Thursday, October 18, 2007

SOS/SF Joint Shakespeare Authorship Conference, Oct. 5-8, 2007, Carmel, CA

The following is a play-by-play from Oberon founder and SOS board member Richard Joyrich on the Carmel, CA SOS/SF joint conference on Oct 5-8, 2007 (adapted from a series of E-mails).

Carmel, Day 1

Wish you were here! But since you're not, I will begin my daily report of the goings-on here at the Carmel Shakespeare Authorship Conference.

We're off to a great start. But I do have to mention that I am still getting compliments from people about how good last year's Ann Arbor Conference was. Virginia told me that she is already missing all the help given to her last year by Rosey, Sue, Linda, and others in registering people and selling books.

There were four talks this afternoon. Earl Showerman started us out with another of his marathon run-throughs of Shakespeare's use of Greek sources. However, this time he actually finished on time! And he covered four plays instead of only two as he did last year! He pointed out that, although scholars (read Stratfordians, of course) know about Shakespeare's use of Plutarch's Lives for the plots of the "Roman" plays, Shakespeare also used Plutarch to get names for most of the characters in Winter's Tale, Pericles, Midsummer Night's Dream and Timon of Athens. Earl points out that this use of names of historical or mythic-historical people for characters in plays can lend some dimension to the characters for those in the audience who are educated enough to pick up on this (another indication that the plays were probably first written for the court and also that the author was "educated" as well). More details on this later.

Talk 2, by Helen Gordon was about two secret societies which existed in Elizabethan times (and still do to some extent), the Freemasons and the Rosicrucians, and Oxford's possible connection to them.

After a break, came talk 3 by John Hamill. This was also on the sonnets, but from a completely different interpretation. This time it was from the point of view that the sonnets refer to homosexual love for the Fair Youth, not love of a father for his son, Of course, this difference of interpretation is at the heart of the (dangerous in my opinion) schism of Oxfordians today (which I would call, with apologies to Hamlet, PT or not PT). Anyway, John's take on the sonnets (shared by many in the room, and not shared by many others) is that the Dark Lady is Elizabeth Trentham, Oxford's second wife and that Henry Vere, Oxford's son and heir, may have been in reality a bastard son of Elizabeth Trentham and Henry Wriothesley (the Fair Youth). John gets a lot of this from consideration of the anonymous Willobie His Avisa. The marriage of Oxford and Elizabeth and the birth of Henry Vere took place in 1592-3. In 1593 the name "Shakespeare" appeared for the first time (as the author of Venus and Adonis). Coincidence? John doesn't think so. More later on this bit of scandal.

Finally, the last talk, by Lew Tate, was not really about the authorship. It was more about how Shakespeare is disappearing from being required study at colleges and how Lew found that he was able to teach Shakespeare by trying to relate it to current events and ideas. His talk focused on some of the parallels the story of Henry V has with our current post-911 and Iraq situation. Of course, this is what John Neville-Andrews tried to bring out in his recent production of Henry V at the Michigan Shakespeare Festival in Jackson.

Carmel, Day 2

Sorry I couldn't write last night. It seems that someone hit a telephone pole in Nevada and wiped out the network that my hotel uses for wireless Internet access. It's fixed now.

Well, yesterday (Friday) was certainly action-packed. It started out with the always stimulating annual meeting of the Shakespeare Oxford Society (good thing the coffee was flowing at the Golden Bough playhouse where we are holding the conference). Three former members of the Board were reelected and a new member, Andrew Frye from Midland, MI was also elected. Now we have a dominating Michigan presence on the Board! We also passed a resolution that we will work with the Shakespeare Fellowship to form a new combined organization. The same resolution is expected to pass today at the annual meeting of the Fellowship (which will be starting in about three hours).

Now, let the presentations begin!

First off the mark was Frank Davis on an intriguing annotation found in the First Folio belonging to Glasgow University. Frank has already written on this in a recent issue of the SOS newsletter. In the "List of Principall Actors" found at the beginning of the Folio (listing William Shakespeare first) someone (evidence shows that he was an original owner or at least contemporary with the Folio) put short annotations under 11 of the actor's' names. Frank found that the actors who were dead at the time of the Folio printing had things such as "hearsay" or "by report" whereas others had "know" or "so to do" or "so to hear" suggesting that the annotator knew of them personally. The outlying annotation is under Shakespeare. Glascow (and Frank agrees with them) reads it as "leass for making". Frank finds in the OED that "lease" (which could also be spelled many ways including "leass") had a meaning of "false or untrue or lie" until 18th century. "Making" was, of course, a term for writing or producing a work such as a play. Is this annotator implying that Shakespeare was NOT a writer of the plays? Intriguing to say the least (or is that leass).

Then came the team of Lynne Kositsky and Roger Stritmatter. They did two talks (separated by our lunch break). First Lynne reported on her fortuitous discovery of what apparently was Strachy's first draft of the famous "letter" which orthodox scholars claim HAD TO BE a source for the Tempest, fixing its date at 1611 (Lynne and Roger have already done amazing work showing that this is not true, but that's another subject). Anyway, this "first draft" (which might not really be written by Strachy, but was certainly the basis for Strachy's later letter (actually this later letter, called True Reportory, was 23, 000 words long-more of a book-a topic for another time as well). This earlier letter is much shorter (3000 words) and does not contain any of the terminology found in the later "letter" which makes it the ONLY POSSIBLE SOURCE for the Tempest. Lynne and Roger's point is that Strachy took this earlier letter and added (plagiarized) many travel books and descriptions of storms, etc to make up his famous "letter" which was not published until 1625 (although orthodox scholars say that Stratford Will MUST HAVE SEEN A COPY IN MANUSCRIPT in 1610). I will have to explain all of this in more detail at one of our upcoming meetings. It's really great stuff!

During lunch we heard Stephanie Hughes talk about how this is the 10th anniversary of her editing the Oxfordian (issue 10 is a little delayed. It should be out in January) and that it has been a wonderful time, but she feels it is time for her to step down as editor. Hopefully, we can find someone else to continue this publication. It is scholarly and is therefore accepted at University libraries and the Library of Congress (newsletters are not).

Back to Lynne and Roger after lunch. Roger gave a humorous talk called "Lynne and Roger's Excellent Adventure" detailing their attempts to give a paper on the Strachy letter at various international and national orthodox Shakespeare meetings. The humor was in the way the story was told, not in what happened to them. Even though their paper is not "Oxfordian" (except that their conclusion destroys the necessity of dating the Tempest to 1611 as they show that the sources Strachy used to write his "letter" and that Shakespeare used in the Tempest for his descriptions of storm scenes were dated much earlier) they were not invited to present their paper at any of these meetings. However, some good news is that some articles by them WILL be appearing soon in traditional journals such as Review of English Studies and Shakespeare Yearbook.

Next was the eagerly awaited return of Richard Roe to the stage of an SOS or SF Conference. His book on Shakespeare and Italy will be a blockbuster if he ever finishes it. (Come on, Richard! We're waiting!) In today's (actually yesterday's) talk he went over some history of relations between Spain and Venice which resulted in alterations of how Venetian merchant did business (such as using foreign ships instead of only Venetian ones and new banking practices). This all took place around 1573 and had profound impact on the way English merchants would have to do business around the Mediterranean. Richard shows that Shakespeare knew about these new business practices and describes them in Merchant of Venice and Taming of the Shrew. Of course, deVere was right there in Venice and other parts just at this time (1570s). Richard points out that the new ways of doing business in Italy and environs was "headline news" in the late 1570s NOT in the 1590s when orthodox scholars maintain these plays were written. He therefore concludes that deVere wrote them in the 1570s for the court and other educated audiences which would be interested in the new business models and that the plays were later produced for the "masses". This is a recurring theme in our understanding of how Shakespeare plays were done. Great stuff!

Marty Hyatt then talked more about how the Sonnets have many underlying structural patterns, describing one and explaining how to analyze them in a reasonable way. This may help in dating certain sonnets or seeing how certain sonnets can be found to have special meaning for the author. I actually have a copy of his PowerPoint presentation on my computer and I can show it sometime at one of our meetings. It's way too complicated to explain in this E-mail. Fascinating!

John Shahan then reported on his Declaration of Reasonable Doubt which made an amazing world-wide splash recently when all the major news services picked up on the public signing of it by Derek Jacobi and Mark Rylance. There are now 1103 verified signatures and John states that he expects Jeremy Irons, Michael York, and Roland Emmerich (who is still planning on making his movie about Oxford) will sign the Declaration soon. Have you all signed it? What are you waiting for? Go to right now and do it. I'll wait for you.

The day finished off with a rousing game of Oxfordian Jeopardy (with your humble reporter as the guy running the game board) hosted by Alex McNeil. This is always a favorite with conference attendees. The game was won by Stephanie Hughes, but Ren Draya and Michael A'dair (who I don't know yet) gave it a good try. Don't worry that you missed out too much. Alex let me copy the game and we can play it soon at an upcoming Oberon meeting. I warn you, though, the answers (or should that be questions?) are really tough.

Well that's it so far. Today promises to be equally enjoyable, starting with the annual meeting of the Shakespeare Fellowship and including performances of Macbeth and A Midsummer Night's Dream. I'll write about it tonight (assuming no other Nevada telephone poles get hit).

Carmel, Day 3

First was the annual meeting of the Shakespeare Fellowship, which was less exciting than the SOS meeting yesterday (a thing I wouldn't have thought possible after attending the SOS meeting). The only things that were newsworthy are the election to the Board of Lynne Kositsky and Marty Hyatt and the nomination of Alex McNeil as President. The SF also approved the resolution to direct the Boards of the SOS and SF to form a Joint Merger Committee to study the possibility of forming a new organization out of the two existing ones.

First Katherine Chiljan spoke on A Lover's Complaint, a short work mostly neglected by scholars. It was printed along with the Sonnets in 1609. It concerns a woman who is spurned by a young man she loves. The description of the young man seems to correspond with what we know about the young Oxford. Katherine reported that the orthodox scholar (although he IS kind of a fringe type) Brian Vickers has been pursuing removing Lover's Complaint from the Shakespeare Canon, believing it is by John Davies. Katherine disputes this and thinks that Vickers may be doing so because he recognizes the similarity of the young lover to Oxford.

We next heard from Ramon Jimenez (who has become something of a legend in Oxfordian circles with his work on the early history plays and the even earlier "anonymous" history plays, like Edmund Ironside and Famous Victories of Henry V which Ramon argues are also by Oxford). Today, Ramon talked on the three Henry VI plays, without much in the way of Oxfordianism. It was more of a kind of survey on what these plays contain and how they are actually quite good and deserve to be staged more often. Ramon told us that there is more disagreement by orthodox scholars over these three plays than any other ones by Shakespeare (such as what order were they written in, was there collaboration with other playwrights, how are they related to earlier anonymous plays, etc.) With a chuckle, Ramon said that there are only three things the scholars agree on and, ironically, they are wrong on all three. These are that the plays are Shakespeare's first history plays, that they were written between 1589-92, and that they were written by William of Stratford. The presentation was spiced up (as is usual for a Jimenez presentation) by performance of excerpts of the plays by professional actors. In this case it was none other than Stephen Moorer and Julie Hughett (who we would see later as the Royal Couple in the Scottish play-you know the one I mean). Very nicely done.

Then came Allegra Krasznekewicz. She is a junior in a local high school who recently won the California History Day paper competition and placed highly in the national competition with her paper on the Authorship promoting Oxford as the author. She presented her winning paper (and put most of the other presenters at the conference to shame with her polished delivery). It was very moving to me to see this example of the next generation of the Oxfordian movement (hopefully the one to see the idea widely accepted).

We broke for a catered lunch right there at the Golden Bough theater and then filed back into the auditorium (some of us still eating) to hear Richard Whalen talk about the mostly overlooked subplot of the Thane of Ross in the play Macbeth. The basic idea (I can expand on it at an Oberon meeting) is that Ross is not just a messenger. He is actually a calculating courtier engaged in subtle intrigue which Macbeth recognizes and uses. As Richard Whalen points out, this is exactly the kind of thing Oxford saw at Elizabeth's court firsthand.

Immediately after this talk we all rushed around to the other side of the building to enter the smaller Circle Theater. Yes, it was time to actually see Macbeth, starring (as I said above) Stephen Moorer, who you will remember is the one hosting and doing all the real work for this Conference. It was a very exciting and well done performance of the play, marred only a little by the fact that the part of the Thane of Ross was cut out (I guess the director hadn't heard Richard Whalen's talk yet).

Coming back into the larger auditorium, we continued the presentations with two on Midsummer Night's Dream. First was by Stephanie Hughes in which she stated her opinion (gaining favor with many Oxfordians) that this play was written for the May, 1594 wedding of Thomas Heneage and Mary Browne, dowager Countess of Southampton (the mother of Henry Wriothesely-the likely Fair Youth of the Sonnets). Stephanie is of the opinion (but she is quick to point out that its only a theory, without any "hard" evidence) that Mary Browne was a young Oxford's first love before she was forced into marriage with the 2nd Earl of Southampton in 1564. Stephanie then painted a somewhat lyrical description of Oxford's unhappy childhood spent without his parents or any children of his own age around, and how such a childhood could have been the impetus for the development of his artistic talents. It was a little too speculative for me.

Peter Austin-Zacharias then gave his talk on MND. He was describing the world of the fairies and how it could be looked at in various ways (such as a world of lightness and innocence or a world of darkness and terror). He gave examples of how different people described it through their work. He particularly focused on Mendelssohn with the differences between his earlier "Overture" and his later "Incidental Music" and the painter John Henry Fuseli (who painted scenes from the play in a very dark manner.)

It was now time to make our way across town (about ten blocks) and up the hill to the outdoor Forest Theater for our catered picnic dinner, followed by a performance of A Midsummer Night's Dream. It was a nice performance, but I thought it was a little too silly and that there were too many repetitions of some of the "gags". It was also a bit long to be sitting outside with the temperature at 50 degrees.

Carmel, Day 4

We began at 8:30 AM as usual (no getting up late on this vacation). First up was the eagerly anticipated Panel Discussion on the two plays we saw yesterday (Macbeth and Midsummer Night's Dream, you may remember) led by Ren Draya with Richard Whalen (editor of the new Oxfordian edition of Macbeth) and Stephen Moorer (playing Macbeth, directing Dream, setting up the conference, keeping everyone on time, answering questions, etc. Doesn't the guy ever stop?).

There were really only two actual presentations today (and then lunchtime speeches).

First talk was by Rima Greenhill, the third in her series of talks on Love's Labour's Lost and the hidden allusions to contemporary political and economic matters between England and Russia. Part 1 of these talks has been published in Oxfordian 9, part 2 will be in Verite, the new journal out of Concordia (if it ever gets done), and here's part 3. Actually part 3 is an amplification of part 2 and deals with the names of various characters in LLL and what historical Russian characters they are meant to represent (or at least remind the educated audiences of).

In brief, the correlations are Don Armado=Ivan the Terrible, Costard=Ivan's first son, also named Ivan, who Ivan the T. accidentally killed, Sir Nathaniel=Fyodor, Ivan's second son and successor as czar, Moth=Dmitri, Ivan's third son, who was deposed and killed by Boris Gudenov, who corresponds to Holofernes in the play. Of course the historical relationships between these people does not correspond with the relationships of the characters in the play completely, but there are interesting "clues" in what they say to each other.

Again, this is too complicated to go into here (yes, we'll wait for another meeting-at this rate I'll be booked up until next year's conference and we won't finish the Hamlet project. Sorry, Tom). I can't resist telling you about the one clue which nearly floored me, however. Nathaniel is a Hebrew name, appearing in the Bible, meaning "god given". When the Bible was translated into Greek, this was translated as "Theodorus" and then when the Russians got a hold of it, they changed its pronunciation to "Fyodor". This stuff is just amazing! As you all will no doubt realize, all of this stuff indicates that the author of the play knew intimate details of the political dealings with Russia (i.e. he had to be a Court Insider) and the play was intended for a court audience.

Next up was Earl Showerman, take 2. Yes, he did so well keeping on time that we gave him another chance. This time he didn't make it. Over Stephen Moore's repeated whisperings of "our lunch banquet is getting cold" came Earl's repeated "I've just got a couple more slides to go" About 15 slides later, it was done. Actually, it was worth waiting for the end (and the food didn't get cold). In another of his seemingly endless supply of talks about Greek sources for Shakespeare plays (Earl said he can E-mail me some of them to show you), Earl discussed the influence of Euripides' Alcestis on the ending of Much Ado About Nothing (as it also is for Winter's Tale). It is the source of the "coming to life of someone thought dead" idea as well as other references in the play. Earl talked about how orthodox scholars, while recognizing Alcestis as the source for this plot device, tend to explain that Shakespeare got it through intermediate works which were published in Latin or English (after all, he COULDN'T HAVE READ THE ORIGINAL IN GREEK, now could he?). However, Earl points out that these putative other sources either didn't mention the "coming to life" part of the story or were published in Paris where Stratford Will couldn't get them. There is so much substance in Earl's talk (that's why it takes so long to get through it even with Earl's mile-a-minute delivery) that I can't do it justice. I guess, if he E-mails it to me, we can book two or three Oberon meetings to get through it.

We now went on to the traditional (since 2005) end of conference luncheon banquet. Very nice. During the lunch Matthew Cosolotto gave his talk about some highlights of the 50 years the SOS has been in existence. Gordon Cyr had been scheduled to do this talk; but, alas, he passed away suddenly last May.

The Conference then ended with the giving of awards and thank-you gifts. Stephanie Hughes got a gift (a set of happy and sad theater masks picked out by Earl Showerman) for her contributions over the last few years, especially 10 years as editor of the Oxfordian. Richard Whalen got the Oxfordian of the Year Award (an engraved desk clock picked out by me at Things Remembered at Twelve Oaks Mall). Stephen Moore got a thank you gift for doing such a great job on the Conference planning and execution. This was a combination clock, thermometer, compass, and hygrometer (humidity) that I picked out. Actually, we had to give Stephen his gift and recognition as soon as we got to the hotel where the banquet was being held, before we even started having the lunch, since he had to leave right away to get ready to play Macbeth again!

Well that's it. Another successful conference for the history books.

What about next year's conference I hear you ask? Well, despite my pleadings to the two organizations to come to a decision we could announce today, it's not yet decided. We know it'll be on the East Coast. The leading contenders are Washington, DC and New Haven, CT (home of Yale). Hopefully, the new Joint Conference Committee can narrow it down (or come up with something else) real soon. You may not be surprised to learn that I have volunteered to be on this Committee (I just love helping to plan conferences).


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