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.

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