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:
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 DoubtaboutWill.com 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:
- Mr. Shakspere’s thoroughly illiterate family background.
- 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: https://shakespeareoxfordfellowship.org/fake-truth-the-language-of-professional-shakespeare-scholarship/
- The illiteracy of his wife and two daughters.
- Why no family member or descendant ever said he created any literary works.
- Why does not anyone who knew or must have known him seem not to have associated him with the author?
- His demonstrated miserliness contradicting Shake-speare’s theme of generosity.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- How did he remain a nearly invisible public figure despite his extensive social connections, intellectual achievements, and popular success?
- That he seems neither to have written nor received any letters.
- Almost uniquely among Elizabethan poets, Shakespeare remained silent following the death of Elizabeth.
- 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?
- 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?
- That he left no examples of his handwriting other than, possibly, six unsteady, barely legible, uniquely spelled signatures of different “hands”.
- Why did the “Hand D” handwriting evidence have to based on watered down standards?
- Why is it that “not a single claim that Shakespeare used Warwickshire, Midlands or Cotswold dialect can be held”? http://www.fupress.net/index.php/bsfm-jems/article/view/18084
- The curiously inappropriate inscription on the ‘Shakspeare’ monument.
- That no one during his life mentioned him (identified as Shakspere of Stratford), much less lauded him, as an author.
- 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.”
- That his will made no mention of his theatrical holdings.
- That his will was utterly mundane and totally lacking in poetic or intellectual sentiment.
- That his gravestone is inscribed with doggerel verse.
- That the dedication to Shake-speare’s Sonnets memorializes Shakes-speare while Shakspere was still alive and had seven years to live.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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?
- The ambiguity and suggestively inappropriate qualities of the First Folio dedicatory poem by Ben Johnson.
- That there are no substantive specific parallels that can be drawn between Shakspere and Shake-speare’s works.
- That he appears to have owned no Bibles, whereas Shake-speare’s works indicated intimate familiarity with multiple versions of the Bible.
- 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 https://doubtaboutwill.org/pdfs/SAC_beyond_reasonable_doubt_1.pdf
- 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?
- 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.