Sunday, December 11, 2011

Responses to more Stratfordian Questions - 3 of 3 - Bacon Theater Acting

Responses to more Stratfordian Questions (Continued)  Part 3 of 3

Thank you again for your comments.  Again, I’ll use bold for your original words so other readers can keep up with the conversation.

“….Elizabethan theatre, far from being the start of a process was in fact the culmination of a tradition that led back to the mystery plays and included “Interludes” that were popular during the early 16th century.  Scenes in Shakespeare follow the format of Interludes hence the completeness that I had felt. “

I’ve heard of the idea of the genre of mystery plays are their evolvement. Francis Bacon was likely also familiar with them as he was with “interludes”. What I take from this is that “Shakespeare” was well acquainted with the history and nature of plays. And here is a quote from Bacon on this: "There be certain Pantomimi that will represent the voices of Players of Interludes so to the life as if you see them not you would think they were those Players themselves, and the voices of other men that they hear" ( Natural History).

1) the companies performed a huge number of plays per year (150 according to Henslowe’s diary for one year; 33 plays over a 37 week period) and
2) that the players were working from cue scripts only and had no access to the entire play. 

Yes, I often marvel how, when so many plays were created so rapidly and ran their course in so short of time, why a dramatist like Shakespeare would put so much time into each one. To me, that’s an indication of someone who did not seek to churn out plays in quick succession for a short run in the theater. Rather, each appears to be carefully crafted over a lengthy period so that each would or could become a classic.

That the players worked from cue scripts shows to me that the playwright likely had experience in directing or producing plays, as we know that Bacon did.

The link for me finally was the Plot Sheet which is almost identical to the Plot Sheets used by the Comedia del Arte troupes. 

And Bacon understood the usage of something like a Plot Sheet or prompt book as he called it, as shown in this statement of his:

   "…speaking of the Queen Dowager as having the personal grievances against Henry with regard to the treatment of her daughter, and none could hold the booke so well to prompt and instruct the Stage-Play, as she could."    Bacon’s History of the Reign of King Henry the Seventh. 

These indications can only be included by someone who is familiar with the realities of being on stage. 

As Bacon certainly was as indicated in his many references to the craft and his known experience in producing dramatic works. See answers #20 and #45 in the “Exposing an Industry in Denial” rebuttal.

"Will be ready to furnish a Masque" (Bacon in a Letter to Burleigh).

In this quote it’s apparent that Bacon was the ‘go to’ guy to see a Masque prepared for court.  Obviously his skill in planning such productions was recognized at the highest, or next to the highest, level of the government, just as it was at Gray’s Inn.

They are inherent in the way the verse is structured and – again as an actor – the difference between acting Jonson and Shakespeare is remarkable.  Shakespeare “directs” the actors in ways that no other playwright has ever achieved, through his use and specifically misuse of Iambic Pentameter. 

Okay, but if “no other playwright has ever achieved” then please consider that his skill came not from being a professional playwright.

The verse is massacred - all for acting reasons.  How could anybody who was not an actor himself achieve that?  And of all the playwrights of the period, only Shakespeare does this. 

Personally, I’d think that only a master rhetorician could massacre such verse and have it serve a higher purpose successfully.  Also, an actor may not be the best to analyze how to create such overall effects between all those playing parts. A couple more quotes from Bacon:

"A looker on often sees more than a Player" (Bacon in Advancement of Learning).

Bacon also studied and thought about the earliest forms of theater. Compare this from Hamlet to the following quote

Bacon also studied and thought about the earliest forms of theater. He gives an example from Tacitus of a player who: 

“…in a fiction, in a dream of passion,
Could force his soul so to his whole conceit
That, from her working, all his visage wann’d.
Tears in his eyes, distraction in ‘s aspect,
A broken voice, and his whole function suiting
To his conceit.”

Compare to the story that Bacon wrote:
“Vibulenus, formerly an actor, then a soldier….
Wereupon Vibulenus getting up to speak, began thus;
“These poor innocent wretches you have restored to light and life;
But who shall restore life to my brother, or my brother to me?   [this resembles “What is he to Hecuba or Hecuba to him”]
Then Bacon comments that “With which words he excited such excessive jealousy and alarm, that, had it not shortly afterwards appeared that nothing of the sort had happened, nay, that he had never had a brother, the soldiers would hardly have kept their  hands off the prefect; but the fact was that he played the whole thing as if it had been a piece on the stage.

Bacon’s De Augmentis

There is also this Shakespeare speech:

"Speak the speech, I pray you, as I pronounced it to you,
trippingly on the tongue. But if you mouth it, as many of
your players do, I had as life the town crier spoke my
lines. Nor do  you not saw the air too much with your hand
thus, but use all gently, for in the very torrent, tempest,
and (as I may say) whirlwind of passion, you must
acquire and beget a temperance that may give it


And then compare to:
"It is necessary to use a steadfast countenance, not wavering with action, as in moving the head or hand too much, which showeth a fantastical light and fickle operation of the spirit, and consequently like mind as gesture; only it is sufficient with leisure to use a modest action in either."
 Bacon Short Notes for Civil Conversation

"The colours that show best by candlelight are white, carnation, and a kind of sea water green, and ounches and spangs) (Essay of Masques).

"Naked and open daylight....doth not show the Masques and Mummeries half stately and daintily as candle lights." (Essay of Truth).

Firstly the lack of evidence or people remarking on Shakespeare as a personality in the period. Plays were not literature.  Nobody read them and the only contact people would have had with them was in the mouths of the players.

You don’t think any of them were ever printed and sold as quartos? It’s looks like there were 18 of the plays printed and sold before 1623, many of these being printed multiple times.

Since they actually seem to have been very popular even outside of the theater, it looks like they very well could also be accepted as literature to some portion of the public.

I firmly believe that, at the time, nobody realised just how brilliant these plays were.  Except maybe the players but that’s not even sure. 

I think that a minority of the Literati, and some of Bacon’s friends, realized their brilliance. I’ve posted quotes here by Tobie Matthews strongly suggesting this.

Heminges, and Jonson realised that Shakespeare’s were worthy of posterity but it was not a generally held notion.  Nobody had ever published a collection of plays before.

Didn’t Jonson publish many of his Works in a 1616 Folio?

I have a copy of the Norton Facsimile and quite frankly it’s a mess.

I have a copy too. I wish I had the time to read all the plays in it in their original style.

I insist it is not a question of social snobbery but academic snobbery. This is how I perceive it.  I have been lambasted for making the comment but I still have the feeling that, among certain members of the academic community, there is a  feeling that these plays could not have been written by someone who did not have their academic level.  That a mere “player” could never have achieved such works.  Personally I hold players in higher esteem than academics.  I would say a mere “academic” could never have written like that.  That goes for aristocrats too.  Now I’m being snobbish, I admit. 

Well, I’m glad you admit it and are self-conscious about it. Most of us with strong views based on experience or learning may have some amount of snobbery in us. It’s the extreme, habitual, unconscious, and self-serving snobbery that is ugly and distasteful.

I do feel that much of the “anti” argument revolves around the artistic merit of the plays.  As someone who has studied the period in great depth, I feel that this is a modern projection which can lead to false conclusions.  Plays were of no more artistic merit at that time than the scripts of Sex and The City are now. 

My sense is that plays generally, as you say, were not regarded as having much artistic merit. I’m also aware of the opinion of them by Sir Thomas Bodley. Interestingly, Sir Thomas made a rather odd comment about Francis Bacon, saying  “Bacon had wasted many years of his life on such study as was not worthy of him.”  Bodley could hardly have been thinking of Bacon’s philosophical works, or his Essays, or his writings on Natural History. But if he knew of his practice of penning plays, then his comment makes perfect sense.

Yet it was Bacon, who complained about this too, and saw the potential for plays to be more esteemed. Here’s another quote of his:

“Dramatic poesy, which has the theatre for its world, would be of excellent use if well directed. For the stage is capable of no small influence, both of discipline and of corruption. Now, of corruptions in this kind we have had enough; but the discipline has, in our times, been plainly neglected. And though in modern states play-acting is esteemed but as a toy, except when it is too satirical and biting, yet among the ancients it was used as a means of educating men’s minds to virtue. Nay, it has been regarded by learned men and great philosophers as a kind of musician’s bow, by which men’s minds may be played upon. And certainly it is most true, and one of the great secrets of nature, that the minds of men are more open to impressions and affections when many are gathered together, than when they are alone.”

Bacon was surely one person at that time that could use plays as a kind of musician’s bow. Again he says:

“It is a thing indeed, if practiced professionally, of low repute; but if it be made a part of discipline it is of excellent use. I mean stage playing – an art which strengthens the memory, regulates the tone and effect of the voice and pronunciation, teaches a decent carriage of the countenance and gesture, gives not a little assurance, and accustoms young men to bear being looked at.”

So, I would think that you can at least appreciate that Bacon’s views on the potential usages of the theater and the benefit that plays can be to actors and the public, to be similar to your own, whether or not you would ever believe that he actually was involved in writing the Shakespeare works. And I would think that this shows that someone who wasn’t one of the actors in an acting group might very well have been able to understand what’s necessary to write for all the various actors involved.

Take care,

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Responses to more Stratfordian Questions, Part 2 of 3

Responses to more Stratfordian Questions,  (Continued)  Part 2 of 3
 (Stratfordian questions and arguments in Bold)
This seems to be a common theme in the way the doubters present their case.  They look for gaps in the evidence (the lack of paper trail, for example) and then do the research necessary to prove that these gaps are evidence.  Why? 

This ‘common theme’ must only exist in the perception of Stratfordians. Many of the evidentiary gaps have been known to exist for over a hundred years, and probably were mostly found by Stratfordian researchers. Alternative author advocates may be curious about certain gaps or other evidence and then research the area out of curiosity or maybe because it occurs to them that there’s a link in their candidate’s life that can explain the gap. In fact, this just happened to me by accident very recently. While reading Shakespeare, IN FACT by Irvin Leigh Matus, I read about how the Tragedy of King Lear  (not the exact title) looks to have become suddenly popular when Shakespeare’s version came out. There was an older version of the story which also became popular (again) at about the same time. It turns out that there was a real life case like the Lear story at about the same time, or a little earlier. A man by the name of Brian Annesley who had served the queen as a “Gentleman Pensioner” and then had been “rewarded with estates and preferments.” He had three daughters, the youngest named Cordell. His will to his daughters had some semblance to the Lear plays, as well as to the legendary King Lier.  Matus makes the connection between the Gentlemen Pensioners to Lord Hunsdon, patron of Shakespeare’s acting company. He then conjectures that “It is not out of the question that by this mutual association, the actors might have known, or at least known of Annesley and his daughters…” He then adds that the daughter named Cordell married William Harvey (the physician and discoverer of the circulation of the blood). Harvey had previously been married to the mother of the 3rd Earl of Southampton, a hypothesized patron of Shakespeare. Matus then cites Shakespeare researcher Geoffrey Bullough (author of Narrative and Dramatic Sources of Shakespeare) who wrote “There is no evidence that Shakespeare ever knew Harvey or Cordell Annesley.” Matus then said “This is true, as far as Shakespeare’s possible personal associations are concerned.” And he then adds “…the Annesley saga in itself is quite sufficient to explain the burst of interest in the Lear story in 1605.”

This is when I made the connection of Bacon to Cordell and the Annesley story.
Dr. William Harvey was Bacon's physician for a time and we know that Bacon had observed Harvey in lectures on the circulation of the blood. I wrote about this earlier showing how Baconian theory was easily able to account for Shakespeare’s knowledge of blood circulation prior to Harvey’s publication on the subject.
“Harvey had a huge practice and was physician to many famous people, including Sir Francis Bacon and the Royal family.” 
“Harvey had a broad interest in literature and art as well as medicine and philosophy, and among his friends and acquaintances were Francis Bacon, Robert Fludd, George Ent, Charles Scarburgh, John Selden, Thomas Hobbes, and John Aubrey, who has left an account of him in his Brief Lives.
Bacon may also have known Harvey’s brothers as they had a mutual interest in the medicinal effects of coffee. So he was in a good position to know the extended family.

So, getting back to the original point, anti-Stratfordians don’t necessarily need to be looking for gaps to try and explain. I happened to be reading a book arguing for the authorship of William of Stratford, and incidentally came across some conjectured Stratfordian evidence attempting to explain how William might have know about the Lear story connection to the Annesley and Cordell story. And as I read it I remembered Bacon’s connection to Harvey and then found some more which all suggests that Bacon was much more likely than William Shaksper to know Harvey’s wife Cordell as well as her family story.

Why do the doubters feel that it is impossible for Shakespeare of Stratford to have done the research necessary? 
Peter Shaffer’s play “Equus” shows a remarkable knowledge of psychiatry even though he studied history.  In the introduction to the printed version of the play he explains how he interviewed at length a child psychiatrist in order to give his play credence.  That is what professionals do.  Shaffer did not need to blind 6 horses with a spike to be able to write the play.   Without Shaffer’s remark in the book, one could certainly wonder how he gained such an extensive knowledge of child psychiatry.  To follow the doubter’s logic, would people in 400 years time say “Shaffer never studied psychiatry, so someone else must have written this play” ?

The doubters provide evidence showing that it would be unlikely, often very much so, to just do research to obtain all the detailed information and it’s creative use in the Shakespeare works. Just recently has a new book on Shakespeare’s knowledge of Italy come out which is said to show that Shakespeare’s knowledge of Italy is too detailed to have been obtained by just talking to travelers or reading books about Italy. Similar evidence has been provided on Shakespeare’s Law, his knowledge of the Navarre court, and his non-English source material and other incidental pieces of knowledge, as his knowledge of the circulation of blood and the characteristics of Dr. Caius in the Merry Wives of Windsor.

One of the principal arguments is the knowledge that is shown in the plays and that only a well educated person could have had access to that knowledge.  As an actor and avowed Stratfordian I counter this with another knowledge inherent in the plays; that of acting.  And creating for actors. I would actually go one step further.  Someone who had a formal education and no direct experience of what it means to be on stage in front of an audience would never be able to create like that.  A modern example.  Harold Pinter and Tom Stoppard.  Pinter was an actor, Stoppard not.  They both produced good plays but when you are acting Pinter, you can feel the difference.  I have performed in Chekhov, in one case the translation was done by a learned and highly respected university professor and in another, the translation was done by an actor.

This argument seems to be quite contrary to that of some leading Shakespeare scholars (like James Shapiro) who argue that direct experience isn’t necessary for what’s found in the Shakespeare works. They say that imagination by itself can explain the perceived deep  practical understanding of my scenarios and the use of language described in the works. So doubters will argue that such significant inconsistencies in Stratfordian theory undermine its plausibility.

Now maybe you know this, but in Matus’s book Shakespeare, IN FACT (which is good in parts but failed to offer any proof at all for William as the real Shakespeare) also makes the same argument – that if one could just experience Shakespeare through acting the parts, that then it would be obvious that ONLY an actor (with the name of William and who came from Stratford and acted with the The Lord Chamberlain’s Men and The King’s Men) could have written the Shakespeare works. In other words, don’t even consider any other evidence, regardless of its quality or quantity. All you have to do is to FEEL Shakespeare through acting the parts and then you can forget any amount of documented circumstantial evidence and logical argument. Oh, but one other thing. The modern-day academic scholar John Russell Brown, in his book Discovering Shakespeare seems to think that actually acting the parts isn’t really necessary at all. Matus quotes him saying “…we should then attempt to imagine performances. I have tried to show how every reader can use imagination and experience in the same way as an actor does, and how everyone can learn from what happens in a theatre during performance.” Well, if that’s true, that’s hardly a step away from admitting that a playwright who isn’t an actor can “imagine” performances as an actor does, and then pen such vicarious experience.

I want to add another “fact” .  The Puritans in Stratford were vehemently opposed to playing and documents exist to the effect that they would pay players NOT to perform in the town.  They had less power in the late 16th century thereby enabling the Queen’s Men to perform in 1587, as we know.  But by the early 1600s they had gained control, so when William of Stratford retired he was returning to a town that he knew would be very hostile to his profession.

That being the case – how about this as a conspiracy theory?  William Shakespeare of Stratford, knowing how he would be viewed as a player and playwright, did everything in his power to ensure that no-one in Stratford would know of his real profession – passing himself off as a wool merchant in order to explain his wealth. 

Well, you could add some support for this idea if you had heard the story from a visitor to Stratford some time ago that a painting of William had been doctored up so that it wouldn’t present him as a mere actor, which would be an embarrassment.

Of course this is total conjecture but it is no more outlandish than a conspiracy that involved hundreds of people – all the players in the Chamberlain’s / Kings Men (shareholders, hired men (including those who left their employ and gave printers their half remembered versions for printing), the boy apprentices, other playwrights in London, Oxford’s secretary (you are not going to tell me that an aristocrat actually picked up a pen and wrote when he had (documented) a secretary) and the rest of his household, the censors at the Chamberlain’s office,  etc.etc.  A conspiracy that remained absolutely watertight apart from a few rather ambiguous references that COULD be interpreted as hints. 

It’s a myth that such a secret would necessarily involve “hundreds” (some Stratfordians say “thousands”) of people. Only Stratfordians try to make this ridiculous claim. So, by the same ‘logic’ Stratfordians must believe that maybe tens of thousands of people knew of Tiger Woods infidelity (all the other pro golfers, their friends and family, all the golfing media that share insider stories, the various media networks they’re part of, etc.) and chose not to mention any of his secret life on Facebook or Twitter. And that tens of thousands of people knew about the Penn State assistant coach and his alleged sexual abuse of children. So we know that a number of people did know about it, and therefore so did everyone else in the Penn State administration, and their families and friends, and likely then all the Penn State football players would naturally know all about it, as well would all the workers and other students at the college, and then probably at other football programs around the country. And still none of these tens of thousands or hundreds of thousands of people ever posted this secret on some public media site. I mean, nowadays it’s a lot easier to let others in on a secret, unlike back around 1600 when paper was somewhat expensive and diaries weren’t kept by everyone and they didn’t have to survive 400 years. And yet, these modern day secrets (conspiracies to Stratfordians) about high profile people were kept quite securely for many years when the technology to reveal them was at its most pervasiveness.

There are no references to Shakespeare of Stratford as a playwright (or come to that a player)  This is interpreted by the doubters as proof that he was not the man.  It is not proof.  It is simply a lack of evidence.  There is only one thing in the whole debate that is provable – but unfortunately it is unacceptable to the academic mindset.  When acting in these plays and creating the characters, the plain fact is that they were created by a player. 

“The plain fact is that they were created by a player”. Didn’t you say, a few sentences earlier, that “There are no references to Shakespeare of Stratford as a playwright (or come to that a player)?   And that “It is simply a lack of evidence.”  Again, Shakespeare scholar Matus agrees. He writes on page 291 “…the academic Shakespeareans, nearly all of whom have studiously refused to consider their [Oxfordian or anti-Stratfordian]  evidence that purports to show that the record of the Stratford man is untrustworthy and that their “man” has the qualifications that the other man lacks.” So there you have it by a Stratfordian expert himself.  Nearly ALL Academic Shakespearean scholars have not examined authorship evidence that is contrary to the standard academic belief. And yet they like to give the impression that they have an educated scholarly opinion on the matter. But if it’s just gut feelings and hazy impressions that are needed to believe in the Stratfordian model then that would explain their lack of interest in the idea of closely examined evidence and logical analysis.

Through the use and misuse of iambic pentameter, the interaction of the characters, the scenic construction, the actor is guided and controlled in ways that no other playwright has ever achieved.  And only a player could achieve that.  It is not a question of understanding the rules of rhetoric, it's about knowing how to orchestrate words and emotions from an acting standpoint.  It's like music.  You cannot compose music if you are not a musician.  Well, I suppose you can - as you can write plays if you are not an actor.  But the result is not the same. 

“Only a player could achieve that.”  I understand that this is your professional judgment. Again, it sure looks like it contradicts the current mainstream Stratfordian stance that imagination can substitute for technical expertise. And, again, I’m also not sure why this slice of the evidence pie, if anyone would think that it actually  qualified as evidence, should take precedence over all other evidence.

We, in our time, consider these plays as works of a genius.  [note—Mozart comments deleted to save space].

These plays are not literature – they are play scripts.  Play scripts for actors to perform.  That was the intention when they were wrought and any study of them and their creator that does not take that into primary consideration is totally beside the point.  It would be like studying Bach as mathematical progressions rather than music. 

I’m not sure what additional argument is here. I guess the only thing I would ask for to be kept in mind is that even though they very likely were originally written as play scripts for actors, under Baconian theory, and maybe some other alternate authorship theory, some of the plays COULD have had added to them “literature-like” additions prior to being published in the First Folio. I’m not saying this was done, only that the potential was there since Bacon was alive at the time and working with Ben Jonson on publishing works that were under his name, and that a number of the First Folio plays have extensive alterations in them.

So I come back to my question … “Why?” 
Despite all protestations to the contrary, I can only see snobbery as the motivation.  Intellectual snobbery more than social status. And this snobbery is based on a totally false conception of what these plays were and why they were written.  It is also highly ironic given the low esteem plays were accorded during his lifetime.  Sure they were popular but then so is Sex and the City these days.

Doubters have the same frustration with the snobbery of Stratfordians. Why is it that ONLY mainstream Shakespearean scholars and their supporters are capable of researching and understanding the authorship evidence?  Is it the rarefied air they breathe?
Snip (Small deletion)

I have maybe strayed off the point of the last post but I find arguing over this or that detail somewhat futile.  I am in awe of the research but I don't see the point of it.

It’s a very complex subject and the mystery of it attracts a lot of attention. Solving mysteries and discovering some truth has always been compelling to a great many people. But it’s also very likely true that most people, like the Shakespearean scholars Matus mentioned, just don’t care enough to spend the time necessary to understand the evidence.

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Responses to more Stratfordian Questions, Part 1 of 3

Responses to more Stratfordian Questions,   Part 1 of 3

Thank you for bringing your perspective to this question. Again, I’ve kept your words in Bold and then added my responses. I think it’s best to respond over two separate posts, just due to the amount of text involved. And it might be helpful to readers to have easy access to the original statements, so I’m keeping those. 
One of the things that fascinates me endlessly in “the authorship debate” is the odd feeling that one is arguing / debating backwards. 

The extant references to Shakespeare from the period are numerous if not extensive. Francis Meres Palladis Tamia, Wits Treasury being but one example. 

Yes, there are many references to Shakespeare. That is not in dispute. The claim is that “Shakespeare” and “William Shakespeare” was actually a pen name that deliberately coincided with (or closely resembled) the  name of the man from Stratford who was also an actor. What seems to many of us as the biggest problem in this debate is that the Orthodox group (normally called the Stratfordians) generally don’t want to acknowledge these two hypotheses before trying to argue their case. They want to insist that any mention of Shakespeare is automatically a direct and knowing reference to William of Stratford as the person(s) who wrote the Shakespeare works. A fair argument would allow the two hypotheses and then whatever documentary evidence and argument could be marshaled would be examined and compared.

Anti Stratfordians seem to have decided that, as there is insufficient evidence to substantiate the Stratfordian claim,


that perforce Shakespeare of Stratford cannot have written the works

Not true. Anti-Stratfordians, as far as I can tell, are not absolutists. They provide evidence and arguments attempting to show that one particular hypothesis, or theory, is stronger than another.

and then go on to perform extensive research to “prove” their already preconceived theory. 

They attempt to come as close to proof as they can, even as the Stratfordians have tried.

Many hundreds or thousands of hours of research have provided them with details that substantiate their claims,  because they were looking for them .  One gets the feeling that their research is not destined at discovering the truth but at finding facts to support a theory.

I think there is much truth in this, but they see it nearly the same as the Stratfordians have always done. Though most anti-Stratfordians, I think, would be happy to have conclusive proof one way or another. Many of them are at least trying to discover the truth, and they feel a need to do this partially because the bulk of Shakespeare scholars do not want to research this question. At least, the anti-Stratfordians do not seem to have a financial or career threatening conflict of interest in the matter that would bias their interest.

I am sure that given the time and the inclination (of which I have neither) I could probably do the same thing and find sufficient evidence to doubt that Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart was the composer of the works attributed to him; rather that his father, Leopold – seeing his reputation as a composer starting to whither - decided that if he could pass his compositions off as the work of a 5 year old, there would be more interest in them.  Wolfgang was a brilliant performer and his father exploited this to give his compositions the attention he felt they deserved.   As his early biographer Niemetschek wrote, "there was nothing special about [his] physique. [...] He was small and his countenance, except for his large intense eyes, gave no signs of his genius."

If it were that easy, to just have the time and inclination, and then that sufficient evidence could be found to prove a theory, one would think it would have already occurred for the Stratfordian position, and to the full satisfaction of all, or nearly all, reputable observers. But this hasn’t been done despite over a hundred years of painstaking searching for evidence by many, many dedicated researchers very motivated to find such proof.

This is a totally spurious and somewhat pointless exercise and I will dwell no further on it;  but I use it as an example of how, if one wants to prove a point, selective research can always make it possible. 

The Anti Stratfordians bombard the debate with researched facts that support their case.  As there are at least 3 major contenders in the race (DeVere, Bacon and Neville) these facts often become contradictory.  The Baconites, for example, cite references to Cambridge University as evidence.  How does this sit with the Oxford case?  One argument from the Oxford camp has been that his coat of arms contains a lion shaking a spear.

I don’t know how the Oxfordians respond to the Cambridge evidence. Maybe they think they have good counter evidence or arguments for it. Then again, I’ve never seen any Stratfordian counter arguments for it either. There are at least three groups of the anti-Stratfordians that can relate their candidate to the name Shakespeare through the image of “shaking a spear” – the Baconians, the Oxfordians, and the supporters for the Earl of Rutland. So that supports their case, but is far from sufficient to prove it.

The doubters shower us with facts and then ask us to explain their research.  But their facts all turn around “absence”. 

Not true in the least, about the facts primarily being about ‘absence’. The evidence and argument they present is often ‘present’ evidence for their specific candidate. And they don’t usually ask Stratfordians to ‘explain’ the anti-Stratfordian evidence, except maybe on a comment website somewhere, and that because that’s about all they can do. What they really want is a scholarly examination of all evidence, either by a panel of experts, or by encouraging scholarly research on the authorship question in academic institutions.

OK here’s one “fact”.  Heminges was a member of a company called the Queen’s Men. In 1587 they were touring Oxfordshire and Warwickshire with an anonymous play called “The Famous Victories of Henry the Fifth”  This is documented due to the tragedy of the death of William Knell in Thame.  Much of this play turns up in Shakespeare’s Henry IV and V, some of it reworked, some of it almost verbatim.  Shakespeare and Heminges are inextricably linked  (many documents exist to that effect) for all of the known careers of both.  The plays belonged to the companies at that period.  So explain how Oxford (or Bacon or Neville) obtained a copy of “The Famous Victories …” in order to plagiarise or rewrite it.  Any explanation could only be through conjecture but there is a direct, documented link to Shakespeare and this play.  Coincidentally it is documented that The Queen’s Men performed at Stratford in the summer after William Knell’s death in June 1587.  And that Heminges married Knell’s widow.  And the last mention of Shakespeare in Stratford is 1585, the birth of the twins. 

To rephrase, there is a direct, documented link to the playwright ‘Shakespeare’, whoever he may have been, since he must have had access to “The Famous Victories…” to write Henry IV an V. Logically, the actor would have had access to this early play. Since as you say any explanation can “only be through conjecture” it seems hardly worth the bother. But since Stratfordians have long accepted pretty much any conjecture that suits their theory, I’ll just conjecture that Heminges lent a copy of the play to Francis Bacon who asked if he could read it. What for I can’t imagine. On the other hand he may have obtained a copy from printer Thomas Creede, who not only printed Famous Victories of Henry the fifth, but who also printed Bacon’s  The tvvoo bookes of Francis Bacon. Of the proficience and aduancement of learning, diuine and humane: To the King. At London : Printed [by Thomas Purfoot and Thomas Creede, for Henrie Tomes, and are to be sould at his shop at Graies Inne gate in Holborne, 1605.]   Notice also that Henrie Tomes had a bookshop at Graies Inne gate, an easy walk from Gray’s Inn where Bacon studied and later lived for a major portion of his life.

My eternal question to the doubters is “Why?”  What is it that motivates them to do all this research and to dedicate so much time and effort into trying to find an alternative to the man from Stratford? 

I wonder the same thing about astronomers. Why do they keep trying to find undiscovered planets or to explain the universe? Why?  Why did Copernicus, Galileo, and many others question the Geocentric theory of the universe?? Wasn’t there a very good theory already available that the authorities accepted and that could be used for the execution of heretics that thought otherwise?

They cite facts like the lack of contemporary comments on his death.  Mozart suffered much the same ignominy. They dwell on the fact that there is no mention of books in his will.  But they fail to give importance to the fact that in the will are bequests to John Heminges and Richard Burbage.  The latter of these two facts links Shakespeare of Stratford to the playhouses of London, the former tells us absolutely nothing.  So why is something that tells us nothing at all more important than a documented link? 

It is not just that there was a lack of contemporary comments on William’s death. It’s just a pattern of a lack of positive authorship evidence for him that seems to stand out. I don’t think that they fail to give any importance to the bequests to Heminges and Burbage. There’s been quite a bit of thoughtful analysis about it. It does show they were friends to the end at least. But one of the recent comments I read, from an Oxfordian website, was why William didn’t leave them more than just the rings?  There’s an argument, though I didn’t save it, suggesting that if William had been the playwright Shakespeare, that it would have been more likely to leave more for them and say more about them as friends in his will.

Friday, November 25, 2011

Shakespeare Authorship Answers - SAC - Birthplace Trust

Exposing an Industry in Denial

The Shakespeare Authorship Coalition (SAC) has published its own answers to 61 questions asked by the Shakespeare Birthplace Trust regarding the Shakespeare Authorship question.  Now, everyone interested in this topic can see what scholars for both groups have to say on this large number of interesting aspects of the authorship of the greatest literary works in Western history.

THE SAC has titled their document “Exposing an Industry in Denial” and is a must read to be familiar with the topic in general. You can see why both sides of the debate think the way they do. For those who are already ‘Doubters’ you can expand your understanding of the various questions involved in the debate. For those who haven’t taken a position and who may just be intellectually curious you can get an excellent contrast in the opposing views that will help clarify the two main positions. And for die-hard believers in the Stratfordian camp you have the opportunity to understand why there are ‘Doubters’ at all and see who many of them are, and this NOT from the distortions of the Orthodox camp, but from many of the most prominent doubters themselves.

It’s a lot to take in and may need to be read a couple times to really start to understand the opposing viewpoints. But without a doubt it’s the best place to start to begin having an educated opinion on this very long contentious issue.

Here’s the link. Happy reading!

“60 Minutes” Questions (abbreviated)

Q1: Books in Stratford?
Q2: Attend grammar school?
Q3: Reflect university education?
Q4: Reflect Stratford grammar school?
Q5: Family’s illiteracy relevant?
Q6: Richard Field connection?
Q7: Links to Stratford in plays?
Q8: Works reflect life in Stratford?
Q9: When first appear on the scene?
Q10: Seen as author of specific works?
Q11: Other writers dispraise his work?
Q12: Plays in own name in his lifetime?
Q13: Name used to sell plays he wrote?
Q14: If fraud, what about the evidence?
Q15: Shakespeare famous in life-time?
Q16: Concerned about gaps in record?
Q17: Where did he get his money?
Q18: What was his social status?
Q19: Author never left England?
Q20: Actor names in printed texts?
Q21: Know theatrical practice?
Q22: Shakespeare’s personality?
Q23: Conspiracy theory reaction?
Q24: Extent of collaboration?
Q25: Collaboration in minor ways?
Q26: Collaboration common?
Q27: Multiple author methods?
Q28: His verse vs. Marlowe’s?
Q29: Any aristocratic patron?
Q30: Aristocracy and theatre?
Q31: How presented in fiction?
Q32: Other writers in question?
Q33: Authority of First Folio?
Q34: Prefatory poems in Folio?
Q35: Does his will shed light?
Q36: Absence of books in will?
Q37: Commemorated at death?
Q38: Does bust tell profession?
Q39: What learn from Jonson?
Q40: When questions started?
Q41: Reasons for questioning?
Q42: Psychological impulse?
Q43: James Wilmot’s role?
Q44: Delia Bacon’s role?
Q45: Francis Bacon plausible?
Q46: Agree with Mark Twain?
Q47: Why did Freud doubt?
Q48: Why did Henry James doubt?
Q49: Oxford’s theatre connection?
Q50: Factual objections to Oxford?
Q51: Factual objections to Marlowe?
Q52: Who else suggested as author?
Q53: Brunel, Concordia programs?
Q54: Mainstream scholar attitude?
Q55: Typical conspiracy theory?
Q56: Why Conspiracy Theories?
Q57: What Stephen Fry thinks?
Q58: The Indian perspective?
Q59: Why Emmerich doubts?
Q60: Reputation being stolen?
Q61: Links to royalty of his day?

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Responses to various Stratfordian points


I’ve tried bringing here (in bold font) from your three posts what I think are the main arguments you’ve made, outside of the purely Oxfordian counters. 

“…is the theatricality of the plays and the creation of the characters. These plays could only be wrought by someone who LIVED the theatre, who was a player and knew how to "speak the speech". 

My response:  Some responses to this argument have previously been given so I won’t repost them entirely. “Only” is categorical when I think you likely mean “highly probable”. If you actually do mean “only” then you would need some kind of absolute proof that no one who was not an actor and professional playwright could possibly write a play. Other evidence already presented here, some by a playwright, shows that writing a play wasn’t all that difficult. And it wasn’t that difficult to be familiar with a stage or with various actors associated to an acting  company, or with how a play might be produced. An outsider could still spend time around all of these—theaters, actors, practices and learn a fair amount about the process. This is plausible and would better explain some of the unprofessional stage directions. See posts 7 and 9 in the Troilus and Cressida forum here.

“Look at the "Oh what a rogue and peasant slave am I" speech.  The misuse of the iambic pentameter, short lines, midline endings, replacement of iambs for trochees, lines with more than 10 beats etc etc are all gifts for the actor.  Only a player could write like that.  Anybody who had received a classical education would never make those "mistakes"”. 

You cite examples of “mistakes” in language and grammar and the like and say that “only” a player could make these. Previously, in the forum on Was Shakespeare a lawyer?, I provided expert opinion that concluded there were no “mistakes” in Shakespeare’s law that couldn’t be explained by intentional legal distortions made purely for the sake of the drama. Similarly, it may take a master of rhetoric to play with it and display intentional ‘mistakes’ purely for the fun of the drama or maybe to make some point about rhetoric itself. And according to an expert in rhetoric, Sister Miriam Joseph Rauh in her book Shakespeare’s Use of the Arts of Language, Shakespeare was familiar with a number or books on rhetoric, such as: The Orator translated from French by Lazarus Pyott, Arte (by Puttenham), Peacham’s Garden of Eloquence, and probably Lawier’s Logike, Arcadian Rhetorike, Rule of Reason, and possibly The Arte of Rhetorique. She shows that Shakespeare had an “easy familiarity with the arts of language and the terms peculiar to them”. Speaking about the Schemes of grammatical construction she says “Shakespeare, above all writers of English, has this poise, balance, mastery, and easy control” and that his “mastery of rhetoric” “kept pace with his growth in the mastery of verse”. She gives many examples that “show Shakespeare explicitly referring to grammar, logic, and rhetoric and using terms peculiar to them”. So to say that Shakespeare made real mistakes in his verse and grammar doesn’t hold up to the evidence of his mastery in this area. Now, could he possibly have learned his rhetoric, grammar, and logic in the Stratford grammar school between the ages of between the ages of 7 and 14? (Some think if he attended it he would have had to leave at age 13 to help his father.) -- Considering also that there was no English grammar until 1586 when William already was 22 years old. Up till then he would likely only had formal instruction in Latin grammar. So are we to imagine that William spent his days in the London book stalls reading what he could find on English grammar and rhetoric (among his also supposed readings in languages and law) and when he wasn’t being a heavy for Langley?

In contrast, we have documented evidence that Francis Bacon was tutored at Cambridge by John Whitgift who later became Archbishop of Canterbury. Whitgift had given both Francis and his brother Anthony “major classical texts and commentaries”, Cicero’s rhetoric “likely Rhetorica ad Herennium”, Orations of Demosthenes, various treatises in Greek and Latin rhetoric, and the Commentarii of Julius Caesar” among other works. And this only refers to a few works they studied at Cambridge. And he would have been required to study legal grammar while at Gray’s Inn. So Bacon had a “classical” education. But could he apply this learning in an imaginative way? The author of The Cambridge Companion to Bacon wrote “Any detailed study of Bacon’s writings, in English or Latin, will show that he used the figures and tropes of rhetoric fluently and imaginatively, throughout his career.”  So this matches expert opinion on Shakespeare’s rhetoric. But what evidence exists showing William of Stratford definitely had this knowledge and skill? (Remember, just citing the Shakespeare works won’t work because their authorship is what’s at issue).

“Playhouse practice.  The plays belonged to the companies, not to the authors.“  “Shakespeare was the only playwright ….”

This is conjecture, not something proved. That’s why there’s an authorship topic at all. So there’s a lot of conjecture about how Shakespeare’s companies produced plays. It might be based on some evidence and also be plausible. But there’s no proof that William wrote the Shakespeare works. And it cannot be ruled out that the plays weren’t written elsewhere and given to William to bring to the company. Maybe non-Shakespeare plays were created as you say, but there’s no proof or good evidence that Shakespeare’s absolutely were also created in this manner. We all need to be on guard not to make what seems plausible and sensible to be taken as fact. That has led many people astray on many beliefs.

“It is unimaginable that William Shakespeare, as a playing member of the company, managed to hide for over 15 years the fact that he was not the author of the plays under consideration.” “And equally unimaginable that the entire company knew and yet nobody ever let slip the slightest indication.”

Actually, we know now from plenty of contemporary evidence that it’s not the least bit unimaginable. In the news currently is how a football assistant coach at a major university in the U.S. was a pedophile for some 10-15 years and that even though many high ranking officials could have reported him to the police, they didn’t, apparently to protect their institution and the great income it took in from its football program. Then there’s the recent story in finance where one of the most highly respected investors, Bernie Madoff, ran a Ponzi scheme for between 15-35 years that defrauded many of the social elite of billions of dollars while escaping the SEC (Securities Exchange Commission) whose purpose it was to find and stop people like him. His wife had no idea of his ongoing crimes and even his two sons that were in his company weren’t aware of it. One of his sons committed suicide because he thought that no one would ever believe that he wasn’t in on his father’s criminal activity. One expert even told the SEC several times about what Madoff was doing, and provided irrefutable evidence, and still the SEC did nothing. Then there’s the story of the great American golfer Tiger Woods, who while being married and having two young children, carried on affairs with somewhere along the lines of a dozen mistresses. His wife didn’t know of course, and though there were some other golfers that knew of it, they didn’t feel obligated to get involved and so they didn’t report it to anyone that would make it public. And we know there were ongoing ‘conspiracies’ in Shakespeare’s time. Even Francis Bacon, advisor to the Earl of Essex, was unaware that Essex would try to overthrow Queen Elizabeth, or at least to march in on her with unknown intent.

So even if “the entire company knew” Shakespeare’s non-authorship secret, they would have good reason not to spread it around.  In the prime of the Shakespeare works the plays would fill the theater. The plays brought in money. Why would any player think it’s so important to jeopardize not only his income, but also that of his friends, just to spill the beans on where some plays are actually coming from? Who would really care anyway? And would the shareholders not care to lose their business income either? If a regular player came to John Heminges or Henry Condell and told them he was sure that William wasn’t actually the real playwright, might they just tell this player to ‘mind his own business’?  And how do we know that one or two of them didn’t write in a diary some where the truth of about William? Maybe someone did but this diary or whatever was lost like all the supposed letters, notes, etc that is the orthodox thinking of William’s non-literary writings.

“John Heminges knew Shakespeare for over 30 years.  They met in probably 1587 and Heminges was a beneficiary in Shakespeare's will.  As was Burbage.  They were all liars?  Why?” 

They were friends and business partners. Why would Heminges or Condell or Burbage or others want to sully his friend’s name? Why should it be so very important for someone in the know to blab to any and everyone that would listen what would probably have been an inconsequential fact or possibility? For what? For Hecuba? (Sorry, that slipped out J).

Now, a few other playwrights might learn of the truth and want to share it. This seemed to happen in the Hall and Marston Satires where they seem to be clearly pointing at Bacon as the author of the Shakespeare poems. And then we find the Archbiship Whitgift (Bacon’s former tutor) ordering these same Satires to be burned. And some have argued that Ben Jonson, before he became one of Bacon’s friends, had learned the truth of the Shakespeare authorship, and this may have led Bacon to bring him into his circle. I’d like to do a post on this but if I can get around to it, it may not be till next year.  Many people think it would have been impossible to keep a pseudonymous authorship a secret, but the evidence does not support such an assertion. And Bacon was known to be an authority on secrecy and knew enough influential people to sometimes pull strings to get some favor he wanted. Again, to quote Bacon “Let him do his private business under a mask.” De moribus interpretis; as well as “In choice of instruments, it is better to choose men of a plainer sort,. . .”   Essay OF NEGOTIATING

“What possible motivation could there be for continuing the pretence?” 

Money for the business people and actors. Friendship and loyalty to Bacon as well as to William. And maybe William “the gangster” could also persuade people not to ask too many questions.

“Many of the arguments put up by the Oxfordians talk about "knowledge of court life" etc that Shakespeare of Stratford could not possibly have known about.  The reverse is certainly true.  There are many "low lifes" in the plays and I find it much more credible that a commoner could do the research to find out about court life than an aristocrat would be able to write so realistically about "low lifes." 

There would be more to learn about the complex life at court and the lifestyles of the nobility than there would be of the average person. The plays don’t really show much interest in country pursuits like haymaking, reaping, fruit-picking, maypole dancing, etc. At least Bacon would have travelled around Warwickshire where one of his maternal uncles (Sir Anthony Coooke) lived, in the forest of Arden.

“At the time they were considered, at best, entertainment but more usually simply rubbish. “  

Yes, though Bacon thought they could be of value. And it was mainly the stuffy elite that considered them rubbish. Many of the literati could see the value in them. “And in the plays of this philosophical theater you may observe the same thing which is found in the theater of the poets, that stories invented for the stage are more compact and more elegant, and more as one would wish them to be, than true stories out of history” (Novum Organum).

“It took John Heminges, Henry Condell and Ben Jonson to recognise the value of the plays and many years of what must have been incredibly hard work to collate the disparate papers - prompt books, cue scripts, plot sheets and some previously printed Quartos to be able to put together the First Folio. …..”

There’s a lot of conjecture here. We don’t know exactly what all Heminges and Condell did. What they said is one thing but there’s good reason to believe they weren’t trying to be truthful about everything.  Same with Ben Jonson. We can’t just take what was said back then at face value, just as we can’t take literally everyone’s word about everything today.

“And was probably commercially pointless.”

Well, Bacon is on record as not seeking money from his works, and the same with fame, at least not in his own time.

“The "chain of custody" can be inferred (ok not proven) by the playhouse practices of the time.”

An inference isn’t good enough. What Hudson and others have pointed out is that no one is known to actually have seen William write any of the Shakespeare works. There’s hardly anyone that even mentions him during his life. And references to Shakespeare the author are not in the same category as references to “my friend William of Stratford who many times I saw sitting writing some play of his”, which don’t exist.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

That Gangster Shakespeare

That Gangster Shakespeare

An article on the internet getting discussed lately is by historian Mike Dash. His article, “William Shakespeare, Gangster” is on the Nov. 7, 2011 site (link will be below). Mike Dash is described as the New York Times best-selling author and historian. He is not an ‘anti-Stratfordian’ (at this time anyway). But he doesn’t seem to have studied the authorship evidence that is opposed to the orthodox view. In any case, he wrote about a little mentioned document that shows William Shakespeare of Stratford as having been “involved in the low-life rackets of Southwark” within the “shadiest part of the theater world”.  Dash writes that Shakespeare biographers tend to dismiss or distort this document from its clear reading of a charge regarding William’s threat of life upon another “gangster” type in London’s rough theater world and the rackets that surrounded it. This is not to say that this was a long time activity of William, if Dash’s interpretation is accurate, or that he couldn’t also have had a great imagination and flair for words. My question is this – why is it that Shakespeare biographers, like Schoenbaum, hardly want to acknowledge this historical document and deal with its implications?  Isn’t it because they really do believe that character matters, as do a writer’s interests, associates, and attitudes?  Profiling is already done to some degree for every authorship candidate that I’ve read about.  So readers interested in authorship evidence should give this category a fair review and include all relevant evidence.

Comparisons of Shakespeare to Francis Bacon with respect to their political views, historical interests, familiarity with music and sports and medicine, attitudes toward money, as well as gardening, law, languages, and philosophy are all covered here in the June 2011 topics.

In addition, here is a brief appraisal of Bacon’s reputation by the Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy (“A peer-Reviewed Academic Resource”). This is by someone who is definitely not a “Baconian”. (As usual, he too seems unaware of the authorship evidence). At least though, readers who do spend some time examining evidence, should keep the following in consideration:

“Sir Francis Bacon (later Lord Verulam and the Viscount St. Albans) was an English lawyer, statesman, essayist, historian, intellectual reformer, philosopher, and champion of modern science. Early in his career he claimed “all knowledge as his province” and afterwards dedicated himself to a wholesale revaluation and re-structuring of traditional learning. “

If anyone deserves the title “universal genius” or “Renaissance man” (accolades traditionally reserved for those who make significant, original contributions to more than one professional discipline or area of learning), Bacon clearly merits the designation. Like Leonardo and Goethe, he produced important work in both the arts and sciences. Like Cicero, Marcus Aurelius, Benjamin Franklin, and Thomas Jefferson, he combined wide and ample intellectual and literary interests (from practical rhetoric and the study of nature to moral philosophy and educational reform) with a substantial political career. Like his near contemporary Machiavelli, he excelled in a variety of literary genres – from learned treatises to light entertainments – though, also like the great Florentine writer, he thought of himself mainly as a political statesman and practical visionary: a man whose primary goal was less to obtain literary laurels for himself than to mold the agendas and guide the policy decisions of powerful nobles and heads of state.”

A couple more quotations from Francis Bacon:

"As for my Essays and some other particulars of that nature, I count them but as the recreations of my other studies, and in that sort purpose to continue them; though I am not ignorant that that kind of writing would, with less pains and embracement, perhaps yield more lustre and reputation to my name than those other which I have in hand."--Bacon to Bishop Andrews, 1622.

Note: How could this other writing he refers to not “yield more luster and reputation” to his name, unless it wasn’t to be published, or at least wasn’t to be published under his name??

I am not hunting for fame nor establishing a sect. Indeed, to receive any private emolument from so great an undertaking I hold to be both ridiculous and base.”  

Note: if he wasn’t “hunting for fame” from his serious great undertakings, it’s quite likely he wouldn’t be seeking it either from his “recreations” or “merry tales” (mentioned elsewhere).

Referenced links: