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: