Tuesday, October 11, 2011

More Contested Will rebuttals

Some more rebuttals to James Shapiro’s Contested Will.

One of his arguments is that if the Shakespeare works were pseudonymous that the name on them would necessarily have to be consistent. But I don’t see any reason why this should be a necessity. And if Bacon was Shakespeare, as shown in all the previous evidence presented here, it may have been that sometimes Bacon had some control of the printing of a work and used “Shake-speare” or “William Shake-speare”, and if he was too busy to take time to exert control on the printing, the printers may have left out the hyphen. But again, the name, without the hyphen, has already been associated with the name of Francis Bacon on the Northumberland manuscript, where “By Mr. Francis Bacon” is associated twice with “Your William Shakespeare”.

Shapiro implies that if someone used a pseudonym that they would want all readers to know that it was such. But he gives no reasoning on why he thinks a pseudonymous writer that wanted readers to know he was writing under a false name, would use a name like that of a known person, rather than something more obviously a pseudonym, like Voltaire or the like. But if the author didn’t want it to be very easily known by the average reader that he was writing under a pseudonym then that would explain why he used a name like that of a known person, and maybe also why he wouldn’t be too concerned if the printers/publishers used slight variations on it. Perhaps also, he used other means to allow readers to figure out who the true author was.

Another of Shapiro’s arguments is that with so many plays being written with parts that had to be performed well, that the playwright must have had a good acquaintance with both the theater design and especially the various actors, even boy actors for female roles, in order to fit the parts to the actors and vice versa. He argues that ONLY someone working for the theater company could have this inside knowledge. But the problem with this argument is that he has already undermined it by also arguing that this same theater playwright could have knowledge of the court world by having performed at court as an actor many times, thus giving the actor/playwright Shakspere the insight to that environment. Likewise, a playwright, like Bacon, not directly tied to a theater company, could know about many of the practicalities of putting on a play in a theater by walking through it and talking to the various actors and operators. He could also talk to them when they were outside the theater walking about, as at bookstalls, or at the court where they visited, or at Wilton house where the Chamberlain’s men are thought to have played. So, fitting parts for Will Kemp or his replacement Robert Armin may not have been an obstacle at all. And since we have reports of non-theater aristocrats or courtiers writing plays, we know that it was often done. This easily refutes Shapiro’s contention that ONLY “a long-term partner in an all-absorbing theatrical venture” could have been a playwright. It’s no more sensible than the opposite argument that “ONLY an aristocrat could have been the playwright”.  There might be a preponderance of the evidence that leans one direction or the other, but neither can be absolute.

Also, evidence showing that Shakespeare, whoever he was, often used stage directions in an amateurish way has already been presented here in the Troilus and Cressida section.

A last argument by Shapiro, which he seems to think is the greatest argument of all, is of a special epilogue written for a court performance of The Second Part of Henry the Fourth. In this epilogue there is Shakespeare himself speaking as the author of the play. When this play was earlier performed at The Curtain Theater in Shoreditch the epilogue was said by Will Kempe who had played Falstaff. But for various reasons it was changed for the Court performance before the Queen and all. In this court performance, the epilogue had been changed to read as follows:

First, my fear; then, my curtsy; last my speech. My fear is your displeasure. My curtsy, my duty. And my speech, to beg your pardons. If you look for a good speech now, you undo me. For what I have to say is of my own making. And what indeed (I should say) will (I doubt) prove my own marring. But to the purpose and so to the venture. Be it known to you, as it is very well, I was lately here in the end of a displeasing play, to pray your patience for it, and to promise a better. I meant indeed to pay you with this, which if (like an ill venture) it come unluckily home, I break, and you, my gentle creditors, lose. Here I promised you I would be, and here I commit my body to your mercies. Bate me some, and I will pay you some, and (as most debtors do) promise you infinitely. And so I kneel down before you; but indeed, to pray for the Queen. 

Shapiro argues that a) ONLY the true author could have said “For what I  have to say is of my own making.” Why he thinks that is strange since actors are highly trained to say things many times a day that are not “of their own making”.  And b) Shapiro says that the speech is “brassy and confident” and that it’s “inconceivable that any of the rival candidates for the authorship of the plays associated with the court could possibly have stood upon that stage at Whitehall Palace, publicly assuming the socially inferior role of player, and spoken these lines.”  Well, the answer to this is 1) actors can say a line in a “brassy and confident” manner. They do it all the time in many rehearsals and then in the performances before hundreds and thousands of spectators. And 2) neither Bacon, nor any other Courtier or Aristocrat author would be the actual person saying the lines, so it wouldn’t be they that would be acting the inferior social part, it would be the actor. Then c) Shapiro argues that “it is even harder, after reading these powerful and self-confident lines, to imagine the alternative, that the speaker, who claims to have written the play they just saw, was merely a mouthpiece for someone else in the room, and lying to both queen and court.” The answer to this is that, again it is not hard at all for an experienced actor to say lines in a “powerful and self-confident” way. After all, they regularly play the parts of kings, soldiers, and other high-ranking characters. And about them “lying to both the queen and court”. First of all, the whole play, and all their plays, are lies. So even the prologues and epilogues, being part of the plays, should not be expected to be truths, even in a court setting before the queen. And Bacon, knowing the queen very well, would also know whether or not he could get away with such an epilogue said by the actor William Shaksper.  This is not difficult to imagine at all, and yet this appears to be Shapiro’s ‘best’ evidence that William of Stratford was the playwright Shakespeare. He just seems to be grasping at straws for whatever circumstantial evidence he hopes the average reader will accept uncritically.

There’s a new pseudo-debate between ‘Anonymous’ director Roland Emmerich and Professor Stanley Wells.
Also of interest was an exchange between Emmerich and Shapiro, in which, according to an Oxfordian website:

At a public Q&A with Emmerich recently, Columbia University professor James Shapiro (Contested Will) tried to smear Emmerich with insinuations of Nazism -- a vile slander that provided a case-in-point of the desperation and intellectual bankruptcy that marks most Stratfordian rearguard actions today. 

1 comment:

  1. The battle rages on. There was an interesting radio show the other day that reviewed a whole lot of new Shakespearean books. If you are interested you can listen to the archived shows on http://www.bookreportradio.com