Sunday, July 13, 2014

Shakespeare Birthplace Trust distributes relics of the True Cedar Tree in USA

Actor Michael Scott and cast members of the New Orleans Shakespeare Festival production of A Midsummer Night's Dream display their plaque made from a cedar that grew in the garden of Shakespeare's birthplace. Photo courtesy Michael Scott

by Linda Theil

Buoyed by their success touting the Shakespeare beyond Doubt defense against anti-Stratfordian attacks at the Shakespeare Festival in Ontario, Canada last year, the Shakespeare Birthplace Trust returns to North America this summer. In a Jesuitical mission presumably designed to bolster Stratfordians against authorship apostasy, the Shakespeare Birthplace Trust Head of Research and Knowledge Paul Edmondson has been dispatched to America on a two month tour of fourteen Shakespeare festivals in fourteen states.

Accompanied by Paul Prescott, associate professor of English at the University of Warwick, and supported by a truly splendiferous array of mobile media, the Shakespeare missionaries began their tour on the Fourth of July in Kansas City and will end September 1 in Washington DC. A listing of their itinerary is included at the end of this post.

Edmondson said July 3, 2014 in “Shakespeare on the Road” post on the Birthplace Trust website Blogging Shakespeare:
Along the way, we speak to actors, audience members, creatives, community organizers, philanthropists and hot-dog sellers about what Shakespeare means to them and their community. During the next two months we will be gathering together material for a radio documentary, a book, and the international collections of the Shakespeare Centre Library and Archive.
Along their pilgrimage road, Edmondson is presenting each festival organization with a relic of the True Cedar Tree guaranteed to sustain American Shakespeare-lovers against anti-Stratfordian temptation.

Edmondson said:
We will be doing talks at each of the festival venues, telling the story via social media and presenting a 450th birthday gift to each of the festival partners in the form of a plaque from a cedar tree that used to grow in the garden of Shakespeare’s Birthplace (it had to be felled because it was becoming a danger to public safety). We are delighted that Greg Wyatt (Sculptor in Residence at St John the Divine Cathedral, New York) has designed, made and donated these beautiful objects.
Actor Michael Scott reported the New Orleans presentation on Twitter and Instagram on July 10:
Shakespeare on the Road just presented our company with a cedar plaque made from a tree that grew on the grounds of the Shakespeare Birthplace Trust in Stratford-Upon-Avon. They are here to experience the New Orleans Shakespeare Festival on a journey to explore Bard in the USA. Follow their journey at Come see the last two shows of a Midsummer Night’s Dream this weekend. Tickets at at The Shakespeare Festival at Tulane.
Edmondson and Prescott are accompanied on their trip by new media gurus A.J. and Melissa Leon of Misfit, Inc. who say on their website:
We have traveled all over the globe and produced workshops for brands and organizations that are dead serious about using the web to tell compelling stories, connect with their tribe and solve interesting problems. Our workshops are not cheap, but they will help you to take over the world. 
Jonathan Fields on the Good Life Project website refers to the couple as ". . . a tactical strike team for really interesting organizations."

The entire trek is being documented on the Shakespeare Birthplace Trust site Blogging Shakespeare, as well as a site dedicated to the project called Shakespeare on the Road. Edmondson and Prescott are sending dispatches from the heartland posted daily to the site, as well as sending messages via a Twitter account titled Bard in the USA @ShakespeareBT, and an Instagram identity, also Bard in the USA.
UPDATE: July 14, 2014

For comedien Keir Cutler's view of Stratford's historical obsession with Shakespearean trees, see his new video published yesterday on YouTube titled "Shakespeare Authorship: The Mulberry Tree" at

* * * 
See an Oberon report of Edmondson’s visit to Stratford Ontario last summer at

Shakespeare on the Road posts to date:

Edmondson: Our Partner Festivals and itinerary are as follows:

Heart of America Shakespeare Festival, Kansas City, MO 4 – 6 July 2014
New Orleans Shakespeare Festival at Tulane, New Orleans, LA 9–11 July
Shakespeare at Winedale, Winedale, TX 13 – 15 July
Utah Shakespeare Festival, Cedar City, UT 17 – 19 July
Will Geer’s Theatricum Botanicum, Topanga, CA 24 – 26 July
Livermore, CA 27 July
Oregon Shakespeare Festival, Ashland, OR 29 – 31 July
Montana Shakespeare Festival, Bozeman, MT 1 – 5 August
Door Shakespeare Festival, Door, WI 7 August
Chicago Shakespeare Theatre, Chicago, IL 8 – 9 August
Harlem Shakespeare Festival, NYC, NY 10 – 14 August
Shakespeare and Co., Lenox, MA 15 – 17 August
Stratford Shakespeare Festival, Stratford, ON 19 – 21 August
Nashville Shakespeare Festival, Nashville, TN 23 – 25 August
American Shakespeare Center, Staunton, VA 27 – 29 August
Shakespeare Theatre Company, Washington DC 29 Aug – 1 Sept

Saturday, July 12, 2014

Trevor-Roper told Ogburn: Stratfordian Shakespeare "implausible"

Hugh Trevor-Roper circa 1980 at Oxford. Photo by Graham Harrison courtesy The Sunday Times

Was Hugh Trevor-Roper an Authorship Doubter?
Letter to Charlton Ogburn, Jr., discovered by Alexander Waugh,
confirms that he was

by Oberon guest blogger John M. Shahan, Chairman of the Shakespeare Authorship Coalition

Most Oxfordians probably know that Hugh Trevor-Roper, (1914-2003) Baron Dacre of Glanton, Regius Professor of History at Oxford University and the British intelligence officer who tracked Hitler during World War II, wrote an article in which he marveled at the strange elusiveness of William Shakespeare. The following famous quote appears in Shakespeare Beyond Doubt? (Shahan and Waugh, eds., 2013) and is paraphrased in the Declaration of Reasonable Doubt:
Of all the immortal geniuses of literature, none is personally so elusive as William Shakespeare. It is exasperating, and almost incredible, that he should be so. After all, he lived in the full daylight of the English Renaissance, in the well-documented reigns of Queen Elizabeth and King James I. He wrote thirty-six plays and [154] highly personal sonnets. He was connected with some of the best-known figures in the most conspicuous court in English history. Since his death, and particularly in the last century, he has been subjected to the greatest battery of organised research that has ever been directed upon a single person. And yet the greatest of all Englishmen, after this tremendous inquisition, still remains so close a mystery that even his identity can still be doubted. (“What’s in a Name?” Réalités, Nov 1962.)
So Trevor-Roper says that Shakespeare’s identity “can still be doubted,” but was he a doubter himself? One might surmise that he probably was, but since he didn’t actually say so it hasn’t been clear, until now. In July 2013, searching through the Trevor-Roper files on Shakespeare in the archives at Christchurch College, Oxford, Alexander Waugh found a letter that Trevor-Roper wrote to Charlton Ogburn, Jr., (1911-1998) dated 21 February, 1981, stating his view. Here are some excerpts:
My view is that the available evidence that the plays and poems were the work of William Shakespeare of Stratford is weak and unconvincing … not a shred of solid evidence connects the man with the works during his lifetime; the association of such works with such a man is, on the face of it, implausible; and the posthumous association of them, in the First Folio and in the Stratford Tomb, is inconclusive since there are legitimate questions concerning the motivation and production of the Folio and the original form of the Tomb. There are many suspicions legitimately adhering to all the later statements associating the man with the works, including the statements of Ben Jonson. Altogether, I consider the evidence of association to be slender, weak and implausible. There is not a single testimony which could not easily be re-interpreted if solid evidence were to turn up that the works were written by another man… In these circumstances of legitimate doubt, I believe that the proper course is to return to square one and examine the problem ab initio, without any preconceptions… I am heretical in that I allow that there is a real problem of authorship… I would not be surprised if evidence were to be discovered which destroyed the orthodox case.
He could hardly have made it any clearer where he stood, and just three years later Ogburn published The Mysterious William Shakespeare: The Myth and the Reality. Reading Trevor-Roper’s letter today, the present generation of Oxfordians can take pride in the fact that such an important British historian shared our doubts about Shakspere and expressed them so well.

* * *

Graham Harrison photo of Hugh Trevor-Roper from The Sunday Times book review "One Hundred Letters from Hugh Trevor-Roper . . . " dated Jan. 26, 2014

Saturday, June 21, 2014

Tom and Joy report from Seattle

Tom Townsend in Seattle, WA

Tom and Joy Townsend are settling into their new life in Seattle. They plan to close on a home in the upper Queen Anne area on July 2, and they had lunch with several members of the Seattle Shakespeare Oxford Society yesterday. Tom said:
The SSOS is made up of great, smart, well-read people (just like Oberon!). Joy and I enjoyed speaking with each of them.  . . . Meetings for the rest of the year have been planned. There is a lot of Shakespeare performed (I’m told) here in Seattle. Some were discussing having meetings just before or after these performances.
Even the weather has been welcoming! Tom reported:
Since we’ve been here the temps have been in the mid 60s to low 70s since we arrived on May 15. There has been scant rain! We continue to miss everyone from the Oberon group and wish everyone the best.
It's good to hear from our good friends and good to know they are enjoying their adventure in the northwest.

International Fountain in Lower Queen Anne, Seattle, WA 
Photos courtesy Tom and Joy Townsend

Thursday, June 12, 2014

Joyrich is a lead donor to new SOF research grant project

by Linda Theil

Oberon Chair Richard Joyrich, MD

Oberon Chair Richard Joyrich, MD, is a Lead Donor to the new Shakespeare Oxford Fellowship Research Grant Program announced June 10 by SOF President John Hamill. The SOF intends to make two to four cash grants to scholars and researchers for the purpose of developing new knowledge bearing on the Shakespeare authorship question. Hamill said:
. . . the (Research Grant) program will begin with $20,000 per year in award funds, half from our endowment and half from members and friends. The grants will be given to members, so please join if you have not already. We have also initiated a Lead Donors Program for those who donate $1,000 or more for this purpose. So far, we are pleased to announce that Ben August, Bonner and Jack Cutting, and Richard Joyrich are Lead Donors.
Joyrich is a past-president of the former Shakespeare Oxford Society and he currently serves on the Shakespeare Oxford Fellowship board of trustees. Joyrich said the research grant program was approved by the SOF board at their April 6, 2014 meeting. He said:
I decided to donate because I think that ongoing research into our favorite subject is very important and it sometimes cannot be accomplished due to lack of funds. A group such as the Shakespeare Oxford Fellowship should not exist just to provide newsletters and journals. We need to be proactive in trying to spread the word and give credibility to discussing the authorship question and getting it accepted as a legitimate academic pursuit. I hope that the long term future of the SOF Research Grant Program will be to continue and allow such credibility to happen.
Deadline for proposals for the initial round of SOF research grants is August 30, 2014. A selection committee that includes Katherine Chiljan, Bonner Cutting, Ramon Jimenez, John Hamill and Don Rubin will announce awards by November 30, 2014. For a complete description of the program and the rules for participating, see the "Shakespeare Oxford Fellowship Research Grant Program" on SOF website.

Those who wish to donate to the SOF Research Grant Program may contribute online at "Research Grant Program" on the SOF website.

Grant seekers must be SOF members to apply. For information on SOF membership, see "Join the Shakespeare Oxford Fellowship" on the SOF website. 

SOF News,
SOF Research Grant Program,
Oberon report on Toronto 2013 conference,
Join SOF,
Donate to SOF Research Grant Program,

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Oberon reports on Jarmusch's "Only Lovers . . . "

Trailer for Jim Jarmusch's new film, "Only Lovers Left Alive"

by Linda Theil

I went to see Jim Jarmusch’s “Only Lovers Left Alive” last week at the Michigan Theater in Ann Arbor, where the film was showing in a limited USA release. Our readers may recall that Oberon reported on this film almost exactly a year ago when Jarmusch screened “Only Lovers . . .” at the 2013 Cannes Film Festival. In an interview in Cannes, Jarmusch and actor John Hurt -- who plays Christopher Marlowe in the film – expressed anti-Stratfordian views on the Shakespeare authorship question. For a video of this interview, see "Director Jim Jarmusch and actor John Hurt proclaim anti-Stratfordian views at Cannes Film Festival" dated May 30, 2013.

Jarmusch's film depicts Kit Marlowe as the true author of the Shakespeare canon, and the topic is not a sideline, as I had imagined from preliminary discussion, but is a key point of the film. In one of the film's few extended dialogues, the vampire Eve and her dear friend, fellow vampire, and sustenance provider Marlowe engage in a byplay wherein Eve tempts Marlowe to astound the world by revealing his authorship of the Shakespeare canon. "It would cause such thrilling chaos," she says.

I do not pretend to know what this very beautiful and slightly boring movie is about. Like a similarly gorgeous film, Alfonso Cuaron's "Gravity" that was released last year, the story is slight and the dialogue almost brutal in its truncated pointlessness. Yet these films are the frontline of culture and Jarmusch's inclusion of the Shakespeare authorship question documents the emerging vitality of this haunting issue that we, and others, find so compelling. 

"Only Lovers Left Alive" will be released on DVD Sept. 15, 2014.


Sunday, May 4, 2014

Read the mystery of the grain dealer in the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung

Hamlet by Lord Ronald Gower (1845-1916) at Stratford-upon-Avon. 
Photograph by Robert Freidus courtesy of Victorian Web.

by Linda Theil

Neue Shake-speareGesellschaft (New Shakespeare Society) board member Hanno Wember reports from Hamburg, Germany that an article in the Travel section of the large circulation daily newspaper the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung took a non-Stratfordian look at the spurious claims of the Shakespeare Birthplace Trust at Stratford-upon-Avon. The article titled "Das Ratsel des Getreindehandlers Will Shakspere" ("The mystery of the grain dealer Will Shakespeare") by Roland D. Gerste was published April 25, 2014. Wember said, "FAZ was strictly Stratfordian in recent years. Now this!"

The long, illustrated article criticizes the inauthentic aspects of the Shakespeare birthplace exhibits and discusses the fervor of the Stratfordian point-of-view (translation by Hanno Wember):
One does not have to be a supporter of obscure conspiracy theories nor, necessarily, as is Derek Jacobi -- an Oxfordian who assumes Edward de Vere, 17th Earl of Oxford, is the true author. It is enough to visit Stratford as a “doubter“, and to regard the visit as a trail in the contest of dogma and criticism. What a tingling sensation seizes the doubter when reading convoluted explanations to non-authentic exhibits! And how exciting to see the reactions of the official tourist guides, if you put those questions that are not well liked here! The faces of the mostly young employees of the Shakespeare Birthplace Trust fluctuate between irony, consternation and helplessness, sometimes even associated with a little aggressiveness as soon as they are faced with insubordination. 
A translation of the article webpages is available from Google.

See also: Henry James' "The Birthplace"


Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Oberons said goodbye to Townsends at April meeting

Tom and Joy Townsend

Oberons said goodbye last night to our great friends Tom and Joy Townsend who depart May 9 for Seattle, Washington. Tom has served as treasurer of Oberon since its very first meeting in 1999 until he relinquished his treasury duties to serve as co-chair and chair of Oberon for the past two years. Tom's charm and intelligence have been mainstays of our Michigan band and we will miss him and Joy more than we can say. But they have already been welcomed by the Seattle Oxfordian contingent, and Tom is scheduled to present a paper at the Seattle Shakespeare Oxford Society. Words cannot express our deepest wishes for their very great happiness in their new home.

We all celebrated Shakespeare's 450th UN-birthday together with a delicious UN-birthday cake!
Shakespeare's UN-birthday cake!

Celebrating Shakespeare's 450th UN-birthday April 28, 2014 at the Bloomfield Twp. Library: 
Rosey Hunter, Rey Perez, John Rumierz,
Richard Joyrich, Tom Townsend, Joy Townsend, Sharon Hunter
(Present but not in photo: George Hunter and Linda Theil)

Monday, April 14, 2014

2014 Concordia Conference-Days 3 and 4

by Richard Joyrich

Day Three (Saturday, April 12):

The day began at 9 AM with Roger Stritmatter on Small Latin and Less Greek: Anatomy of a Misquotation. Roger discussed his take on how the First Folio came to be published. In this, he follows generally what Peter Dickson and others have been saying about the Spanish Marriage Crises of 1622-23 when there was an intention on the part of James I to marry his son Charles to the Spanish Infanta Maria Anna (daughter of the king). This proposed match to a Catholic was opposed by the powerful Protestant nobility, among which were the two "Incomparable Brethren", William and Philip Herbert, to whom the First Folio was dedicated. It seems clear that the publication of the First Folio at this time was, in some way, a political statement by this court faction. 

It was also at this time that there was the big push to substitute William of Stratford as the author of the plays. Ben Jonson was hired to help in this endeavor. Roger discussed the form in which Jonson's Dedication to Shakespeare in the First Folio took. It is in the form of what was called a "Triumph". There is a 16-line Exordium at the beginning (containing references to "ignorance", "blind affection" and "crafty malice") and then a 48-line Narratio (in which the line "And though thou hadst small Latin and Less Greek…" appears) and then a 16-line Peroration (containing "Looke how the father's face lives in his issue", i.e. the true Shakespeare is to be discovered in the works).

Roger then demonstrated that Jonson's line about "small Latin and less Greek" is a mixed contrary-to-fact conditional. That is, Jonson is not saying that Shakespeare really had no real Latin or Greek training. The words "though thou hadst" actually mean "even if you had" and Jonson is acknowledging Shakespeare's mastery of these languages, but that this is not the only reason for his literary greatness.

Saturday, April 12, 2014

2014 Concordia Conference-Days 1 and 2

by Richard Joyrich

Day (Night) One (Thursday, April 10, 2014):

This is your intrepid reporter on the spot at Concordia College in Portland, Oregon for the 18th Annual Richard Paul & Jane Roe Shakespeare Authorship Research Center Spring Conference. Actually, that's a bit of a misnomer, since for the past few years the conference was called the Shakespeare Authorship Conference and before that it was called the Edward de Vere Studies Conference. Anyway, I guess it's the 18th year that there was SOME kind of conference at Concordia University here in Portland.

As you probably all know, Professor Daniel Wright, who started the conference, is no longer at Concordia, but Dean David Kluth and Earl Showerman were able to put together a program to keep the Conference going. 

There were quite a few changes that I noticed. There is a new style of nametag, there is a new poster and logo (with the loss of the previous Oxford portrait that we used to see) and there is now a very good syllabus with abstracts and biographies for all the presenters.

The conference started at 6 PM (although many people were there by 5:30, myself included) with a one hour welcoming reception with refreshments. Actually this was just all of us standing around in the hallway in front of where the conference presentations were to be held, but it was nice to see old friends and some new faces.

Then, at 7 PM, we went into the lecture auditorium. Earl introduced Dean Kluth, who told us some of his background (he has only been at this branch of Concordia for about a year, previously having been at Concordia University in Austin). Dean Kluth said that Concordia Portland was still very committed to the Authorship Question even after the departure of Daniel Wright (no details given about this), but that they don't know exactly what form this commitment will take in the future. There will be more discussion of this on Sunday at the end of the conference.

Friday, April 11, 2014

Greenblatt sez sorry to Oxfordians

Stephen Greenblatt speaks during the closing session titled "Where are we now?" at the Folger Institute's "Shakespeare and the Problem of Biography" conference held April 3-5, 2014 in Washington DC.
Photo by Teresa Wood. Courtesy of Folger Shakespeare Library

By Linda Theil

Regarding his mention of Holocaust denial in proximity to the study of Shakespeare authorship in a 2005 New York Times letter to the editor, Pulitzer Prize winning author Stephen Greenblatt, PhD, replied yesterday to Dr. Richard Waugaman’s request to make a public apology for his remarks. Greenblatt said:
. . . I very much regret my Holocaust example, I had meant it only to call into question in the sharpest terms the apparent difference between the NY Times' treatment of scientific consensus and its treatment of historical consensus. But I had not reflected — as I should have — that Oxfordians might draw the implication that I was likening THEM to a particularly abhorrent group.    
Waugaman spoke to Greenblatt at the Folger Institute “Shakespeare and the Problem of Biography” conference held April 3-5, 2014 at the Folger Shakespeare Library in Washington, DC. He reported his encounter with Greenblatt in a comment on Hank Whittamore’s Shakespeare Blog in an April 7, 2014 post titled “Shakespeare and the Black Hole of Stratfordian Biography”:
The opportunity to converse with the speakers during the breaks was amazing. I thanked Stephen Greenblatt for graciously retracting one of the speculations in Will in the World during a discussion period the previous day. I then asked him how he’d feel about apologizing for comparing us with Holocaust deniers. He denied that he ever did.I did some research later, and learned that he did in fact bring up Holocaust deniers in connection with authorship skeptics in his brief letter to the editor of the New York Times, published on September 4, 2005:
“The idea that William Shakespeare’s authorship of his plays and poems is a matter of conjecture and the idea that the ‘authorship controversy’ be taught in the classroom are the exact equivalent of current arguments that ‘intelligent design’ be taught alongside evolution.
“In both cases an overwhelming scholarly consensus, based on a serious assessment of hard evidence, is challenged by passionately held fantasies whose adherents demand equal time.
“The demand seems harmless enough until one reflects on its implications. Should claims that the Holocaust did not occur also be made part of the standard curriculum?”
So I think Greenblatt has forgotten what he wrote. To his credit, he could not have been more cordial during our chat.
Waugaman followed up with an email to Greenblatt repeating his request for an apology. Waugaman explained his persistence in this matter:
. . . it is my impression that many Oxfordians have been beaten down psychologically over the years by the academic taboo against even discussing the authorship question; as well as by the virulent ad hominem attacks on our allegedly disreputable motives for questioning the authority of the Shakespeare experts. A respected colleague got livid when I told him the Stratfordians are bullies. Well, we know we have to confront bullies. Otherwise, we are implicitly accepting their right to be abusive. All this led me to ask Greenblatt for an apology at the conference, and again by email. . . . I do want to emphasize that, much as Greenblatt was wrong to ever link the authorship question with Holocaust denial, I feel his apology was the decent thing to do. He could have just ignored my email.
Both Waugaman’s request and Greenblatt’s reply appear after the jump.