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.http://www.encyclopedia.com/topic/William_Hope_Harvey.aspx
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.

1 comment:

  1. Who needs evidence to mess up your mind? It only leads to bad thoughts, like maybe we haven't been told the truth for a few hundred years.