Tuesday, October 13, 2015

News from the Authorship Front - Ashland Shakespeare Authorship

The Shakespeare Oxford Fellowship’s 2015 conference just finished in Ashland, Oregon. Ashland, by the way, is the site of the Oregon Shakespeare Festival and of the first Elizabethan theater in the U.S.

They (the Oregon Shakespeare Festival) announced while we were there that they are starting a project to modernize all 38 plays into contemporary English. See more here:


Before the conference itself began there was a community lecture at a local church titled “British Scholars Address the Shakespeare Authorship Challenge”. The attendance there of over a 100 members of the community is a testament to the growing awareness and interest in the authorship question by both the patrons of Shakespeare theater as well as theater professionals themselves.

Three of these scholars: Ros Barber, Kevin Gilvary, and Alexander Waugh also gave an excellent radio interview on the authorship question which I highly recommend for anyone with an interest in what’s happening outside as well as inside of academic Shakespeare studies. The radio interview can be heard here:


I’ll only mention a few of the conference talks and activities which were quite varied, including a few trips to the theater to see Much Ado, Anthony and Cleopatra, and Pericles, which was especially delightful, so much so that it will be shown at the Folger Shakespeare theater sometime later. There was also, for each play, an opportunity to discuss the plays with visiting actor panels.

Some of the talks:
--Julia Cleave presented some of the latest evidence strengthening the case that the playwright had a detailed knowledge of some specific art pieces in Italy, notably that of the Bassano Fresco.
--Alexander Waugh and Roger Stritmatter announced A New Shakespeare Allusion Book. Naturally, non-Stratfordians have found too many overlooked Shakespeare allusions or ones that have been interpreted narrowly so that they conform to Stratfordian Theory. If you are at all interested in the history of the Shakespeare phenomena you owe it to yourself to get a copy of their book.
--Similarly, Prof. Michael Delahoyde, brought out a new Oxfordian edition of Anthony and Cleopatra showing how many references, nuances, language usages, etc. can be explained or interpreted from the Oxfordian or non-Stratfordian perspective.
--There were also quite good talks challenging current orthodox perspectives on the authorship of quartos for Romeo and Juliet. For instance, that there’s good evidence that Q1 was a first draft rather than a poor memorial reconstruction. One would think that mainstream scholars would be interested in examining and debating this evidence and argument.
--Then there was Kevin Gilvary who examined Who Wrote Shakespeare’s First Biography? His conclusion, as I recall, ‘it hasn’t happened yet’.
--Researcher Katherine Chiljan found more early instances of ‘Shakespeare’ as an early pen name.
--A few talks were on the play Pericles arguing quite well that the basis for it being collaboratively written is weak, and showing how it fits the template for an early, Hermetic, Historicized, Miracle Play.
--A final mention goes to the talk by Lawyer Tom Regnier who discussed some points of the legal argument in the authorship question. Specifically, the usage and validity of ‘hard’ evidence vs that of circumstantial evidence and ‘coincidences’. Citing legal authorities on courtroom evidence he showed it’s clear that ‘coincidences’ and circumstantial evidence can be just as valid for judgments as what are thought of as hard evidence. This becomes especially important when we see that the ‘hard evidence’ for Stratfordian Theory is actually far too ambiguous to be considered decisive, besides lacking in other converging lines of supporting circumstantial pieces of evidence. In essence, all we have for any of the candidates is circumstantial evidence, and so my view is that we would benefit by ways to weigh the many pieces of circumstantial evidence to provide greater clarity to the historical question.

Earlier this year there was another scholarly debate, related to the bible, and an article covered it that I found informative. Here’s the quote I like and the link to the article:

"Integrating physical material evidence and intangible literary evidence is difficult: The two sides are looking at the same object, but are focusing on different issues, and answering different questions. The methods they employ address particular concerns, but not necessarily those raised by the opposition. No data point—either from a lab or from a linguist, be it an ink test or a grammatical error—will decide the issue on its own; it must be considered in light of the entire body of evidence. If the arguments brought to bear on the issue so far do not produce consensus among scientists and scholars, then there will probably be no final word."


Similarly, here are some interesting partial quotes from CNN’s chief medical correspondent (Dr. Sanjay Gupta) on his lateness in considering the scientific case for marijuana in medical treatments (more interesting now that some researches think the Stratford Shakespere lit it up on occasion:

“I apologize because I didn’t look hard enough, until now. I didn’t look far enough. I didn’t review papers from smaller labs in other countries doing some remarkable research, and I was too dismissive of the loud chorus of legitimate…”
“instead, I lumped them with the high-visibility malingerers, just looking to get high. I mistakenly believed the Drug Enforcement Agency … because of sound scientific proof. Surely, they must have quality reasoning as to … “

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