Today on Blogcritics
Home » Film » Shakespeare and Conspiracy: The Prospect of Anonymous

Shakespeare and Conspiracy: The Prospect of Anonymous

Please Share...Tweet about this on Twitter0Share on Facebook0Share on Google+0Share on LinkedIn0Pin on Pinterest0Share on TumblrShare on StumbleUpon0Share on Reddit0Email this to someone

“What if I told you…that Shakespeare never wrote a single word,” plainly states Derek Jacobi at the beginning of the trailer for Roland Emmerich’s upcoming Shakespeare film, Anonymous. Shakespeare has made surprisingly few appearances on film, the last being 1998’s Shakespeare In Love, a sort of Notting Hill-era Britcom with codpieces. It is, therefore, a shame Anonymous is not a film about Shakespeare, but takes as its subject the most peculiar aspect of Shakespeare’s legacy, the conspiracy theory that ‘the man from Stratford’ did not write the plays attributed to him.

The ‘anti-Stratfordian’ movement, as it is known, dates back to the mid-19th century, and the reasons behind the claims that somebody else wrote the plays are numerous. They frequently rely on reading the plays as autobiography, denial of evidence, and bizarre codes and ciphers believed to be hidden in the plays themselves, as well as a good dose of snobbery towards Shakespeare’s background. For a comprehensive debunking of the anti-Stratfordian myth, it is worth reading James Shapiro’s excellent book, Contested Will, or alternatively the surprisingly clear Wikipedia page, which clearly explains the issues.

As for the candidates themselves, there are currently over fifty contenders, including Christopher Marlowe, Mary Sidney, Francis Bacon, Walter Raleigh, King James, and Elizabeth I. No less eclectic are their supporters over the years, who count among their ranks Mark Twain, Charlie Chaplin, Malcolm X, and Sigmund Freud.

Two prominent contemporary figures in the anti-Stratfordian camp are Derek Jacobi and Mark Rylance, who, in 2007, issued a ‘Declaration of Reasonable Doubt that features the signatures of several high-profile doubters, as an attempt to rally the anti-Stratfordian cause. In recent years the Shakespeare authorship conspiracy has gained greater mainstream interest: the fact that Rylance even served as Artistic Director of Shakespeare’s Globe theatre between 1995-2005 reflects this. Jacobi and Rylance will both appear in Anonymous, and director Roland Emmerich’s signature featured on the 2007 declaration.

While favoured candidates for an alternative author swap positions fairly regularly, the current frontrunner is Edward de Vere, the 17th Earl of Oxford, an aristocrat, adventurer, playwright, and literary patron. Anonymous intends to fight his corner – with a few embellishments, namely that de Vere was also the illegitimate son of Elizabeth I, and had an incestuous relationship with her. Even in anti-Stratfordian ranks, this is a fringe theory, and one often met with derision.

By showcasing this dramatic and controversial, theory, Anonymous could prove to be an own goal for the anti-Stratfordian camp. Oliver Stone’s JFK, released in 1991, is the daddy of conspiracy cinema. Its popularity succeeded in cementing the idea of a conspiracy in the public mind to the extent that, following its release, the US government even reviewed their records of the assassination. Its success lay in the simplicity of the plot, and the fact that it followed established and prominent theories of the Kennedy assassination, the ‘magic bullet’, the ‘second gunman’ etc. Could it be that Emmerich’s desire for blockbuster success via the most controversial and bizarre plot possible has overridden the anti-Stratfordian desire to maintain an image of legitimacy? Anonymous runs a serious risk of exposing them to ridicule.

In fact, the choice of such a bizarre theory seems so poorly considered that an intriguing, and just as unlikely, conspiracy of its own could be considered. What if Roland Emmerich is in fact a Shakespeare supporter,  deep undercover in the enemy camp, and has gone to the trouble of shooting a multi-million dollar film that contends that Shakespeare did not write his plays, but with the most preposterous storyline possible – all as some kind of cunning ‘false flag’ operation to discredit the anti-Stratfordians. But, like the conspiracies themselves, this is an unreasonable theory based on zero evidence.

In the modern world, belief in conspiracies seems widespread: a 2003 poll indicated that three-quarters of Americans believe in a JFK cover-up, a 2006 poll found that nearly half of all Britons believe the death of Princess Diana was not an accident, and we have only to look at recent conspiracies surrounding the 9/11 attacks and Barack Obama’s citizenship to see that the appetite for conspiracy remains strong. Not to mention the images of ‘Da Vinci Code tours’ that appeared in the wake of the book’s popularity, ferrying hundreds of Dan Brown enthusiasts around the Vatican to conduct their own examinations of the Sistine Chapel for hidden codes.

In explaining his opposition to the Shakespeare conspiracies in Contested Will, James Shapiro writes, “No doubt my attitude derives from living in a world which truth is too often seen as relative and in which mainstream media are committed to showing both sides of every story…I don’t believe that truth is relative or that there are always two sides to every story.” This can seem a strong statement to make in our tolerant age, in which giving a fair hearing to every argument is highly placed. It is also a refreshing indictment of the very postmodern notion of treating every opinion as equally valid, often rejecting any notion of objective truth, even when such truth is provable.

And it follows that in the world of Shakespeare, the alternative theories have gained a degree of respectability. At the beginning of the trailer for Anonymous, when we see his ‘Shakespeare never wrote a single word’ speech, Jacobi is not hunched beside a fire in the back room of some dingy pub, but in a packed and professional looking auditorium, minus any kind of tin foil headgear. It is indicative that having once been a mark of eccentricity, the debate has become respectable, and despite the ridiculous storyline, Anonymous has the opportunity to re-energise the debate. And it intends to do this aggressively: in a press conference last year, Rhys Ifans, who will play Edward de Vere, mentioned that the character of Shakespeare will be presented as an ‘illiterate drunk’, a reference to the more snobbish aspect of the conspiracies: that Shakespeare was too poorly educated and un-gentlemanly to have written the plays.

The inclusion of the incestuous royal relationship storyline could be a coup for Shakespeare loyalists, but the real test of the film’s success will be whether it legitimises questioning the authorship of Shakespeare’s plays, or marks a return to the days of the tin foil hat.

Powered by

About Alexander Aspden

  • Howard Schumann

    It seems as if all I read these days is someone rehashing James Shapiro. Doesn’t anyone think for themselves anymore? Shapiro, like other academics, have a vested interest in maintaining the status quo. They do not talk about the strong evidence favoring de Vere, but only call names, use psychological put downs, and try to stifle legitimate dissent by waving the “conspiracy theory” flag.

    Shakespeare’s parents, siblings, wife and children were all illiterate, signing themselves with a mark. Did the greatest writer in the English language really come from such a background and care so little about his family to leave such a legacy?

    The documents which refer to Shakspere of Stratford show that he was a grain merchant, a money-lender and a tax-dodger. There is not a single document from his lifetime connecting him with writing of any kind.

    No one in Stratford knew of his reputation as a famous writer in London, and no one who knew the writer William Shakespeare referred to his coming from Stratford until some time after his death. When contemporaries referred to Shakespeare, they are referring to a name on the title page. No one in his lifetime ever claimed to have met the man or offered a physical description. His death produced no notice at all.

    No plays, no poems, no letters in Shakspere’s handwriting have ever been found. His six surviving signatures on legal documents all have different spellings and are in a shaky scrawl.

    The enormous gulf between the known facts of Shakspere’s life and what is in the works have led to suggestions that they were actually written by someone else. I suggest you branch out from Shapiro and inform yourself of the evidence.

  • Ed Boswell

    Based upon this clown’s derisive putdowns of anyone who doubts Will “made it all up” as a result of “incomprehensible genius”, I’d think he was the SNOB. Any idea why Whitman, Freud, Chaplin, Twain, 2 SCOTUS justices, Paul Nitze, and Sir Derek Jacobi doubt the Stratford myth? I have no doubt this writer would psychoanalyze Freud, in order to discount any doubt. See the movie with an open mind. Do not let this fool ruin a good time at the theatre. I do not ascribe myself to the “Tudor Prince” theory, and I’m sure I’ll find a few “facts” or real facts out of place, but hey, it’s a movie, not a documentary. Life is short, have fun. Stay curious, don’t take this person’s word for anything.

  • Mark Johnson

    I see the conspiracy theorists are already up in arms over being correctly identified as conspiracy theorists. The fact is that there is no strong evidence for de Vere…there is much speculation, but there is no actual evidence in the form of positive, physical evidence connecting him to the authorship of the works..

    To say that Shakespeare’s parents and siblings were illiterate and all signed with a mark is simply incorrect. His father signed with a mark but we have no evidence as to whether or not he could read. We have no evidence one way or the other as to his mother so to claim, categorically, that she was illiterate is unfounded. One of his daughters signed her name and his brother, Gilbert, left a beautiful signature behind. Documents from his lifetime refer to William Shakespeare of Stratford as an actor and shareholder in the Chamberlain/King’s Men acting company, performing at the Globe Theatre, and there are a number of documents that specifically connect William Shakespeare, Gent. to the works. I’m not sure how one presumes to speak for all of the citizens of Stratford, and what they knew or didn’t know, but the fact is that a monument to Shakespeare the writer was prominently placed in the local church some time after the local man’s death. The claim that all contemporary references to Shakespeare are impersonal references to a name on a title page does not state a fact…it is spin and speculation. No plays or poems in de Vere’s handwriting have ever been found, and his letters begging for money are not evidence that he wrote any plays or poems. The poems we have that we know that de Vere did write are definitely not good evidence for the Oxfordian claim.

    There is more than sufficient evidence to establish a prima facie case that William Shakespeare of Stratford is the author of the works attributed to William Shakespeare. It is incumbent upon the anti-Stratfordians to at least be honest in admitting that such evidence exists, before attempting to push their own candidate’s claim. The fact that they have such a strong faith in their Lord makes it difficult for them to acknowledge that such evidence even exists, as some people have difficulty admitting that fossils prove the earth is more than 6,000 years old.

  • Howard Schumann

    There is no direct evidence for either Oxford or William of Stratford. If there was, there would be no authorship debate. There is, however, considerable circumstantial evidence for de Vere. Much of it is based on simple common sense.

    The Sonnets are written by a man who is clearly much older than William of Stratford. Conventional chronology dates the sonnets to between 1592 and 1596. At this time, William of Stratford would have been in his late twenties and early thirties (Oxford was 14 years older). Even if we up the date to 1599, William of Stratford was still in his thirties.

    The sonnets tell us that the poet was in his declining years when writing them. He was “Beated and chopped with tanned antiquity,” “With Time’s injurious hand crushed and o’er worn”, in the “twilight of life”. He is lamenting “all those friends” who have died, “my lovers gone”. His is “That time of year/When yellow leaves, or none, or few, do hang/Upon those boughs that shake against the cold.”

    The sonnets that most contradict Will of Stratford’s life story are those about shame and disgrace to name and reputation. Here Shakespeare’s biographers have nothing to go on.

    There are many arguments against the Stratfordian attribution and there is not enough space provided to discuss ¼ of them. Here are a few:

    Many books that were used as source material for the plays were not translated into English in Shakespeare’s time. For example:
    Francois de Belleforest Histories tragiques
    Ser Giovanni Fioranetino’s Il Pecorone
    Epitia and Hecatommithi
    Luigi da Porto’s Romeus and Juliet (Italian)
    Jorge de Montemayor’s Diana (Spanish)

    Shakespeare’s reliance on books in foreign languages puzzles the experts, so we can suppose all sorts of things rather than conclude the obvious. If the man who was Shakespeare regularly relied on books not yet translated from Italian, French, and Spanish, then he must have been able to read in Italian, French, and Spanish. We know specifically that Oxford was fluent in four foreign languages, Latin, Greek, Italian, and French.

    Edward De Vere, on the other hand, was a recognized poet and playwright of great talent, and although no play under Oxford’s name has come down to us, his acknowledged early verse and his surviving letters contain forms, words, and phrases resembling those of Shakespeare.

    The Shakespeare plays and poems show that the author had specific knowledge of certain works of literature, certain prominent persons in Elizabeth’s court, and events connected with them. In the sonnets and the plays there are frequent references to events that are paralleled in Oxford’s life.

    For example, in ALL’S WELL THAT ENDS WELL

    Oxford became a ward of court in Lord Burghley’s household at the age of twelve. Oxford left his widowed mother to become a royal ward.

    Bertram left his widowed mother to become a royal ward.

    Oxford’s guardian’s daughter fell in love with him and wanted to be married.

    Bertram’s foster-sister fell in love with him and wanted to be married.

    Oxford was of more noble birth than Anne and did not favor marriage.

    Bertram argued he was of too high birth for marriage.

    Following an ailment, marriage was agreed and the Queen consented to Oxford’s marriage.

    Following an illness, the King consented to the marriage.

    The wedding was at first postponed, no reason was given.

    Bertram attempted to change the King’s mind regarding his marriage.

    After the wedding, Oxford suddenly left the country.

    After the wedding, Bertram suddenly left the country.

    A reconciliation between Oxford and Anne is contrived by switching his bed companion for his wife. As a result, a son is born. Confirmation of this reconciliation appears in The Histories of Essex by Morant and Wright: 1836.

    A reconciliation between Bertram and Helena is contrived by switching his bed companion for his wife. As a result, a son is born.

    Of the 37 plays, 36 are laid in royal courts and the world of the nobility. The principal characters are almost all aristocrats with the exception perhaps of Shylock and Falstaff. From all we can tell, Shakespeare fully shared the outlook of his characters, identifying fully with the courtesies, chivalries, and generosity of aristocratic life. Lower class characters in Shakespeare are almost all introduced for comic effect and given little development. Their names are indicative of their worth: Snug, Stout, Starveling, Dogberry, Simple, Mouldy, Wart, Feeble, etc.

    The history plays are concerned mostly with the consolidation and maintenance of royal power and are concerned with righting the wrongs that fall on people of high blood. His comedies are far removed from the practicalities of everyday life or the realistic need to make a living. Shakespeare’s vision is a deeply conservative, feudalistic and aristocratic one. When he does show sympathy for the commoners as in Henry V speech to the troops, however, Henry is also shown to be a moralist and a hypocrite. He pretends to be a commoner and mingles with the troops in a disguise and claims that those commoners who fought with the nobility would be treated as brothers.

    But we know there was no chance of that ever happening in feudal England. What can scarcely be overlooked is a compassionate understanding of the burdens of kingship combined with envy of the carefree lot of the peasant, who free of the “peril” of the “envious court”, “sweetly…enjoys his thin cold drink” and his “sleep under a fresh tree’s shade” with “no enemy but winter and rough weather”. This would come naturally to a privileged nobleman.

  • Mark Johnson

    You are quite wrong. There is direct evidence for William Shakespeare of Stratford. There are title pages and other pieces of documentary evidence that specifically refer to William Shakespeare, Gent. [“Mr.” or “Master”], an honorific that the Stratfordian man was entitled to use following the grant of a coat of arms to his father. Those records specifically identify the author as William Shakespeare of Stratfrod. The First Folio and the Stratford Monument also qualify as direct evidence. Finally, there is the testimony of Ben Jonson, in the First Folio, but also in *Timber* and in his conversations with Drummond. Along with all of the other records that place William Shakespeare of Stratford with the acting company that performed the plays and the theatre where the plays were performed, there is more than sufficient evidence to establish his authorship of the works, your psychological evaluation of the author notwithstanding. There is objective evidence supporting the Stratfordian claim…all of your so-called evidence is subjective….like faith.

    As for your interpretation of the Sonnets, I wrote a poem when I was thirteen from the perspective of a man in his eighties. Your interpretations and speculations are not evidence, but actual, physical, historical, documentary, positive, direct evidence does exist…unfortunately for you, and your fellow true believers, it all favors the man from Stratford.

  • zingzing

    “This would come naturally to a privileged nobleman.”

    howard, unless you are a nobleman, how is it that you could know this? and why couldn’t shakespeare know it, if you know it?

  • http://blogcritics.org/writers/dr-dreadful/ Dr Dreadful

    Every civilization produces geniuses, Shakespeare clearly was one, and I hypothesize that this fact is more than sufficient to account for any illiteracy or general humbleness that may have stood in his way.

    In any case, whether William Shakespeare, Esq., wrote the works of William Shakespeare is not all that important from a 21st century perspective. What’s important is that the works exist, and are among the greatest things ever written in any language.

  • Howard Schumann

    On his death, he was referred to William Shakspere, gent. On which title pages, is he similarly referred to?

    You have failed to address the following points I raised:

    Oxford’s biographical connection to the plays as demonstrated by the example I’ve shown.

    Shakespeare’s use of source material untranslated into English at the time of composition.

    The aristocratic bent of the plays

    In addition, I’m really surprised that you cannot see that the Sonnets are among the most intensely personal statements in all of literature – deeply emotional, disclosing the author’s most private feelings and emotions and divulging his sexual interests and indulgences, clearly not written by a man in his early thirties.

    Further, the title page of the Sonnets does not refer to Sonnets by William Shakespeare but only Shake-Speare’s Sonnets, 1609, which appeared with “our ever-living Poet” on the title page, words typically used eulogizing someone who has died, yet has become immortal, and note that the words “ever-living” rarely, if ever, refer to someone who is actually alive.

    As far as Ben Jonson is concerned, all of Jonson’s statements about Shakespeare were made long after he died in 1616, uncorroborated by any statements made while the author was alive.

    While Shakespeare was alive, this supposed friend never once mentioned him by name. Indeed many of his writings on the subject were contradictory. He caricatured him as Sogliardo and “the “Poet-Ape” in one of his plays, he belittled Shakespeare’s small Latin and less Greek, then later testified that he was better than most of the ancient dramatists. He wrote that Shakespeare’s works contained no blots, then said that Shakespeare continuously reworked and revised. Ben Jonson had nothing to say at William’s death.

    The monument clearly showed a portrait of the deceased with a sack of grain in his lap until it was modified years later.

    There was no conspiracy. The use of a pseudonym was a means for the Lord Chamberlain’s/King’s Men to protect the source of their plays from censorship by the authoritarian monarchy. It is no secret that plays suspected of criticizing the court were banned and that playwrights were put in the tower. There is also considerable evidence that Marlowe was killed because of his writing.

    The level of detail in the plays about Italy can only have been accomplished by someone who was there. There is a book coming out in November “The Shakespeare Guide to Italy”, by Richard Roe which will document this in such detail that it can not be questioned.

    In summary, concluding that a man who had little or no education, whose children were illiterate, who never left any writing other than six unreadable signatures with his name spelled differently in each one, who never traveled outside of London, who spent much time and effort engaging in petty lawsuits, who could not read books in French, Italian, or Spanish yet used untranslated materials as his sources, who never left any books in his will, who left no letters, no correspondence, who did not elicit a single eulogy at his death was the greatest writer in the English language defies logic and common sense.

  • Mark Johnson

    “On his death, he was referred to William Shakspere, gent. On which title pages, is he similarly referred to?”

    Following is a list that contains contemporary references to William Shakespeare, Gent.:

    (1.) 1599 (From The Returne from Parnassus, Part I; MS in Bodleian Library): “Mr. Shakspeare” [more than once]

    (2.) 1600 (Stationer’s Register entry for Henry the Fourth, Part Two and Much Ado About Nothing; August 23): “master Shakespere”

    (3.) 1607 (Stationer’s Register entry for King Lear; November 26): “Master William Shakespeare”

    (4.)1608 (Q1 of King Lear): “M. William Shak-speare” (title page) “M William Shak-speare” (head title)

    (5.) 1610 (From The Scourge of Folly by John Davies of Hereford; registered October 8): “Mr. Will: Shake-speare”

    (6.) 1612 (From “Epistle” to The White Devil by John Webster): “M. Shake-speare”

    (7.) 1614 (From Runne and a Great Cast by Thomas Freeman): “Master W. Shakespeare”

    (8.) 1615 (From continuation to 1614 in ed. 5 of John Stow’s Annales, by Edmund Howes): “M. Willi. Shakespeare gentleman”

    (9.) 1616 (Q6 Lucrece): “Mr. William Shakespeare” (title page)

    (10.) 1619 (Title page, Q3 (Pavier quarto) of Henry VI Parts 2 & 3): “William Shakespeare, Gent.”

    (11.) 1619 (Title page, Q2 of King Lear, falsely dated 1608): “M. William Shake-speare”

    (12.) 1619 (Head title of Q2 of King Lear): “M. William Shake-speare”

    (13.) 1622 (Catalogus Universalis pro Nundinis Francofurtensibus; Frankfort book fair list of books to be published in England between April and October 1622): “M. William Shakespeare”

    (14.) 1623 (Stationer’s Register entry for First Folio; November 8): “Mr. William Shakspeer”

    Here are some of the other references to WS of Stratford as “Mr.” Shakespeare, gent.

    (1.) 1601 (Deed transfering the Globe and other Southwark properties from Nicholas Brend to Sir Matthew Brown and John Collett as security for a 2500-pound debt; October 7): “Richard Burbadge and William Shackspeare gent.”

    (2.) 1601 (Updated deed for the above transaction; October 10): “Richard Burbage and William Shakspeare gentlemen”

    (3.) 1608 (Deed transferring the Globe and other properties from John Collett to John Bodley; November 11): “Richard Burbadge & William Shakespeare gent”

  • Mark Johnson

    You have failed to address the fact that there is direct evidence for William Shakespeare of Stratford.

    As for Oxford’s alleged biographical connection to the plays, I would say that your parallels are tenuous (the “bed trick” was a common motif in the literature of the time), and not all biographical material in a work is necessarily AUTObiographical. Authors often takes bits and pieces of peoples lives in making a character.

    As to “Shakespeare’s use of source material untranslated into English at the time of composition,” as you are no doubt aware there is a gap in our knowledge of Shakespeare’s whereabouts for a lengthy period of time [the so-called “Lost Years”]. We have no way of knowing whether or not he went abroad, learned Italian, traveled to Rome, etc. We don’t need to know such things as long as we have direct evidence that establishes a prima facie case. Once that is done, it is necessary for you to provide sufficient evidence to overcome the presumption established by that case that WS of Stratfrod was the author.

    As to the “aristocratic bent of the plays,” that is a subjective interpretation t5hat does not trump direct evide3nce.

    HS: “In addition, I’m really surprised that you cannot see that the Sonnets are among the most intensely personal statements in all of literature – deeply emotional, disclosing the author’s most private feelings and emotions and divulging his sexual interests and indulgences, clearly not written by a man in his early thirties.”

    This is more subjective interpretation that does not trump direct evidence. The poet also states, in those very Sonnets, that his name is “Will”.

    HS: “Further, the title page of the Sonnets does not refer to Sonnets by William Shakespeare but only Shake-Speare’s Sonnets, 1609, which appeared with “our ever-living Poet” on the title page, words typically used eulogizing someone who has died, yet has become immortal, and note that the words “ever-living” rarely, if ever, refer to someone who is actually alive.”

    The Dedication is very confusing and there is no clear evidence that the phrase “ever-living poet” is intended to aqpply to the author of the Sonnets themselves. What living author was Thomas Heywood referring to in 1612 when he said, “so the author, I know, much offended with M. Jaggard (that altogether unknowne to him) presumed to make so bold with his name”?

    HS: “As far as Ben Jonson is concerned, all of Jonson’s statements about Shakespeare were made long after he died in 1616, uncorroborated by any statements made while the author was alive.”

    So what? Posthumous evidence is not necessarily suspect just because it is posthumous. In fact, in the case of Ben Jonson, the fact that he was writing in a private diary which he had no expectation would ever see the light of day [much less be published], and long after all the potential players in the drama were long since dead, only serves to bolster the credibility of his posthumous statements.

    HS: “While Shakespeare was alive, this supposed friend never once mentioned him by name.”

    As far as we know, but he did include him in the list of actors in his own *Works*, and *Return from Parnassus* puts them together.

    HS: *Indeed many of his writings on the subject were contradictory.”

    Ben Jonson treated other authors in a similar fashion.

    HS: “He caricatured him as Sogliardo and “the “Poet-Ape” in one of his plays, he belittled Shakespeare’s small Latin and less Greek, then later testified that he was better than most of the ancient dramatists. He wrote that Shakespeare’s works contained no blots, then said that Shakespeare continuously reworked and revised.”

    Poet-ape is not proven to be about Shakespeare. Subjective interpretation is not evidence. Interestingly enough, all of the contradictory statements made by Jonson still show Shakespeare to have been an author, and those swtatements are quite specifically about writing. Nowhere did Jonson ever mention Oxenford or the fact that he was the author of the plays and/or poems.

    HS: “Ben Jonson had nothing to say at William’s death.”

    That we know of.

  • Mark Johnson

    HS: “The monument clearly showed a portrait of the deceased with a sack of grain in his lap until it was modified years later.”

    No, it most clearly did not. You should read closet-Oxfordian Diana Price’s article on the Stratford Monument. Wishful thinking is not evidence.

    HS: “There was no conspiracy. The use of a pseudonym was a means for the Lord Chamberlain’s/King’s Men to protect the source of their plays from censorship by the authoritarian monarchy. It is no secret that plays suspected of criticizing the court were banned and that playwrights were put in the tower.”

    You have just described a conspiracy, and you have engaged in bare speculation unsupported by any evidence.

    HS: “There is also considerable evidence that Marlowe was killed because of his writing.”

    I have never seen such evidence. Source?

    “The level of detail in the plays about Italy can only have been accomplished by someone who was there. There is a book coming out in November “The Shakespeare Guide to Italy”, by Richard Roe which will document this in such detail that it can not be questioned.”

    This is a matter of interpretation, and your appeal to authority is duly noted.

    HS: “In summary, concluding that a man who had little or no education, whose children were illiterate, who never left any writing other than six unreadable signatures with his name spelled differently in each one, who never traveled outside of London, who spent much time and effort engaging in petty lawsuits, who could not read books in French, Italian, or Spanish yet used untranslated materials as his sources, who never left any books in his will, who left no letters, no correspondence, who did not elicit a single eulogy at his death was the greatest writer in the English language defies logic and common sense.”

    This is a load of special pleading. I do not conclude, and the evidence does not prove, that he had little or no education, that his children were illiterate, that he never left any writing other than his signatures, that his six signatures were unreadable, that the various spellings of his name mean anything material, that he never traveled outside of London, that he spent much time and effort engaging in petty lawsuits, that he could not read books in French, Italian, or Spanish, or that he never left any books in his will [this is specious…there was an inventory attached to the will when it was filed which has since been lost]. The fact that no letters or correspondence have survivied does not negate positive, direct evidence that he was the author, and, as for eulogies, see William Basse, and the Folio. “Four years after Shakespeare’s death, he was included in a printed tribute to England’s greatest deceased poets; sometime in the first seven years after his death, a monument was erected to him in Stratford, and another poem, widely circulated in manuscript, suggested that he should have been buried in Westminster Abbey; seven years after his death, a massive edition of his plays was published along with four eulogies, the longest and most affectionate of them written by England’s poet laureate; around the same time (and possibly earlier) another manuscript eulogy was circulating; and over the next twenty years a dozen new eulogies appeared in print, including three in the second edition of his plays and three in an edition of his poems.
    To anyone familar with seventeenth-century poetry, this is a very impressive group of tributes, virtually unmatched for any other contemporary poet or playwright. But, someone might object, these eulogies were spread out over decades; why wasn’t there an immediate torrent of praise for the man we now recognize as the greatest writer in the English language? Such a question, while understandable from our twentieth-century perspective, reveals an ignorance of seventeenth-century practice. In Shakespeare’s day only “important” people (e.g. noblemen, or at least knights) were eulogized immediately in print, and as hard as it may be for us to believe, playwrights were simply not considered important enough for such an honor. Many of them were clearly admired by their fellow playwrights and poets, but our evidence for this generally comes from many years after their deaths, and is in virtually every case much less than what we have for Shakespeare.” {Kathman}

    What defies logic and common sense is denying that the evidence exists to establish a prima facie case for the Stratfordian attribution.

  • Howard Schumann

    You can twist anything to support your case, even if the logic is tortured.

    Instead of looking at the evidence in a way that makes sense, everything you cannot answer is called “subjective.”

    The truth is that there is not a single shred of evidence that William of Stratford was a writer. If a name on a title page was evidence, we would never think that Mark Twain was Samuel Clemens.

    There is nothing in his biography to connect him with the works. Indeed the opposite is true. Robert Bearman sums up Shakespeare’s life as follows in “Shakespeare in the Stratford Records” (1994), published by the Shakespeare Birthplace Trust: “Certainly, there is little, if anything, to remind us that we are studying the life of one who in his writings emerges as perhaps the most gifted of all time in describing the human condition. He seems merely to have been a man of the world, buying up property, laying in ample stocks of barley and malt, when others were starving, selling off his surpluses and pursuing debtors in court….”

    Since you are incapable of serious consideration of any issue that does not fit into your preordained scenario, this is the last I will say on this issue. If you want to have the last word, feel free.

    “Denial, ridicule, and entrenched belief systems are potent defenders of the status quo.”

  • Mark Johnson

    Typical. Run away when confronted with the evidence, and hide behind denial and psychological projection. I have provided actual, objective, documentary evidence [without any spin whatsoever] to show that William Shakespeare of Stratford was the author, and your response is that “the truth” is that such evidence does not exist. Of course, your “thruth” is entirely siubjective, another fact that you must deny in order to maintain your dogma. I realize that your fundamentalist faith in your Lord does not permit you to even confront such evidence, and that you are therefore forced to retreat from any consideration of the issue. So run along. In the meantime, thank you for demonstrating exactly how the mind of a conspiracy theorist operates.

  • William Ray

    Having read the article, I find its tone and particulars very familiar. That is, anyone who doubts Shakspere of Stratford, who could not sign his name on a deed or will, was the great Shakespeare, is a conspiracy theorist. This is entry level ad hominem arguing. In fact, when people have conspired to achieve an objective, inquiry into it is not a “conspiracy theory” which one can comfortably shun. It is an investigation of a previously and intentionally concealed reality. Spitting epithets won’t make the investigation disappear.

    An indication that Edward de Vere, 17th Earl of Oxford, did use a concealment in the form of the pseudonym Shake-Speare/Shakespeare, and that his followers did “conspire” to direct the subsequent authorship upon a cipher from Stratford is the following. Each and every testator to Shakespeare/Shake-speare’s greatness in the First Folio was an employee, an associate, or a friend of either Jonson, the editor, or the “Noble Paire of Brethren”, the Herbert brothers, who were followers and in-laws of Edward de Vere, the person primarily responsible and revered for the English Renaissance. But he was bad news to the powers that were, and his letters, records, manuscripts, even his will disappeared soon after his death. Conclusion: though First Secretary Lord Salisbury, Robert Cecil, was successful in eclipsing an adversary dangerous to the official history of Gloriana, after Cecil’s own death, followers of the deceased de Vere achieved the permanent monument of Shake-speare’s/Shakespeare’s works. And as for the Shakespeare Monument cenotaph in Stratford, introduced by a reader as evidence for Shakspere as Shakespeare, intelligent readers are invited to discover that this was a monument to Shakspere’s father, which in 1622-3 was utilized with some enigmatic engraving to serve as the faux-shrine Shakespeare Monument. It was fundamentally altered a century and a half later to make his father look literary. Dr. David Roper of England deciphered the memorial plaque’s Cardano Grille message, i.e., Cardano Grille being the diplomatic code of the
    Elizabethan era. See his work for direct evidence of de Vere’s authorship, a reality obvious from so many other sources, that is, to anyone who has done the background reading necessary to understand the Elizabethan context of authorship. Calling these lines of investigation a conspiracy theory is merely denial of available evidence.

    To take a ready example from this blog, it is preposterous reasoning to claim that the pseudonym William Shake-speare/Shakespeare on a title page is “positive” proof of Shakspere’s of Stratford authorship. But such is the benighted thinking of the defensive mind. Numerous if not most Elizabethan plays were presented anonymously and pseudonymously. It was a fact of literary life in a totalitarian polity. de Vere utilized this form of concealment for personal and political reasons, and the authorities, seeing aristocrat author and seditious art separated by the fiction of a pseudonym, played blind for their own purposes. Political hegemony was not threatened. As Polonius suggested in Hamlet, the queen has protected the prince from much heat.

    As for Aspden’s single scholarly source, James Shapiro’s ‘Contested Will’, which he calls “excellent”, obviously he hasn’t read the book in any critical detail. Shapiro, the English prof with no clinical training whatsoever, attempts to psychoanalyze Sigmund Freud as a strategy by which to discredit the father of psychiatry’s support for Oxfordian authorship of the Shakespeare canon. Shapiro cannot get even Freud’s confidant’s name correctly spelled. He repeatedly calls him Fleiss. It was Fliess. But don’t look for footnotes to support his arbitrary spelling. There are none. Don’t look for Fliess/”Fleiss” in the index. There is no index. There is no concrete attribution to other writers in the bibliography. Shapiro takes full credit in the text for uncovering the Wilmot-Cowell forgery (that falsely claimed an unsuccessful search for Shakespeare materials in Warwickshire). This discovery was entirely the work of Dr. John M. Rollett, whom Shapiro avoided to mention in his ‘bibliography’, or more properly in the text itself. This is fraud. It is lying. That Rollett did not write up his discovery but conveyed it through a conference does not justify someone else to claim it. Shapiro squirms around the convention report by referring indirectly to it–in the usually neglected bibliographical essay. But in the prologue, he, Shapiro, is the sole hero.

    The character assassination that “characterizes” Shapiro’s ‘Contested Will’ is consistent with his explanation for writing it. He said in an interview he wrote the book,”to shut them [Oxfordians] up once and for all,” and “to show how they don’t know how to evaluate evidence.” Shapiro on the other hand never took on the arguments of the Oxfordian contention, thus avoiding the evidence. He attacked the proponents of the evidence, including Freud, Clemens, James, Chaplin, anyone who differed with the status quo. Shapiro unwittingly, even proudly, admitted his bias, his low level of scholarly integrity, and his conscious hostility to a threat to the self-contradictory and thus dubious traditional attribution.

    We usually refer to this behavior as cowardly and unethical. There is no reason to fear the truth of (presently contrived) Elizabethan history, of which contrivance the benign little playwright from the woods is such an artifact. But first one must value the truth more than one’s own status as a priest in the cult of Shakespeareana. Shapiro and his ilk haven’t scaled that bar. Nor has the reviewer in his ignorant praise.

  • zingzing

    howard, since shakespeare’s plays were performed in london, why would there be any mention of his plays or writings in the stratford records? wouldn’t those records reflect just what you describe? a man with some money and land, doing what such a man does, and being reflected as such in the public records of a particular place, recording the actions that public records record?

    as for “tortured” logic, you seem to dismiss all knowledge of shakespeare, and hang by the barest of threads to this man from oxford. what direct evidence can you really provide?

  • http://blogcritics.org/writers/dr-dreadful/ Dr Dreadful

    “Denial, ridicule, and entrenched belief systems are potent defenders of the status quo.”

    Mr Schumann, you’re projecting.

    Entrenched belief systems seldom offer any supporting evidence but the strength of the belief itself.

    As far as denial and ridicule go, I see none of either in Mr Johnson’s posts.

    What I do see on his part is sound argumentation and logic backed up by easily verifiable citations.

    What I see on yours is little more than speculation and innuendo. You’ve formed your conclusion and now you’re trying to make the evidence fit. Not how things are done at all.

    “Absence of evidence is not evidence of absence.”

  • Mark Johnson

    @ Mr. Ray: You show as much difficulty with reading and with dealing with evidence as does Mr. Schumann. You state as follows: “…it is preposterous reasoning to claim that the pseudonym William Shake-speare/Shakespeare on a title page is “positive” proof of Shakspere’s of Stratford authorship [sic]. But such is the benighted thinking of the defensive mind.”

    Nowhere in whaqt I have written did I say that the title pages were “positive proof” of the Stratfordian claim. In fact, what I claimed is that they are evidence, and, specifically, that those title pages and other records which refer to WS, Gent. specifically identify WS of Stratford. My contention is that such evidence, in conjucnction with other physical, documentary evidence, establishes a prima facie case [a rebuttable presumption] in favor of the Stratfordian attribution. I understand that you would rather deal with strawmen of your own devising but I would appreciate it if you would confront my actual argument.

  • http://shakespeareidentified.com Paul Streitz

    Folks,
    Please remember what Oxfordians are advocating is not a simple issue of Who Was William Shakespeare, but more profoundly, Who Was Oxford? Emmerich’s take on this is based on my book, Oxford: Son of Queen Elizabeth I, that Oxford was the son of the Queen. Yes, Shakespeare was a prince.

    If you would like, you can visit my website. In short, in order to understand who Shakespeare was, and what he did, you have to rewrite the history of the Elizabethan era.

    Paul Streitz
    Author: Oxford: Son of Queen Elizabeth I

  • Mark Johnson

    WR: “Having read the article, I find its tone and particulars very familiar. That is, anyone who doubts Shakspere of Stratford, who could not sign his name on a deed or will, was the great Shakespeare, is a conspiracy theorist.”

    He did sign his name, and you are a conspiracy theorist.

    WR: “This is entry level ad hominem arguing.”

    No, it is a statement of a simple fact.

    WR: “In fact, when people have conspired to achieve an objective, inquiry into it is not a “conspiracy theory” which one can comfortably shun. It is an investigation of a previously and intentionally concealed reality.”

    This is a fine example of circular reasoning, and typical of the way that conspiracy theorists “think”. Mr. Ray can’t be a conspiracy theorist because the original conspiracy, the object of his conspiracy theory, actually existed [there is no evidence to prove that it actually existed because it was “intentionally concealed” – therefore, the evidence that there was a conspiracy is that there is no evidence that there was a conspiracy]. But such is the benighted thinking of the defensive mind.

    WR: “Spitting epithets won’t make the investigation disappear.”

    And claiming that it is not a conspiracy theory will not make the conspiracy theory disappear.

    WR: “An indication that Edward de Vere, 17th Earl of Oxford, did use a concealment in the form of the pseudonym Shake-Speare/Shakespeare, and that his followers did “conspire” to direct the subsequent authorship upon a cipher from Stratford is the following. Each and every testator to Shakespeare/Shake-speare’s greatness in the First Folio was an employee, an associate, or a friend of either Jonson, the editor, or the “Noble Paire of Brethren”, the Herbert brothers, who were followers and in-laws of Edward de Vere, the person primarily responsible and revered for the English Renaissance.”

    This is a typical example of Oxfordian “evidence” – there is no evidence whatsoever that the Herbert brothers had anything at all to do with the preparation or publication of the First Folio. In fact, all that can be shown by the evidence is that the Folio was dedicated to them. The two people most responsible for the compilation and the publication of the First Folio, at least as far as the actual evidence shows, were William Shakespeare’s fellow actors and shareholders, John Heminge and Henry Condell. I know of no evidence that James Mabbe was an employee, associate or friend of Jonson or the Herbert brothers, and Leonard Digges, who wrote another of the commendatory verses to the Folio, had a relationship to William Shakespeare of Stratford. His widowed mother married Thomas Russell, Shakespeare’s friend and one of the overseers of his will. Then, of course, there is Ben Jonson, who I already addressed elsewhere. Finally, to contend that Oxford was the person primarily responsible for the English Renaissance, and was revered for that, is to engage in circular reasoning, or delusion, or both. The intelligent reader will notice that there are never any real facts marshaled to support these “conclusions”.

    Whether or not Mr. Ray is correct that some of these individuals had connections to the Herbert brothers and/or to Jonson, that still wouldn’t logically support a claim that Oxford “did use a concealment in the form of seudonym Shake-Speare/Shakjespeare, and that his followers [disciples?] did ‘conspire to direct the subsequent authorship upon a cipher from Stratford.” This is [im]pure speculation and is worth absolutely nothing as evidence.

    WR: “But he was bad news to the powers that were, and his letters, records, manuscripts, even his will disappeared soon after his death. Conclusion: though First Secretary Lord Salisbury, Robert Cecil, was successful in eclipsing an adversary dangerous to the official history of Gloriana, after Cecil’s own death, followers of the deceased de Vere achieved the permanent monument of Shake-speare’s/Shakespeare’s works.”

    This is quite confusing. On the one hand, you claim that Oxford and his followers intentionally chose to use the pseudonym, and now you’re contending that Robert Cecil was responsible for hiding Oxford’s authorship. Which is it? Whatever the choice, this is still nothing more than speculation [your subjective “conclusion”], and it carries no evide3ntiary weight whatsoever.

    WR: “And as for the Shakespeare Monument cenotaph in Stratford, introduced by a reader as evidence for Shakspere as Shakespeare, intelligent readers are invited to discover that this was a monument to Shakspere’s father, which in 1622-3 was utilized with some enigmatic engraving to serve as the faux-shrine Shakespeare Monument. It was fundamentally altered a century and a half later to make his father look literary.”

    It is illuminating that you state as a fact that the monument was originally erected to honor Shakespeare’s father. Intelligent readers should know that this claim is complete and utter codswallop [hat tip, Blair].

    WR: “Dr. David Roper of England deciphered the memorial plaque’s Cardano Grille message, i.e., Cardano Grille being the diplomatic code of the Elizabethan era. See his work for direct evidence of de Vere’s authorship, a reality obvious from so many other sources, that is, to anyone who has done the background reading necessary to understand the Elizabethan context of authorship. Calling these lines of investigation a conspiracy theory is merely denial of available evidence.”

    Right, and this is the brilliant message that Roper finds buried in the monument: “So Test Him, I Vow He Is Edward De Vere, as He, Shakespeare”. The intelligent reader will notice that the message, strained as it is, makes very little sense. The Baconian conspiracy theorists also utilized coded message and ciphers to “prove” their case. It didn’t work for them either.

    WR: “To take a ready example from this blog, it is preposterous reasoning to claim that the pseudonym William Shake-speare/Shakespeare on a title page is “positive” proof of Shakspere’s of Stratford authorship. But such is the benighted thinking of the defensive mind.”

    I’ve already addressed this elsewhere. You are unable to comprehend the difference between evidence and proof, and, in fact, you have little to no understanding as to what constitutes actual evidence.

    WR: “Numerous if not most Elizabethan plays were presented anonymously and pseudonymously. It was a fact of literary life in a totalitarian polity.”

    It is true that most plays were presented anonymously but it is an outright falsehood to claim that numerous, if not most, Elizabethan plays were presented pseudonymously.

    WR: “de Vere utilized this form of concealment for personal and political reasons, and the authorities, seeing aristocrat author and seditious art separated by the fiction of a pseudonym, played blind for their own purposes. Political hegemony was not threatened. As Polonius suggested in Hamlet, the queen has protected the prince from much heat.”

    More speculation parading as fact.

  • William Ray

    I see the gentleman worked up a sweat. First the Shakspere literacy question. It has been determined that no “Shakespeare” signature resembles any other, and that the signer’s hand was guided. This is sufficient to support the statement, he could not sign his name. If Shakspere couldn’t sign his name, he was illiterate. If illiterate, he did not have the capacity to write the Shakespeare canon. This is fundamental fact aided by logical reasoning.

    One more little sparring round. Mr. Johnson objects that “the Noble Paire of Brethren”, the Herbert brothers, family related to de Vere through Susan Vere Herbert, and through their mother Mary Sidney, de Vere’s friend and colleague, despite this, still had nothing to do with the production of the collected works of ‘Shakespeare’. They were merely the dedicatees. Co-incidence. Consider that William Herbert was Lord Chamberlain of Revels, that he employed Ben Jonson, that Ben Jonson’s stipend increased from 100 marks to 200 pounds over the course of two years, culminating in the First Folio’s publication. Consider that I.M. referred to James Marston, not James Mappe as Mr. Johnson wishes to think. Marston wrote another tribute to Oxford in ‘Scourge of Tyranny': “…Most, most of me beloved, whose SILENT NAME/ One letter bounds. They true judicial style/ I ever honour.” Silent name meaning concealed name. What was Mr. Johnson saying about there being no basis for Oxford employing a concealed name, Shake-speareShakespeare?

    Mr. Johnson also mentions Leonard Digges as the Shakspere acquaintance, writing in tribute to SHAKESPEARE [pointedly capitalized in FF, as it is in the ‘Sonnets’ title page identification]. However, placed into a Cardano Grille, which Mr. Johnson so disparaged, in the SEVENTEENTH file, viz 17th Earl of Oxford, Digges’s tribute reads down, Me, E De Vere. Mr. Johnson may not like the crudity of the identification, as he did not like the Cardano Grille decryption of the Shakespeare Monument plaque, by Dr. Roper. But his argument is with the encryptor, not me. Jonson was a superb encryptor, and his dedicatory style is evident in the plaque and in the First Folio. It was so difficult to convey a message through the Cardano Grille system that William Cecil, Lord Burghley, ordered that only the most critical messages could be encoded. He preferred risking someone’s life to spending the time and money for a Cardano Grille encryption. They aren’t pretty, but they do identify.

    Mr. Johnson charges falsehood that numerous if not most Elizabethan plays were presented anonymously and pseudonymously. Again, his argument is with my source, Marcy L. North, author of ‘The Anonymous Renaissance’. That I am a liar–who knows? That both Ms North and I are liars on the same subject–astronomically unlikely.

    I can go through all the objections, but I will leave the field with a final point. I know what evidence is, probative information to establish a hypothesis. Mr. Johnson’s proffered evidence is not credible, because his facts are inadequate to establish his hypothesis. And there is an after-burner of emotionality that is generated by not studying the subject in sufficient historical detail to realize his belief in the Stratford narrative is not based in either biography or history. It is a commonplace fable that will be abandoned in due course. Fortunately the concerned interested reader can get up to speed simply by studying the subject matter. The plays and poems will be enormously more enjoyable, understood in their historical and political context and biographical motivation. Most importantly, the true author will receive proper recognition, and the perpetuated construct of the Stratford Shakespeare will be laid to rest.

    William Ray

  • zingzing

    “What was Mr. Johnson saying about there being no basis for Oxford employing a concealed name, Shake-speareShakespeare?”

    but why is that name shakespeare?

    you certainly build up a lot of circumstantial evidence. but you could probably do so for any number of other people. why does the circumstantial evidence for oxford convince you where others don’t? and circumstantial evidence is poor proof, you must know.

    it’s a conspiracy (if you don’t believe it is now, it must have been then,) and that makes it sexy and fun, but is it harder to believe that one of the more famous writers of the day was a man of low birth, or a secret nobleman, able to keep his authorship a secret for centuries even though so many had to know?

    “Most importantly, the true author will receive proper recognition, and the perpetuated construct of the Stratford Shakespeare will be laid to rest.”

    new information is probably going to get even more scarce as it gets older. sorry to say it, but you’ll probably have to be content with it being a fringe theory that most will ignore or never even know exists.

  • Mark Johnson

    Mr. Ray [Personal attack deleted by Comments Editor]

    He states: “It has been determined that no ‘Shakespeare’ signature resembles any other, and that the signer’s hand was guided.”

    Not only has this not been “determined,” it is pure balderdash and runs counter to all of the direct, physical testimony that establishes the prima facie case in favor of William Shakespeare of Stratford. It also runs counter to logic to believe that Mr. Ray’s conspirators would be so stupid as to pick an illiterate man to be their front. Mr. Ray’s subjective “conclusion” is not evidence and is not based on any evidence, and it is not a fundamental fact [Personal attack deleted by Comments Editor] nor is it logical.

    Mr. Ray continues to assert that the Herbert brothers must have had something to do with the First Folio; however, coincidence is not evidence, and does not logically prove his conclusion. As for Ben Jonson, Timber.

    I never said anything about a “James Mappe” [Personal attack deleted by Comments Editor]; the name of the person who wrote one of the dedicatory verses in the First Folio is James Mabbe. Mr. Ray would like for it to be James Marston so that he can assert another supposed coincidence, which, even if considered true, would not prove his greater “conclusion”. As to John Marston’s poem to Oxford, Mr. Ray’s poetic exegesis does not qualify as evidence that de Vere wrote pseudonymously, and it certainly doesn’t connect him to the works of Shakespeare. [Personal attack deleted by Comments Editor]

    As for the crackpot cryptography that is another characteristic tool employed by conspiracy theorists. “Me, Edward de Vere”, you Jane. It isn’t pretty and it doesn’t identify.

    Mr. Ray is confused. I readily agreed that most plays of the time were presented anonymously. Where I disagree with him [and with Ms. North if she makes the claim that Mr. Ray makes] is that most plays were presented pseudonymously in this period. There is no evidence for that claim, and I’d request that Mr. Ray provide the exact quotation from Ms. North that supports such a “conclusion”.

    My evidence is not credible? Historical, documentary records are not credible? Physical evidence contemporaneous with the life of Shakespeare is not credible, but Mr. Ray’s conclusions and speculations are supposed to be credible. This is laughable. The historical details, the evidence that exists, does, in fact, support the proposition that William Shakespeare of Stratford wrote the works attributed to William Shakespeare. The unfortunate think for Mr. Ray and his ilk is that they have no comparable evidence whatsoever, so they must put their faith in their belief in their Lord. The claim that the plays will be more enjoyable if they are read as roman a clefs is particularly insipid, since the plays are incredible achievements as they are already read. To confine them to court gossip and the vengeful motives of de Vere is to demean the works. Keep dreaming that William Shakespeare of Stratford will be supplanted…it fits in with your other fantasies.

  • Mark Johnson

    I just tokk a quick stroll through Marcy L. North’s *The Anonymous Renaissance: Cultures of Discretion in Tudor-Stuart England*, and it appears her only mentions of de Vere are for works in which he was explicitly identified as an author [as in “E. of Ox” or “Earle of Oxenforde” — so much for his employing a concealed name.

  • http://www.RoseDigitalMarketing.com Christopher Rose

    Setting aside the debate about who actually wrote these works, I’d like to know why whoever the author was is regarded so highly?

    As we already know, the vast majority of the plots were borrowed from earlier stories and, from a contemporary perspective, Shakespeare’s words are practically incomprehensible.

    Is it not then the case that Shakespeare was nothing more than a plagiarist rather than a genius?

  • William Ray

    It appears Mr. Johnson mixes his incriminations with requests that I provide assistance on a particular subject at hand, the frequency of anonymous and pseudonymous plays in the Elizabethan era. Since he has ‘The Anonymous Renaissance’, I suggest he read the book for himself. If that is an issue for him, I recommend pages 16, 115-126, 133 en passim, and 175-179 for a sense of name concealment as a condition of literature then. When I mention pseudonymity in the theaters, by definition it cannot be nailed down precisely, for that is its point, but there were switches from anonymity to named authorship, indicating the prevalent condition of non-attributed authorship. Middleton was one case of concealed to declared authorship, Spenser in poetry another. In particular, a set of anonymous works was suddenly switched to the authorship of ‘William Shakespeare’ in September 1598. Contrary to the pecuniary habits of William Shakspere grabbing every possible coin owed him, the anonymous plays were not claimed by him when they started to appear in pirated quartos. He filed no suits, contrary to his litigious nature. This is a puzzling fact for the Stratfordian persuasion to face. The objective observer suspects that the lofty artistic author could not at one and the same time also be him, the money-grub. In confirmation of this irreconcilable bifurcation, the public declaration of the formerly anonymous plays and Shakespeare as their playwright appeared in Meres’s almanac, listing them in such a fashion as to cue the reader that Shakespeare was a pseudonym, whose source was the first listed playwright, the Earl of Oxford. Thus Shakspere himself didn’t figure into the new playwright declaration. He wasn’t the writer or any writer at all. See ‘Shakespeare the Concealed Poet’ by Robert Detobel for the full explanation of how authorial anonymity became pseudonymity.

    On the matter raised by zingzing–why does James Marston’s tribute to de Vere constitute evidence that he was specifically Shakespeare in disguise. de Vere had been associated with the epithet Shakespeare since 1578 when Gabriel Harvey orated the tribute that “Thy countenance shakes a spear at ignorance.” This tribute is reflected in Jonson’s similar tribute that the author of the First Folio “shakes a lance as brandished at the eye of ignorance.” Oxford was also referred to as “Shaking a staff” by Sidney in the 1580’s. The Shakespeare allusion was a cue to the knowing and to posterity as to the true author being referred to. They knew the ‘silent name’ Oxford used as his pseudonym, i.e, his nickname from jousting years, Shake-speare. zingzing will find additional corroboration in Marston’s encomium as to the identity of the revered figure from the poem’s undue emphasis on “ever”. Ever is an anagram of Vere, and the headline in the dedicatory epistle of ‘Troilus and Cressida’ also inordinately contains that same reference.

    In reply to Mr. Johnson’s diatribe against the proposition that “it has been determined” Shakspere could not write, I think the best course is for him to read the most thorough analysis of the Shakspere of Stratford will in Brief Chronicles II by Bonner Miller Cutting. It is available on-line. There he will read how a certified expert determined what I repeated in this discussion, Shakspere could not write. It had nothing to do with infirmity. He could not sign a court testimony in 1612 when he was hale and hearty in London, nor 1613, nor January 1616, nor March 1616. So Mr. Johnson has some scrambling to do in a major aspect of his belief system.

    He is quite right though I did not check on my spelling of James Mabbe, for which I apologize to Mabbe’s memory, knowing how troubling it is to have one’s name disrespected. He was an obscure translator of whom we know little more than that he was at Magdalene College, Cambridge. Yet in the Stratfordian tradition he is given inexplicable credit for writing a tribute to the great ‘M. W. Shake-speare’. I call attention to the telltale hyphenation, often utilized in this pseudonym in print, for example as SHAKE-SPEARE, “the ever-living poet” of the Sonnets in 1609, when Shakspere was quite alive in the countryside. His name was never written with a hyphen. Marston incidentally was a writer from and of the theater, thereby an appropriate contributor (in Jonson’s mind) to the memory of one who was clandestinely known by, and who himself used, the nom de plume Shakespeare. Unfortunately the intemperance of Mr. Johnson’s charge that I have no competence identifying authors must reflect upon his manner. Pettiness plays so rough, as the song goes. Personally, it is of no importance to me that he wrote, “I just tokk a quick stroll through Marcy L. North’s ‘The Anonymous Renaissance’…” I know what he meant.

    We will have to leave it there, with the adversarial correspondents no doubt continuing to spew outrage and derogation, in place of a reasoned and defensible answer to the identity of the authorship of Shakespeare’s works. I strongly recommend that Mr. Johnson examine the “crackpot cryptography” he finds so objectionable. It constitutes visible positive proof of subterfuge to preserve for posterity the identity of de Vere as the Shakespeare author, with a 30-billion-to-one certainty of statistic reliability. That should be agreeable for proof. He will then arrive at the objective proof for which he yearns. It just does not confirm the figure he has heretofore defended. That misdirection was a ruse from the beginning and continues to confuse him and many others. Since “the truth will out”, I don’t believe zingzing is right that the discovery of the true Shakespeare will remain a fringe theory. He is right though that most will remain unaware. For the health of our civilization, I trust that regard for the truth increases not diminishes.

    William Ray

  • STM

    “Shakespeare has made surprisingly few appearances on film”.

    Damn right on that one. He much preferred stage to screen.

  • Mark Johnson

    I pointed out that Ms. North said nothing about Oxford adopting a pseudonym and that, in fact, his poems were published under his own name. I also requested that Mr. Ray provide the support that he claims is in North’s book for his claim that most of the plays of the period were presented pseudonymously. Mr. Ray finds this question to be an “incrimination” [more evidence of the benighted thinking of a defensive mind?] when it is actually simply a request for him to justify his contention. The intelligent reader will notice that he does not come close to doing so. It is now a subject that “cannot be nailed down precisely,” though he formerly stated quite specifically that: “numerous if not most Elizabethan plays were presented anonymously and pseudonymously. Again, his argument is with my source, Marcy L. North, author of ‘The Anonymous Renaissance’.” It should be a simple matter for Mr. Ray to furnish the passage[s] from Ms. North’s book that support this claim, yet he is unable to do so. The pages he references do not do so. It seems Mr. Ray is confusing anonymity [name concealment] with pseudonymity.

    The fact that Shakespeare filed no lawsuits over pirated versions of his plays is not at all a puzzling fact for Stratfordians. That it is puzzling to Mr. Ray shows that he knows little about the lack of copyright in Shakespeare’s day, and next to nothing about how works were acquired and published at that time. As for his characterization of Shakespeare as a “money-grub”, he should look to his own Lord who was constantly begging for money [or tin mines to support his excessive lifestyle]. Why didn’t Oxford insist on getting a cut of the performance of his plays?

    It is only in the illogical world of Oxfordian theory that Mere’s separate listing of Oxford and Shakespeare could be spun to mean that Oxford was Shakespeare. I would encourage the objective observer to read Mr. Detobel’s article in Brief Chronicles in which he attempts to show, mathematically, that Meres was in on the Oxfordian ruse. It is a laughable exercise.

    Mr. Ray pulls out the Gabriel Harvey chestnut, which is simply more Oxfordian spin. The phrase employed by Harvey is correctly translated as “your eyes shoot darts,” or “your glance shoots arrows,” not, as Mr. Ray and his co-religionists would have it, the ungainly “your countenance shakes a spear” [a translation promulgated by Oxfordian B. M. Ward years ago and taken as gospel ever since by her co-religionists]. Since Mr. Ray has a tendency to indulge in appeals to authority, he can look to Oxfordian Nina Green on this issue.

    Speaking of appeals to authority, I’m supposed to take the word of some unidentified “expert” that Shakespeare had to be guided in signing his name. Your errors in logic pile up faster than your mistakes. That being said, I have quickly perused Bonner Cutting’s article on the Will, as Mr. Ray has requested, and I have found no such expert and no such reference to anyone guiding Shakespeare’s hand. I would request that Mr. Ray provide the exact passage from this article which he contends supports his claim.

    The Baconians made the same claims for their cryptography that the Oxfordians now make for theirs. It is interesting that Mr. Ray cites cryptography as “objective proof” and yet he is unable to recognize, or deal with, all of the objective evidence which exists for William Shakespeare of Stratford. That is typical of those who believe that they, and their small group of initiates to the secret knowledge, are the only ones who have discovered the “truth”. The rest of us are confused, but the faithful know the truth and they will protect civilization until their Lord is revealed in all his glory. Conspiracy theory 101.

  • William Ray

    The rabid nature of Mr. Johnson’s comments may be good personal therapy but contributes little to knowledge. He asks for the specific parts of an essay he claims to have read, having to do with Shakspere being unable to write. The provenance of the signatures is not the author’s main thrust but there is the following comment about the will:

    “It is written in facile secretary hand conjectured by Mark Eccles to be
    that of Francis Collins, a solicitor of Stratford, though the consensus favors
    a clerk or scrivener, further conjectured to perhaps have been someone in
    Collins’ office.14 Attempts to claim it as Shakespeare’s own hand have not
    been credible, and are gainsaid, of course, by his three scrawled signatures.”

    Footnote 102 refers to Jane Cox, custodian of the Public Records Office holding the will, who stated in her book about it that “the signatures had been forged”. The essay’s author differs, but if the long-time custodian was of this opinion, it leads to a shocking conclusion, that Shakspere could not write and someone wrote for him. It is not a ringing endorsement of his literacy. And Mr. Johnson wishes the world to trust he wrote the Shakespeare canon. Since no one of the extant signatures resembles another, a cue to literacy, since all are halting, scrawled, and virtually illegible, the conservative judgment is he was guided and could not write by himself.

    On the issue of anonymity and pseudonymity in Elizabethan theater, Mr. Johnson seems to have difficulty comprehending that concerning a milieu of concealment, I do not present him with data regarding pseudonymous plays. Demanding information that in its nature is unavailable is of course a rhetorical tactic. The dozen pseudonymous plays that I referred to as mentioned in Mere’s almanac are not deemed sufficient, and he is determined to disbelieve and disrespect the scholarship of Robert Detobel about them and their true author. As Ms North wrote, “Much anonymous literature from the first two centuries of print has been assigned a conjectural author or forgotten.” The same goes for pseudonymous writing, including plays. When presented with anonymous writing switched to pseudonymous, he finds himself unable to accept the literary and political strategem. In North’s words, “…anonymity proved useful to most because it was generic, traditional, inconspicuous, and ‘authorless.’ It also resisted incorporation into a system of book regulation, because its traditional uses and its moral ambiguity discouraged those with authority from defining it as criminal.” Thus it was a good cover for concealed writing. As for Mr. Johnson’s charge that the copyright laws did not protect authors, they did and the play companies who bought plays had standing to claim rights regarding them. Since Shakspere was putatively both the author and in the play company, he and the Lord Chamberlain’s Men could have sued. They did not, quite unlike the litigious gent who would sue for shillings.

    Sorry about the mistaken impression on Mr. Johnson’s part that “tela” refers to something relatively innocuous like arrows (in “Thy countenance shakes a spear”), which was Nelson’s rationalization to make the subject go away too. “Tela” refers to projectiles, thrown weaponry, namely spears and javelins. Arrows aren’t thrown. I am getting the impression that if every “co-incidence”–like the financing of the First Folio by the Herberts–can be beat back, the problem of Shakspere’s shaky proof as Shakespeare will go away. It will not go away. On the other hand, I admit that, despite all the suggested readings and direction made here in this exchange, some prefer antagonism and denial. The research is there when one is psychologically prepared to read and gain from it.

    William Ray

  • Mark Johnson

    My comments are not rabid, although I am a cynic. Speaking of contributing little to knowledge, it appears that Mr. Ray’s claim that an expert had offered the opinion that Shakespeare’s hand had been guided in making his signatures was a gross exaggeration, if not an outright falsehood. His attempt to move the goalposts at this point [my request was not for him to provide a passage from the article “having to do with Shakespeare being unable to write,” as he now claims, but with his allegation that there was expert opinion which had “determined that Shakespeare’s hand was guided in his signatures] buttresses the fact that it was Mr. Ray’s reading of the article that was deficient, not mine. None of what is now cited from the article substantiates Mr. Ray’s claim, even though Mr. Ray claimed to have taken it directly from that article. He now falls back on his own subjective “judgment” that the hand was guided, ignoring his previous comments as to the expert opinion, and yet he wishes the world to trust his account.

    He also continues to back away from his assertion as to pseudonymous presentation of plays in the Elizabethan age, and to make factually incorrect statements. Mere’s list does not set forth pseudonymous plays; in fact, Meres tells us that Shakespeare was the author of those plays [though Detobel claims to know his mind better than he himself did]. It would be circular reasoning of the worst sort for Mr. Ray to claim that those are pseudonymous plays because Oxford was actually the author, but that appears to be what he intends. He has come a long way from his claim that most of the plays were anonymous or pseudonymous. Now, when he cannot find any support in North (the alleged source for his original claim), he accuses me of engaging in rhetorical tricks. As for his understanding of copyright, Mr. Ray is still wrong. I’d suggest he read *The Book of William* to get a better notion of the practices of the day. The most that an author or his acting company could have done would be to complain to their patron…no lawsuits could be filed.

    How convenient for Mr. Ray to ignore my initial translation of “tela” [your eyes shoot darts]. The Latin word ‘tela’ includes a variety of weapons, both thrown and hand-held. The phrase vultus/Tela vibrat in Gabriel Harvey’s 1578 Gratulationes Valdinenses speech to Oxford can therefore be translated in more than one way. Mr. Ray, in his rigid adherence to his faith in his Lord, and following the gospel of B. M. Ward, insists that it must be translated as spear.

    Here is a much more intelligent interpretation of the phrase:
    “Tela” is the plural form of “telum”. “Telum” was originally any kind of throwing weapon such as a javelin, but the word is also used by extension for a sword or even an axe. It is used metaphorically for a “weapon” such as cruel words, and for a bolt of lightning and even incredibly for a beam of sunlight. The verb “vibrare” means “to set in tremulous motion” – specifically “to brandish, shake, agitate, cause to flutter (of clothing)”. By extension it comes to mean “hurl, fling”, and it is is also used for “quiver, glimmer, glitter” etc. “Vultus” means “expression on the face”, especially an angry expression, or even the “face” as a whole. These definitions come from Dr W. Smith’s Smaller Latin-English Dictionary of 1875, which has the merit, for those who read Latin, of supporting each sense by one or more citations from classical authors. It seems to me that the sentence “Vultus tela vibrat” could mean many different things, but because “tela” is plural it cannot mean “his countenance shakes *a* spear”. One might also point out that the “spear” on the Shakespeare shield is in fact a lance as used in the lists, not a spear in the throwing sense. A reasonable version might perhaps be “Lightnings flash from his warlike countenance” or “… quiver around his …”. {Alan Jones}
    Oxford never threw a spear while jousting in tournaments. In addition, if the Oxfordian reading is correct, then Harvey was in on the “secret knowledge”, which makes it quite strange that, in his private books, he would name Shakespeare, and not Oxford, as the author of Venus & Adonis, Lucrece and Hamlet. How very strange.

    Mr. Ray finishes up with a new “fact”, claiming that not only were the Herbert brothers involved in the First Folio, but now, he claims, they financed it. Of course, as usual, there is not an iota of evidence to support this claim. He has gone from they were connected to the publishing [a claim that is mere speculation] to the claim that they were its finaciers. It is one more in the long list of speculations that feed Mr. Ray’s faith in his Lord. So much for the proof that Mr. Ray claims will not go away.

    Mr. Ray said that he was leaving the field, and yet he cannot tear himself away. If anyone here is emotionally invested in this debate, and psychologically unprepared to face actual facts, it is not me.

  • William Ray

    A pity to see someone’s agitation and personal animus on a topic that can be dealt with rationally and with good will. My original statement was that numerous if not most Elizabethan era plays were anonymous and pseudonymous. This seems plain from the milieu as described by Ms. North’s volume. But it is a source of conflict for Mr. Johnson.

    Since Mr. Johnson takes exception to virtually everything expressed from here, and Robert Detobel has been unable to access the comment section, and Mr. Johnson has also denigrated Mr. Detobel, I include his contribution to the discussion. He requested this aid.

    Identifying Shakespeare in 4 steps.

    Steps 1 + 2

    1. John Davies of Hereford.

  • Mark Johnson

    Mr. Ray: I am not agitated in the slightest and I am not motivated by personal animus [Are you?]. I merely pointed out that you had cited two separate sources that did not support the claims you had made. I was not motivated by personal animus but by a desire to set the record straight, something that you, as a seeker of truth, should appreciate. You should also acknowledge when you have made a mistake [as should I when I make a mistake, as should anyone]; instead of doing that, you attempted to move the goalposts, which is a tactic that should not be employed in an honest, thorough, and sifting cross-examination of the ideas presented by the participants in the debate. Ms> North does not support the contention that most plays of the period were pseudonymous, and nothing in the Cutting article supports your claim that Shakespeare’s hand was guided when he signed any documents. You should acknowledge these errors.

    I do not take exception to virtually everything expressed here. I merely take exception to speculation that is paraded as fact. I believe in the primacy of evidence.

    As for Mr. Detobel, I did not denigrate him, as you claim. I did, however, denigrate the argument he made in one specific paper; why you should see that as an attack upon the person is beyond me. I do not take it personally when someone denigrates my argument in a debate, and neither should you or Mr. Detobel. That sounds like more “benighted thinking of a defensive mind” [an ad hominem attack from your first post in this arena].

    I welcome Mr. Detobel to the debate and look forward to his participation.

  • William Ray

    Identifying Shakespeare in 4 steps.

    Steps 1 + 2

    1. John Davies of Hereford.
    To our English Terence, Mr. Will.
    Shake-speare.
    Some say (good Will) which I, in sport do sing,
    Had’st thou not plaid some Kingly parts in sport,
    Thou hadst bin a companion for a King;
    And, beene a King among the meaner sort.
    Some others raile: raile as they thinke fit,
    Thou hast no rayling, but, a raigning Wit.
    And honesty thou sow’st, which they do reape;
    So, to increase their Stocke which they do keepe.

    Let us analyze the first four lines. What is “a companion for a king”? A companion for a king is one who regularly attends the king. Where does the king reside? The king resides at court. In order to be a companion for a king one had to be regularly at court. He had to be a courtier. This is what Davies tells us. Shakespeare could have been a courtier close to the king; his social rank could have entitled him regularly to attend the king.

    The statement is doubly absurd when applied to Shakespeare of Stratford. Some orthodox scholars naively point to his profession as actor. But would Shakespeare of Stratford have been entitled to attend the king, to be “a companion for a king”, had he not been an actor? Certainly not, for he was also a tradesman. Trading was considered a base occupation. “Active personal occupation in a trade or profession was generally thought to be humiliating. The man of business was inferior to the gentleman of leisure who lived off his rents, for, as Edward Chamberlayne bluntly stated in 1669 ‘Tradesmen in All Ages and Nations have been reputed ignoble’.”[Stone, Crisis Aristocracy, 39-40] Orthodox scholars seem always to lose sight of that. Lawrence Stone cannot be accused of snobbery, he is simply describing the rules of the social system of the time. Davies of Hereford tells us: Shakespeare was an aristocrat.
    2. Sonnets
    Sonnet 72:
    My name be buried where my body is,
    And live no more to shame nor me, nor you.
    Sonnet 81:
    Or I shall live your epitaph to make,
    Or you survive when I in earth am rotten,
    From hence your memory death cannot take,
    Although in me each part will be forgotten.

    By the time he was writing those lines, the name Shakespeare was already famous for Venus and Adonis and The Rape of Lucrece. Possibly, the name Shakespeare had already been promised eternity by Richard Barnfield and Francis Meres in 1598. So what, one could ask. What was the poet thinking in these lines? Did he think himself his poetry was not good enough for his name to survive? Line 3 of sonnet 81 contradicts that. Lines 9-14 of the same sonnet emphatically contradicts it:
    Your monument shall be my gentle verse,
    Which eyes not yet created shall o’er-read,
    And tongues to be, your being shall rehearse,
    When all the breathers of this world are dead,
    You still shall live (such virtue hat h my pen)
    Where breath most breathes, even in the mouths of men.

    Conclusion: the poet is not speaking of the name Shakespeare, he is speaking of his real name. Shakespeare was a pseudonym. [End of first of two sections]

  • Mark Johnson

    This post demonstrates quite ably the problem that Oxfordians often exhibit in accurately construing what constitutes “evidence” in the identification of the author of the Shakespeare works. Here, Mr. Detobel’s subjective and idiosyncratic interpretation of a poem by John Davies is produced as evidence for the Oxfordian case, even though his speculation as to what Davies “really” meant cannot ever be considered to be evidence of any sort whatsoever. It certainly doesn’t partake of the nature of the direct, physical, documentary evidence which supports the Stratfordian case.

    Mr. Detobel presumes to speak for a man who has been dead for nearly four hundred years, and to channel the “secret meaning” behind what is, on its face and within the four corners of the document itself, a rather unambiguous message. Mr. Detobel might as well be conducting a seance.

    Mr. Detobel’s exegesis of the poem involves cherry-picking. He completely ignores the first line of the poem where the poet is identified as “good Will”. He also ignores the title of the poem, in which the poet is “Master” William Shakespeare, which honorific explicitly and specifically links the name to the man from Stratford, who was authorized to be addressed by that title and to claim the status of “Gentleman” [“Master” or “Mr.” Shakespeare due to the fact that his family had been awarded a coat of arms]. He ignores line 2 of the poem in which the acting career of Shakespeare is quite clearly referenced, with the obvious inference that, had Shakespeare not been a mere player [playing kingly roles on stage], he could have been a companion to a king. The poem indicates, without any ambiguity, that he was not a companion to a king…he was not a courtier and he certainly wasn’t an aristocrat. Detobel takes this literally [as if this is a travelogue or a police report and not poetry] to complain that Shakespeare couldn’t have actually been a companion to a king no matter what; therefore, the poem can’t really be about him. I’d humbly suggest that this is not how poetry works. But, then, that’s the problem with the approach that Detobel takes and the notion that anyone’s interpretation of a 400 year old poem can be considered evidence. The same holds true for interpretation of the Sonnets.

    Conclusion: Subjective and idiosyncratic interpretations of poems are not evidence and do not support the conclusion that the name Shakespeare was a pseudonym. Speaking for the dead is not a reliable method for identifying the author.

  • Mark Johnson

    I’d also add that Mr. Detobel’s interpretation and conclusion are contradicted by a poem that John Davies wrote prior to the one under discussion. It carries soemthing of the same message and is equally unambiguous:

    In 1603 John Davies of Hereford, writing in Microcosmos of “W.S. and R. B.,” most likely William Shakespeare and Richard Burbage, praises their qualities while lamenting the “staine” of the stage.

    From Microcosmos (1603) in The Complete Works of John Davies of Hereford (15.. – 1618), vol. I, p. 82, ed. A. B. Grosart, 1878.

    Players, I loue yee, and your Qualitie,
    As ye are Men, that pass-time not abus’d :
    And some I loue for ‘painting, poesie,
    And say fell Fortune cannot be excus’d,
    That hath for better uses you refus’d :
    Wit, Courage, good-shape, good partes, and all good,
    As long as al these goods are no worse us’d,
    And though the stage doth staine pure gentle bloud.
    Yet generous yee are in minde and moode.

    Source

    It is important not to zero in on one or two lines while ignoring the context and all of the surrounding circumstances…that way lies deeper subjectivity.

  • William Ray

    [Second of two sections]
    Steps 3 and 4
    3. Thomas Nashe’s witness in Have With You to Saffron-Walden (Ed. McKerrow, III.76-7), published in 1596.
    “… to take the wall of Sir Philip Sidney and another honourable Knight (his companion) about Court yet attending; to whom I wish no better fortune than the forelocks of Fortune he had hold of in his youth, & no higher fame than he hath purchased himself by his pen; being the first (in our language) I have encountered, that repurified Poetry from Art’s pedantism, & that instructed it to speak courtly. Our Patron, our Phœbus, our first Orpheus or quintessence of invention he is; wherefore, either let us jointly invent some worthy subject to eternize him, or let war call back barbarism from the Danes, Picts, and Saxons,..”

    N ashe is referring to Gabriel Harvey’s Gratulationes Valdinenses in 4 volumes. Volumes 1, 2 an3 contain the speeches to the Queen, Burghley, and Leicester, volume 4 to Oxford, Hatton and Sidney. Who was this other “honourable knight… about Court YET attending” and who in his youth had enjoyed the favour of the queen, but had lost it? Leicester, Sidney and Hatton were dead by 1596. Remain: Queen, Burghley and Oxford. It can only be Oxford. Nashe addresses Oxford without explicitly naming him. He does not speak of Shakespeare. Oxford was out of favour as Shakespeare was (see epigram of Davies of Hereford). In 1596 Shakespeare had acquired great fame by his pen already. BTW, Nashe nowhere mentions Shakespeare in his works (he does mention Spenser, Marlowe, Greene, Chettle).
    In-between a note about “conspiracy”. There are several cross-references between the Harvey-Nashe quarrel and the subplot of Love’s Labour’s Lost. Orthodox scholar have noted that, but as yet they have abstained from a closer investigation. They have reasons for it. The name Shakespeare nowhere occurs in the Harvey-Nashe quarrel. Oxford occupies stagecenter; he is sometimes explicitly named, more often alluded to. It is nowhere explicitly said that Oxford was Shakepeare or even a poet. The reason? As answer a quote from Gabriel Harvey’s Four Letters (1592) .After having praised Spenser and some others Harvey continues: “For I dare not name the honorabler Sons & Nobler Daughters of the sweetest & divinest Muses that ever sang in English, or other language: for fear of suspicion of that which I abhor.” It was not fit for an aristocrat to publish literature of “some nature” (Francis Bacon’s phrase). And it was not fit for a commoner like Harvey to praise them for something that for themselves had to be “trifles” reserved for leisure time. Conspiracy? No, rather social taboo was at work.
    Yet Nashe almost spilled the beans. What means “no higher fame than he hath purchased himself by his pen”. The fame Oxford has “purchased”, merited to acquire by his pen, should be the highest fame he receives. For what? For “being the first (in our language) I have encountered, that repurified Poetry from Art’s pedantism, & that instructed it to speak courtly.” For being “our Patron, our Phœbus, our first Orpheus or quintessence of invention.”
    It is the fame the name Shakespeare had acquired 2-3 years before. Nashe would have owed this praise to Shakespeare. Nashe does not once name Shakespeare. Nashe bestows it on Oxford. But Oxford would never receive such a praise for his own name and was aware of it (see sonnet 81).

    4. Vicar Ward of Stratford noted on Shakespeare about 1660:
    “and supplied the stage with 2 plays every year, and for that had an allowance so large, that he spent at the rate of a 1,000l a year, as I have heard.”
    Ward’s statement has been classified as a myth. Rightly so, if applied to Shakspere of Stratford.
    But it fits Oxford and his annuity of £1,000. With respect to Oxford it is no myth.
    From Sir Thomas Smith’s De Republica Anglorum: “and in Englande no man is created barron, excepte he may dispend of yearly revenue, one thousand poundes or one thousand markes at the least.”
    [End of section two]

  • Robert Detobel

    Mr Johnson,

    Re: Meres. What I’ve done is a simple count. If you can prove my count to be wrong, I’ll accept it.
    I wouldn’t call it a “mathematical” exercice. “Arithmetical” would be more modest and exact.

    Re: John Davies’ epigram. If it is impossible to understand what a man meant 400 years ago, if a text cannot be understood, you ought to reckon with the possibility that you misunderstand one line yourself, the title line. I don’t say you misunderstand it, but in your own logic you should contemplate that possibility.

  • Mark Johnson

    Mr.Detobel: I have no problem with your math. It is your conclusion that I find illogical, but that is a discussion for another day.

    As for John Davies’ epigram, I did not say that his poem could not be understood. I did say that a subjective and idiosyncratic interpretation of the poem, such as yours, could never be considered to be evidence. The poem itself is evidence. However, your speculation as to what it purports to mean is not evidence. You say that I should contemplate the possibility that my interpretation of the title of the poem is incorrect; the fact is that I do consider that possibility. You should contemplate the possibility that your interpretation of a few lines of the poem [ignoring the context in which they are found] is also incorrect, and you should understand, as I do, that our subjective interpretations of the poem do not qualify as evidence. After reading your presentation, I’m not sure you understand the distinction, so I’ll say it again. Your speculations do not trump direct, physical evidence.

    Once again, I did not say that the poem could not be understood. I am quite certain that the plain meaning of the poem, on its face, within the four corners of the document itself, is unambiguous. It is your attempt to divine some hidden, secret meaning, a meaning that is not justified by close analysis of the text of the poem, the words and the words in context in the poem itself, which I find to be the problem. I believe that I have shown, quite clearly, how you have cherry-picked certain lines, taking them out of context and completely ignoring other lines of the poem, in order to spin the meaning of the poem so that it means what you wish it would mean [I note with some dismay that you have chosen not to address my criticisms – so much for the debate]. You do not analyze the plain meaning of the words but construe them to fit your preconceived notions. Not surprisingly, Shakespeare himself addressed the methodology that you employ and understood the error that is inherent in it.

    “Shakespearean criticism degenerated into extravagance and fancy for alongside the man who finds his own soul, and so the soul of everyone, in a work of art, is the man who reads into it his own prejudices and opinions, makes it a point of departure for some sheer invention, or uses it to grind his own axe – all of them fatally different things. As Cicero remarks in Julius Caesar,

    Men may construe things after their fashion,
    Clean from the purpose of the things themselves.

    From *The Meaning of Shakespeare*
    by Harold C. Goddard

    Your steps # 3 and # 4 are as full of base speculation, rank hearsay, factual mistake, and logical error as your previous steps. I’ll be more than happy to point out specifics if, and only if, my previous criticisms are addressed. Otherwise, there is no point in any further participation in your one-sided debate.

    Using a subjective interpretation of a literary work as evidence to determine the identity of the author in this case is fraught with peril [as Shakespeare himself recognized]. The planks in your argument are rotten and rickety, and your steps lead down and over a cliff.

  • http://www.shake-speares-bible.com psi

    Mark Johnson, [Personal attack deleted by Comments Editor], says:

    Typical. Run away when confronted with the evidence, and hide behind denial and psychological projection. I have provided actual, objective, documentary evidence [without any spin whatsoever] to show that William Shakespeare of Stratford was the author…

    Wow. Good going Mark. Care to share it? If that is true, why is it do you suppose that SO many people just aren’t buying what you are peddling?

    For example, even the late Samuel Schoenbaum acknowledged, albeit ONLY in the 2nd edition of his Shakespeare’s Lives (1975, 1991), that “it is tempting to despair of ever bridging the vertiginous expanse between the mundane inconsequence of the documentary life and the sublimity of the (literary) subject.”

    I don’t myself much care for Schoenbaum’s particular emphasis (its not really a matter of *sublimity*)[Personal attack deleted by Comments Editor]. J.

  • Mark Johnson

    Oh, psi [heavy sigh]. I must admit to some amusement at your post, since I have no idea why you would want to take personal shots at me [even as red-lined as it was, like some paper from a minor league community college, your personal animus was apparent] – but I will refrain from responding in kind and will answer the “substance” of your remarks, and would request that you do the same in the future.

    Wow, psi. You ask me to share some of “the actual, objective, documentary evidence” showing that WS of Stratford was the author. This leaves me somewhat flabbergasted, as I already have done as you request above. If you could simply read what I have already written in my previous posts, you would find that I have provided positive evidence in support of the Stratfordian claim, including a long list of documents specifically referencing Master Shakespeare [the person from Stratford]. In addition, I have provided a refutation of Mr. Ray’s argument regarding the four steps. So far, no Oxfordian, including you, has taken the opportunity to address either the positive evidence I supplied or the negative case I made against Mr. Ray’s argument.

    I also found your resort to ‘argumentum ad populum’ to be amusing for a couple of reasons. For one thing, it is a fallacious argument, one that is lacking in logic. The fact that some people, even many people, would choose to believe in a certain proposition does not make that proposition true. Approximately 17% of Republicans still believe that President Obama was not born in Hawaii; do you think that makes their opinion true? In addition, Oxford would lose the popular vote in a landslide if one were to be held, so apparently people are “buying what I’m peddling” [as you so rudely phrased it] while they are largely immune to the snake-oil product that is your conspiracy theory. Just one example is the so-called Declaration of Reasonable Doubt produced by the Shakespeare Authorship Coalition. The Declaration was issued in April of 2007, and, despite publicity and a constant drive to get people to sign on, there are currently only 2070 signatories [the last time I checked]. Those results are an abject failure. I guess a sucker isn’t born every minute [just joking]. The fact is that you Oxfordians are a fringe group of conspiracy theorists, as the article that engendered these comments asserts. If you ever do come up with some actual evidence that situation may change…until then, you should get accustomed to life on the fringe.

    As for Samuel Schoenbaum and the brief quotation that you lifted from Shakespeare’s Lives, I reviewed my copy of the book and found that the very brief extract that you posted is taken out of context and does not mean anything close to what you would like it to mean. There can be no doubt whatsoever that Schoenbaum held the opinion that the evidence that we do have [actual, physical, documentary evidence] is more than sufficient to show that William Shakespeare of Stratford wrote the works attributed to William Shakespeare. Schoenbaum is lamenting the fact that we don’t have more personal and emotionally revealing evidence such as a “personal letter” or an “entry in a diary” [the context you conveniently left out] but he isn’t at all saying that there is room for any doubt. To imply that he means any such thing is to mischaracterize what he writes. That would not be “good going”.

  • William Ray

    I usually participate in these blog debates in order to introduce more information about the authorship issue to previously uninformed readers. From the recent repeated participation of a few contributors in this forum, most readers may have already dropped out due to acrimony in certain posts. I feel obligated to respond to the methods of discussion employed by Mr. Johnson in his desire to “win”, as they are characteristic of the negativity and selectivity that hampers a full assessment of information in this particular field. We usually refer to negative and selective discourse as dishonest arguing.

    In my own encounters with Mr. Johnson, he began with personal condemnation, i.e., the charge of “conspiracy theorist”. This is ad hominem arguing, denigrating the person in distinction to dealing with the argument presented. Another example, this time of plenary categorization, was his association of Oxfordians with fundamentalist beliefs in the geologically recent creation of the world.

    In responding to Mr. Schumann’s rather lengthy and detailed parallels between the life of Edward de Vere, 17th Earl of Oxford and the Shakespeare play, All’s Well That Ends Well, Mr. Johnson dismissed the artistic/biographical parallels as subjective. While artistic depictions should be viewed cautiously as reflections of actual persons, allegory was the primary means of allusion and metaphor in the Elizabethan theater, and this “subjective” tag simply removes the Shakespearean linguistic and artistic works as pertinent to the identity of their proposed writer. A sub-set of this general removal of literature as connected to (any) author’s life was the statement Mr. Johnson made that de Vere’s poems are not good evidence for the Shakespeare claim. Enormous scholarship by William Plumer Fowler and Joseph Sobran indicate this is an arbitrary and unfounded assertion. In reply to Mr. Schumann’s offering details from the Sonnets that eerily paralleled the life of Oxford, Mr. Johnson stated, “I wrote a poem when I was thirteen from the perspective a man in his eighties.” What perspective Mr. Johnson wrote from and ‘Shakespeare’ wrote from were two different perspectives. The assertion and its analogy between Shakespeare and Mr. Johnson, fail to discredit a biographical hypothesis. Biographical knowledge informs critical study of every other author, but it is made out of bounds by Mr. Johnson in the Shakespeare authorship study.

    In brief, the terms of approach were 1) attack the person where possible for effect 2) minimize or dismiss the contrary evidence, including arbitrarily denying it is evidence 3) assert as fact what turns out under examination to be insupportable.

    Turning to the positive features of Mr. Johnson’s analysis of the Shakespeare authorship question, as I understand it, the decisive information that favors Shakespeare of Stratford as Shakespeare the author is primary evidence, also called direct evidence, (June 21), positive evidence, or what I characterized as assertions of positive proof. This direct evidence include the coat of arms allowing Shakespeare of Stratford to call himself Gentleman; the First Folio, the Shakespeare Monument; the discussions of Jonson about him; and a list of “all the other records” identifying Shakespeare as a Gentleman as reflected on the Shakespeare title pages, deeds,and recorded associations with the Lord Chamberlain’s Men.

    Mr. Johnson’s fundamental error in all these proposals, like that of the traditional view accrued over centuries, is the assumption that Shakespeare of Stratford and the author William Shakespeare (Gent.) were one and the same individual. Mr. Johnson categorically stated, “these records specifically identify the author as William Shakespeare of Stratford.”

    It is surely true and evident that William Shakespeare of Stratford had a coat of arms and did assume the title of Gentleman. It is also true, though unmentioned, that when Shakspere applied for that coat of arms, for the first time in his record, he did so under the spelling Shakespeare. This change followed the huge success of Venus and Adonis and Lucrece, also using that spelling. But this ‘William Shakespeare’ was associated by Gabriel Harvey, not with Stratford’s Shakespeare, as asserted by Mr. Johnson, but with “Pierce Penniless”, a sobriquet of Edward de Vere. Thus all the listed title pages in the world that read ‘William Shakespeare, Gent.’ cannot connect Stratford William to yet another sobriquet of de Vere’s, Shake-speare/Shakespeare. Extant primary evidence in the form of Gabriel Harvey’s writing does not support Mr. Johnson’s Shakspere=Shakespeare theory.

    It should also be stated that Shakspere of Stratford was initially refused a coat of arms, expressed in terms of “Non sanz droict”, not, without right. The second application was approved but was later presented as evidence of corruption on the part of the approving authority, for his taking bribes from the applicants, namely Shakespeare as one. It should also be noted that Jonson, by whose writing Mr. Johnson adduces authority that Shakspere=Shakespeare, ridiculed the Stratford parvenu by referring to the motto of Sogliardo as “Not without mustard”. Sogliardo is an anagram of the phrase, “O’s liar dog”. This may or may not be co-incidental. “O” was a literary cue to Oxford via his motto, “NOTHING truer than truth”. Anagramming was a simple literary means of communicating between the lines in Elizabethan/Jacobean literature. Nothing Jonson wrote can be argued into endorsing the Stratford figure as the “Soule of the Age”, whom Jonson revered. He revered de Vere and was a follower of his daughter Susan.

    Similarly, with Mr. Johnson’s assertion that the First Folio is direct evidence that Shakspere=Shakespeare. This assertion omits that William Herbert, Lord Chamberlain in charge of Revels, was an in-law of de Vere, that Herbert paid and increased the salary/stipend of Jonson before 1623, Jonson being generally identified as the editor/introducer of the work, and Herbert officially approved publication of books, including the First Folio. Instead Mr. Johnson takes the position Herbert was unconnected to the First Folio in any way. To assert this is not only incredible, it is sunk by the primary evidence of the dedication. Indeed, William and Philip Herbert were the very same “noble paire of brethren” in the First Folio dedication. The rest of the introductory materials contain between-the-lines communication that are explanable through association with the principals of the project. Price’s ‘Shakespeare’s Unorthodox Biography’ has the details.

    All this is not “direct evidence” as required by Mr. Johnson of his adversaries, (though not of his own assumptions). It is circumstantial and suggestive evidence, and completely in keeping with how literary conspirators had to write in the context of the Elizabethan totalitarian state. I would add that circumstantial evidence and direct evidence receive equal weight in civil law. If today Shakspere were accused of writing Shakespeare, he would be cleared for lack of evidence. This is why six Supreme Court justices do not credit the Stratfordian contention.

    Under the above category of arbitrary claims, I will mention two. Mr. Johnson quoted and endorsed Kathman’s claim, “In Shakespeare day only important people (e.g., noblemen or at least knights) were eulogized immediately in print.” This is contradicted by the numerous eulogies to Francis Beaumont, the poet and Stratford resident who died shortly before Shakspere, including that of William Camden the eminent historian, who habitually praised deceased authors upon their deaths. Camden did not mention Shakspere in his books about the towns of Britain and their illustrious residents. No one wrote a contemporaneous eulogy. Mr. Johnson also referred to the “lack of copyright in Shakespeare’s day.” Copyright means right to copy,and was a contemporary term in Elizabethan law. He stated “no law suits could be filed.” This is asserted information, as the Stationers forbade re-publication on the basis of an author’s veto of a printing, giving both property and creative, or what we called intellectual property, standing to the author. The Stationers decided on these suits.

    Thus, Mr. Johnson’s confident seemingly persuasive contributions to the debate weaken and fail once all the facts are introduced. Arbitrary and selective use of evidence irretrievably damages the power of the proposal and the credibility of the contributor.

    I will close with matters of decorum. Mr. Johnson stated he made a “quick stroll” through a book I had referenced. He also “quickly perused” an article I mentioned. This amounts to arrogant dismissal of sources based on who suggested them. Instead I was accused of falsehood in stating the overwhelming evidence presented by the one book, that numerous if not most Elizabethan plays were anonymous and pseudonymous. Who was responsible for which is and was impossible to know, but together their existence indicated a milieu of concealment. If Mr. Johnson had actually read the book, he would have seen that “More than 800 known authors were published anonymously between 1475 and 1640, and to this figure one must add pseudonymous authors, those authors who are still unidentified, and those who penned the many anonymous poems and smaller items that appear in anthologies and miscellanies of the period.” de Vere was the most prominent of these pseudonymous authors. Mr. Johnson chose to isolate on the impossible question of documenting whether pseudonymity was “numerous”. This can be explained as a point of criticism only as a wedge to use against the opponent’s credibility. It is also a way to put out of bounds the use of pseudonymity by Edward de Vere, as his nickname was Shake-speare, based on Pallas Athena references, literary tributes or gibes, and the martial contest background for which he was considered heroic.

    My references to Shakspere being unable to write received s heavy critical response. This is understandable because if so, the Stratfordian contention is insupportable. The conclusions I expressed as deriving from remarks by Jane Cox, Custodian of the Wills at the Public Records Office, were disparaged as skewed if not false. That and such charges as shifting the goalposts will be left to third parties. As Ms Cox put it in her book about the Stratford will, “It is obvious at a glance that these signatures with the exception of the last two [Blackfriar deed signatures] are not the signatures of the same man. Almost every letter is formed in a different way in each.” When faced with evidence this plain, there are two possibilities: the man who could not write had his name forged on his behalf; or the signature was guided. Greenwood, Thompson, Halliwell-Phillipps and a number of others differ as to the fact. The most reasonable conclusion the evidence permits is that the illiterate writer was helped, either with a model or a guiding hand. We are not talking about the most lyrical and felicitous mind that ever wrote in English signing his name. We are talking about a man who achieved good business success without writing, without anyone in his family writing, without dispensing money to his descendants to learn writing, without bequeathing money to the local grammar school so someone might learn writing. There is no direct evidence Shakspere could write. The evidence is all in the other direction.

    Mr. Johnson’s assertions that his criticisms were not personally motivated are belied by the fact that the moderator of this forum found it appropriate to delete three personal attacks by him against me. Lack of self-command and lack of sufficient evidence usually go together, and the one is sacrificed in pursuit of the other.

    I have gone into some detail, because attack strategies in supposedly rational discussions share the same meager spirit. They do not wish to be fair because if they were, they might lose. We can expect attack strategies on the part of the status quo in the Shakespeare authorship question from now on. The self-contradictory and selective narrative of the Stratfordian contention has become more visible, and there is a lot of status and money at stake. But truth does not submit to dirty pool, motivated in some cases by self-blinded rhetoric. I guarantee Mr. Johnson one thing. Anger won’t save your position if it isn’t empirically logical and true.

    William Ray

  • Mark Johnson

    Mr. Ray is mistaken in his characterization of my method of argumentation, and his assertion that I have engaged in “dishonest arguing” is completely invalid. There has been no acrimony from me even though I have been subjected to insults nearly from the beginning of this discussion [Mr. Ray has characterized me as “rabid”, “agitated”, “irrational”, overly emotional, etc. ?” speaking of ad hominem arguments]. I do not care to “win” ?” I believe in the primacy of evidence and trust that following it will lead to the truth, whatever it may be, and that such truth will win in the end.

    I realize that some Oxfordians recoil from being identified as conspiracy theorists, but it is a fact that the term is entirely applicable to Oxfordians. When I use that term it is not a “charge” or “personal condemnation” of any kind whatsoever….it is merely a statement of fact. It is Mr. Ray who is assigning negative connotations to the term; I have not done so at any point in this debate. If Mr. Ray can point to a single instance where I have used the term in a negative light, I’ll be happy to apologize for such. I doubt that Mr. Ray will be equally inclined to apologize for his much more blatant ad hominems.

    Mr. Ray also takes umbrage at my “association of Oxfordians with fundamentalist beliefs in the geologically recent creation of the world” and labels this an ad hominem argument. Again, he is incorrect. A comparison of the way that Oxfordians ignore evidence for the Stratfordian case to the way that new earthers ignore fossil evidence is a commentary on evidence and is not an ad hominem argument. My point involved the methodology employed by Oxfordians, not their personal characteristics or beliefs. I’m not sure Mr. Ray understands this distinction, or even understands what an ad hominem argument actually is, but the comparison I used does not qualify as such.

    Mr. Ray is confused about my arguments against Mr. Schumann’s interpretations. If Mr. Ray believes that Mr. Schumann’s subjective speculations as to literary works qualify as evidence that Mr. Schumann’s interpretations are accurate, then he is as mistaken as Mr. Schumann. The fact that these subjective interpretations are not a proper methodology in this debate is proved by the fact that the proponents of other candidates [Marlowe, Bacon, Neville, and over 100 others] all use the same technique to “prove” that their candidate is the true author of the works. The subjectivity of this approach robs it of any evidentiary significance. Even expert opinion testimony does not qualify as evidence. Mr. Ray and Mr. Schumann would like for the works to be roman a clefs [they are not really allegoris in the sense that Faerie Queen is an allegory…see Northrop Frye], but their opinion that the works are roman a clefs does not make that so. Their opinions, being wholly subjective, cannot, and never could be, considered to be evidence. I’m not sure why Mr. Ray wants to argue against this notion. Maybe he does believe that what he thinks a literary work means is evidence that the literary work does in fact mean what he thinks it means. As I demonstrated earlier, Shakespeare himself was aware of the poverty of this approach. I stand by my arguments against Mr. Schumann’s methodology. I would also take issue with Mr. Ray’s claim that “allegory was the primary means of allusion and metaphor in the Elizabethan theater.” I do not believe this to be true, and Mr. Ray has offered no evidence that it is correct. It is merely more argument by assertion.

    As for Oxford’s known poems, and my contention that they are not good evidence for the Oxfordian claim, Mr. Ray makes an appeal to authority [an example of fallacious reasoning]. It is not surprising that Mr. Ray did not mention the scholar who has written the most definitive study of de Vere’s poems, Stephen May. In addition, Mr. Ray also completely misunderstands my argument. I am not advocating the “removal of literature as connected to (any) author’s life; contray to Mr. Ray’s assertion, I said nothing of the kind. My comment had to do with the literary worth of Oxford’s known poems, which I personally find to be overly-alliterative doggerel. Mr. Ray may think it is Shakespearian. All of this proves my earlier point. The literary works, their meaning and their value, give rise to an opinion which is formed in the eye of the beholder. The opinion is purely subjective and does not provide a proper methodology for making the kinds of determinations which Mr. Ray requires it to deliver.

    Mr. Ray misunderstands my argument as to the coat of arms and the references to Master William Shakespeare or William Shakespeare, Gent., and, in doing so, he seems to show that he does not fully understand the concept of what qualifies as direct evidence. Mr. Ray also demonstrates that he is unfamiliar with the facts surrounding the grant of the coat of arms. It was not William Shakespeare who applied for the coat of arms ?” rather, it was his father who did so. Contrary to Mr. Ray’s assertion, my argument does not rest on an a priori assumption “that Shakespeare of Stratford and the author William Shakespeare (Gent.) were one and the same individual.” That shows a total lack of understanding of the point I was making. My point, and one that Mr. Ray appears to confirm, is that a reference to William Shakespeare, Gent, or to “Master” William Shakespeare, would qualify as a reference to William Shakespeare of Stratford, and to no one else. Therefore, the records that do make this reference do qualify as direct, physical evidence which identifies William Shakespeare of Stratford as the author. If Mr. Ray is unable to understand the logic involved here, I am afraid I cannot help him…just as I am at a complete and utter loss to understand his speculation that “this ‘William Shakespeare’ was associated by Gabriel Harvey, not with Stratford’s Shakespeare, as asserted by Mr. Johnson, but with “Pierce Penniless”, a sobriquet of Edward de Vere.” While charging me with circular reasoning, Mr. Ray engages in the same conduct himself. According to him, we must assume that the titles referred to Oxford, and, therefore, the titles and other documents could not possibly refer to William Shakespeare of Stratford [even though they specifically identify the author as the William Shakespeare entitled to call himself Master Shakespeare, Gent.], because Oxford wrote the works.

    Mr. Ray does not realize the spin that he has to put on things to make them comport with his preconceived dogma. His treatment of “Non sanz droict” is an example of this. To Mr. Ray, it must be read as, “not, without right” even though the possibility exists that it was a proposed motto meaning “not without right”. If Ben Jonson was satirizing Shakespeare in the character of Sogliardo, then Jonson understood it to be a motto, and not a reason for denial. It must mean what Mr. Ray wants it to mean, and yet he sees no problem with this subjective approach to the issue, and considers his divinations to be good evidence. Mr. Ray indulges in quite a bit more speculation, which he treats as fact {“O” is a literary cue for Oxford”???}, but I have neither the time nor the desire to treat each such speculation individually. The testimony of Camden is more than sufficient to counter Mr. Ray’s speculations as to the coat of arms.

    Mr. Ray states that, “[N]othing Jonson wrote can be argued into endorsing the Stratford figure as the “Soule of the Age”, whom Jonson revered. I’d suggest that Mr. Ray read and explain *Timber* which I mentioned in a previous post, or put his spin on Jonson’s conversations with Drummond.

    Mr. Ray argues that the First Folio is not direct evidence that Shakspere=Shakespeare, because such as “assertion omits that William Herbert, Lord Chamberlain in charge of Revels, was an in-law of de Vere, that Herbert paid and increased the salary/stipend of Jonson before 1623, Jonson being generally identified as the editor/introducer of the work, and Herbert officially approved publication of books, including the First Folio.” Mr. Ray demonstrates once again that he does not understand what qualifies as evidence. The fact that Mr. Ray is able to list some other facts and to spin a conspiracy therefrom, does not deprive the First Folio of its evidentiary nature or value. Contrary to Mr. Ray’s assertion, I do not take the position that the Herbert brothers were unconnected to the First Folio in any way ?” the work was dedicated to them. On the other hand, there is no direct evidence which tends to prove that they had any other connection to the work. There are some facts which can be employed to indulge in speculation as to a possible connection, but there is no direct evidence for that connection. I am not sure why Mr. Ray is unable to understand this obvious distinction. Mr. Ray’s remains blissfully unaware of the problems inherent in discerning “between-the-lines communication” in the introductory material…he seems to think his subjective divination of these communications [whether they are there or not] transforms his speculations into evidence, but they do not even qualify as material, circumstantial evidence.

    I would request that Mr. Ray provide evidence, direct or circumstantial for his claim that Francis Beaumont was the subject of many eulogies shortly after his death. From David Kathman’s website:
    “A good example is Francis Beaumont, half of the famous and popular dramatic team of Beaumont and Fletcher. Beaumont retired from the stage in 1613, around the same time as Shakespeare, and the two men died in the same year, 1616, though Beaumont was 20 years younger. Beaumont was buried in Westminster Abbey, but without any monument or even an inscription indicating where his grave is, and we know nothing about his funeral. Other than the record of his burial, the earliest notices we have of Beaumont’s death are Taylor’s poem in The Praise of Hemp-seed and Basse’s MS eulogy to Shakespeare — the same two poems which contain the earliest mention of Shakespeare’s death. (Charlton Ogburn asserts in The Mysterious William Shakespeare (112) that there was a “shower” of praise for Beaumont upon his death, but this shower appears to be a product of Ogburn’s fantasies; no contemporary evidence for it exists.)
    The first printed eulogy specifically for Beaumont was “An epitaph upon my dearest brother Francis Beaumont,” in the posthumous edition of his brother Sir John Beaumont’s poems; this did not appear until 1629, thirteen years after his death and six years after the Shakespeare First Folio. Beaumont received passing mention in a few poems over the years (most of them alongside Shakespeare and/or Fletcher), and the anonymous Wits Recreations (1640) contained a short poem entitled “To Mr. Francis Beaumont and Mr. John Fletcher gent.” It was not until 1647, though, that the next eulogies specifically for Francis Beaumont appeared in print: the First Folio of Beaumont and Fletcher’s works, printed in that year, contained George Lisle’s “To the memory of my most honored kinsman, Master Francis Beaumont,” John Earle’s “On Master Beaumont (written thirty years since, presently after his death),” and Richard Corbet’s “On Master Francis Beaumont (then newly dead).” As their titles indicate, the last two of these had been written three decades earlier, and had presumably been circulating in manuscript all that time. By the time they finally appeared in print, more than a dozen such eulogies to Shakespeare had been published.”
    http://shakespeareauthorship.com/eulogies.html

    Mr. Ray makes much of the fact that Camden did not mention Shakspere in his books about the towns of Britain and their illustrious residents.

    According to Oxfordian Nina Green, “[S]ince Camden’s Britannia, a topographical survey of England, was first published in 1586,it is not to be expected that Shaksper would be mentioned in the section on Stratford in the first edition.”

    As for William Camden, the following evidence alone should be enough to silence any rational doubters. As Thomas A. Pendleton writes in ‘The Shakespeare Newsletter’ (Summer 1994):

    “But the matter impinges on the Oxfordian claim far more severely. For the Clarenceux King who collaborated on the reply to Brooke’s accusation was William Camden, not just the foremost antiquary of the time, but also Ben Jonson’s master at the Westminster School and his life-long intimate friend. Camden was also on friendly terms with Lord Burleigh, Elizabeth’s most trusted minister, Oxford’s long-suffering father-in-law, and, it is sometimes supposed, the executive director of the Great Concealment. Camden was, in fact, selected by Burleigh to write the more or less official history of Elizabeth’s reign, and was given access to the government’s records and correspondence to do so. Given Camden’s interests, expertise, and connections, he would have known the secret of the Shakespeare plays, if there was one to know. Yet in Remaines (1605), Camden names “William Shakespeare” as one of the poets of his time “whom succeeding ages may justly admire.” Matus duly reproduces the passage, refutes some misconstructions by Charlton Ogburn, and notes — again, quite rightly — that Camden, like other contemporaries, speaks of Shakespeare not as the transcendental genius of his time, but as one talented writer among many. The comment, however, has far more significance. The mere form is significant: Camden names ten poets and concludes with an et cetera: “and other most pregnant wits of these our times.” Shakespeare is the tenth and last specified; and, thus, since there is no measurable rhetorical difference between either nine or ten specifics before a final et al, Camden must honestly have thought Shakespeare one of the age’s most pregnant wits, or, alternatively, he was guilty of a most incoherent and gratuitous falsehood. Even more important, since he had, as Clarenceux King, responded less than three years earlier to Brooke’s attack on the grant of arms to the father of “Shakespeare ye Player” — it may well have been more recent, the preface of Remaines claims it was completed two years before publication — Camden thus was aware that the last name on his list was that of William Shakespeare of Stratford. The Camden reference, therefore, is exactly what the Oxfordians insist does not exist: an identification by a knowledgeable and universally respected contemporary that “the Stratford man” was a writer of sufficient distinction to be ranked with (if after) Sidney, Spenser, Daniel, Holland, Jonson, Campion, Drayton, Chapman, and Marston. And the identification even fulfills the eccentric Oxfordian ground-rule that it be earlier than 1616.”
    Therefore, according to Camden [who certainly had every reason to know what he was talking about], the son of John Shakespeare of Stratford, Mr. William Shakespeare of Stratford, was the same man as the actor (ye player) and was the same man who was “a writer of sufficient distinction” to be included among a list of other great writers of the day.

    Mr. Ray states that “no one wrote a contemporaneous eulogy” for Shakespeare [which would be very surprising if it was such an open secret that he was really Lord Oxford]. From the Kathman site:

    “First of all, the claim that Shakespeare’s death evoked no eulogies will be puzzling to any Shakespeare scholar — of course there were eulogies for Shakespeare, the inscription on his monument and the famous poem by Ben Jonson being only the best known of many. What the Oxfordians apparently mean is that there were no eulogies printed for Shakespeare within a year or two of his death, a fact which they find suspicious. But there is nothing suspicious about this at all. Printed eulogies in Shakespeare’s day were only for socially important people like nobility and church leaders; posthumous eulogies for poets circulated in manuscript, only reaching print years later, if at all. The seven years before the first printed eulogies to Shakespeare appeared in the First Folio is actually remarkably fast, unprecedented for an English playwright, and the number of tributes written to the Bard is more than for any of his contemporaries before Ben Jonson 20 years later.”

    Mr. Ray is critical of my claims regarding the fact that authors had no copyright to their plays once they were purchased by the company, and even less once they went to a printer; he says this is “asserted information” and then makes unsupported assertions of his own. I would still suggest that he read *The Book of William* and he might also peruse “Shakespeare and the Stationers* if he wishes to be informed on this matter.

    I would agree that “[A]rbitrary and selective use of evidence irretrievably damages the power of the proposal and the credibility of the contributor,” and, therefore, I would contend that Mr. Ray has shown the poverty of his own contributions.

    Contrary to Mr. Ray’s assertion, I did not arrogantly dismiss any sources. I reviewed them to see if they supported the assertions that Mr. Ray made, and found, in both instances, that they did not do so. The North book does not contend that “most Elizabethan plays were anonymous and pseudonymous” ?” rather, it makes the case that most Elizabethan plays were anonymous. In addition, the Cutting article does not suggest anywhere in it that Shakespeare’s hand was guided in making his signatures. This is Mr. Ray’s own invention. He can try to explain these facts away, but they do go to his credibility. Mr. Ray’s circular reasoning in attempting to defend his two erroneous citations of sources further serves to weaken his case.

    Finally, I am puzzled by Mr. Ray’s belief that he can psychoanalyze me through the internet, although it does seem consistent with his belief that he can divine the hidden meanings of something written 400 years ago. I am not angry and I am not motivated by personal animus. I have not called anyone “rabid” as Mr. Ray has done [does that mean that Mr. Ray is angry, and is engaging in “dirty pool, motivated in some cases by self-blinded rhetoric” and that his positions are not empirically logical and true?].

    I’ll leave the question of whether or not my arguments are rational and are based on evidence to the sagacity of the intelligent reader. Unlike Mr. Ray, I do not rely on speculation.

  • William Ray

    “For truth is truth though never so old and time cannot make that false which was once true. —Edward de Vere, May 7, 1603

    For truth is truth to the end of reckoning.
    –Isabella, Measure for Measure (V.1.45)

  • Mark Johnson

    Calvin Hoffman spent years compiling a list of parallels between Marlowe and Shakespeare, and in 1956 he finally published thirty pages of such parallels in his book The Murder of the Man Who Was Shakespeare. Accompanying them are such statements as these: “From the almost unlimited parallelisms that I have drawn from the works of Marlowe and Shakespeare, the verdict must be that the plays and poems of these two authors were written by the same author”; “There is only one reason for this literary twinning. One mind conceived the plays and poems of William Shakespeare and those of Christopher Marlowe.”

  • zingzing

    william, does it not bother you that those two quotes make seemingly opposite points? and do you not think those four words have been written in succession before and since?

  • Mark Johnson

    Just one more thing to add. I notice that there was no response to my request for Mr. Ray to provide the “numerous eulogies to Francis Beaumont, the poet and Stratford resident [???…Beaumont was not a Stratfrod resident; he died in London] who died shortly before Shakspere.” It is extremely important, when participating in these blog debates, that we all introduce correct factual data about the authorship issue so that previously uninformed readers will not become misinformed readers.

  • William Ray

    Considering the exchange has diminished to myself against two rather captious adversaries, there is little point in my putting further energy into the discussion. Disinterested readers may find ample reading sources through the internet servers. I would recommend against trusting the Wikipedia site on the Shakespeare authorship question however. The site was taken over by Tom Reedy and followers, who have manipulated the Wikipedia editing system to exclude Oxfordian scholarship, except as a ploy to denigrate it.

    In response to Mr. zingzing’s inference that de Vere copied or happened upon the above quoted “truth” language, the May 7, 1603 letter preceded the first performance of Measure for Measure by 135 years. That should dispose of the possible plagiarism or co-incidence claim. Since de Vere’s name resembled the Latin word for truth, veritas, which was part of his motto, the word and the concept played a prominent role in his literary vocabulary. They also occurred repeatedly in the works of Shakespeare, with strikingly similar phrasing to Oxford’s, about thirty instances according to Fowler’s Shakespeare Revealed in Oxford’s Letters. If you are of the opinion Isabella’s and Oxford’s sentences are opposites, I have no comment.

    In response to Mr. Johnson’s going-for-the-jugular demand that I present tributes to Francis Beaumont following soon after his death, he is referred to a number of them on pp. 195-8 of the book, Francis Beaumont, Dramatist: a Portrait, with Some Account of His Circle, by Charles Mills Gayley, and to Donald P. Hayes’s Social Network Theory and the Claim that Shakspere of Stratford Was the Famous Dramatist. In the latter essay, Hayes demonstrated that Mr. Johnson’s primary source Kathman has little or no credibility on the conundrum of Shakspere not receiving any eulogic tributes and other poets and dramatists receiving many as a custom of the London literary network. Hayes was not an Oxfordian. If you are sincere to not misinform readers, the words you state, you will have to abandon references to Kathman.

    There are thirty-five similar phrases in Marlowe and Shakespeare, which would not be surprising in a guild system of collaborative playwrighting in the English Renaissance. Marlowe lived around the corner from the University Wits circle at Fisher’s Folly, owned, led, and financed by Oxford. Hoffman’s view that Shakespeare and Marlowe were the same author finds no historical or literary support. Mr. Johnson’s implication that the similarity of the Measure for Measure line and Oxford’s correspondence are analogous with Hoffman’s curious theory remains to be proven. As stated, Mr. Johnson contention is an unsuccessful attempt to dilute the force of the Isabella-Oxford similarity.

    Correcting the false information introduced by Mr. Johnson that William Camden did not remark on Shakspere, simply because Camden’s antiquarian book was written in 1586 before the Stratfordian had become famous: Camden’s book went through several editions, including 1605 when ‘Shakespeare’ was nationally famous. In not one edition, early or late, did Camden note William Shakespeare as a famous resident of Stratford. His tribute to Shakespeare the dramatist stands in glaring distinction to his famous-Stratford-person omission, indicating that Camden recognized there was no reason to glorify Shakspere. Once again Mr. Johnson’s selective use of facts betrays actual historical records and circumstances. His fundamentally erroneous assumption that Shakespeare the pseudonymous author and Shakspere the money-lender were one and the same person cannot withstand elementary factual analysis.

    William Ray

  • Mark Johnson

    Mr. Ray is now leaving the field [again] because zingzing and I are “captious adversaries” for pointing out the faults in his arguments. He no longer has the time to put further energy into the discussion. This is what typically occurs in any debate with conspiracy theorists. When the actual facts are introduced, the conspiracy theorist claims that he and his fringe believers are being persecuted [apparently there is a conspiracy to manipulate Wikipedia so as to denigrate Oxfordianism] and he then heads for the hills.

    I am glad that Mr. Ray provided the two sources for references to eulogies for Francis Beaumont [my attempt at “going-for-the-jugular”???; the resort to such melodrama is another characteristic of conspiracy theorists]. Once again, the sources that Mr. Ray cites for his claim do not support that claim that he makes. I’ve now read the pages from *, Francis Beaumont, Dramatist: a Portrait, with Some Account of His Circle*, by Charles Mills Gayley. Mr. Gayley writes that the only contemporaneous tribute to Beaumont was a poem that has survived that was written by a fifteen or sixteen year old student by the name of John Earle. That is the only contemporaneous eulogy for Beaumont, and it certainly doesn’t qualify as a tribute from his literary peers. The next eulogies that Gayley cites are as follows:

    “About 1620, we find a contemporary of altogether different class from
    that of the university student acknowledging the fame of Beaumont, the
    Thames waterman, John Taylor. This self-advertising tramp and
    rollicking scribbler mentions him in _The Praise of Hemp-seed_ with
    Chaucer, Spencer, Shakespeare, and others, as of those who, “in
    paper-immortality, Doe live in spight of death, and cannot die.” And not
    far separated from Taylor’s testimonial in point of time is William
    Basse’s prediction of a prouder immortality. Basse who was but two years
    older than Beaumont, and, as we have seen, was one of the pastoral group
    with which Beaumont’s career was associated, is writing of “Mr. William
    Shakespeare” who had died six weeks after Beaumont,–and he thus
    apostrophizes the Westminster poets of the Corner:

    Renownèd Spencer, lye a thought more nye
    To learnèd Chaucer, and rare Beaumont lye
    A little neerer Spencer, to make roome
    For Shakespeare in your threefold, fowerfold Tombe.
    To lodge all foure in one bed make a shift
    Untill Doomesdaye, for hardly will a fift,
    Betwixt this day and that, by Fate be slayne
    For whom your Curtaines may be drawn againe.

    The date of the sonnet of which these are the opening lines can be only
    approximately determined. It must be earlier, however, than 1623; for in
    that year Jonson alludes to it in verses presently to be quoted. And it
    must be later than the erection of the monument to Shakespeare’s memory
    in Trinity Church, Stratford, in or soon after 1618, for in the lines
    which follow those given above the writer apostrophizes Shakespeare as
    sleeping “Under this carvèd marble of thine owne.”

    As can be seen from the direct quotations from Gayley’s work, the contemporaneous eulogies that Mr. Ray claims for Beaumont are nowhere to be found. In fact, the trail is remarkably similar to that for Shakespeare…except, of course, for the fact that Shakespeare was honored by the printing of the First Folio. As for the article by Mr. Hayes, he does not cite any eulogies in his argument…not one. He merely makes the assertion that “other dramatists celebrated Beaumont with numerous tributes,” without supplying a single example. In light of this fact, and the fact that there are numerous factual errors [which I will not go into at present] in Mr. Hayes” article, he does not provide any support whatsoever for Mr. Ray’s claim that there were contemporaneous eulogies to Beaumont. So much for Mr. Ray’s arguments as to contemporaneous eulogies. If he is sincere in his desire to accurately inform readers, he should first determine that the sources he cites actually support the propositions that he claims that they make.

    I am intrigued by Mr. Ray’s response to the parallels between Marlowe and Shakespeare. Is he seriously claiming that Lord Oxford was a member of a “guild system of collaborative playwrighting?” If so, it is amazing that none of the other members of this guild ever made the first reference to Oxford’s participation…and not one of them ever wrote a eulogy upon Oxford’s passing in 1604 [in fact, no one ever wrote any eulogy for Oxford so far as we know].

    As for Camden, let me take this opportunity to once again correct the false information and spin introduced by Mr. Ray. “The first edition of this work was published in 1586, written entirely in Latin, with the full title of *Britannia, sive florentissimorum regnorum Angliae, Scotiae, Hiberniae et insularum adjacentium ex intima antiquitae chorographica Descripto* (“A description of features, to the earliest time of the powerful kings, of England, Scotland, Ireland, and the adjacent islands). As the title implies, it was a work of antiquarian scholarship, intended to give the history of the various areas of the British Isles, and not intended as a guide to the contemporary literary scene, or indeed any contemporary scene. In discussing Stratford, Camden mentions John de Stratford, the fourteenth-century Archbishop of Canterbury who lent his name to the town, and Hugh Clopton, the fifteenth-century Lord Mayor of London who built the bridge over the Avon (and who also built New Place); he does not mention Shakespeare because (a) he was writing in 1586, when Shakespeare was 22 years old, and (b) he does not mention any contemporary figures, since it was a historical work. Further editions of *Britannia* came out in 1590, 1594, 1600, 1607 (the only one Ogburn notes), 1616, and 1639; an English translation by Philemon Holland appeared in 1610, with a second edition of that in 1637. In 1695 Edward Gibson published another English translation, with additions; Gibson does mention Shakespeare in his section on Stratford, since by then Shakespeare was history rather than news.

    Camden’s *Remaines of a greater work concerning Britain*, the first edition of which was published in 1605, was intended as a supplement to *Britannia*, containing material not appropriate to an antiquarian work, including a discussion of literature. Here Camden does mention Shakespeare along with nine other contemporary poets. Mr. Ray accuses me of a “selective use of facts” but it is Mr. Ray who uses that tactic. According to Mr. Ray, the lack of a reference in one Camden book is evidence that Shakespeare was a nobody, while another reference by Camden to Shakespeare is actually a reference to Oxford [even though it has been shown that Camden knew who William Shakespeare of Stratford was]. It is only in Oxfordian thinking that one is permitted to discount and abuse actual evidence whenever it is necessary to maintain the overall theory.

    Mr. Ray retreats into standard Oxfordian boilerplate when he calls William Shakespeare a money- lender. Somehow, all of the evidence that he was an actor in an acting company and a shareholder in a theatre [the same acting company that performed the plays of Shakespeare and the same theatre where they were performed] is ignored. The evidence that he was a writer is likewise denied. It is denial like this that, in fact, “betrays actual historical records and circumstances.” Mr. Ray’s method, subjectively twisting historical documents to mean something other than what they plainly mean on their face, does not honestly employ “elementary factual analysis”.

  • Tom Reedy

    Now you know how useless it is to try to debate anti-Stratfordians, Mark. I’ve tried to have discussions with these very same people on newsgroups and on Wikipeida, but even when you rub their noses in the surviving documentary record, for some reason they can’t even acknowledge that a simple historical record exists. Such is the blinding power of an obsessive belief system.

    The good news is that with anti-Stratfordian advocates who can’t even see the ridiculousness of these types of arguments, William Shakespeare’s rightful position as the author is secure.

  • Stanley Wells

    I always find it amusing that some of you folks still cling to the old “it’s just a conspiracy theory” argument. We are talking about Elizabethan England, for goodness sake! This was a time of conspiracies and plots, too numerous to mention. In fact, the era has been referred to as an age of conspiracies. Just sayin! :)

    Oh – and thanks to the comments editor for deleting personal attacks. Admittedly, they come from both sides of the debate, but the “mainstream” supporters never seem to tire of growing nasty and insulting whenever the debate goes public.

  • Mark Johnson

    Stanley: Who do you claim is clinging to the old “it’s just a conspiracy theory” argument? That would be making a negative case that would have some merit if it identifies the suspect methodology that seems to be a characteristic of conspiracy theories. I have made such a case here, but I would argue that I have not indulged in the simplistic argument stating that it is merely a conspiracy theory and, therefore, should be summarily dismissed [in fact, I have spent a great deal of time and effort in responding to the Oxfordian arguments for their theory, a response that has not been reciprocated].

    Additionally, far from merely clinging to the conspiracy theory argument, I have put forward a positive case, supplying evidence, and the logical inferences which can be drawn from such evidence, in establishing a claim for William Shakespeare of Stratford. For instance, I supplied a list of historical documents that specifically identify William Shakespeare of Stratford, Gent., as the author of the works. I have also set out, in some length, the evidence regarding Camden, the coat of arms, and his literary reference to Shakespeare. I would welcome an Oxfordian response to such evidence, but no real argument has been made in rebuttal.

    Mr. Reedy: I wholeheartedly agree. You are right about trying to debate with people who are not willing to consider the actual, historical record, or who will attempt to change the plain meaning of a text to make it comport with their conspiracy theory. It is useless in the sense that the people you are debating seem immune to rational discussion of the documentary record, but my hope is that the intelligent reader will be informed by a presentation of the actual facts.

  • Stanley’s Well

    Please explain the “plain meaning” of the following:
    “.TO.THE.ONLIE.BEGETTER.OF.
    THESE.INSUING.SONNETS.
    Mr.W.H. ALL.HAPPINESSE.
    AND.THAT.ETERNITIE.
    PROMISED.
    BY.
    OUR.EVER-LIVING.POET.
    WISHETH.
    THE.WELL-WISHING.
    ADVENTURER.IN.
    SETTING.
    FORTH.

    Anti-Stratfordains have proposed the plain meaning of “ever-living” as referring to the deceased who will live forever in our memories (precisely as in Shakespeare’s Henry V). I don’t see much comporting going on. The plain meaning is that the poet was deceased by 1609.

  • Stanley’s Not Well

    And if I’m not mistaken, the same terminology (ever-living poet) was used in the 1600’s concerning a long deceased Chaucer. The plain meaning is obvious. But this meaning (as regards the Sonnet dedication) fails to conform with Stratfordian beliefs, so they have attempted (with little success) to redefine it. It seems the Stratfordian camp is guilty of the very offense being raised here.

  • Mark Johnson

    So what living author was Thomas Heywood referring to in 1612, and why does Davies poem [circa 1610] refer to the poet Shakespeare in the present tense, long after Oxford’s death in 1604? The only ever-living author who can promise eternity is God. The fact is that there is no plain meaning to the dedication to the Sonnets; the other fact is that Stratfordians do not
    rely on it as evidence for their case. As for Oxfordians, even if it did mean that the poet of the Sonnets was dead, it would not qualify as evidence for Oxford, since there is nothing in the dedication that points to him.

    I note that Stanley and Stanley’s Not Well do not care, or are unable, to address the other evidence that has been produced for Shakespeare, hence the attempt to change the subject.

  • Stanley’s Well

    No change of subject here. I addressed an issue that you raised. And I didn’t mention Oxfordians – that was you changing the subject. The fact that the plain meaning of the text (duplicating the precise meaning and wording of similar writings) may be in opposition to Heywood (who left off that all important “Master” designation) and Davies (subject to interpretation), raises the kind of inconsistencies that make your argument problematic.

    You also said “I supplied a list of historical documents that specifically identify William Shakespeare of Stratford, Gent.” – Actually, no, you have not provided one document that uses that specific terminology (William Shakespeare of Stratford, Gent). Now I do understand your argument concerning the honorific and its a good argument. The problem is that as I understand it, once receiving that title, it was essentially mandatory and would have been a grievous error to leave it off of future publications. Yet, we have quarto after quarto that fails to list the “Master” designation. After fighting so long and hard to achieve this status, we are expected to believe that Master Will let his title be left off? Or that Heywood ignored his title? Really? It’s just another inconsistency that makes title pages and the like unreliable.

    One question, by the way – Were Heywood and Decker both titled “Gents” as you describe Shakespeare?

  • http://www.wjray.net William Ray

    By selective quotation Mr. Johnson manages to skew and falsify the historical record regarding the sources presented to him: Gayley’s book about Francis Beaumont the minor Elizabethan poet actually states the following relevant material, prior to Mr. Johnson’s quotation but excised by him:

    “Further information of the esteem in which Francis [[Beaumont] was held, is afforded by the eulogies, direct or indirect, written soon after his death by those who were near enough to him in years to have known him, or to assess his worth untrammeled by the critical consensus of a generation that knew him not. The tender tributes of his brother and of his contemporary, Dr. Corbet, successively Bishop of Oxford, and of Norwich, HAVE ALREADY BEEN QUOTED. A so-called “sonnet” signed I.F. included in a Harleian manuscript between two poems undoubtedly by FLETCHER may not have been itntended for the dead poet; but I agree with Dyce, who first printed it, that it seems “very like Fletcher’s epicede on his beloved associate.” [quoted] What the young readers of contemporary poetry at the universities thought of him is nowhere better shown than in the lines written immediate after the poet’s death by the fifteen or sixteen yearl old JOHN EARLE;–he who was later Fellow of Merton; and in turn Bishop of Worcester and of Salisbury [quoted] And not far separated from [JOHN] TAYLOR’s testimonial in point of time [1620] is WILLIAM BASSE’s prediction of a prouder immortality.” This tribute mentioned Beaumont’s rightful burial in Westminster Abbey, to which Basse suggested Shakespeare should be another so honored, but which Jonson decreed was wrong, that Shakespeare was a “monument without a grave”.

    It is transparent that Mr. Johnson wishes to minimize contemporary tributes to Francis Beaumont, in truth a minor poet, while beclouding that Shakespeare, so-called Stratfordian dramatist, received none, that is until about 1622 when Basse’s poem appeared and Jonson knocked it down, possibly to forestall the disaster of Shakespere of Stratford being considered as a candidate for anything so publically literary as burial in Westminster Abbey.

    The above distortion on the part of Mr. Johnson is and has been typical argumentation, in order to maintain the status quo interpretation of a very shaky historical presumption, that the Stratford figure was the dramatist William Shakespeare.

    The attempt by Mr. Johnson and his philosophical cohort Tom Reedy, to discredit questioning the Stratford hypothesis, has proven to be overwhelmingly mean-spirited as well as fundamentally inaccurate, both in general and in such referential issues as this. We can see a truer picture of the future of the Stratfordian cause from the moderator’s three deletions of Mr. Johnson’s personal attacks here in this forum, than from either his ‘evidence’ or his pretenses of certainty.

    with best wishes to those interested in the truth of the Shakespearean authorship,

    William Ray

  • Mark Johnson

    I must admit that I did miss the examples quoted by Mr. Ray, and I apologize for such a lapse, but it doesn’t really change the argument. What we now have is another eulogy written by Beaumont’s brother, one written by a Bishop, and a “so-called sonnet” that may, or may not, be about Beaumont. This, and the poem by a teenage student, comprises the contemporaneous “outpouring” of eulogies claimed by Mr. Ray for Beaumont. Of course, none of these eulogies are from Beaumont’s fellow authors [except possibly the one from IF], and nothing that has been presented from Mr. Ray on this subject marks a significant difference from the eulogies addressed to Shakespeare. I don’t need to minimize the contemporary tributes to Beaumont because they are already minimal. Of course, nothing written to memorialize Beaumont can compare to the tribute to Shakespeare in the assembly and publishing of the First Folio. The Oxfordian argument isn’t that Shakespeare’s brother didn’t memorialize him at his death…it is that his fellow authors did not write tributes. The same applies to Beaumont.

    Speaking of distorting the historical record in order to make an argument, Mr. Ray assigns a date of “about 1622” to the Basse poem. The fact is that the Basse poem could have been written at any time between 1616 and 1622. No one, including Mr. Ray, knows the exact date in that time period when the poem was written, but Mr. Ray conveniently assigns it the latest date possible. This is a deliberate attempt to misinform the reader.

    In addition, Mr. Ray once more parades his subjective interpretation, this time of the Ben Jonson poem in the Folio, treating his interpretation as if it were evidence against Shakespeare, and demonstrating, once again, that he really doesn’t know what evidence even is. He knows that he must “minimize” the impact of the Jonson tribute, and so he will spin it to his own design. This is his methodology in a nutshell: Oxford was the author of the works; a document exists that identifies William Shakespeare as the author; therefore, the name must be a pseudonym, and the document must be spun to mean that Oxford was the author of the works. Even the non-intelligent reader should be able to see the circularity in Mr. Ray’s reasoning.

    Finally, Mr. Ray wishes to dodge the facts presented here, by arguing that one of my posts, out of so many, was “mean-spirited”, all while neglecting the fact that he himself has indulged in resorting to insults. I have apologized for any instance of such conduct on my part. Mr. Ray would never even consider doing so [he is the bearer of the truth in service of his Lord]. Mr. Ray derides the evidence that has been presented, but the intelligent reader will note that he has never once attempted to address it, much less rebut it. As for his reference to “pretenses of certainty”, he should look in the mirror. His entire theory rests on his subjective interpretation of otherwise unambiguous documents, while purposefully ignoring other physical evidence, and then proclaiming that what he says is the truth. The claim to have divined the “hidden” meanings of 400 year old documents, to be the initiates in the secret knowledge, is at the heart of the Oxfordian argument, and is why it, like all fringe theories, will continue to fail. If Mr. Ray would like to debate the actual facts in the historical, documentary record, I’ll be more than happy to do so; I will not spend any more of my time knocking down his speculations.

  • Mark Johnson

    Stanley: I do not agree with your initial proposition. I do not believe that the plain meaning of “ever-living” is as set in stone as you seem to think. The argument that Thomas Thorpe must have meant the phrase to apply to a dead person because the phrase had previously been employed in instances where a dead person was the subject, does not seem very persuasive to me. Language was not static at the time, and there was no accepted dictionary meaning. It does appear to mean that the person identified will always be famous and “will live forever in our memories” but I don’t see that it is necessarily confined to addressing the deceased. It could just as well be applied to the living. I do not believe that it can be stated with any certainty that Thorpe used the phrase to state that the author of the Sonnets was dead.

    I also don’t believe that the Davies poem is really subject to interpretation. When considered in conjunction with the companion poem [about WS and RB], it appears to be pretty straightforward. Even more straightforward, is it not written in the present tense, signifying that Shakespeare is alive? As for Heywood, he didn’t name the author he was talking about [although I would argue that it could be no other than Shakespeare, considering the circumstances involved], so I’m not sure how he would have added the honorific to it. Do you have an opinion as to what living author he was referring to in 1612 when he said that he knew that the author was much offended by Jaggard’s use of his name?

    As to the identification of Shakespeare of Stratford in the documents I provided, do you know of any other William Shakespeare of the time who was entitled to be called a gentleman? Do you know of any other instances involving other authors in which their hometown is listed? I do not agree with your assessment that title pages are unreliable because some of them do not use the honorific. Many of the quartos we do have are simply duplications of previous efforts and so would not be expected to change. The documents are what they are…and some of them point specifically to William Shakespeare from Stratford. As to your assessment that Shakespeare would insist on the honorific being used, who knows? It seems like he is damned if he does [Sogliardo], damned if he doesn’t.

    I do not know the answer to your question about Heywood and Decker.

  • http://www.wjray.net William Ray

    I expected to be done with this forum, given the level of exchange, but Stratfordian self-delusion is too much fun.

    To put the point about Beaumont and Shakespeare of Stratford in the simplest terms, if a minor poet is eulogized by ANYONE and interred at Westminister Abbey, and the immortal Shakespeare of Stratford is eulogized by NO ONE and not buried there, is there something wrong with the story?

    Similarly, if William Basse, a retainer in the family of Bridget VERE Norris, writes an UNPUBLISHED POEM, which Jonson included in the First Folio to IMMEDIATELY REBUT, is there a Vere family circle strategem at work here? The quibble about the date is typical. The poem showed up conveniently for the publication of the First Folio, from a subaltern of the Vere-Herbert extended family and served as the straw-man for Jonson’s put-down of further memorial notice regarding Stratford Shakspere. It wasn’t until 1740 that a statue, totally unlike the Stratford effigy, got to Westminster Abbey. By then the publication of the controversial works had been achieved, but their author obscured.

    Mr. Johnson makes a serious and disrespecting charge when he states: “Mr. Ray once more parades his subjective interpretation, this time of the Ben Jonson poem in the Folio, treating his interpretation as if it were evidence against Shakespeare, and demonstrating, once again, that he really doesn’t know what evidence even is. He knows that he must “minimize” the impact of the Jonson tribute, and so he will spin it to his own design.”

    No minimization of Jonson’s tribute necessary because Jonson has already done that. He does not begin his tribute until line 17, suggesting de Vere’s inherited 17th Earldom of the House of Oxford. He says: “I, therefore will begin, Soule of the Age!” Why not line one? He then lists SEVENTEEN dramatists, beginning and ending with Shakespeare. He insists that his hero not be lodged with Chaucer, Spenser or Beaumont, because he is a “Moniment, without a tombe”. What is a Moniment? It is an archaic term meaning the immortal substance is the work itself. The i in Moniment is bold-faced, as though a signal of something. I is a cue to Oxford’s identity in his poems and in the Lucrece dedication to Southampton. I in Italian is io, pronounced E-O, Earl of Oxford’s abbreviation. Then Jonson refers to Lily, Kid, and Marlowe as the author’s contemporaries. Their period of fame was the 1580’s, before Shakspere of Stratford had reached London. Hint there if you can read it. ‘Lily’ and ‘Kid’ were Oxford’s employees and Marlowe part of his literary circle.

    There are four repeats of the name Shakespeare in Jonson’s elegy. Vere is a homonym of vier, German for four. Numerology was a critical means of subterranean communication in the Elizabethan authoritarian society. Four appears again when Jonson writes: “Shine forth thou Starre of Poets”. Nashe and Spenser used this ‘forth’ allusion in their praises of Vere, and Jonson reflects that allusion. ‘Forth’ in Dutch is ‘deVierde’, an anagram of de Vere.

    Jonson also refers to the “Starre of Poets” in his praise. A huge star dominates the Vere shield’s left quarter and is part of the Vere iconography. Jonson states: “he seemes to shake a Lance, [capitalized],/As brandish’t at the eyes of Ignorance.” This alludes to Gabriel Harvey’s 1578 phrase,”Thy countenance shakes a spear at Ignorance.” Harvey also associated Oxford with Pallas Athena. The Greek root for Pallas means to brandish. She brandishes a spear. Jonson uses the word lance rather than spear, as “shakes a speare” might be too close to Harvey’s reference. But everyone knew a commoner could not use a tourney lance. Another sly reference away from Shakspere.

    Jonson rhapsodizes “Sweet Swan of Avon! what a fight it were/To see thee in our waters yet appeare,/And make those flights upon the bankes of Thames,/That so did take Eliza, and our Iames!” In fact, Oxford and his play companies performed before the monarchs by the Thames, and after he died James held two Shakespeare festivals. The first was Christmastide 1604, the year Oxford died. The second was in 1612, after his wife Elizabeth Trentham Vere died. And the (mute) swan was associated with the “silenced” Ovid, who was banished from Rome by Augustus. Oxford was known as the English Ovid. He had been banished from court by Elizabeth. Oxford’s Warwickshire estate Bilton was near a branch of the Avon. He owned Bilton until the end of Elizabeth’s reign.

    Mr. Johnson seems to prefer denying the obvious to understanding what is really being said in “To the memory of my beloved, The AUTHOR, Mr. William Shakespeare: And what he hath left us.” There are seventeen words in this title. The W in William is constructed with two V’s, not a typographic W. Thus the reader is cued at the very beginning that this is a coded message, based on looking for further seventeen references, somebody beginning with V. And we see those in the number of dramatists named and the number of lines before the elegy begins. Four and shaking a lance/spear are other allusions directing the identification of the author away from the Stratford cipher, but to the AUTHOR [fully capitalized] instead.

    I think what we observe in Mr. Johnson’s remarks is pettifoggery. To borrow the words of Diana Price, “One of the pettifogger’s tactics is to find fault with a minor detail and use it to discredit the larger argument.” This seems to agree in general with the popular song, “My mind it scuffs at pettiness that plays so rough/ Kick my feet inside handcuffs say okay I’ve had enough/ What else can you show me?”

    The Stratfordian argument has nothing else to show, which is why the paradigm must evolve in the direction of demonstrable fact.

    William Ray

  • Mark Johnson

    Mr. Ray is outraged that he is accused of treating his speculative interpretations as if they were facts, as he claims to know what actually qualifies as evidence. He then spends an entire post indulging in subjective, speculative interpretation that he claims to be demonstrable fact (“No minimization of Jonson’s tribute necessary [sic] because Jonson has already done that.”). Talk about delusion.

    As I stated previously, I will not waste any more of my time knocking down Mr. Ray’s obvious speculations [Ben Jonson did that himself in his “Timber”.]. I will only point out the dishonest argumentation indulged in by Mr. Ray and how it adversely affects his credibility in this debate. He intentionally assigned the Basse poem a date of 1622, although it now appears he knew the poem could have been written at any time between 1616 and 1622. He now says that questioning his convenient dating of the poem is merely raising a “quibble”. I would suggest that it is much more than that. It shows the Oxfordian need to play fast and loose with the facts, as well as with the documentary evidence, in the service of their faith.

    What we observe in Mr. Ray is the typical Oxfordian method of engaging in circular reasoning and substituting his own interpretations for the plain meaning of texts, and then claiming that his interpretation should be treated as if it were factually, categorically the truth. The sad part is that Mr. Ray is unable to even realize that he is doing this. [See this excellent example from Mr. Ray’s post: “Mr. Johnson seems to prefer denying the obvious to understanding what is really being said in “To the memory of my beloved, The AUTHOR, Mr. William Shakespeare: And what he hath left us.” The obvious meaning of the poem is that it is a tribute to William Shakespeare of Stratford; Mr. Ray, in service to his Lord, must twist it out of shape, spinning the plain meaning of the words in order to discredit the larger meaning, then treating his subjective interpretation of the poem as if it were the only, revealed “truth” that all should recognize and follow. This is typical behavior for conspiracy theorists who view themselves as a select band of initiates in the secret knowledge.] In the Oxfordian world, the historical, documentary record [actual evidence] does not provide “demonstrable facts” — in their world, “demonstrable facts” are found in their own divinations of the “hidden” meanings of those documents, making them high priests responsible for the revelation of the secret wisdom of the sacred text. Mr. Ray’s religious beliefs in his Lord are no more factual than any other religious faith.

  • Mark Johnson

    Oh what the heck. Let’s examine another one of Mr. Ray’s alleged hidden connections. He acknowledges that the Basse poem presents a straightforward tribute to William Shakespeare, so he must come up with a way to turn it into something entirely different, in this case, to serve “as the straw-man for Jonson’s put-down of further memorial notice regarding Stratford Shakspere.” So what does Mr. Ray come up with? He claims that William Basse was a “a retainer in the family of Bridget VERE Norris,” and a “a subaltern of the Vere-Herbert extended family.” The intended logic of this, I suppose, is that Basse was a part of the conspiracy to lay the works off on the Stratford man. Of course, the logic of such an argument fails, but there is another problem. Basse was very briefly “a retainer in the family of Bridget VERE Norris,” but he was never “a subaltern of the Vere-Herbert extended family,” especially not in 1616 or in 1622. William Basse was in the service of Francis Norris, who married Bridget Vere in 1599. The marriage did not work out, the two separated in 1606, and they were never reunited. Norris committed suicide in 1622. So, while Basse may have had some role in serving Bridget Norris from 1599-1606, there is no evidence that William Basse ever continued to serve Bridget de Vere Norris, or anyone else in the Vere or Herbert families. Upon closer inspection, Mr. Ray’s purported connection evaporates into thin air. But this is how Oxfordians operate. Mr. Ray will find some new reason to cast doubt on the plain meaning of the poetic tribute composed by William Basse.

  • Mark Johnson

    Just one more, for fun. Mr. Ray should find an OED for the meaning of “moniment”, where he will find that it is not “an archaic term meaning the immortal substance is the work itself.” I believe that Mr. Ray takes his argument from Diana Price as to this supposed meaning of the word and as to the allegation that the letter “i” is bold-faced to signal a secret meaning. He should check Ms. Price’s website where she corrects her previous assertions as to “moniment”.

    According to the OED, “moniment” is an “obsolete form of MONUMENT.” The spelling is obsolete now, but according to the OED, “moniment” remained current through the 1700s. In the literature of Shakespeare’s day “moniment” was “exactly synonymous with ‘monument'”; it was
    merely a variant spelling that meant exactly the same as “monument.” Ms. Price has now acknowledged that the spelling of “moniment” means nothing in Jonson’s poem. Mr. Ray should do the same. This is simply one more example of the Oxfordian tendency to attempt to spin things to fit their conspiracy theory.

  • William Ray

    Dear me, that was a ship-load of rhetoric.

    To fill Mr. Johnson in on what he doesn’t know and assumes he does, William Basse wrote a poem to Bridget VERE Norris [Oxford’s daughter] in 1623, before her husband Francis died. Basse was on good terms with the family, stayed with them, and David Roper infers that this was the reason that Jonson found Basse’s poem useful for the First Folio that year, published in November 1623. That is, if Basse wrote it and not Jonson.

    Contrary to the assertion, “it now appears he [Ray] knew the poem could have been written at any time between 1616 and 1622,” wrong, Sir. It was written late, referring to David Roper’s monograph,’To Be or Not To Be?’. viz p. 261:

    “Other pro-Shakspere scholars [from Kathman] have a different answer: they point out that William Basse, although a lone voice amongst a throng of able writers, did acknowledge the death of Shakspere, albeit six years after his burial. That is to say, Basse refers to the ‘carved marble of thine owne monument’, a monument which did not exist before 1622/3.” His poem was a perfect, a too perfect, set-up for Jonson’s rejection. Which is what I wrote. So we may have to reverse the charges of “the dishonest argumentation indulged in by Mr. Ray and how it adversely affects his credibility in this debate.” Once again, trying to derail the broader more important point with personal attacks at the interlocutor’s character merely reflects back upon the accuser.

    When a poem got written was never the main point. The context behind it was, and the time of the writing may or may not have been fortuitous for Jonson’s purposes. In this case the information indicates that the timing was so late and the poem fit so well to Jonson’s alleged motive (finish First Folio, no Poet’s Corner for Shakspere), it may have been a put-up job. The poem had not been written before 1622/3. It was written then. That was when he needed it.

    Regarding evidence, when anyone points out the underlying meaning/motive/purpose of a tribute, as I did about Jonson’s elegy, it is hardly subjective when pattern after pattern, repetition after repetition, and literary allusion after literary allusion confirm the underlying motive. What was the motive? To identify the AUTHOR as Oxford, not Shakspere. Mr. Johnson prefers to think that a 17-word title followed by an address that begins on the 17th line, and subsequently includes 17 dramatists’ names–is co-incidental, irrelevant, subjective, and misleading.

    Sorry. When a pattern recurs predictably, it indicates motive on the part of the perpetrator, and that is evidence. I believe I know something about evidence, contrary to Mr. Johnson’s assertion, “…demonstrating, once again, that he [Ray] really doesn’t know what evidence even is.”

    Evidence is “any species of proof, or probative matter, legally presented at the trial of an issue, by the act of the parties and through the medium of witnesses, records, documents, concrete object, etc, for the purpose of inducing belief in the minds of the court or jury as to their contention.” [Black’s Law Dictionary] “Any species of proof” includes both direct and indirect evidence. Patterns that indicate a motive to identify are indirect evidence toward identification. Indirect evidence (circumstantial evidence) receives equal weight as direct evidence and testimony does. The effect of direct or indirect evidence is the same: proof of the proposition or issue.

    I’m afraid that breaks up the assertion that I don’t know what evidence is. Strange, Mr. Johnson makes the same charge Shapiro did against Oxfordians generally [“I wrote it to shut them up” and to “show how they don’t know how to evaluate evidence”.] But he didn’t call something evidence unless it fit his predisposed beliefs, and they didn’t shut up. Maybe there is a parable in that.

    The United States Supreme Court confirmed a precedent I established in the field of civil rights law, 9-0. I think they knew what evidence was. Three of them have doubted that Shakspere wrote the Shakespearean canon. Three other members, now deceased, also doubted Shakspere wrote the Shakespearean canon. Perhaps you know evidence better than all of us put together. But rhetoric isn’t evidence. It tells the court you don’t have any.

    William Ray

  • Mark Johnson

    As to the Basse poem, Mr. Ray did exactly what I predicted he would do. He has now backed away from his claim that Basse was a servant to Bridget Vere Norris. The new connection is that Basse wrote a poem to Bridget Vere Norris in 1623 [Mr. Ray raises Francis Norris from the grave, stating he was still alive when this poem was supposedly written in 1623, even though he had committed suicide in 1622]. I’ve just searched William Basse’s collected works in Google Books [The poetical Works of William Basse] and the only Bridget mentioned, at least according to the editors of that book, is the Bridget who is the granddaughter of Lord Norris, and not Bridget Vere Norris. I suppose they could be wrong, but that is the problem inherent in the error in logic known as an appeal to authority — such as Mr. Ray’s appeal to one David Roper as to the date of the poem. The fact remains that there can be no certainty as to when the poem was written [as there can be no certainty as to when the monument in Stratford was erected, contrary to Mr. Ray’s definitive statement – I note that he appears to have given up on the alleged significance of “moniment”]. We can only know for certain that it had to be written some time between 1616 and 1623, and yet Mr. Ray will simply and magically inform us as to the correct date — as he will inform us as to Ben Jonson’s motive [I notice Mr. Ray makes no response to the mention of “Timber”]. People who state as fact things that cannot categorically be stated as fact must face questions as to the credibility of their statements.

    Mr. Ray still doesn’t know what evidence is if he thinks his interpretation of a poem, and his subjective discernment of the author’s hidden motive and meaning [seen through patterns that he divines] qualifies as direct or indirect evidence. Mr. Ray is so confirmed in his faith that he cannot see that his opinion that Jonson’s tribute to Shakespeare [who is mentioned in the very first line and praised throughout the first 17 lines] begins on the 17th line is merely his subjective interpretation…it is opinion evidence and courts do not permit opinion evidence to be given [except in limited circumstances when experts are testifying. Even then, Mr. Ray’s opinions would not meet the Daubert standard and would not be admissible]. Opinion Evidence: what the witness thinks, believes, or infers in regard to facts in dispute, as distinguished from personal knowledge of the facts themselves. The RULES OF EVIDENCE ordinarily do not permit witnesses to testify as to opinions or conclusions. For some reason, Mr. Ray is unable to understand that his conclusions are not admissible evidence. By the definition that Mr. Ray has supplied from Black’s, his conclusions as to the meaning of the poems, the supposed patterns therein, their dates of composition, etc., are not evidence and are not considered as probative of the issue on trial. As to the Supreme Court, Mr. Ray is equally confused…the SCOTUS does not serve as the finder of fact; that is the job of the lower courts, and the SCOTUS only considers the constitutional question involved. As for the alleged pattern with its 17 dramatists, Chaucer was not a dramatist, so that part of the pattern is out the window. Mr. Ray should explain what evidence there is to support Jonson’s reference to Shakespeare having been an actor on the stage [“to heare thy Buskin tread, And shake a stage : Or, when thy sockes were on,”] because that certainly doesn’t fit his Lord Oxenforde, and if the socks don’t fit…then his case is…worthless. I’m sure he will come up with some novel interpretation. Oxfordians always do.

    It is incredible how the Oxfordian case depends on every relevant document being something other than what it obviously and plainly means on its face, within the four corners of the document. What are the odds on that? Mr. Ray states that rhetoric is not evidence…but rhetoric is all he has in support of his case.

  • Mark Johnson

    If anyone is still reading these exchanges, they might like to know that Mr. Ray’s acknowledged source for some of his assumptions stated as fact, David L Roper, has some other bizarre opinions. He has written on Nostradamus and believes that he [Roper] has proven, through “the use of historical records that the prophecies are 100% genuine.” According to Roper, the “[D]ates given by Nostradamus are shown to be always pinpoint accurate, and the names the seer provided are, without exception, always a part of the history he foretold.” In another book, Mr. Roper sets out his belief that Nostradamus was the beneficiary of “divine revelation…in the sixteenth century,” which enabled him to pinpoint the dates for the birth and crucifixion of Jesus. Roper is of the opinion that “future states exist before their causes have begun to operate to bring them into existence.” This man is not a credible source, but Mr. Ray treats his opinions as demonstrable fact.

  • William Ray

    While the cat’s away the mice will play. For purposes of Sunday clarity, let us place the governing principle at the top of the post: “One of the pettifogger’s tactics is to find fault with a minor detail and use it to discredit the larger argument.” (Diana Price)

    Mr. Johnson finds that “[Ray] claims that William Basse was a “a retainer in the family of Bridget VERE Norris,” and “a subaltern of the Vere-Herbert extended family.” He then asserts: “As to the Basse poem, Mr. Ray did exactly what I predicted he would do. He has now backed away from his claim that Basse was a servant to Bridget Vere Norris. The new connection is that Basse wrote a poem to Bridget Vere Norris in 1623 [Mr. Ray raises Francis Norris from the grave, stating he was still alive when this poem was supposedly written in 1623, even though he had committed suicide in 1622].”

    First the term servant has not been necessary so far, regarding poor William Basse, lowered in class by Mr. Johnson’s accusation, ex post facto. Basse was a retainer with Wenman then Norris. Even Wikipedia has him typed as retainer in the Norris household. Mr. Johnson informs that the Norrises did not cohabitate after 1606, an extremely recondite piece of information at a distance of 405 years, particularly since married couples carried on separate lives without separating ownership or even residence and society. Following Mr. Johnson’s line of reasoning, since they had (without doubt?) separated, therefore Bridget Norris 1)couldn’t have been in the Norris household and 2) was not the object of a poem dedicated to “Bridget” by Basse. Another Bridget, the grand-daughter, maybe but not Bridge Vere Norris.

    Since the grand-daughter Bridget hadn’t been born yet in 1623, probably Basse didn’t dedicate “Polyhymnia” to her. Probably the Bridget recipient was Bridget Vere Norris.

    Now as to the time of Francis Norris’s death by cross-bow puncture. Mr. Johnson has it 1622. The Dictionary of National Biography, Ruth Loyd Miller, and David Roper have it 1623. And I don’t much care. It doesn’t matter when Norris died particularly, just that Basse was associated with him and no doubt his (estranged) wife, as evidenced by his name on the poem volume and hers in the dedication. Ergo, Basse was socially related to the Vere extended family, which includes Ben Jonson and Mary Sidney Herbert and her sons, as well as William Stanley, Earl of Derby. And the poem Basse wrote to “Shakespeare” turned out very handy for Jonson to knock down in the First Folio.

    If I am a liar, who cares? If David Roper is a liar, who cares? If the deceased noble Ruth Loyd Miller is a liar, who cares? If I and Roper and Miller and the Dictionary of National Biography are all liars on the same point, who on earth could be telling the truth, and wouldn’t that surely be Mr. Mark Johnson? Part of the issue of course is that for the Elizabethans the year started in March, and Norris died in January. To modern readers this means January 1623. For definitional accuracy we should say 1622/3. But some of us want to score, albeit false and petty, whether or not it matters.

    A second point deemed worthy was: “I note that he appears to have given up on the alleged significance of “moniment”]. Well, no. Mr. Johnson seeks to assist by saying, “He should check Ms. Price’s website where she corrects her previous assertions as to “moniment”.” Well, no two times. What Diana Price wrote concerning this odd word moniment was: (p.189) “The spelling of the word moniment (i.e., in the sense of records or written work) signals the pun on monument (i.e., in the sense of a statue or monument.)” She didn’t correct any previous assertions, and her definition is like mine, viz: “It is an archaic term meaning the immortal substance is the work itself.” With the bolded “i” in the center, and with the knowledge that The Sonnets were a Monument by someone known as E-O=io in Italian=I in English, very likely a linguistic pun was in the works. The Elizabethan u was typographically equivalent to a v, so whether moniment (I=io=E-O) or monument (V=Vere), Jonson had something and somebody in mind.

    Thus I have not brought Norris back from the dead, I have not backed off from my initial description of Basse vis-a-vis the Vere-Herbert clan, and I have not contrived a definition for the word moniment, so prominently placed and embellished in the First Folio introduction.

    The rant about the Supreme Court not knowing evidence because they don’t have to determine issues of fact, is of course further personal attack in lieu of substance. With the exception of Clarence Thomas, the Court justices are highly skilled professionals at knowing what is and isn’t relevant evidence. Justice Stevens stated that Edward de Vere authored the Shakespeare canon on grounds beyond a reasonable doubt. This means beyond preponderance of evidence and up to the bar of clear and convincing evidence. Beyond the shadow of a doubt is a more serious expression of the latter term. Shakspere by comparison is likely to receive a judgment of not guilty by reason of lack of evidence. As the district attorney sometimes says, “We have no paper on this party, your Honor.”

    That several of Justice Stevens’s peers agree with this latter judgment should indicate deep trouble for the future of the traditional authorship.

    To conclude with another of Mr. Johnson’s attacks, this on David L. Roper, the decryptor of the Shakespeare Monument plaque, among other significant contributions to knowledge. Mr. Johnson feels that since Roper wrote a book about Nostradamus, he is not a reliable source for serious scholarship questions. If Dr. Roper had written a book about Jesus Christ, would he then be an unreliable religious fanatic? The judgment is specious and I am afraid the product of irrational bias. That “future states exist before their causes have begun to operate to bring them into existence” has been scientifically demonstrated, independent of Roper’s theoretical description. The idea is not original to him but characterizes sub-atomic behavior, psychic data, and has links to string theory. To put it all in understandable language, “There are more things in heaven and earth than was ever dreamed of in your philosophy Horatio.”

    William Ray

  • Mark Johnson

    Mr. Ray is still doing what I predicted he would do. He just can’t give up on his claim, so he must attempt to minimize the fact that the Norrises “separated” [notice how Mr. Ray attempts to change this to “cohabitated”] in 1606. He has no evidence to substantiate his claim that Basse was “a retainer in the family of Bridget VERE Norris,” at any time subsequent to 1606 but he will stick to this supposed “fact” as if it is irrefutable truth. I also have to laugh at his complaint that I produced evidence that is 405 years old — this coming from someone who thinks he can speak for people who lived at that time as to what their motivations were and what they really meant when they wrote something. As for his complaint about the poem, he should take that up with the editors of Basse’s poetical works. They don’t believe the poem was to Bridget Vere…Mr. Ray says they are wrong, so we must believe him. It really doesn’t matter anyway, since the fact that Basse knew Bridget de Vere does not serve as evidence that he was any part of any conspiracy to hide the identity of the author of the Shakespeare works. There was once a connection between Basse and Bridget de Vere. So what? I do have to laugh at Mr. Ray’s criticism of my use of the term “servant”…what was he saying about pettifoggery?

    Mr. Ray is still wrong about Diana Price and the word moniment. Ms. Price wrote on her website: p. 189: I write that two references were made in the Shakespeare First Folio to “moniment,” both times spelled with an “i,” and that the spelling of the word “moniment” (i.e. in the sense of records or written work) signals the pun on “monument” (i.e., in the sense of a statue or memorial). In particular, Jonson’s line, “thou art a moniment without a tomb,” suggests a double meaning. The line can mean that (1) Shakespeare is memorialized by his body of work, not by a tomb — witness Shakespeare’s own sonnet 81: “Your monument shall be my gentle verse”; and (2) Shakspere’s Stratford monument was originally supposed to sit on top of the tomb itself, but since it does not, it is a monument without a tomb.

    Terry Ross has pointed out that the spelling of the words “moniment” and “monument” were interchangeable in Shakespeare’s day, so Ben Jonson’s pun on the word in his First Folio eulogy (“thou art a moniment without a tomb) is not signaled by drawing attention to the letter “i.” Jonson’s ambiguity therefore relies on the context, not the spelling.

    The letter “i” is out, but Mr. Ray will continue to cling to it like it is a board in the middle of the ocean. Ms. Price also acknowledges that “the spelling of the words “moniment” and “monument” were interchangeable in Shakespeare’s day,” so that part of Mr. Ray’s argument is also refuted. He might also look to her comments on the subject at the HLAS newsgroup. Whatever the case, Mr. Ray’s speculations about the “i” and the “u” and the word “moniment” are not evidence.

    Mr. Ray has a strange way of arguing. I have not accused anyone, including Mr. Ray, of lying. I don’t know why he would say such a thing. Saying that someone is mistaken does not carry an accusation that they are lying, and I have no earthly idea why Mr. Ray would jump to such a bizarre conclusion. In addition, I did not engage in a “rant” about the SCOTUS. I correctly pointed out the fact [not a personal attack at all — another strange claim] that they are not the arbiters of evidence and do not have to be at all skilled in determining what is considered to be material evidence. They do not make decisions as to the admissibility or inadmissibility of evidence as that is not a part of their job description. Supreme Court justices once thought “separate but equal” was perfectly equitable…did the opinion of those justices show that they were greatly knowledgeable about questions of evidence.

    Mr. Ray appears to be slightly confused about the legal standards involved with the burden of proof. “Beyond a reasonable doubt” is not “up to the bar of clear and convincing evidence,” nor is “clear and convincing evidence” otherwise known as “beyond the shadow of a doubt.” In fact, the clear and convincing standard is one that is intermediate between the preponderance of the evidence standard and the beyond a reasonable doubt standard. Truth be told, I have actually established legal precedent as an attorney before a state supreme court [not just as a party to a lawsuit, or in some other non-legal role]. The inferences that Mr. Ray makes are not evidence, no matter how much he would like them to qualify as such. Take as a given that Basse was connected to the de Veres. That would be evidence. The speculation that such a fact would mean he was part of a conspiracy is not evidence, and never will be. Ben Jonson’s poem using the word “moniment” is evidence, but the subjective argument that it has some secret meaning [or even that it is a pun] does not qualify as evidence. I really don’t see what is so difficult to understand about this simple fact.

    Mr. Ray mis-states my argument regarding David Roper. He says that I feel “that since Roper wrote a book about Nostradamus, he is not a reliable source for serious scholarship questions.” That wasn’t my point at all, and I’m surprised that Mr. Ray would attempt to minimize what I said. The fact that Roper wrote a book on Nostradamus is not why I find him not credible, but that he believes he has shown that the Nostradamus prophecies were 100% accurate and true, and that he believes that Nostradamus, through divine revelation, was able to pinpoint the birth and death dates of Jesus, that I find him to be a non-credible source. Does Mr. Ray also believe these claims made by David Roper? The irrationality and the specious judgment is with Mr. Roper. If he had merely written a book about Nostradamus, or Jesus, for that matter, I would not hold the same opinion. Mr. Ray should stop arguing with strawmen of his own making.

  • Mark Johnson

    I just wanted to add something regarding Ben Jonson — Timber! If a tree actually falls in the forest, isn’t it a fact that a tree has fallen in the forest? If Ben Jonson himself has actually spoken as to his motives, and his statements do not agree with Mr. Ray’s assumptions as to his motives, who should we believe as to Ben Jonson’s actual motives?

  • Mark Johnson

    Bridget de Vere was the daughter of Edward de Vere, 17th earl of Oxford (April 12,1550-June 24,1604) and Ann Cecil (December 5,1556-June 5,1588). She was brought up by her grandfather, Lord Burghley, who intended, in 1597, when she was thirteen, that she marry William Herbert, heir to the earl of Pembroke. He refused the match when Burghley refused the immediate payment of an annuity. Bridget and her younger sister Susan lived at Theobalds until Burghley’s death in August 1598 and remained there afterward until October. In April 1599 was at Chenies with Bridget Hussey, dowager countess of Rutland and Bedford, awaiting her marriage to the countess’s grandson, Francis Norris of Rycote, Oxfordshire (July 6,1579-January 29,1622). There was discord between them as early as November 1599, but in March 1603 they went north together to greet the new queen, Anne of Denmark. They had one child, Elizabeth (c.1603-November 1645) and had separated by May 1606, when Bridget was living with Sir William Cope and his family in Kensington. She miscarried in June. Bridget afterward went to Lancashire to live with her sister Elizabeth, countess of Derby. In 1608, Norris tried to disinherit his daughter but Bridget’s uncle, Robert Cecil, convinced him to abandon the plan. In 1621, Norris was created earl of Berkshire. He was contemplating divorce when he committed the crime of elbowing Lord Scrope in the presence of royalty and was sent to the Fleet. Upon his release, he went home to Rycote and killed himself using a crossbow. His estate was then forfeit to the Crown. Bridget died between December 1630 and March 1631.

  • daver852

    It is incredible to me that anyone who is well-versed in the authorship controversy can continue to believe that the comic actor and grain merchant from Stratford, William Shakespeare, is the true author of the plays and poems that bear his name. But de Vere is also an impossible choice. Some of his poems still survive, and they are uniformly awful. The best candidate is Christipher Marlowe. For a compelling, and irrefutable, argument on Marlowe’s behalf.

  • Fay S. Valyew

    Aspden makes some interesting points in this piece in his discussion of reasonable vs. unreasonable theories. Here’s another one to ponder: Very recently, Oxfordians have begun bemoaning the fact that they’ve been exposed as anti-Semites conspiring to oust the so-called predominant Jewish presence from Shakespeare scholarship. Well, Oxfordians are in no position to criticize! What makes the Oxfordian conspiracy theory so superior? In actual fact, evidence continues to mount that anti-Semitism is veritably woven into the ideological fabric of Oxfordianism. These days, it’s widely believed in anti-Oxfordian circles that the original proto-Nazi “Oxford Group” of the early 20th century has been subversively continued into what is now referred to as Oxfordianism, with de Vere installed as the eponymous front man, his murderous-nebbish qualities notwithstanding. The Oxford Group was founded by an American Lutheran pastor, Frank Buchman. Buchman, who spoke German fluently, was an acquaintance of Heinrich Himmler, and said once, “I thank Heaven for a man like Adolf Hitler.” Of course, it all began with Luther himself, and it’s salient to quote him at length in illustrating the core Oxfordian attack on the so-called “lies” of Stratfordians we’ve heard in recent years ad nauseam. Simply substitute “Stratfordians” for “Jews” and the light of light beguiles:

    “The blind Jews are truly stupid fools…just behold these miserable, blind, and senseless people…their blindness and arrogance are as solid as an iron mountain. Be on your guard against the Jews, knowing that wherever they have their synagogues, nothing is found but a den of devils in which sheer self­glory, conceit, lies, blasphemy, and defaming of God and men are practiced most maliciously . . . moreover, they are nothing but thieves and robbers who daily eat no morsel and wear no thread of clothing which they have not stolen and pilfered from us by means of their accursed usury. Thus they live from day to day, together with wife and child, by theft and robbery, as arch­thieves and robbers. . . however, they have not acquired a perfect mastery of the art of lying; they lie so clumsily and ineptly that anyone who is just a little observant can easily detect it. But for us Christians they stand as a terrifying example of God’s wrath. Alas, it cannot be anything but the terrible wrath of God which permits anyone to sink into such abysmal, devilish, hellish, insane baseness, envy, and arrogance.”

    Fast-forward to the seat of contemporary Lutheran Oxfordianism, which is, of course, now in Oregon, at Concordia University’s Shakespeare Authorship Research Centre. Concordia was founded by Lutherans, and is dedicated to “preparing leaders for the transformation of society.” In its hilarious published credo and enticements, the Shakespeare Authorship Research Centre milks much of its comic mileage from the incongruous, and willfully tasteless, pairing of its holy academic setting and its trash-treatment of a literary hero-icon. In dressing up manufactured despair in run-on, pseudo-scholarly, barbed frivolity the SARC provides its own skewed equivalent of tragic catharsis:

    “Don’t leave the quest for the Shakespeare of history stalled in an intellectual ditch, captive to an unreflective Tradition and ossified orthodoxy that too often contentedly thinks there’s little new to learn from deeper historical inquiry, critical linguistic investigation, close textual scrutiny and the application of interpretive approaches that respect and account for circumstances and persons responsible for shaping, influencing and creating texts that, by a variety of sometimes awkward, tortured and unlikely paths, have come down to us through the tumult of war, the chaos and bloodshed of revolution, draconian suppression, calculated historical revisionism, and tyrannical censorship.”

    (Yes, it’s an accredited university!)

    And, finally, speaking of awkward, tortured paths, we’d be remiss without recognizing how Freud-the-anti-Strat is craftily and patronizingly invoked by Oxfordians as a token Jew to throw us off the scent; the main message and accompanying gestalt, however, are designed to be crystal clear to fresh-faced students of Oxfordianism: Think Luther, and remember Lady Macbeth:

    “Your hand, your tongue: like th’ innocent flower, But be the serpent under’ ‘t.”