Sunday, December 21, 2008

Twelfth Night in Eight-Part Harmony

The second meeting of the Plymouth Shakespeare Reading Group was held today. Eight intrepid souls (including me) braved the cold weather and gathered for a very enjoyable reading of Twelfth Night. My thanks again to Prashant for organizing this event.

As was done for Macbeth (see post of 11/24/08) the play was divided into three sections with different casting for each section. I myself was pleased to be cast as Viola for the first part (Act I through Act II, scene 3), Andrew Aguecheek and Sebastian for the second part (Act II, scene 4 through the end of Act III) and Olivia for the final section (Acts IV and V).

Although I have seen this play produced many many times (probably over 30 times) I have not often actually read it. I am therefore glad that Prashant has given me this chance. Twelfth Night, as is the case for all of Shakespeare's comedies (and most of the other plays as well) is filled with amazing in-jokes, puns, and wordplay. This occurs mostly in the scenes with the "low characters" (which in this play includes "aristocrats" like Sir Toby Belch and Sir Andrew Aguecheek as well as members of the servant class). Since most of this kind of stuff is pretty much incomprehensible to the modern ear (shame on us), these scenes are always severely cut by directors. This is a shame as they are quite funny and witty if one takes the time to figure them out (with the help of footnotes and other sources). So, again I say that reading the plays is certainly worthwhile.

Most Shakespeare scholars say that these kinds of scenes were put in by Shakespeare to please the groundlings and others who attended the public performances of the plays. However, it is hard for me to believe that all of the legal terms, nautical terms, terms relating to hawking and other aristocratic pursuits, and the caricatures of real persons (like Malvolio for Sir Christopher Hatton, Sir Andrew Aguecheek for Sir Philip Sydney, and Sir Toby Belch for Edward deVere's brother-in-law Perigrine Bertie) found in these "comic scenes" were meant for the groundlings. I don't mean to be a snob (a term commonly applied to Oxfordians by Stratfordians), but facts are facts. This kind of comedy obviously (to me anyway) is meant for performances at the Inns of Court or at the Royal Court before the monarch (and of course, was likely written by someone [such as deVere] who moved in these circles).

Anyway, I had a great time reading this play along with the other six present at the Plymouth District Library. I am looking forward to January 18 when we will be reading Richard II. See Prashant's blog (there's a link to it on the right side of this Oberon blog) for more details as they become available.

For now, I'll say with Feste (who interestingly is only referred to by this name once-in Act II, scene 4-and is otherwise only known as "Clown" in the Folio):

But that's all one, our play is done,
And we'll strive to please you every day.


Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Michigan eLibrary

At our last Oberon meeting the subject of the Michigan eLibrary came up. We thought it would be worth reminding our members that significant research resources are available to Michigan residents via the Internet on their personal computers from the Michigan eLibrary
By using your driver’s license number or Michigan ID card you can borrow from local and university libraries across the state and order articles free from over 45 datatbases including: Academic OneFile, General OneFile, Article First, InfoTrac, WorldCat and Hand Press Book, a catalog of European printing in the early modern era -- 15th to 19th Century. Articles are accessible and printable online; borrowed books are delivered to your local library for pick up. 

Sunday, November 30, 2008

Hilberry Does Hamlet

Yes, the Hilberry Theatre CAN do Shakespeare well (on occasion). 

I know this, having just attended a performance of Hamlet yesterday. It was directed by Dr. Blair Anderson, who is the Chair of the Department of Theater at Wayne State University. For the most part it was a very nice text-driven production with only a few slightly odd cuts and rearranging of scenes (or parts of scenes). It was well-cast (except perhaps for the part of Polonius who seemed too young for me). In the play-within-a-play scene the dumbshow (something I have real trouble with-Does Claudius see this?-Doesn't it give the whole "catch the conscience of the King" plan away?) was done very well (without "giving the plan away"),  although it was a little jarring for me (I hope I'm not being too sexist) that the Player Queen was a "full-figured" tall woman and the Player King a slight, shorter man. Nevertheless I do recommend going to see this production (I may even want to see it again-how about it, Oberoners?  Another road trip?)

The Hilberry is also doing Tom Stoppard's Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead, although not usually on the same day as Hamlet. They were doing both yesterday, but I was unable to attend the evening performance (a dinner for my sister's birthday took precedence). There is one more day when both productions are on offer. This is January 14 (a Saturday) when R&G is the matinee with Hamlet in the evening. Maybe we can plan on this for a group outing.

I'm not sure of this, but I believe that there is cross-casting with the same actors taking their same roles in both plays (although of course R and G are the main roles in one play and are minor characters in the other and vice versa with Hamlet, Claudius, and Gertrude). I suspect this because of the reaction of some members of the audience when R and G came out in Act II, scene 2. Unless they knew the play really well, I think the reaction was because they had seen the two actors already in these roles. Unfortunately, one of the lines cut from Hamlet (indeed the entire role of the speaker along with the whole Fortinbras subplot) was the English Ambassador at the end of the play saying "...Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are dead." This would probably have drawn a good audience reaction (maybe the director wanted to avoid it).

But probably the best thing about going to the Hilberry yesterday was the opportunity to go with my cousin Dana, now a freshman student at Skidmore College in Saratoga Springs, NY (she and her parents are now visiting here for Thanksgiving). I find to my delight that Dana is a budding Oxfordian. This is partly due to me, but I also have to give credit to one of her professors, Lary Opitz, the Chair of the Theater Department at Skidmore. I gather from Dana that he is partial to the Oxfordian theory and mentions it in class. She is now taking what sounds like a fascinating Freshman seminar called "Shakespeare was Jewish?" They are predominately studying Merchant of Venice, but are doing other things as well. I have asked Dana to send me information on this class (course syllabus, any handouts, etc) by E-mail when she gets home, so I might have more information on this later. I note that Professor Opitz is not yet listed as a signatory on the Declaration of Reasonable Doubt. Perhaps we can work on him a little (maybe he simply doesn't know about it).

I am looking forward to communicating with Dana in the future about Shakespeare and the Authorship Question. I am extremely sorry that I didn't know that she was so interested in these things (I had only had limited conversations with her when I used to visit her at her parent's house in Houston or see here in Michigan at holiday times) as she could have come to our last SOS/SF conference (which was only three hours away by car from where she is in school). Well, maybe she will want to visit her parents in Houston next November when the next Conference will be held.

Of course, I can't see Hamlet without being bombarded with the parallels with Oxford and how this play is so important in the whole Authorship Question. I won't go into any of it here now, but I do have to say that I can never help getting choked up when I hear Hamlet's last words (or almost last words) to Horatio: "...report me and my cause aright To the unsatisfied...what a wounded name (Things standing thus unknown) shall live behind me! If thou didst ever hold me in thy heart, Absent thee from felicity awhile, And in this harsh world draw thy breath in pain, To tell my story" 

I am confident that, with the help of Dana and others of the "next generation", we will finally succeed in doing this.

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Oberon gives thanks for another wonderful year

Dear Oberon,
 
I can't believe it. Finally.  A day off and nothing to do but drive to our niece's in Ann Arbor, hug everybody, eat, watch the Lions  until they are hopelessly behind (approx. the middle of the first quarter), sleep, and drive back hopefully while awake.  In this especially tough time, there is still no end of things to be thankful for.  It is good to take the opportunity to think about our blessings.
 
At our Oberon meeting last Thursday, we recalled the highlights of 2008.  There were certainly many more than any one of us remembered individually. We were all surprised at how long the list came to be.  Please help us to make the list as complete as possible by replying with anything we forgot.
 
First of all, the monthly meetings.  I think it's safe to say that those of us who attend regularly look forward to these, to the interesting conversation, to the camaraderie, to the informative presentations (memorably this year from Ron, Linda, Tom T and Robin among others), to the treasurer's  reports, to the post meeting at Ruby Tuesday's, and even the pre meeting in the library coffee shop.  If you weren't able to be with us in 2008, we hope to see you in 2009.
 
The Hamlet Project.  Bigger than we thought. We hope to finish it in 2009.
 
Oberon Up North.  First of what we hope to be an annual event. Rosey remembered the fun we had driving around the Old Mission peninsula in Traverse City looking for the Old Mission. There is no Old Mission. It's a long story.  And how can we ever forget Sue and Mark's warm and generous hospitality at their place on Torch River?  And during Oberon Up North part 2, we got to meet Richard's wonderful artist friend Marina.
 
Interlochen, during Oberon Up North, where we saw Twelfth Night and were treated to the first rate hospitality of Tom Townsend's good friend Gordon Berg, Interlochen's PR guy, who literally carted us around on a whirlwind tour.
 
Speaking of annual events, the Michigan Shakespeare Festival in Jackson which defied the common wisdom and staged a lively All's Well That Ends Well. An additional highlight was that John Neville Andrews, the director of the play and the festival's artistic director, joined us for dinner. We feel so supportive of the festival that we actually spent some of our treasury on an ad in the program.
 
Also plays at the Stratford Shakespeare Festival, including  a great All's Well.  We believe that two separate productions of All's Well within days of each other and only a few miles apart must set some kind of Shakespeare record.
 
A major development--Richard's memorable reports from the various conferences. These are informative, funny, insightful, breezy summaries of what goes on at these meetings. They are becoming a kind of tradition now.  Look for them on our blog and in the SOS newsletter.  We lay claim to them first of course because Richard is one of us.  When Richard becomes famous, we hope that he will still come to our meetings.
 
Sue and Richard on the SOS board.  I'm darned proud of what these two are bringing to organized Oxfordianism, which, before they got at it, was an oxymoron if there ever was one.  If Sue and Richard can't get the movers and shakers to focus, there truly is no hope.
 
Our six members at the joint SOS/SF conference in New York this October.  It was a great meeting, and 10% of the attendees were from Oberon!  Look for Richard's upcoming reports.
 
Barb Burris' two readings from her forthcoming Oxfordian mystery novel.  This is good stuff. Stay tuned to our announcements for the date of her next reading. Don't miss it.
 
Linda Theil's a-maze-ing potluck which is becoming another Oberon tradition in September.
 
The wonderful Oberon blog which Linda created and maintains.  Because of Linda, Oberon is on the internet via our blog.  We have already had contact with random web travelers who have found us via the blog, including Philip Davis, author of Shakespeare Thinking, who sought to thank Linda for her positive comments about his work.  Linda has also established and maintained contact with the Fellowship web site and posts our activities there.
 
Our January meeting featured Charles Adams Kelly and the exciting work he has done on the Hamlet quartos. 
 
Driving across Michigan for a Stephen Greenblatt lecture at Grand Valley State in Grand Rapids, talking with him afterward and making contact of sorts, and stopping--surprise!--to see Richard's friend Marina.  He was driving. We had no choice.  Just kidding. It was a delight to see her.
 
The Reasonable Doubt petition signed by many Oberoners and raised to the next level this summer by Mark Rylance and Derek Jacobi at the Chichester Festival in England.  You will be hearing more about this in our plans for 2009 when we hope to take a more active role.
 
Gee, the cooking smells are emanating from the kitchen, and already I'm getting hungry this Thanksgiving 2008 morning.  I know I have missed a bunch. Please let me know about 2008 Oberon highlights which you recall which are not listed here.  Have a wonderful holiday.
 
Your devoted chairperson, truly grateful for people like you,
 
Tom

Monday, November 24, 2008

Reading Macbeth

I spent an enjoyable three hours at the recent first meeting of the Plymouth Shakespeare Reading Group yesterday. My thanks to Prashant Andrade for forming this group. You can read more about it in a previous entry in this blog.

I and twelve other hardy souls (most of them students from Salem High School in Plymouth) tackled Macbeth. We got through it with virtually no difficulties and I think everyone had a great time. I myself was able to be Banquo in Acts I and II, Macbeth in Act III scenes 1 and 2, Lady Macduff in Act IV (scene 2) and a messenger in Act V, scene 5 (an important part-how else would Macbeth know about Birnam Wood approaching Dunsinane?)

In order to be properly prepared, I brought along my copy of Richard Whalen's Oxfordian edition of Macbeth (available from Llumina Press, www.llumina.com). In between waiting for my cues, I was able to scan most of Whalen's excellent annotations. Of course, many of these are the sort of annotations found in any good edition of the play, but Whalen does put in great explanations of the many Oxfordian implications.

For example, orthodox scholars continue to state that Shakespeare wrote the play to please the new King James. Actually, there is no record of the play being performed during the reign of James (it was first printed in the First Folio) and it does seem strange that someone would write a play about the murder of a Scottish king by an usurper who consorted with witches to please a Scottish king (James) who was terrified of witches and was always fearful of personal attacks. The play refers to things that James detested (such as the practice of the monarch "touching for the evil" [scrofula]).

The play reveals the author's knowledge of Scottish geography, weather, laws, and customs, something easy to explain for Oxford who was actually in Scotland on a military expedition and less easy to explain for Stratford Will.

The play makes use of the chronicle of William Stewart (1531-5) for some details not found elsewhere, a document only available in manuscript form and held by the Scottish royal family. Only someone in royal circles, like Oxford, would have had access to it.

There is also the introduction of the character Lennox (not in any historical accounts), perhaps to honor Oxford's friend the 4th Earl of Lennox who was Elizabeth's regent in Scotland?

The author is familiar with court intrigue, as evidenced by the political machinations of the character of Ross.

I could go on like this, but I will stop here. I have to keep a little back for discussion purposes later.

I would recommend that more of the Oberoners consider attending a meeting of the Plymouth Shakespeare Reading Group. The next meeting is December 21, when we will be reading Twelfth Night (unfortunately I don't have an Oxfordian edition of this play so I'm on my own).

In the meantime, I note that both the Chicago Shakespeare Theater and the Stratford Festival are doing Macbeth in their upcoming seasons. Maybe there's still an opening for the messenger in Act V. I'm on it.

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Tom extends invitation to Nov. 20 meeting

Dear Oberon,

Please mark your calendars for our next meeting on Thursday, Nov. 20 (two weeks from today!) at our usual place, the Farmington Library on 12 Mile Rd. in Farmington at our usual time 6:45. We will have Conference Rm A at our disposal.

The meeting will include videos of a presentation available to us to make to community and school groups as well as more information about the joint SOS/SF conference in New York last month. Good stuff. Cutting edge.

Plus, we will be looking ahead to 2009, which appears to be developing into another exciting year. Bring your ideas, your Shakespeare moments, your insights, your dreams, your druthers, your baked goods and so on.

As always, your faithful chairman, looking forward to seeing everybody on the 20th,

Tom Hunter

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Shakespeare Reading Group -- first meeting 1 p.m. Nov. 23 at Plymouth District Library

From Prashant Andrade, SE MI Shakespeare Reading Group founder:

Would you like to be part of a group that is trying to understand themselves, human nature and the world we live in better?

Would you like to have fun, companionship and recapture some of that loss of community that everyone seems to complain about?

And all this for free? In these cost-conscious times? Yes!

We will meet once a month (on a Saturday or Sunday) or more frequently if the group members wish (at the Plymouth District Library). The first meeting will be at 1 p.m. November 23 in the Waldorf Room of the Plymouth District Library. We'll read the Scottish play.

What the group will do:
Spend most of the meeting reading a play aloud with assigned parts in a supportive non-judgmental atmosphere (following the method of Dr. Gareth Morgan of the University of Texas/Austin Sunday Shakespeare Group)

What the group may do:
Watch films or recordings of the plays and attend performances at the Michigan Shakespeare Festival and Stratford
Set up Shakespeare reading groups in local prisons and schools

For updates, see Shakespeare Reading Group blog. Please call Prashant Andrade at 734-416-9834 or e-mail him at FEA_123@yahoo.com if you are interested.

Friday, October 17, 2008

Shakespearean Candidates?

Thanks to Earl Showerman (who sent it to me in an E-mail), I am able to offer this link to a clip from the Colbert Report of 10/3/08 on Comedy Central: http://blog.indecision20008.com/2008/10/03/stephen-colbert-compares-the-candidates-to-shakespeare/

In this clip, Stephen Colbert compares McCain and Obama to Shakespearean characters in a very funny way. He then calls on our friend, Professor Stephen Greenblatt, to back him up on this.

I can only hope that Greenblatt eventually comes around to understanding the real Shakespeare as well as he seems to understand what Shakespeare would have thought of the current election.

You should all watch this clip (it's a little slow in loading so be patient).


Thursday, October 16, 2008

View from New York


View from the Tappan Zee bridge

The White Plains SOS/SF authorship conference blew us away with over 20 presenters offering insights into Elizabethan history and authorship issues. Bonner Miller Cutting’s exhaustively researched paper on Shaksper’s will, Frank Davis’ meticulous analysis of Henslow’s diary, and Robert Brazil’s 70-page treatise on Angel Daye’s The English Secretary stand out for me.

Yet, despite the fun and fascination of a jam-packed schedule of outstanding presentations, the most exciting aspect of the 2008 SOS/SF conference was the powerful wind that blew through the authorship landscape. We blinked thrice and discovered our Oxfordian island had become a promontory, pointing the way to a brave new view of the world.

The new view:

Mark Anderson’s keynote insisted that 1604 is the Oxfordian “ace in the hole”. No longer, said Anderson, must Oxfordians whimper apologetically about the unfortunate demise of our hero before all the plays had been written. Turn it around, he said, and ask instead why none of Shakespeare’s work includes reference to events or writing after the 1604 date.

"Shakespeare stopped writing in 1604, the year that Edward deVere died," Anderson said. The few potential exceptions that might be taken to his statement, Anderson defeated with ease.

Then John Plummer -- Anderson’s collaborator on a TV series based on Anderson's book, Shakespeare by Another Name -- took the floor and knocked us all for a loop with the high-energy thrill of his Oxfordian conversion. Ron Song Destro showed us his masterful “Oxfordian Lecture” – a first-look at the authorship question that Destro says has never failed to convert rooms-full of skeptical inquirers. And Cheryl Egan-Donovan talked about work on “Nothing is Truer than Truth” --  her film outing Shakespeare – with such confident passion that I sat awestruck in the crowded meeting room.

The common attribute of these young Oxfordians is their absolute faith in their view of the world – they believe in themselves and they believe in their work. They do not question that the world has changed; they simply act according to that change. The civil war has been won, and while liberty must always be defended, we will never be slaves again.

Or, as Mark Anderson said, "You owe it to yourself to look at the world through Oxfordian glasses."

Links of interest about (or recommended by) conference presenters:

Bonner Miller Cutting’s website featuring Ruth Lloyd Miller’s collection of reprints of essential pioneer Oxfordian works by Looney, Ward, Clark, and Fowler.

Ron Song Destro’s NYC Oxford Shake-speare Center project website.

Ramon Jimenez’s review of new SOS Oxfordian journal Editor Michael Egan’s The Tragedy of Richard II, Part One: a newly authenticated play by William Shakespeare, Edited, introduced and with variorum notes by Michael Egan. 4 v. The Edwin Mellen Press 2006.

List of books by Elizabethan historian Paul Hammer who was recommended by Bill Boyle. http://www.bookfinder.com/author/paul-e-j-hammer

Website of dramaturg John Hudson’s Dark Lady Players in NYC

Early English Books Online website recommended by Ron Hess.

Robert Brazil’s Elizabethan Authors and Earl of Oxford websites.

SOS Oxfordian of the Year 2008 Dan Wright’s Shakespeare Authorship Research Center website. http://www.authorshipstudies.org/

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Tom invites all to Oberon meeting Thursday

Dear Oberon,

A brief reminder that our meeting for this month is this Thursday, Oct. 16, at the Farmington Library on 12 Mile Rd. between Farmington Rd. and Orchard Lake Rd.

We will hear all about the joint 2008 Shakespeare Oxford Society/Shakespeare Fellowship conference which took place this past weekend at White Plains, New York. Oberon had six of our members in attendance. We will catch up on some of the impressive advances in Oxfordian research taking place. Looking forward to seeing you Thursday.

As always,
Tom Hunter
Oberon Chair

Mark Anderson book optioned for TV series


Mark Anderson and John Plummer, Oct. 11 at the Crowne Plaza hotel in White Plains, NY.

Shakespeare by Another Name author Mark Anderson announced Saturday that director/writer John Plummer of the Hudson Valley Shakespeare Festival has optioned his book. Plummer plans to write a series of scripts based on Oxford's life as revealed in Shakespeare by Another Name to offer networks like PBS and HBO.

"Our agents are excited," Plummer said at the joint annual Shakespeare Oxford Society/Shakespeare Fellowship conference in White Plains, NY. "This guy's life (Edward deVere, 17th Earl of Oxford) is the entire Shakespeare canon and it's all true. It's the sexiest story, and it sells itself."

For a glimpse of the interaction between Anderson and Plummer, check out this recent entry on Anderson's blog.

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Discount on March 19, 2009 RSC Richard III in A2 until Oct. 15

From University Musical Society in Ann Arbor:
To help you get ready for UMS’s next stunning theatrical presentation, we'd like to make you a special offer for tickets to Richard III -- An Arab Tragedy.Direct from the RSC Complete Works Festival in England, this production is directed by the Kuwaiti-British director Sulayman Al-Bassam and is performed in Arabic with English supertitles. Be the first to see this thrilling contemporary adaptation of Shakespeare’s classic by taking $10 off tickets for the opening night performance on Thursday, March 19 at 8 pm in the Power Center. To order, call the UMS Ticket Office at 734-764-2538 or purchase your tickets online and mention the code DOUBLE HAPPINESS. Offer not valid on previously purchased tickets, or on tickets block D or E seats. Limit four discounted tickets per household. Offer expires on Wednesday, October 15.

Monday, September 29, 2008

Heads-up from Tom re: Oct. 16 Oberon meeting

This is a heads up for all you Oberon fans. Since October has five Thursdays, the third Thursday of the month comes a bit earlier than usual: October 16. Our meeting this month is thus on October 16. Please be sure to mark your calendars.

We will reminisce about the great potluck meeting at Linda's in September. There will be a brief report about our Greenblatt Encounter in Grand Rapids. And, wouldn't you know, much to say about the joint Shakespeare Oxford Society/Shakespeare Fellowship conference to be held Oct 9-12 in White Plains, New York. All this plus our famous Tom Townsend Treasurer's Report as well as no telling what other sense and nonsense that may occur.

Please join us October 16 for all our usual rollicking merriment at the Farmington Library, Room B. These are evenings not to be missed.

Dramatically yours,
Tom Hunter

Friday, September 26, 2008

Greenblatt around the World

First of all, forgive me for the somewhat far-reaching title of this blog (although I think Stephen Greenblatt would approve of it). I was moved by the increasingly broad geographical trend of the last two blogs on this subject and I wanted to continue with it. It also ties in with what I thought was the most interesting parts of the presentation we saw in Grand Rapids.

I can't really add very much to the two excellent blogs that have already been posted, but I can say a few things.

I would like to give a word of thanks to Marty for letting us know of this opportunity to see Stephen Greenblatt. I only wish we had found out sooner. Perhaps we could have organized a larger Oberon contingent. Perhaps we could have had time to print up our "Holocaust Denial" posters or lapel pins.

Anyway, I had a great time in Grand Rapids and I am glad I went. It's true that it was sometimes hard to follow the details of what Greenblatt was saying, but I liked his general idea. He is interested in how different cultures look at certain "fundamental" ideas or plot points. So his idea was to take a play (or rather a story) and rewrite it to "fit" our cultural ways. Of course, he chose the play Cardenio.

Then he and his collaborator, Charles Mee, sent out their play to other countries along with the basic plot points which it was based on (the original story found in Cervantes) and told playwrights there to write their own version of the story.

Greenblatt shared some of the results of this experiment with us and I found it quite interesting. However, I can't remember enough of the details to include them here in the blog. I guess you will have to wait until Greenblatt's inevitable book on the subject is published.

Of course, I cringed a little when Greenblatt actually got around to talking about the kind of man he imagines Shakespeare to have been, but he is essentially correct in taking him to be interested in other cultures and times and trying to weave plot elements from various sources into his plays (but not, of course, to make a fast buck).

I am quite frustrated to think of Stephen Greenblatt and Marjorie Garber, among others, who purport to be interested in "the man Shakespeare" and what the plays can tell us about him, but then refuse to take their blinders off and really follow the evidence. For years we have been hearing Stratfordians say "Only the plays matter!" and "There is no point in thinking the plays and Sonnets to be biographical!" and now that some of them are willing to look for biographical information, they can only find the most mundane and isolated things like the mention of certain Warwickshire plants in the plays to tie them to Will of Stratford. If only they would open their eyes to the richness to be found when the right person's biography is being matched to the plays.
Well, enough complaining. It was a most enjoyable evening. I have to say, however, that the parts I enjoyed the most were the drive there and back. It's amazing what can be discussed by three Oxfordians!

And thereby hangs a tale.

Greenblatt in Michigan

Little did I think when Marty H. passed along on Wednesday the heads-up about Stephen Greenblatt at Grand Valley State in Grand Rapids that on Thursday Linda, Richard and I would be motoring our way westward across our beautiful state to the land of Amway to hear one of the most renown literary teachers and critics of our time.

Well, we did, and there we found Mr. Greenblatt and a large lecture hall filled with Grand Valleyites who had come to hear his tale of the cultural mobility of Cardenio. The Cardenio project actually represents quite an undertaking, a grand experiment in cultural differences. It is a variation of the Cardenio text as updated by Greenblatt and a professional playwright Charles Mee (prompting many humorous references to the joint work of Mee and I) which was then sent out to be produced in various countries to compare the cultural differences emerging from the various productions.

Why Cardenio? Greenblatt said that it was important to the experiment to use recognizable literary Shakespeare devices for the purposes of seeing what happens to them in different cultures, but not to take them from well known plays where predispositions and prejudices might get in the way. One also suspects from Mr. Greenblatt's narrative that he thoroughly enjoyed the exercise of rewriting Shakespeare--that is, of BEING Shakespeare -- and of being involved in some of the productions as an actor, a scholarly resource, and a character named— Greenblatt!

Mr. Greenblatt made no mention of authorship issues, but authorship raised its ugly head as it usually does in presentations by the orthodox who try to explain the mysteries of Shakespeare by referring to the Stratford man’s fact-challenged life.

Mr. Greenblatt noted, for example, that Shakespeare certainly was not shy about using other people’s material, often throwing weird combinations into the pot, such as in King Lear in which appears, side by side, sources as disparate as Shakespeare’s contemporary Sir Philip Sidney and folk tales from England’s prehistory. But then came the typical Stratfordian spin that Shakespeare, being wildly successful, needed to find material fast to keep the plays coming to the stage to satisfy the Elizabethan hunger for drama.

None of the spin about Shakespeare is documented, of course, nor does it even come close to explaining the creative process which produced that exquisite body of work, but it was presented as fact to an audience willing to listen to authority, not to mention a good story. There was no thought, for example, that, as Nina Green has suggested, Shakespeare learned to write by employing the classics and other sources in his own creations.

How much more sense does it make to explore the possibility that Shakespeare lived under the same roof as Arthur Golding whose name appears as translator of Ovid’s Metamorphoses, well recognized as Shakespeare's primary source, and who in fact was Shakespeare's uncle and tutor? How much more sense that Shakespeare may well have participated in Golding's Ovid project as part of his learning and that his own craft resulted from the very process of weaving sources into finished plays because that is how he learned, not because he had to turn out plays for a demanding and impatient audience to earn fame and fortune and to compete with other playwrights?

Mr. Greenblatt also, both during his presentation and afterward in conversation, stressed his amazement with the mystery of why one of Shakespeare’s predominant themes throughout his work had to do with male friendship and betrayal. Well, duh! Or should I say, DUH! One of our favorite pastimes, of course, has been observing such expressions of mystery by the orthodox and musing at how obvious the answers would be to them if they would only open their eyes to what they refuse to acknowledge. But more about that later.

In the mean time, it was good enough to meet this literary titan and to leave with the sense that, yes, he is truly excited by Shakespeare and that, yes, perhaps that is the common ground upon which a dialogue might be built and finally that, yes, perhaps at some future time he might experience a certain cultural mobility in which we might not seem like such Holocaust deniers after all.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Greenblatt in Grand Rapids

Last night a few Oberons trekked across Michigan to attend Stephen Greenblatt’s lecture on “Cultural Mobility: The Strange Case of Shakespeare’s Cardenio” in the L.V. Eberhard Center at Grand Valley State University in downtown Grand Rapids.

Greenblatt, who is a professor of humanities at Harvard, is the GVSU’s Distinguished Academic Lecturer for their Fall Arts Celebration which includes the fifteenth anniversary season of the Grand Valley Shakespeare Festival. This year the festival offering is A Midsummer Night’s Dream ballywood-style at 7:30 p.m. Sept 26, 27, Oct. 2, 3, 4 and matinees at 2 p.m. Sept 27, 28, Oct 4, 5 at the Louis Armstrong Theatre Performing Arts Center on the GVSU Allendale campus.

Greenblatt is, famously, the author of numerous critical works on the Shakespeare oeuvre, most recently his 2004 $1-million baby -- Will in the World: How Shakespeare became Shakespeare. He is known for his development of a theory called “new historicism” which as near as I can figure says that writers are products of their culture. He is also notorious for his comment that those who doubt the legitimacy of the Stratford man’s authority over the works of William Shakespeare are akin to those who doubt the reality of the Holocaust that he later repudiated.

I went to see if he had horns and a tail, but he was neatly dressed in a gray suit with gray tie and white shirt – neat, lithe and dapper with closely clipped hair. He is a good looking man with a well modulated voice, who spoke with some hesitance especially during the brief question period.
The audience consisted of about 200 people, mostly students and a few older folk – supporters of the arts celebration – one of whom snoozed comfortably in the second row.

The whole issue of Cardenio is too convoluted to explain – really, it’s totally insane. Apparently there was a play by Fletcher and Shakespeare entered in the stationer’s register in 1612 that was based on a story in Don Quixote. What Greenblatt spoke about was his and Charles Mee’s version of the quasi-play and the Japanese, Croation, and Spanish iterations. Greenblatt and Mee’s Cardenio debuted in May at the American Repertory Theater in Cambridge, MA.

Greenblatt said Cardenio was headed for Broadway and that a famous actress agreed to play the part of “bitch” Doris but only if she could marry one of the principals at the end. When he and Mee declined to change, the Broadway deal fell through.

In his commentary, Greenblatt repeatedly referred to Shakespeare as a thief of material, but neglected to mention which public library the writer preferred.

“Shakespeare’s imagination worked by theft. He clearly preferred picking up pieces ready-made. He seemed open to the idea of ceaseless change," Greenblatt said.

And:
“The first thing that was said about Shakespeare is that he was a thief . . .,” Greenblatt said referring to Greene’s ‘upstart crow beautified with our feathers’ comment as if it referred to Shakespeare when, in fact, only an un-named “shake-scene” is mentioned.

The lecture was very hard to follow because much of the discussion was about the synopsis of the play and its iterations. Also I found Greenblatt’s style lacking in succinctness – finding the point of his commentary was difficult for me.

Greenblatt-isms I found particularly perplexing:
“ . . . peculiar irony of cultural mobility”
“The natives find themselves both stymied and colonized by what their past has bequeathed them.”

The university went all out for Greenblatt, hosting a gourmet dinner in a beautiful lounge overlooking the Grand River before the lecture. After Greenblatt spoke, a fruit and cheese buffet with chocolate-dipped strawberries, tiny fruit tarts, and mousse piped into individual spoons was served to all attendees.

Of course we stayed!

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Whirligig of time


. . . brings in his revenges. Clown, Twelfth Night, V,i

On September 21, the Oberons once again convened to the labyrinth in Howell to purify their hearts for another year's adventures.

And, of course, we ate. And Tom T. reminded us of time's whirligig while we ate:
tossed salad
bleu-cheese slaw
tuna noodle casserole
VG's fried chicken
pasta shells and peas
peanut butter krispy rice treats
chocolate zuccini cake
cheesecake and
the best chocolate cake in Michigan

And Richard was presented with a puzzle to commemorate his leadership in the Ann Arbor SOS/SF conference. (What's two year's delay among friends?)

Monday, August 18, 2008

August meeting announcement from Tom Hunter

Dear Oberon,

Our August meeting is coming up this Thursday, Aug. 21, at the Farmington Library on 12 Mile Rd. between Orchard Lake Rd. and Farmington Rd. at 6:45. For those who care to gather in the library coffee shop around 5:30, there will be a pre-meeting to discuss among other things, the Hamlet Project.

Even though much remains to be done on the Hamlet Project, we will take a look during the regular meeting at the possibility of an All's Well That Ends Well project, too. Recent productions of that play at the Michigan Shakespeare Festival and at Stratford, Ontario, have inspired a few of us Oberoners to take a closer look at All's Well for its Oxford connections.

Richard Joyrich will speak out about that experience and others which Stratford in particular had to offer, especially the Sonnet program which attempted to set the sonnets (well, maybe about 60-70 of them) into a story.

Also, we might be fortunate enough to hear another chapter from Barbara Burris' novel as it winds its way toward its suspenseful, mysterious and insightful (about authorship) conclusion. Barbara has been diligently working on the project for some time, now. We found the early excerpt which she presented to Oberon some months ago very well done, and we are looking forward to how things are developing.

So please make plans to be with us Thursday evening. We enjoy the participation of each and every one and are looking forward to welcoming prospective new members.

Tom Hunter
Oberon Chair

Saturday, July 26, 2008

Tiptoe Through the Sonnets in Stratford

Tom Hunter and I witnessed the latest of the attempts made in Stratford, Ontario to find some kind of flesh on the bones of the poet/playwright William Shakespeare. There just has to be a way to make some kind of “real” person out of these plays and poems! Ah, if only they could see the answer staring them in the face!

In recent years, Stratford has put on “Elizabeth Rex” about how Shakespeare met Queen Elizabeth in a barn the evening before the execution of the Earl of Essex and “Shakespeare’s Will” about Anne Hathaway’s recollections of life with William while reading his will after his death. The latest offering in these “speculative biographies” is “There Reigns Love”, a seemingly random stroll through the Sonnets devised and performed by acclaimed British actor Simon Callow (not to be confused with Simon Cowell of American Idol fame).

Mr. Callow has been presenting the work of John Padel, thereby saving it from the oblivion it may well deserve. But then again, who knows? John Padel was a psychoanalyst who in 1980 wrote a book called New Poems by Shakespeare. He (like many others before him) decided that the Sonnets, as published in 1609, could not be in the “proper order”. He was able to rearrange them into various tetrads and triads that would finally tell the “real story” that the sonnets reveal. He was promptly lambasted by virtually every Shakespearean scholar of all persuasions and his work has been all but forgotten (until resurrected by Mr. Callow)

This is the story of how William Shakespeare of Stratford was commissioned by Mary Sidney Herbert, Countess of Pembroke to write a series of sonnets for her son William Herbert (oh, the “W.H.” in the dedication of the sonnets!) on the occasion of his 17th birthday in order to urge him to marry and have children. Having done that, Shakespeare then proceeded to develop an intense “emotional attachment” to William Herbert, writing him a further 72 sonnets, arranged into 18 tetrads, for his 18th birthday. More sonnets were then written to him.

Then, perhaps anticipating Cyrano, Shakespeare decided to introduce “Mr. W.H.” to his mistress (with whom Shakespeare was having some kind of love/hate relationship) in order to “jump start” the young man’s seeming reticence about the opposite sex. Well, that plan worked too well, it appears, as the young man (Fair Youth that he was) began to take Shakespeare’s place in the affections of this Dark Lady. More sonnets on this topic ensued.

Finally, Shakespeare was forced to accept the situation and content himself with his inevitable failure with this young man, and “get on with his life”.

It’s a wonderful story. Maybe it’s true. Maybe it’s not. I’d say, not.

I was really dreading going to see this production, feeling that I would have to cringe throughout the whole thing. However, I actually found it very enjoyable. Mr. Callow performed the sonnets extremely well with great emotion and gestures and I couldn’t help “getting into the story”.

Although Padel managed to rearrange all 154 sonnets into the “proper order”, we were only treated to a performance of 66 of them (neatly arranged into 33 in each act of the performance) interspersed with some commentary by Simon Callow to “explain things”. I have the list and order of the sonnets which were presented available if anyone is interested in it.

To his credit, Mr. Callow did mention distinctly at the beginning of the performance that the whole thing is speculation and hypothesis. This is in distinction to the other two attempts by the Stratford Festival (which I mentioned at the beginning of this post) to find a “life” for Shakespeare, in which the speculative nature of the works was buried in the notes provided in the program book.

Of course, once the performance is on, the audience can quickly forget about this “disclaimer” and end up leaving the theater with the satisfying notion that they now understand Shakespeare the man.

The performance began with Mr. Callow reciting sonnet 129 and then explaining how this was the sonnet he wrote to secure the commission by the Countess of Pembroke. He then went on (I’m paraphrasing here), “Maybe. Who knows? Scholars have been arguing this for years. In fact, I could hear the scholars cringing even as I read that last sonnet.” At this point, Tom Hunter decided to test the theory we had heard about earlier that day during a Meet the Festival session that the actors on stage are fully aware of what happens in the audience. Tom proceeded to clap (softly) on hearing about the scholars cringing. The theory is true. Mr. Callow was momentarily distracted, but quickly recovered. Maybe he didn’t expect anyone to be listening that carefully to what he was saying.

After the performance, a small portion of the audience stayed behind for the Q and A session with Mr. Callow (including Tom and I although I did perceive that Mr. Callow avoided looking in our direction during this session [well maybe that was because there were only four audience members left on our side of the theater with most of the other people over on the other side]).

This Q and A session was very informative. We discovered that Mr. Callow does not necessarily believe in the story that John Padel has “uncovered”. Mr. Callow simply says that it seems obvious that there IS some kind of story contained in the sonnets and that John Padel’s story is the most complete elucidation of a possible story that he (Callow) has come across.

Later in the Q and A, Mr. Callow said that, when doing his presentation he is not sure if he is supposed to be “Simon Callow, William Shakespeare, or some other person who had the experiences written about in the sonnets”. Unfortunately, neither Tom not I was able to ask him to further explain this enigmatic comment.

The mystery of the sonnets lives on!

Sunday, July 20, 2008

All's Well at Michigan Shakespeare Festival

Dear Oberon,

I am pleased to report that a merry troupe of Oberoners spent an entertaining Saturday at the Michigan Shakespeare Festival at Jackson Community College in mid Michigan. The plays, All’s Well That Ends Well and Julius Caesar, were well done and exemplary of the festival’s high standards, but the highlight of the day had to be dinner with our guest, John Neville-Andrews, University of Michigan theater professor and Artistic Director of the Festival.

Mr. Neville-Andrews provided the group with stimulating observations about the festival and the direction of Shakespeare’s plays. He emphasized the need to understand all that can be known about the author of the works and encouraged us to keep him informed of our activities, including the Hamlet Project. We feel that, now that we have had a chance to become acquainted with him, that we have gained a new friend.

Mr. Neville-Andrews was in fact the director of All’s Well, a production that tosses out old shibboleths that the play is a problem comedy or that it is a dark comedy. He, instead, has accepted Shakespeare’s challenge to frame the play more correctly as it was intended. He chose to set it in Regency England for precisely that reason, because it was a time open to new ideas about personal relationships and gender roles. He views it as a social comedy in the mode of Ibsen, Chekhov and Strindberg, recognizing of course that Shakespeare preceded those dramatists by hundreds of years. He even felt confident enough to send the audience home with a song in their hearts with a 50s tune crooned by Carmen McRae. The beginning (you must see it yourself) and the ending of this production certainly demonstrate that Mr. Neville-Andrews is not afraid to go somewhat over the top.

With all of that, Mr. Neville-Andrews correctly goes to the heart of Shakespeare. In the program, he writes:
View the characters in the play as vulnerable, emotional human beings, with wants, needs, strengths, and weaknesses, and the play comes alive.

It is this kind of innovative yet relevant thinking that has characterized Festival productions, especially those of Mr. Neville-Andrews. The lack of that thinking in traditional theater has steered other directors away from this play.

Oxfordians would provide an additional perspective, of course, which we did at dinner, suggesting that understanding connections between Oxford’s life and the works carrying the pen-name William Shakespeare deepens our understanding of the work and adds another dimension to the genius we find there. Traditional critics have spent much time, for example, on the play within the play in Shakespeare but have resisted any attempt to learn about the play outside the play, Oxford’s experiences filtered through the literary media of poetry and drama to create and express the truths of an intensely realized life.

Mr. Neville-Andrews concludes his director’s notes with the observation:
George IV’s situation mirrored so closely the events in All’s Well That Ends Well.

It may be that the Elizabethan years might actually provide an even better setting for this play than the Regency period since the events in the play mirror even more closely the situation of a certain 17th Earl of Oxford, Edward de Vere.

We will spend some time demonstrating that proposition in coming posts. Please stay tuned. You are invited to offer your thoughts on this matter, especially those of you who have seen Mr. Neville-Andrews’ production.

Also, we have a rare chance to compare productions, since this play which is so infrequently boarded, is being offered simultaneously in Stratford, Ontario. Richard Joyrich and I will be bringing you news from Stratford soon about their version of All’s Well. I am hoping only that the Stratford version is as insightful as that staged by John Neville-Andrews and the Michigan Shakespeare Festival.

Warmest regards to all,
Tom Hunter
Oberon Chair

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Theil comment on NPR

Rules!

I sent a note to NPR thanking them for the authorship story they ran last week and giving my take on the issue. Today on the Morning Edition show -- July 10, 2008 -- they read comments from some letters on the topic and mine was one! What a thrill!

To hear the broadcast, go to Letters: Shakespeare, Physicians, Credit, Kindle and click on LISTEN NOW to load stream and hear the commentary.

Monday, July 7, 2008

Free Shakespeare in Buffalo, NY


Our friend Robin Y. saw a great King Lear for free at a Buffalo, NY park last week. This annual Shakespeare festival in Buffalo that started in 1976 is free to the public and draws crowds second only to New York City's Central Park Shakespeare in the Park free festival. The Buffalo, NY event has something else in common with New York's festival -- the park where the Buffalo festival is held was designed by Frederick Law Olmstead, just as Central Park was an Olmstead design. In fact, Robin says Buffalo boasts several Olmstead parks. Their Shakespeare festival takes place in the Olmstead design called Deleware Park, in Buffalo, NY. Here is what they say about the venue on their Shakespeare in Deleware Park website:

Our festival takes place in a historic park designed by Frederick Law
Olmsted, father of landscape architecture, and the nation's foremost parkmaker. Behind the Park's rose garden stands our grand Tudor-Style stage on a sweeping hill of green. In this beautiful setting under the stars, Shakepeare's stories live on to explore the truths of the human heart; tragedy, jealousy, foolishness, passion, laughter, and love.
King Lear is onstage Thursdays - Sundays through July 13; Merry Wives of Windsor runs July 24 - August 17.

P.S. The Buffalo Olmstead Parks Conservancy will hold an Olmstead Gala on July 18.

Thursday, July 3, 2008

NPR story on authorship

Tom Hunter heard this story on National Public Radio's "Morning Edition" program this morning and forwarded the information to Oberon membership:
Who wrote Shakespeare's plays? by correspondent Renee Montagne.

The broadcast is full of great information including a link to the full text of Mark Twain's 1909 publication, "Is Shakespeare Dead?" at the Electronic Text Center of the University of Virginia. The author quotes scholar Diana Price and provides a link to Chapter 1 of Price's book Shakespeare's Unorthodox Biography published by Greenwood Publishing Group in 2000.

There are also links to related NPR stories. The Price chapter is housed on the site of Public Broadcasting System's site for its Frontline program on the authorship -- a Marlovian point-of-view titled, "Much Ado about Something" that aired in 2003. The transcript to this program may be downloaded free of charge from the PBS site.

A free transcript is also available of Frontline's 1989 broadcast of "The Shakespeare Mystery" -- an Oxfordian take on the authorship question that introduced Charlton Ogburn Jr's passionate advocacy of Oxford to many viewers almost 20 years ago.

This Shakespeare Mystery site hosted by PBS features updates, links, a reading list and more on the topic of authorship.

Tuesday, June 3, 2008

News from John Shahan at the Shakespeare Authorship Coalition


Note: The information at the Contrary Views pages mentioned below is a particularly cogent and beautifully crafted response to Stratfordian bluster. LT

Letter from John Shahan:
The Shakespeare Authorship Coalition (SAC) is pleased to announce that Sir Derek Jacobi has agreed to join Mark Rylance as a Patron of the SAC. As you may recall, Mark and Sir Derek teamed up to launch the Declaration of Reasonable Doubt in Chichester, England, last year following the final performance of Mark's play, "I Am Shakespeare." The event, held on 8 September (dubbed "Doubters' Day"), was a smashing success; so we are pleased to be able to keep this outstanding team together. Sir Derek has long been an outspoken supporter of the view that the Shakespeare Authorship Issue should be taken seriously. It is therefore extremely gratifying to us that, in addition to very publicly signing the Declaration, he is also willing to serve in this capacity. Thank you, Sir Derek Jacobi!

Although the Shakespeare Birthplace Trust (SBT) declined our invitation to participate in the declaration-signing event in Chichester, we certainly got their attention. The September 27, 2007, issue of The Stage magazine featured an article by SBT Chairman Stanley Wells in which he criticized Mark and Sir Derek for signing the Declaration, warning them that they risked ending up in a lunatic asylum, like Delia Bacon. ("Beware, Mark and Sir Derek!") Openly angry at the Declaration, and especially at Mark and Sir Derek for promulgating it, Wells nevertheless controlled himself long enough to offer a number of specific criticisms.

The current issue of The Stage contains Mark's reply, in which he refers readers to the SAC website where they can read Prof. Wells' original article, Mark's reply, plus a point-by-point rebuttal to Wells' specific criticisms of the Declaration. To read this online "debate," go to the Contrary Views page on our website. See for yourself who has the better argument -- Mark in saying there's reasonable doubt, or his former Globe Theatre colleague, Wells, in claiming certainty?

(The entire exchange can also be read and downloaded in PDF format at the website of the Shakespearean Authorship Trust, of which Mark Rylance is chairman. The SAT will be holding its annual lecture series in London during the month of November again this year. Please check back at their website closer to that time for the specifics of the SAT lecture series.)

Over 1,300 people have now signed the Declaration, including more than 1,000 since the Chichester event. These include 223 (17%) current or former college/university faculty members, 177 (13.5%) with doctoral degrees, and 274 (21%) with master's degrees. The largest category by academic field continues to be English literature graduates (222), followed by those in the arts (134), theatre arts (89), education (80), math, engineering & computers (70), social sciences (68), history (64), natural sciences (57), medicine & health care (55), law (53), other humanities (52), management (45), and psychology (40). (The number residing in lunatic asylums was minuscule, so relax, Professor Wells.) We urge everyone to continue your efforts to recruit additional signatories, especially academics and other highly credible individuals. The Declaration is the best brief introduction to the authorship issue.

Finally, we would like to ask for your support. As a non-membership organization, the SAC charges no dues. We depend entirely on voluntary donations. We publish no newsletter, hold no conferences, and charge no fee to sign the Declaration. We are completely focused on promoting the Declaration, and on legitimizing the Authorship Issue in academia. Our expenses are low, but we do need money to operate our website, collect signatures, and seek publicity. Even small donations ($10 - $20) are very helpful. Please visit the Donations page on our website and make a tax deductible donation today, or send a check to: Shakespeare Authorship Coalition, 310 North Indian Hill Blvd., #200, Claremont, CA 91711.

Thank you very much.
Sincerely, John Shahan, SAC Chairman

Monday, June 2, 2008

Oberons choose July 19 to attend Michigan Shakespeare Festival in Jackson, MI


Join the Oberons on July 19 for our annual trip to the Michigan Shakespeare Festival at the Baughman Theater in the George E. Potter Center on the campus of Jackson Community College in Jackson, Michigan.

Here's the schedule:
  • We will arrive at lunchtime for our BYO picnic
  • attend the matinee of All's Well That Ends Well at 2 p.m.
  • have a group nosh at Knights Steakhouse (or alternative) with the festival's delightful Managing Director Mary Matthews after the play
  • return to the theater in time for the 6:45 p.m. "Bard Talk" with Dr. Kirk Hendershott-Kraetzer, distinguished Shakespeare scholar and Chair of Humanities at Olivet College
  • see Julius Caesar at 7:30 p.m.
  • Find a Tim Hortons for coffee and doughnuts (just kidding!)

Tickets are $24 for the matinee and $27 for the evening performance. Call the box office at (517) 796-8600, or toll-free (866) 705-2636 to reserve a seat, or buy tickets at the door on the day of the event.

Everyone is welcome to join us. If you see a herd of Oxfordians, please come up and say, hi!

Saturday, May 31, 2008

Mark Rylance Interviewed on National Public Radio

On National Public Radio's Weekend Edition today, Scott Simon interviewed Mark Rylance, starring currently in the French farce, Boeing Boeing. The Broadway play also features Gina Gershon and Christine Baranski and Rylance has just been nominated for a Tony award. I think you will enjoy the interview. Rylance is very engaging.

Rylance was also interviewed on the authorship issue, but that was not broadcast, only placed on the website.

NPR also provided a link to the Declaration of Reasonable Doubt.

View the NPR story page and links here.

Thursday, May 29, 2008

Don't touch the bones!

I was pleased to find an article in the Detroit Free Press (May 28, 2008) on the work needed at Shakespeare's gravesite in Stratford-upon-Avon. Apparently the stones above the gravesite in Holy Trinity Church need some repairing. The difficulty is that pesky inscription about being cursed if one "moves my bones". So the repairman will have to be very careful when they do their work.

Come to think of it, maybe this is a great opportunity for the Stratfordians. They already replaced the memorial bust when it "needed repairs", making it more palatable to the idea of the man being an author rather than a grain-dealer. Now they can replace the doggerel verse on the marker above Shakespeare's grave with something that fits better with the Works as we know them.

You can read the article for yourself. It's quite fun.

Saturday, May 24, 2008

Richard III in Kuwait -- 2009


From Midsummer in Baghdad to Richard in Kuwait, directors seem to be keen on a mid-eastern setting for the works of Shakespeare. On March 20, 21, and 22, 2009, the University Musical Society will present the Sulayman Al-Bassam Theatre's Richard III -- An Arab Tragedy based on Richard III by William Shakespeare at the Power Center in Ann Arbor, Michigan.

The Al-Bassam group produced The Al-Hamlet Summit (2002-2005) and were commissioned by the Royal Shakespeare Company to create the Richard adaption as part of their Complete Works Festival in 2007.

The UMS brochure says:

Performed with a company of actors from England and across the Arab world, the work is accompanied by a live Arab musical score. Performed in Arabic with English supertitles, this work will be seen exclusively at UMS and the Kennedy Center.

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Interlochen Center for the Arts’ Summer Schedule of Events and Workshops

Linda Theil invited me to share with you some of the fine arts events scheduled at Interlochen Center for the Arts this summer. If you have any questions, please email me and I’ll be happy to get you more information. Hope to see you up here this summer. Let me know when you’re coming and I’ll give you a personal tour of Interlochen’s campus.
Thanks.
Gordon Berg
berggm@interlochen.org

NEW! Interlochen Shakespeare Festival (June 26-29 and July 3-6)
This year Interlochen is presenting as part of their summer-events schedule the first Interlochen Shakespeare Festival. For this inaugural year, they're performing "Twelfth Night." The company is comprised of a core ensemble of Interlochen faculty and alumni under the artistic direction of William Church. Surrealist painter René Magritte provides the inspiration for the mythical setting of Illyria. It will be performed in the intimate, 200-seat, Harvey Theatre. Tickets are $25.
Click here and scroll for "Twelfth Night" performance details:
http://www.interlochen.org/arts_festival/festival_calendar

Click here for some photos of Harvey Theatre:
http://www.interlochen.org/arts_festival/venue_information/harvey


Theatre Workshop for Educators: Shakespeare in Performance (June 26-28)
The Interlochen Theatre Workshop for Educators will address techniques for bringing Shakespeare to life in the classroom and on the stage. It will explore practical strategies to make 17th century text accessible to 21st century students. Participants will join the director and cast of the Interlochen Shakespeare Festival to experience and discuss a variety of topics and will observe classes and rehearsals for the Interlochen Arts Camp production of
"A Midsummer Night's Dream."
Click here for workshop details:
http://www.interlochen.org/college/2008_program_offerings/2008_theatre_workshop

Early Music Workshop (June 8-13)
The Interlochen Early Music Workshop focuses on early techniques, articulation, ornamentation, improvisation and ensemble arrangement in medieval and renaissance music. The workshop culminates with a participant performance on period instruments, such as recorders and other early winds, viols, lutes, harpsichord and percussion.
Click here for workshop details:
http://www.interlochen.org/college/2008_program_offerings/2008_early_music_workshop

2008 Summer Arts Festival (June 20-August 23)
In addition to many contemporary performances, Interlochen’s 2008 Summer Arts Festival showcases many fine arts concerts, including:

  • Maia String Quartet (June 26)
  • Olga Kern, pianist, with Interlochen’s World Youth Symphony Orchestra (July 6)
  • Interlochen “Collage” (July 8)
  • JoAnn Falletta conducts Interlochen’s World Youth Symphony Orchestra’s Performance of Prokofiev’s “Romeo and Juliet” (July 13)
  • Kun-Yang Lin/Dancers (July 14)
  • Avalon String Quartet (July 17)
  • Sumi Jo (soprano) with Interlochen’s World Youth Symphony Orchestra (July 20)
  • Valade Faculty Recital (July 22)
  • Jon Nakamatsu, pianist (July 23)
  • Canadian Brass (July 25)
  • Andrew Litton conducts Interlochen’s World Youth Symphony Orchestra (July 27)
  • Enso String Quartet (August 13, 15 & 18)

Click here for complete details:
http://www.interlochen.org/arts_festival/festival_calendar

Sunday, May 4, 2008

Lights, Camera, Shakespeare!

I'm beginning to think that Stratford, Ontario has a real rival in The Chicago Shakespeare Theater. In my long experience of going to this venue (a total of four times so far) I have never ceased to be amazed at what is being accomplished there. Who would have thought that such good theater could be found on Navy Pier in Chicago, home to a giant ferris wheel, a number of overpriced tourist shops, an IMAX theater, a Children's Museum, a beer hall, and about six places selling elephant ears (summer only)?

Anyway, about the performance I saw there last night. I had to go to Chicago for a medical conference (I try to fit them in between Shakespeare conferences) and couldn't pass up the opportunity to visit the Pier once again (even though the elephant ear places were not yet open). While not as astounding as the last time I was there (Othello-one of the best performances I've ever seen), the current production of The Comedy of Errors was quite enjoyable.

Actually, this title is perhaps a little inappropriate as the play we all know as The Comedy of Errors only accounted for about two-thirds of what happened on stage. As The Comedy of Errors is Shakespeare's shortest play, directors have frequently tried to do something to give the audience their "money's worth". In this case, Barbara Gaines (founder and artistic director of the Chicago Shakespeare Theater) went to comedian and writer Ron West to write a "framing" play.

The idea here is that a group of filmakers at Shepperton Studios in London in 1940 have come together to make a film version of The Comedy of Errors as a war effort, to "take the public's mind off of Jerry for a while". They have to do this by using actors who for various reasons are not busy fighting in the war and also have to make the film despite repeated bombing raids on the studio by the Germans. 

They do have Emerson Furbelow, star of that memorable film (fictional of course) "Blood of the Pirate", who hopes to break out of the stereotype of the swashbuckler by playing Antipholus of Syracuse, only to find out about the sword duel that occurs in Act 5 of the play. They have Lord Brian Hallifax, an amazingly conceited Shakespearean actor who has fallen on hard times and hopes to revive his career and parlay it into doing a film of Henry V for the war effort (I guess he didn't know Olivier was already working on this). He is all set to play Antipholus of Ephesus when word comes that Major Phillip Sullivan, that famous American singing sensation who is currently volunteering with the Royal Air Force, has suddenly found that he has a few days between assignments and wants to make his film debut. Of course, with such "star power" the director and producers of the film give the part of A. of E. to him and poor Lord Brian has to be content with playing Dromio of Ephesus (actually a better part in my opinion). Major Sullivan reads the script and finds it "very funny, but I still don't get this Shakespeare crap."

A very funny scene occurs when Lord Brian, as D. of E., suddenly breaks into the "St. Crispan Day" speech from Henry V after he is hit by Major Sullivan (as A. of E.) in Act 4 of the play (the Dromios are constantly being hit by their masters). After the "director" Dudley Marsh (who is also playing Dromio of Syracuse) yells, "Cut!" Lord Brian explains that he had the idea that Dromio would suffer "blackouts" from all the hitting he is receiving and enter a "trance-like" state in which he would recite famous Shakespearean passages. Needless to say, this idea does not go over with Mr. Marsh and the "St. Crispan" speech ends up on the cutting-room floor.

There are many such memorable characters and personal interactions among the filmakers and I could go on about more of them, but suffice it to say that, although the audience does get to see virtually a complete performance of Shakespeare's play (cut very slightly) as the "film" is being shot, the added scenes of the making of the film frame and comment on Shakespeare's work and combine to produce a completely different theatrical event.

Ron West (writer of the added scenes) was asked in an interview (reprinted in the theater program), "What, The Comedy of Errors isn't funny enough for you?". He replied,"It's certainly funny, but as I am a direct descendent of Plautus, whose work Shakespeare stole, I am working on the script solely to right a wrong which was been done to my family about 1,300 years ago."

The play runs in Chicago until June 29. I recommend it if you can make it there.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Percy Allen Book from 1930

Here's a find that you all may find of interest:

"The Case for Edward de Vere Seventh Earl of Oxford as"Shakespeare"" authored by Percy Allen. It's published by Cecil Palmer Chandos Street London, First Edition 1930 Copyright

I found this at a used bookstore last weekend. Here are the chapters:

I. Introductory
II. Oxford's Poems and Shakespeare
III. Shakespeare in the Lyrics of Lyly's Plays
IV. Oxford in "Venus" and "Lucrece"
V. Oxford in Chapman's Poems
VI. Oxford in the Shakesperean Sonnets
VII. The "Publication Committee" of Elizabethian Drama
VIII. Oxford in the Shakesperean Comedies
IX. Oxford in the Shakesperean Comedies...continued
X. Oxford in the Shakesperean Tragedies
XI. Oxford in the Shakesperean Tragedies...continued
XII. Oxford in the First Folio, and Summary

I'll bring the volume with me to the next Oberon meeting on May 15th.

If anyone has any background information on the author or this publication, please share it!

Thursday, April 10, 2008

RIchard Joyrich reports on 12th Annual Shakespeare Authorship Studies Conference at Concordia University in Portland, Oregon

April 3, 2008

Hi Oberoners,

I made it to Portland and I have just come back from the first day of the 12th Annual Shakespeare Authorship Studies Conference (hereafter SASC) at Concordia University. It's always nice to be here (I think it's my 6th time) and see some of the familiar faces. I have regards from the three Sharpes for those Oberoners they met when they attended the Ann Arbor Conference in 2006.

Bonnie Miller Cutting on Pembroke portrait
Well, here goes the first installment of my conference reports:The first talk (at 4 PM today) was by Bonner Miller Cutting, titled "The Case of the Wrong Countess". She spoke of a large painting by Sir Anthony Van Dyke which can be seen at Wilton House (seat of the Earls of Pembroke). It was probably painted in 1625 and shows Philip Herbert, 4th Earl of Pembroke (one of the "incomparable brethren" who the First Folio was dedicated to) with many members of his family (sons and their wives, his daughter and her husband, his oldest son, Charles, and his intended wife Mary Villiers (Charles was to die suddenly just before the marriage could take place soon after this painting was done). There is also a woman in black sitting just to the left of Philip in the painting. The question is, who is she?

The current scholarly opinion is that she is Lady Ann Clifford, Philip's second wife. However Bonner argues very persuasively that the woman is really Susan Vere (daughter of Edward deVere) who was Philip's first wife and who died in 1629 and so is painted "posthumously". Interestingly, scholarly opinion in the 18th and 19th century was that this WAS Susan Vere, but the tide turned around 1900 to identifying her as Lady Anne instead. Bonner wonders why this turn of events happened. Is Susan Vere being "erased" from history as her father has been?

Ian Haste on authorship
Next was a very entertaining presentation by Ian Haste, called "Shakespeare: Can We Be Sure". Ian has been working on creating a CD to be used at high schools to introduce the students to the Authorship Question. He played the current version for us. Some parts were finished and had his narration included along with the music and PowerPoint slides. For the other parts, Ian filled in the narration "live". Ian is a master at PowerPoint and the presentation had all kinds of animation and special effects which would make it quite fun for students to watch. It goes through the standard objections to William of Stratford as the author, but leaves the question of who actually DID write the plays until "next time".

Alex McNeil, J.D,: "...but not Shakespeare
Then came Alex McNeil with "...but not Shakespeare". This talk was based on a category he used when doing Oxfordian Jeopardy at the Carmel Conference last October. The five "answers" in the category all referred to things that we would expect Shakespeare to have done, but instead we find that he didn't. The reason seems to be that his identity was unknown or that he had already died before being able to do them (but the Stratford man would have still been alive).

The five things were:
1) Number of books dedicated to Shakespeare-zero
2) No mention of tobacco in any plays. Tobacco was introduced to England around 1590 and became all the rage. Does this mean that the plays were all substantially written before this?
3) Henry Peacham mentions several poets in The Compleat Gentleman in 1622 who he considers the best ones. Shakespeare is not one of them.
4) Dozens of poets and playwrights wrote elegies to Prince Henry (son of James I) on the occasion of his sudden death in 1612, but not Shakespeare.
5) Dozens of poets and playwrights contributed verses to the introductory material of a famous travelogue in 1612 called "Coryat's Crudities", but not Shakespeare.

Professor Sam Saunders, Ph.D. on Stratford Grammar School
The next talk, by Sam Saunders, was "Some Odds on Life, Education and Other Anomalies of Elizabethan England: A Statistical Analysis of Stratfordian Date" This impressive title is not a real good description of the talk, but it was interesting to hear anyway. Saunders is a mathematician and he wanted to check out what the chances were that young Will Shakspere would have been able to attend and graduate from the Stratford Grammar School.

Stratfordians always maintain that he could have (there are no records either way), but Oxfordians have questioned this. Was there room for all the young boys from Stratford in the small school house? How many stayed in school until they graduated? Using complicated statistical analyses of birth and death rates to determine the probable population of Stratford and other analyses regarding infant and childhood mortality, Saunders concluded that, in fact, there WAS a good chance that young Will could have gone to the school. But he added that the school was very oriented to Protestantism and Will's father, likely being a Catholic recusant, might not have wanted his son to attend.

David Gontar, Ph.D. on Hamlet
The last paper of the day was given by David Gontar, Ph.D., called "Hamlet Made Simple". Actually it wasn't so simple. Gontar explained that his paper was 59 pages long so he would only read us the highlights of the first half. There was nothing particularly relevant to the Authorship Question in this first half (but there were some indications of things presumably to come in the unpresented second half), but it was still quite interesting.

Dr. Gontar maintains that four troubling questions about the play could be partially answered by considering that Hamlet could really be the illegitimate son of Claudius and Gertrude and that either Hamlet or Claudius knew or suspected this. The four questions that could be helped by this consideration are:
1) The interesting things that the ghost says or does not say to Hamlet. Is the ghost lying? Why doesn't he give Hamlet more information?
2) Why hasn't Hamlet inherited the kingdom from his father who was the previous King?
3) Why is Hamlet so mad with his mother in the Closet Scene?
4) Why does Hamlet seem to be unable to kill Claudius?

Well, that brought us to 9 p.m. and it was time to retire to the Kennedy School for a nightcap. 

April 4, 2008

Another full day at the Conference -- here's a rundown:

Professor Daniel Wright, Ph.D. on illegitimacy
First up, Daniel Wright on "Fine word, ‘legitimate’! Legitimizing illegitimacy in Shakespeare". Dr. Wright reminded everyone about some things he has lectured on before, the ways in which Shakespeare seems to take great care in the History Plays to bring out the best in the various Earls of Oxford in history, exaggerating their good deeds and not mentioning their bad ones. It seems that Shakespeare has some feelings for this family line, hmm?

Dr. Wright then went on to his main topic, how the themes of succession and what makes a rightful and legitimate ruler are found throughout the plays. It seems obvious that his intended audience was not the public or the box office, but the rulers of his day.

Professors Delahoyde and Draya on Titus
Next up, the familiar tag-team approach of Michael Delahoyde, Ph.D. and Ren Draya, Ph.D. (this is the third time they have teamed up) on "Edward deVere's Hand in Titus Andronicus". They mentioned that Titus is now considered a lesser play by most scholars, some of who would like to be able to show that Shakespeare didn't write it, but in reality it is a good play for what it tries to accomplish. It is filled with metaphor and allegory with body parts symbolizing politics and proper behavior at the beginning, then becoming more literal with them being chopped off, etc.

Aaron the Moor seems to be a kind of playwright in the way he orchestrates much of the action of the play. A powerful symbol is when Lavinia with her tongue cut out and her hands chopped off picks up Titus's chopped off hand in her mouth. This represents a text which is mutilated, but holding its creator (father). Does this speak to deVere's feelings of not being able to acknowledge his authorship?

Titus was the first Shakespeare play to be printed (although without an author's name attached) and can be seen as a primer for the later works. Many themes and happenings are seen here first, such as the obsession with family, the revenge tragedy, the play within a play, the role of the "outsider", etc.

Charles Beauclerk on author-ity
After lunch we had the Keynote Address by Charles Beauclerk, "Shakespeare's Identity Crisis". As always Charles, a collateral descendent of Edward deVere, gave us a wonderful presentation. He points out that we can look into the plays to assess the psychology of the author, even though most traditional scholars would prefer to divorce Shakespeare from his works and make him "an icon of respectability".

As was mentioned in other talks, a primary theme for Shakespeare is the association of truth and kingship. Another related theme is the king who loses his status and then has to regain it through "suffering" or a "journey" Mistaken or concealed identity is seen throughout the plays. In short, Shakespeare's words are his "kingdom of truth".

Amy Freed's Beard of Avon
Next was playwright Amy Freed, author of the play Beard of Avon which explores the authorship question and has been playing successfully all over the country (but apparently not in Michigan yet). It just finished a run here in Portland. Too bad it couldn't have extended its run so that the conference attendees could see it!

Amy talked about how she came up through the ranks of being an actress, then director, then playwright and that she could see how the traditional story of Shakespeare could have occurred, or at least could understand the draw of the theater that could have brought young Will out of Stratford. She still has trouble with many other parts of his so-called biography however. She has not yet committed to a favorite authorship candidate.

She does admit to undergoing a "sea-change" however in writing the play and then seeing the response it has gotten. She is happy that so many people seem to be interested in the authorship question and seem to know about it. The idea of writing the play started out as a funny thing (what if Oxford was found to be the true author and all those mugs had to be thrown away?) but it has now turned more serious for her.

Peter Dawkins on Bacon
The final presentation was by Peter Dawkins, probably the most prominent Baconian around. He presented a brief overview of the "Evidence for Francis Bacon as Leader, Principal Poet and Editor-in-Chief of a Group of Poets Who Composed the 'Shake-scene' and Acknowledged Bacon as Their 'Shakespeare'"

He drew on Green's Groatsworth of Wit, the Northumberland Manuscript, (now incomplete, but which originally had three plays ascribed to Bacon, two of which are what we now considerer Shakespeare's Richard II and Richard III, Nashe's Isle of Dogs, and some other works which all scholars accept as by Bacon), and John Haywood's book on Henry IV which was based on Shakespeare's Richard II and what happened when Bacon, as Queen's Counsel, tried to defend Haywood on the charge of treason for writing it.

Many other documents were also described which purport to show Bacon's authorship of the plays. Many were quite interesting. That's all I have time or space to write about now. I have to get a good night's sleep.

April 5, 2008

Well, day three of the conference is finished. Here’s what happened:

Professor Michael Thomas, M.A. on authorship
First talk was by Professor Michael Thomas of the Classical Language Department at Concordia. He talked about some of the considerations used to date and ascribe authorship of ancient texts such as books of the Bible. He pointed out that the view of authorship then was different in that there was no real author. There were oral traditions that just finally got written down, so it’s not really comparable with what we are trying to do with the Shakespeare works. There are a few similar methods used however.

Earl Showerman, M.D. on Hercules allusions
Next we were treated to another in Earl Showerman's series of talks on Greek sources for Shakespeare.  This talk was on allusions to Hercules in the Shakespeare plays, of which there are over 35. The point is (just like in Earl’s talks before) that many of the allusions come from sources that were not yet translated into Latin or English when the plays were written. Thus the author had to be able to read Greek, something difficult to imagine for the Stratford man.

Alan Nelson, Ph.D. on The Lodger Shakespeare
Next was Stratfordian Alan Nelson. It was another of his talks which Macbeth would call “full of sound and fury, signifying nothing”. It was actually two talks. The first one was Professor Nelson’s attempt to lay to rest the argument that the term “ever-living poet” in the dedication to the Sonnets in 1609 means that the poet was dead at that time (eliminating the Stratford man). He listed many examples of the use of “ever-living”, but it seems to me that many of them DO refer to people who are dead and others refer to “ever-living” works or fame, not to a person. Maybe one or two could refer to a living person, but in those cases the person is a royal personage, so the context is different.

In the question period Roger Stritmatter wondered that even if we could find one or two examples where the term was really used for a living person, wouldn’t the fact that there are countless other times (almost always) that it refers to a dead person cause us to still conclude that the use of it in the Sonnet dedication most likely meant that the poet was dead? Nelson replied (I paraphrase here) “No, if you don’t know something completely, you should shut up”.

Nelson’s second talk was a criticism of Charles Nicholls' new book, The Lodger Shakespeare, about Shakespeare’s (from Stratford) stay with the Montjoys in London. Nelson finds fault with some of Nicholl’s readings of the original documents. Of one in particular, Nelson says that Nicholls got it wrong and then built up a whole scenario about what it meant. Nelson says it’s typical of how Nicholls works. He gets a few small facts and then builds up a whole story around it. As Nelson put it (again I paraphrase) “It’s like that bubble soap that floats, just full of air” Hearing this, I somehow was put in mind of Stratfordian methodology.

Richard Whalen on the Basse Elegy
After lunch, we came back to hear Richard Whalen on the “Basse Elegy” to Shakespeare, found in some later editions of the plays (after 1633), which some Stratfordians use to bolster their case. Whalen reports on a new take on it by a Stratfordian named Brandon Centerwall in Shakespeare Survey 2006, apparently endorsed by top orthodox scholars, which finds that the poem was actually written by John Donne with a hypothesized scenario as to how it came to be attributed to Basse. Whalen shows that this scenario actually fits better with the Earl of Oxford as Shakespeare. I can’t really explain it here because you need to see the actual elegy poem.

Hank Wittemore on "A Lover's Complaint"
Next was Hank Whittemore on A Lover’s Complaint. After noting that this poem (printed together with the Sonnets in 1609) has started to disappear from editions of the Collected Works of Shakespeare since Brian Vickers came out with his theory that it was really written by John Davies, Hank went on to show that:
1) it was written by Shakespeare
2) it was written by Edward deVere
3) the Young Man in the poem is Oxford’s view of himself
4) Oxford is describing the dynamics of his early relationship with the Queen
5) even though the poem is printed after the Sonnets, it is actually telling the beginning of the story (the one about Southampton being the son of Oxford and Elizabeth) which continues in the Sonnets and then in the other poems of Shakespeare.

Bill Boyle on Willobie
Last talk for the day (in the lecture room anyway) was by William Boyle. It was about the poem "Willobie, His Avisa" which has been largely ignored by scholars of all persuasions. Bill went through the argument put out by a Stratfordian, Barbara DeLuna, in 1970 which identifies Avisa as Elizabeth and the five suitors who appear in the poem as real-life suitors of Elizabeth. The important thing here (and maybe why DeLuna’s work has been virtually ignored by Stratfordians) is that, with her theory in place, the character “W.S.” in the poem cannot refer to William Shakespeare (at least not the one from Stratford) as has always been maintained by orthodox scholars.

Awards Banquet
But wait, that’s not all. It was now time for the Awards Banquet at the University Club!

The award for Artistic Excellence was given to Amy Freed, author of the play Beard of Avon. Two awards for Scholarly Excellence were given out, one to Peter Dawkins (the Baconian who spoke to us on Friday) and one to Bertram Fields, author of the book Players which goes through the case for all viable candidates for the Shakespeare authorship.

Bertram Fields, author of Players
Bertram Fields then gave the Banquet Address, in which he spoke of his book. As a lawyer, he told us that there will probably never be certainties, but we can go with the things that seem most probable, given the facts that we know (i.e. the “preponderance of the evidence”).

He went through his feeling that the man from Stratford could not be the author (at least not the primary one) and that someone more noble and better traveled, etc had to be the one. He favors the Earl of Oxford. However, he still hears a “second voice” in the plays which he takes to be the actor-manager Will Shakespeare of Stratford who has added some lines here or there to the plays to make them more palatable or exciting to the audience, knowing more about what they would like than the nobleman would.

Well, that’s it for now. More tomorrow on the last day of the Conference.

April 6, 2008

Well, it’s over. Another Shakespeare Authorship Conference has come and gone. Here’s what today brought:

An Initial Disappointment
The first talk was supposed to be by Chris Coleman, Artistic Director of Portland Center Stage (which just finished a run of Amy Freed’s play, Beard of Avon) on “Searching for Directorial Style in the Silence of Shakespeare’s Biography. However Mr. Coleman couldn’t make it at the last minute, so we had an extra 30 minutes of free time. It’s too bad. I would have liked to hear him.

Rima Greenhill, Ph.D. on Love's Labor's Lost
The second talk (the first one actually given) was another in the series of talks by Rima Greenhill on Russian influences on the play LLL. I think this was the fourth in the series. In this talk, we heard about the history of English-Russian relations as far as trade and economics in Elizabethan times. At this time there was a lot of “secret” stuff going on in trade. Privateers like Francis Drake were sent out, allegedly for exploration, but also for plundering enemy ships (like from Spain).

In the case of Russia, in addition to legitimate trade, there was covert shipments of arms and shipbuilders to Russia to build up its army and navy. This was all officially denied by Elizabeth, who even had an official proclamation made that such things would be considered illegal and punishable (but in reality she encouraged it secretly for economic and political gain). Rima believes that the play LLL was written, in part, as a response to this kind of thing, instructing the Queen how to properly rule.

William Farina on Coriolanus
Then came William Farina, from Chicago, to run through Oxfordian considerations in the play Coriolanus (which I had just seen in Ashland). He went through the traditional dating of the play (to about 1607 or 1608), showing how shaky it was (even most traditional scholars would agree to this). It’s mostly placed at this time since it seems to be a later play of Shakespeare on stylistic reasons and has to fit into Shakespeare's (of Stratford) lifetime.

He then went on to show how Oxfordians might date the play earlier. He then talked about many biographical parallels in the play to Oxford. It was a good concise statement of an Oxfordian reading of the play.

Professor Roger Stritmatter, Ph.D. on Jonsonus Virbius
Next was Professor Roger Stritmatter on a 1638 work done in honor of Ben Jonson (recently deceased) by several of his friends and colleagues. Stritmatter has been working on this topic for many years and his results are still preliminary, but it seems that, while praising Jonson, the contributors are also hinting at Jonson’s penchant for trickery and secrecy. This kind of thing sheds a lot of doubt on the material Jonson wrote to be included as prefatory matter in the First Folio of Shakespeare.

Michael Delahoyde named Jeopardy champion
The conference ended with a rousing game of Shakespeare Authorship Jeopardy with Alex McNeil (this is usually called Oxfordian Jeopardy, but this conference is not supposed to be exclusive). I reprised my role (at the Carmel Conference last October) of game board manager. Contestants were Professor Michael Delahoyde, Winona Sharpe, and Michael Thomas (a student of Daniel Wright at Concordia) Michael Delahoyde managed to “squeak” a win. Final scores were Delahoyde 19400, Thomas 200, and Sharpe 0. It was all quite fun.

Well, it’s now time to get ready to come home. My plane leaves at 6:40 a.m., so I’ll have to turn in early.

See you all soon,

Richard