Saturday, September 21, 2013

Shakespeare Beyond Doubt - 21 - Chapter 2

Last review of Shakespeare Beyond Doubt (the one edited by Edmondson and Wells)

I said that I would answer this early chapter after finishing with the others. So here’s my response to it.

Chapter 2 ‘The case for Bacon’ By Alan Stewart

The author introduces this subject by mentioning Bacon’s primary biographer, James Spedding, who was a modern scholar who published the works of Francis Bacon’s in the latter half of the 19th century. Spedding had actually met Delia Bacon in 1853. Though he didn’t think that Francis Bacon wrote the Shakespeare works, he did believe and say that Bacon had written more than just the works that bore his name. Stewart says that the essential Baconian arguments were in place within thirty years of Spedding’s meeting with Delia Bacon. He says that these arguments were that: Bacon had written the works attributed to Shakespeare, and the evidence for it was contained in a cipher, and obliquely hinted at in some letters; there were multiple ‘parallelisms’ between the writings of Bacon and the writings of Shakespeare; and further proof could be found in two manuscripts – Bacon’s notebook and the scribbled cover of a miscellany.

Here are the points Stewart says represent the evidence for Bacon and his refutations along with my responses:

1) There was a letter to Bacon from his closest friend Tobie Mathew that included the postscript: “The most prodigious wit that ever I knew of my nation, and of this side of the sea, is of your lordship’s name, though he be known by another”. So the basic Baconian argument is basically that Mathew was still on the continent and in his letter [undated but it’s most likely date would be 1619] to Bacon was acknowledging that he had written some great work of wit but used another person’s name on it in place of his own. Since Bacon put his own name on his philosophical and legal works and his Essays, and since he had been a prominent Shakespeare authorship candidate when the letter was later being discussed, it’s assumed that he was referring to him authoring the Shakespeare works.

Stewart’s refutation is that “In truth, the meaning is quite clear. Mathew, an English Catholic convert living on the Continent, was referring to another English member of his faith (‘of my nation’) also living abroad (‘of this side of the sea’) born as a Bacon (‘of your lordship’s name’), but living under an alias. The obvious candidate is Nathaniel Bacon, an expatriate Catholic who was highly learned (‘most prodigious wit’) and who went by the name of Nathaniel Southwell.

Response. Unfortunately, Stewart is not very familiar with Baconian evidence at all. I’ll very briefly summarize just a few points from the chapter on this question in N.B. Cockburn’s (pronounced ‘Coburn’) book The Bacon Shakespeare Question, 1998. 1. If Bacon used an alias, it can only have been for literary works. And there is no reason to think that he used any other pen name than “Shakespeare”. Mathew, as Bacon’s intimate friend and literary confidant, could not have been mistaken [in whatever it was he was referring to]. 2. Mathew’s letter to Bacon was “a paean of gratitude and reverence”. Cockburn says “This was hardly the occasion to praise another man’s (Thomas Bacon) wit in the Postcript. For instance, Mathew had written a couple years earlier to Bacon “You shall never be able to live four hours out of my memory, when I shall be awake, though you should live four score years out of my sight”. And one year after that, in 1619, Matthew wrote a much greater paean of reverence for Bacon’s writing and character. (And which has been posted here previously). Mathew would not have taken the risk of putting his idol’s nose out of joint by hinting that Francis was an inferior writer to Thomas Bacon. 3. Mathew’s letter is for the purpose of thanking Bacon for a ‘great and noble token’ that is unnamed. So then mentioning Bacon’s “prodigious wit” would be fitting if this token were a great work of literature. 4. Why would Mathew be cryptic in a hint to this Thomas Bacon (and there’s no record in all of Mathew’s letters that he ever met or mentioned him) when he could have said something like “I have met Thomas Bacon and he is the most prodigious wit” etc. 5. Whether the Postscript refers to Thomas Bacon or to Francis Bacon, there was no need to mention the fact of an alias – unless it has the significance the Baconians claim.

2) Stewart next provides a refutation to the argument by some Baconians (apparently originated with Delia Bacon possibly after receiving a letter about this from Samuel Morse, the inventor of the telegraph), that since Francis Bacon was familiar with ciphers, having written and developed them, that these would be found in the Shakespeare works. The most popular kind later proposed was his bi-literal cipher. Later in the chapter Stewart mentions how William and Elizebeth Friedman, cryptology experts, demonstrated the unlikelihood of the proposed ciphers in their book The Shakespeare Ciphers Examined, 1957.

Response. The Friedman’s book did show how unreliable were the many proposed ciphers, and there were a great many proposed. But they also did not rule them out since they were so very common back in Elizabethan times. And there are still some ciphers, not just by Baconians, but some other authorship candidate supporters, that have been proposed and are still being sought.

3) The third piece of evidence Stewart deals with is The Northumberland Manuscript. This is a cover sheet of what was a folded bundle of some 22 sheets of writings. It was once in Bacon’s ownership and possession. On it are Bacon’s name and the titles of some of his writings along with a great amount of other miscellany. The penmanship is not Bacon’s but one or more of his scribes. The most interesting parts are those relating to Shakespeare. There are named ‘Rychard the second’, ‘Rychard the third’, ‘Revealing day through every cranie peeps and’ (Rape of Lucrece), ‘honorificabilitudino’ (Love’s Labour’s Lost), the word ‘plaies’, the word ‘printed’, as well as the full name and partial parts of the name of ‘William Shakespeare’.

Stewart’s refutation is that these may indeed be references to the Shakespeare works. However, he says that the plays were all available in printed quartos by 1598. (Venus and Adonis was printed in 1593, and Rape of Lucrece in 1594). So he says there was no guarantee that the Shakespeare plays and the MS had a close relationship of time period. He says the name of Shakespeare is spelt the same as in had appeared in print in 1593 and 1594. And the long word was not new since both Dante and Erasmus used a version of it. Therefore, he says it’s most likely that the references just happen to be due to the fact that Shakespeare was relatively well known in the late 1590s.

Response. Stewart doesn’t actually present any logical argument here for his conclusion. First, he seems to imply that the three Shakespeare plays were too much separated in time from the MS entries to be connected. But the first printing of all three plays are dated to the period of 1597-1598 which is also the approximate end date of the MS. So, that the play manuscripts were NOT found in the bundle, along with the finding of the word ‘printed’ and the close proximity of the time period of the printing of the plays lends credence to the idea that the play manuscripts were removed from the bundle and then printed. Second, he seems to suggest that since the name of ‘Shakespeare’ in the MS is identical to that used on the 1593-1594 poems, that this somehow supports that they were written by a different person, named William Shakespeare, than by someone using a pseudonym. However, this spelling of ‘Shakespeare’ is different than the spelling of the Stratfordian family, which quite consistently spelled their name ‘Shakspere’. [See Shakespeare Beyond Doubt? Chapter 1]. Also, the first printing of the two ‘Rychard’ plays did not have any author’s name attached to them. And in the second printings in 1598 the last name used a dash, spelling it ‘Shake-speare’. Even in this period was this thought of as a pseudonym since Thomas Vicars wrote in the third edition of his manual of rhetoric (in 1628) that “To these [poet names] I believe should be added that famous poet who takes his name from ‘Shaking’ and ‘Spear’. [See page 198 of Shakespeare Beyond Doubt?, edited by Shahan and Waugh.  Third, though the long word ‘honorificabilitudino’ had variations used before that in the MS or in the play Love’s Labour’s Lost, it appears that either Bacon or Shakespeare were the first to use a version of it in Elizabethan England.  This argues against Stewart’s suggestion that it was commonly used in England before then. In fact, the coincidence should be suspicious. Fourth, Stewart conveniently leaves out the observation that the name in the MS ‘William Shakespeare’ has, twice, the word ‘Your’ written before it, which would also support the hypothesis of it being used as a pseudonym. Again Stewart completely strikes out on the evidence.

4)  Regarding Bacon’s notebook we call ‘The Promus’, which Stewart quotes one reviewer as saying “that there is a very considerable similarity of phrase and thought between these two great authors [Shakespeare and Bacon], he simply argues that these phrases are all ‘commonplaces’ and can be found between many authors of the period.

Response. Again, Stewart shows near total ignorance of the evidence. Referring back to Cockburn’s book which presents the most thorough analysis, he estimates there are about 1100 good parallels of phrase and thought between the two authors. And that ONLY about 600 of these would come from The Promus. Another 500 significant parallels come from non-Promus sources of Bacon’s writings. In his book he discussed 100 of the best non-Promus parallels, then a selection of what he thought were the most significant Promus parallels. Most, or all, of this latter category have previously been posted on this site in the forum “Did Bacon write Romeo and Juliet”? His analysis ruled out the hypotheses of the best parallels being either commonplaces or of them caused by mutual borrowing of one author by the other. Neither Stewart nor any other Stratfordian has attempted a reply to his evidence and arguments.

So, in all, the Stratfordian expert on Bacon has zero evidence against him as an authorship candidate. The legal evidence by itself should disprove Stratfordian theory, especially since the primary support for it on this particular question, the book The Law of Property in Shakespeare and the Elizabethan Drama (1948 and 1968) has been shown to be ‘fatally flawed’.

I realize that the idea of William of Stratford not being the true author is difficult for many to grasp. But all the evidence provided by those that have looked most closely at this evidence suggests that the true author deliberately hid his (or her) name by disguise, and that this misrepresentation took on a life of its own and has not been questioned by the academic establishment, for whatever the appearances seen and whatever the assumptions and motivations they’ve had. The argument purely of authority opinion just doesn’t cut it anymore when the abundance of evidence clearly contradicts it.

Monday, September 9, 2013

Shakespeare Beyond Doubt - 20 - last chapters

Chapter 13-19

The last seven chapters of Shakespeare Beyond Doubt were a bit of a letdown due to their lack of substance so I’ll just run through them quickly. And if it’s substance you’re looking for in this debate then there are several books mentioned near the end that provide much food for thought.

Chapter 13Shakespeare tells lies” contains no evidence to address. But the author did want to look down from her position of assumed authority and make a point of saying that people like Walt Whitman and Justice Scalia were “snobs” for questioning what most take for granted.

Chapter 14 “‘This palpable device’: Authorship and conspiracy in Shakespeare’s life” also offers no evidence or serious argument to address. The author merely offers her opinion that to think that any alternative to Stratfordian theory must be less logical, just because.

Chapter 15Amateurs and professionals: Regendering Bacon” also offers no evidence or serious arguments to address. The author does make an attempt to psychoanalyze Delia Bacon for whatever that’s worth. He thinks the idea of anonymous writing is silly and that anyone in Shakespeare’s time could freely say and write anything they wanted without concern of the consequences. He’s also of the opinion that the only reason there are thousands of Shakespeare enthusiasts with Ph.D.s and Master’s that question the authorship is because most of those specializing in the area don’t question the authorship. So add him to the numerous ‘specialists’ that don’t have an educated opinion on the topic and don’t think they need to since they don’t think anyone should question what an orthodox academic says.

Chapter 16Fictional treatments of Shakespeare’s authorship” also offers no evidence or serious arguments to address. One thing the author does though is point out how some anti-Stratfordians in the past have belittled the man from Stratford from his ‘presumed’ lack of education and refinement. He seems to think that this is the predominant attitude of all anti-Stratfordians. Actually, this is not the case in the least, in my opinion. In the many years I’ve been reading on the topic, I’d say it’s very unusual, especially in the modern literature, to find much of any of that attitude, though there is some of it. Even in most of the authorship literature from nearly a hundred years ago I hardly ever found that attitude. Most of the writing has always dealt with the evidence itself. In fact, I’d say there is much more snobbish belittlement of other authorship candidates by the Stratfordians than there has been by the anti-Strats toward who we think of as the businessman/actor. The doubters have always been far more interested in gathering facts and evidence in their pursuit of greater clarity on the authorship question. Merely expressing some unsupported uneducated opinion has never been the approach of the serious researchers. That fictional treatments of the topic have often done this is a totally different matter since the intent then may be to try and stir up questioning and reexamination of the status quo. They are kind of a check on those fictional treatments that idealize and glorify the same man.

Chapter 17 discusses The ‘Declaration of Reasonable Doubt’. Unlike most Stratfordians this author thinks his peers should stop slandering the opposition. He admits that there is sincere doubt about the authorship, that the skeptics are not cranks, that they are not ill-informed. Rather, he says they’re intelligent, friendly, witty, and brave. It’s just that he feels that, regardless of the evidence, that he and other Stratfordians are smarter or more rational or something of that sort. He says that the skeptics believe the true author must have had a university education and that this is central to their case. Apparently, he’s read very little of the doubter’s arguments since they put little stress on a university education. The emphasis is that nothing known about William of Stratford fits what we see in the authorship of Shakespeare’s works. There are several means the true author could have acquired his knowledge and sophisticated literary skills, but a university education isn’t central to these, though it would help in some areas like his legal knowledge, his use of Cambridge jargon, access to an environment intellectuals and that’s conducive to poetry, playwriting and players, for example. But it’s not a central argument.

The author spends much ink arguing that his side of the debate has more ‘authority’ than the other side. What he doesn’t do is try and argue that his side has more or better facts and arguments than the other side. It’s long been taken for granted that there’s an orthodox, mainstream, group of academics with a dominant belief that the man from Stratford was the author Shake-Speare. What is also the case, and has long been recognized by most thinking people, is that the majority are not always correct in what they believe. He says “Let’s be reasonable” and rise above the rhetoric, and proceeds to label doubters as ‘anti-Shakespearians’ as if the Stratfordian skeptics don’t care to read Shakespeare, when in truth, we absolutely LOVE the Shakespeare works. Like most Stratfordians I’ve read, he shows no evidence of seeking out any of the doubter books written in the last 100 years. If he would at least read a few and then write more about facts and arguments, and less about ‘authority’, then we could have a more satisfactory exchange of ideas.

We recommend Shakespeare Beyond Doubt? Exposing an industry in Denial, edited by John Shahan and Alexander Waugh; The Man who was never Shakespeare, by A.J. Pointon; Shakespeare’s Unorthodox Biography, by Diana Price; The Shakespeare Guide to Italy, by Richard Paul Roe; and The Shakespeare Authorship Question: A Crackpot’s View, by Keir Cutler, Ph.D.

Oh, and Chapter 18 discusses the movie Anonymous and lastly Chapter 19 reviewed the Shakespeare Birthplace Trust’s strategy to suppress investigation into and discussion about the authorship question. The author tries to convince readers that if there were any new insights or evidence on the authorship questions, then it would be the orthodox academicians that would discover it, and no one else.

Really? Was it they that discovered all the exact use of legal terms and understanding in the works? Or the medical knowledge? Or on technical sea terminology? Or how about knowledge about Italy? Here, is where the mainstream Shakespeare scholars are shown to look especially bad in the doubter Shakespeare Beyond Doubt? book. In the doubter book on the chapter ‘Keeping Shakespeare out of Italy’ it’s shown how the standard academic scholarship, amid much excellent research, has still often been too presumptuous about many facts about the Italian references than to actually go to Italy and seek out any evidence there connecting real places and people to that in the Shakespeare plays. They had merely kept repeating what an early scholar thought about these references. And since the original scholar was so very wrong then all the subsequent scholars that copied him were in error. This doubter author, Alexander Waugh, after reviewing the history of the evidence, wrote: “My intention is simply to provide an introduction to the poor standard of scholarship among “professional academics” and to encourage them, where possible, toward a less emotional and more rigorous reaction to the many outstanding questions. They need to answer, for instance, how Shakespeare came to know about the churches of Florence, Padua and Verona, about the streets of Venice, the distances between unmapped Italian sites, Venetian customs, Italian monasteries and country estates, and the navigable canals and river routs of northern Italy?”

Clearly, the world needs independent researchers in the complex world of Shakespearean understanding since the mainstream academics are either too narrow-minded in their groupthink indoctrination or unable to risk their careers going down a path that challenges unquestioned theory and where they have less chance of being published, purely on grounds of prejudice. The Shakespeare Birthplace Trust and the majority of academics in this field seem to see this issue as a threat to their commercial dominance when they should be concerned about and valuing historical truth, whatever that may be, as part of the treasured heritage of human civilization and culture.

Thus ends our tournament of authorship jousts. Some of the matches were good tests though overall it was more one-sided than I expected. Not that I’m biased. Actually, the doubter book was much better than even I was expecting. I’ve read quite a bit from both sides but not nearly everything. And there was quite a lot in the Shakespeare Beyond Doubt? version edited by Shahan and Waugh that I was unfamiliar with. It may one day be recognized as one of the most important books ever published about Shakespeare.

Monday, September 2, 2013

Shakespeare Beyond Doubt - 19 - Shakespeare and School

Chapter 12 -  Shakespeare and School

Now for chapter 12 for the Stratfordian book, this chapter purports to demonstrate that William received such a fine education at the town’s grammar school that he would have been equipped to read any modern English and furthermore, like fellow Stratfordian Richard Field, be comfortable with French, Italian, Spanish, and Welsh. In fact, it’s been said that he’d be better educated than the average modern college graduate.

Well, Stratfordians make a lot of claims that don’t stand up too well when we actually look at the evidence and judgment of others who aren’t interested in such hyperbole. One such Shakespeare Scholar was James Halliwell-Phillipps [1820-1889] who spent some 30 years looking into the records of Stratford and vicinity. Regarding the town’s availability of books he wrote there were “exclusive of bibles, psalters and educational manuals, at no more than two or three dozen, if so many.” The now famous grammar school there had one room for both the petty and upper classes. It held about two dozen pupils. Does the school reflect in any way the town that built it? Helliwell-Phillipps wrote that “its fetid ditches, dung-hills, pigsties, mud walls and thatched barns must have presented [in Shakspere’s time] an extremely squalid appearance”. But might he have been biased, even though even he didn’t question William’s authorship? David Garrick [1717-1779], actor, manager, producer, who began promoting the town as the birthplace of the great playwright, described the town (more than 100 years after Shakespeare’s time) as “the most dirty, unseemly, ill-paved and wretched-looking in all Britain.” Quite a change from the beautiful town of modern times.

This is not to say that the town back then couldn’t have provided a good education for a child, only that it’s not nearly as likely as for those growing up in London in houses with large libraries and with tutors and easy university access. Still, let’s pretend that none of that matters. The claim is made that the school would have had taught Lily’s Latin Grammar as well as many of the classics and that the children would develop prodigious memories of all they read. But remember that’s only a claim. In reality, the curricula was only prescribed by the school charter or was proposed by educationalists. What book or books were actually available we don’t know. They are very unlikely to have been freely available to any student at any time. They were too expensive and valuable to risk as was paper. There is a record for the town’s purchase of a chain bought for the school to secure a book to a desk, suggesting its limited access. Pupils left school at age 14. William at that age may have been under pressure to help his father more. Nicholas Rowe thought so from the heresay he gathered, as he wrote that William’s father’s circumstances “forced him to withdraw” from school. 

But let’s pretend it was a great school with lots of learning of Latin Grammar and the classics. Is that satisfactory for becoming the greatest English writer in history? How did this schooling compare to that of others in more favorable circumstances? In addition to what might have been learned in the “ideal” grammar school, the students who attended a university or, better yet, also had family tutors for many years, would also have studied English history, English literature, modern languages, travel, and geography.  Many of them, such as Bacon and Oxford, would have studied Astronomy, Arithmetic, Geometry, Music, etc. Poetry, playwriting, and acting were very popular in some of the universities. In F.S. Boas’ Shakespere and the Universities (1923) he wrote “There was hardly a tutor whose desk did not contain a play he had written”. In The English People on the Eve of Colonisation (1954) Notestein wrote “As always there were, especially at Cambridge, young men of literary ambitions, who discussed poetry and plays, and were trying their hands at writing them.”

Was it common for pupils at age 14 to leave the Stratford grammar school with literary ambitions? Halliwell-Phillipps didn’t seem to think so. In his Outlines of the Life of Shakespeare (1881) he wrote: “I have the impression that the extent of the poet’s school acquirements has been greatly exaggerated.” And Shakespeare biographer Marchette Chute added: “Apart from teaching him Latin, Stratford Grammar School taught Shakespeare nothing at all”. And though Richard Field, as a printer, worked with type in different languages, does this imply that he had learned anything about them at the grammar school? Did he acquire any of the advanced legal knowledge or sophisticated literary skills by age 28 as the author Shake-Speare did?

It appears that even under the best of grammar school circumstances, that when he would have left school, young William still wouldn’t have been equipped to learn several foreign languages (Ben Jonson didn’t), become somewhat of an authority on medicine, the French court, seamanship, and law, etc. etc. And to have become so as well as being a sophisticated writer at the beginning of his career.

The presented evidence for William’s supposedly sufficient education to be Shake-Speare is insufficient. There are far too many unknowns for it to count for anything in his favor.

By the way, there are two new excellent reviews of the first Shakespeare Beyond Doubt book.

The first if by “Macduff”:

And the other is by Diana Price:

And after someone reads the doubter version Shakespeare Beyond Doubt? edited by Shahan and Waugh, there may not be any more debates. The essays in the second book strip away every single piece of evidence for the Stratfordian theory. You’ll find in it that there’s little or no value in the evidence based on Ben Jonson, John Heminges, Henry Condell, the mention of Stratford and the ‘moniment’ in the First Folio. Nor is the name of William Shakespeare going to be of help. Actually the name is shown to count against Stratfordian theory. Nor is any other documentation of William’s life useful to their cause, certainly NOT his Will.

Proponents of the Stratfordian theory seem to recognize this since there has not come hardly a word to challenge anything in the doubter book. Not a word from Ian Wilson “Shakespeare the Evidence, Scott McCrea “The Case for Shakespeare”, Bill Bryson “Shakespeare: The World as Stage”, Irvin Matus “The Case for Shakespeare”, or others. What appears more likely is an avoidance of any more talk of evidence and instead a doubling down on demagoguery.

There was one Stratfordian review at least of the doubter book. This is by Prof. Stanley Wells. He was upset that many professionals in the anti-Stratfordian ranks are still bothered at being slandered. And his refutation of the doubter book so far is that William ‘might’ have travelled in Italy—in essence conceding to the doubters that William could not have learned all about Shake-Speare’s Italy by reading books or talking to travelers. And if not Italy, then also not Law or Medicine or many similar extensively learned knowledge areas. He took the doubter book cover as a kind of mockery of the Stratfordian book. But that was not their intent. Rather because it was a response to the Stratfordian book they wanted to tie their book very closely to it since they represent the two sides to the debate. They should both be read and examined in tandem. Anyway, Prof. Well’s response for those who haven’t read it is here.