
  13. Also, why would a retired “lead dramatist of the King’s Men” be silent following the death of Prince Henry, the hugely popular son of King James, and heir to the throne, in 1612?
  14. That he  had no known source or access to the books, mentors and experiences essential for gaining the specific, prerequisite knowledge displayed in his works. Scholars know nothing about how he acquired the breadth and depth of knowledge displayed in the works. This is not to say that a commoner could not have managed to do it somehow; but how could it have happened without leaving a single trace?
  15. That he left  no examples of his handwriting other than, possibly, six unsteady, barely legible, uniquely spelled signatures of different “hands”.
  16. Why did the “Hand D” handwriting evidence have to based on watered down standards?
  17. Why is it that “not a single claim that Shakespeare used Warwickshire, Midlands or Cotswold dialect can be held”?
  18. The curiously inappropriate inscription on the ‘Shakspeare’ monument.
  19. That no one during his life mentioned him (identified as Shakspere of Stratford), much less lauded him, as an author.
  20. While there are about 70 documents mentioning him, they are all non-literary. “…he is the only presumed writer of his time for whom there is no [uncontested] contemporary evidence of a writing career.”
  21. That his will made no mention of his theatrical holdings.
  22. That his will was utterly mundane and totally lacking in poetic or intellectual sentiment.
  23. That his gravestone is inscribed with doggerel verse.
  24. That the dedication to Shake-speare’s Sonnets memorializes Shakes-speare while Shakspere was still alive and had seven years to live.
  25. That, less than a century after his death, the man who was presumably England’s most famous playwright was alleged to have started out as a butcher’s apprentice.
  26. This alleged prolific writer is said to have retired in his late-forties with his faculties intact, and returned to the same market town from which he came, never to write a play, a poem, or even a letter.
  27. Why are virtually all of the plays set among the upper classes? And why so many in Italy as opposed to his contemporary Elizabethan or Jacobean England?
  28. The ambiguity and suggestively inappropriate qualities of the First Folio dedicatory poem by Ben Johnson.
  29. That there are no substantive specific parallels that can be drawn between Shakspere and Shake-speare’s works.
  30. That he appears to have owned no  Bibles, whereas Shake-speare’s works indicated intimate familiarity with multiple versions of the Bible.
  31. Why would a listing of allusions to Shakespeare by a group of leading Shakespeare scholars fail to mention the 1635 petition by Cuthbert Burbage, brother of famous actor Richard Burbage, directed to one of the dedicatee’s of the First Folio, and then describe William merely as a “deserving man” and “man player” rather than the poet-dramatist Shake-speare? [see # 16 in the additional reasons for doubt
  32. Why would Thomas Vicars omit William Shakespeare from his 1624 list of excellent English poets and then in his 1628 revised edition say “To these I believe should be added that famous poet who takes his name from ‘shaking’ and ‘spear’...” And why was this allusion also omitted by the Shakespeare scholars like the one regarding the Burbage petition?
  33. How is it that “when Shakspere died in 1616, no one seemed to notice. Not so much as a letter refers to the author’s passing.” If he had been the author, then surely he would have been memorialized by his literary peers. Even the actors he remembered in his will had no known reaction. One would expect to have seen this great writer interred with honors in Westminster Abbey in 1616, as the much less significant writer Francis Beaumont was the month before, and as Ben Jonson would be in 1637.

          Most theories, even data-driven, tested theories, go through significant changes to account for observed or discovered anomalies. But Kuhn says that sometimes there is great resistance to these changes from the older academicians with power in their field. So that the theory change must wait until the old guard dies off.
            So such resistance is not unusual and is evidence itself of weak and failing theories.
           Readers then can decide themselves if the Stratfordian Theory can reasonably explain all of the above anomalies. And if they haven’t easily done so by now perhaps one can admit that the theory is outlived its usefulness.

Monday, May 7, 2018

Shakespeare Week Debate at Brunei University

No Doubt you're all aware that we had a Shakespeare Week a week ago. At least there was one at Brunei London University

And, not surprisingly, there was another modest debate. This time between Non-Stratfordian Prof. Ros Barber, and Stratfordian Prof. Alan H. Nelson. It's the only event I've been able to watch so far from the event and it can be a bit difficult to follow without some visual aids. But there was just enough for the audience, modest though it was, to give a vote as to who won the debate. And the interesting thing this time was that the vote for the non-Stratfordian position was about twice the size of that for the traditional belief. If this audience was somewhat representative of the London area Shakespeareans, then it would appear to be that the birthplace of the Shakespeare plays (not necessarily that of the author) now primarily supports the position of authorship doubt.

And to the argument that such an event would most likely have more Shakespeare Authorship doubters in attendance--my thoughts are as follows:

That’s certainly a possibility. It might even appear to be obvious or ‘common sense’. Remember though that it once longed seemed obvious that the Sun, planets, and stars all revolved around a stationary Earth. And as Shakespeare said, there are “Things hid & bard (you mean) from common sense”.

So what you would have then is something we would call an hypothesis: That the cause of the debate vote being significantly in favor of the non-Stratfordian position is that the majority of the event attendees were non-Stratfordians to begin with. And that the cause of that condition is the premise that significantly more non-Stratfordians than Stratfordians attend such debates.

So what we can try to do off hand is to look at any currently available evidence for either the hypothesis or its premise. And then use what logic we can to narrow what is or isn’t rational, or to what extent some hypothesis or assertion stands up to scrutiny.

There have been previous debates. What can we learn from them?  The most recent one prior to this one took place on September 21, 2017 and was between Sir Jonathan Bate and Alexander Waugh at the Emmanuel Centre, London. It had been quite well publicized it seemed to me. Nearly the whole auditorium was full. At the end of the debate there was a vote and it seemed to me, as I recall, that there was not a significant difference between those voting for or against the Stratfordian position. As I recall,  another vote was taken of those that didn’t have a position to begin with, or that had changed their position as a result of the debate. And, as I recall, it seemed to the emcee or hand counts, that a slightly larger, probably not significant, number of these individuals voted for the non-Stratfordian position.

In Oct. 2013 in Toronto, Ontario during their own Stratford Shakespeare Festival there was a playful debate in the  form of a mock trial. And again, from my recollection of seeing the video of it, it was quite well attended and my impression was that it was most likely that only a small minority had any interest in the authorship question. Not very scientific, but my experience has been that most people are not interested in the authorship question even though they enjoy attending and/or reading the Shakespeare works.

What these two cases at least seem reasonably to prove is that authorship doubters are not necessarily more likely to attend such a debate than non-doubters. Nor are they more likely to attend such a debate than those with some interest in the Shakespeare works generally but who are not especially interested in such an event.

On the other hand the most recent debate, though part of a larger Shakespeare event as in Toronto, was held at Brunei University where there is or has been a Shakespeare Authorship degree program. That may reasonably have inclined some more individuals with an interest in the authorship question to attend, perhaps due to some previous connection with the program at the school. Or possibly just because more students and faculty there would be aware that there was such a program at the school.  But then, if such attendance was due to the second factor (awareness of the program) than the first (some personal connection or involvement with the program) then another hypothesis arises—that merely a greater awareness of a serious debate about this historical question increases an interest in it along with a non-committal stance, and that this itself led to a greater attendance of non-Stratfordian or at least Shakespeareans or intellectually inclined persons now having an open mind on the authorship question.

A good hypothesis nonetheless and one that even more debates may help settle!

Friday, April 13, 2018

Barber's University Course; Shakespeare's Grammar School Education Reviewed

SAQ news Updates

Well, it’s been a great start to the year for the Shakespeare Authorship Question movement.

Ros Barber’s first London course on the Introduction to Who Wrote Shakespeare appeared to be quite successful with an excellent turnout of interested students and much interaction and exchange of views. Many, perhaps most, of the students did not appear to be active in the debate prior to the class. As expected and as is normal, some were dissatisfied for various reasons. Feedback she received over questioned assertions or historical possibilities she will take into consideration for future courses.

The Stratfordian promoters were so concerned about the course that a major representative of the Stratford Birthplace Trust was recruited to try and motivate the school administrator to suppress and stop the class. We can see that this is further evidence that the current Shakespeare authorship theory is bankrupt and is sustained only by political pressure.

As you may recall it was Ros Barber who researched and published the article on “Shakespeare and Warwickshire Dialect” showing that there actually is no acceptable evidence that Shakespeare exhibited a dialect with Warwickshire connections. This was even publicly supported by a mainstream Shakespeare scholar. The most probable explanation for this is that the Author was not born and raised in that section of the country. This is further supported by a close examination of the purported author’s will that was greatly lacking in the expected references to items of a highly educated and cultured member of the London literary elite.

Amongst a mass of other collected evidence demonstrating the great gap of what is known about the author Shakespeare and the purported author from Stratford, let us acknowledge now too that the education the Stratford man may possibly have received as a boy was most probably not remotely sufficient to prepare him to be a highly educated and cultured literary fellow, let alone a future playwright. To see this for yourself please see the article by Steven Steinburg published by the Shakespeare Oxford Fellowship. Steinburg is also the one that wrote a review of Jonathan Bate’s Debate Fallacies from his contest with Alexander Waugh in September, 2017.

Steinburg’s research proved that there was in fact NO “ . . . standardized curriculum used by all Elizabethan grammar schools that included a comprehensive uniform collection of classical literary titles” that T.W. Baldwin asserted in his influential, but unchecked, book William Shakspere’s Smalle Latine and Lesse Greeke. [Note: Yes, in his many publications Baldwin often used the spelling ‘Shakspere’.]

Steinburg writes:

“I say again, the purpose of Elizabethan grammar schools was to teach students to read, speak, and write competently in Latin and to indoctrinate them so they would be faithful Protestants. Underlying [Carol Chillington] Rutter’s argument is the fantastical notion that young Will Shakspere had his eye on a career as an author-playwright and that his teachers encouraged and supported such bohemian ambitions. That is preposterous. At the time Shakspere was presumably studying at the Stratford grammar school there was not one example of a self-sufficient professional author in all of England. There is no evidence that grammar schools pursued such extravagant literary objectives even in the elite schools. Rutter, obviously, is infected by Baldwin’s naiveté and his imaginings about the ‘renaissance idea’ that had swooped over Elizabethan schooling, as Baldwin says (emphasis added):”

What the historical record actually reveals is that, most probably, the Stratford Grammar school could NOT have prepared young William to be an extremely literate, multi-lingual, adult that could move easily among the educated and literary elite. So some other means to support the traditional narrative will need to be argued.

Read Steinburg’s full article here

For these, and many other reasons, the steady stream of Stratfordian Authorship believers abandoning the traditional narrative and turning into Authorship Skeptics and Doubters keeps growing. The list of such publicly acknowledged doubters on the doubtaboutwill website who have signed the Declaration of Reasonable Doubt has recently sped past the 4000 mark and continues un-abated by any resistance.

That’s a good sign for those who care about the value of historical veracity.