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.