Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Shakespeare authorship classes offered at two eastern universities in 2011

The Shakespeare authorship controversy will be discussed in two, new classes at eastern universities in the new year:

In Ostrowski’s class the Shakespeare authorship controversy will be one among many issues the class will investigate. Ostrowski will not attempt to resolve controversies; he will use them to enlighten his students on the topic of scholarly debate. From Ostrowski’s "Historical Controversies" syllabus:

My intent in offering this course and in is to define a number of controversies that are currently exercising scholarly ingenuity and to analyze each of these controversies by means of three criteria of historical study: accurate representation of the evidence, logical argument, and conceptually elegant interpretation. As the course description says, I wanted to choose controversies that were clearly dividing scholarship and especially those that were generating some emotional heat. Such “hot topics” motivate scholars to dig deeper for more evidence and better arguments, but they also often expose the weaknesses of scholarly contention. My thinking is that students would find more interesting scholarly conflicts that remain open than those that have already been resolved. Thus, these treatments are not attempting a historiographical survey of each controversy but more a general introduction to the controversy and an analysis of the “sticking points,” the bones of contention.  . . .
In presenting controversies for use in the classroom, I am placing myself firmly on the side of those who find discussing the parameters of scholarly debate a remarkably effective method for involving students in the material. I know instructors who say that they cannot even get their students to understand one point of view, let alone two or three on a particular topic. “It would just confuse them further,” they say. The fault, however, is not with their students. Merely presenting one point of view is a sure way to dampen whatever interest students may have for the subject. There is no way for them to get involved with the material when they have only one interpretation to contend with, that of the teacher or the textbook. With two or more viewpoints, students can then test one against the other(s). They can get some leverage on the material, which in turn leads to critical thinking and teaches them to be better citizens. They learn to decide between different arguments whether among candidates for office in a political campaign or among lawyers and “expert” witnesses in a jury trial. Trying to teach them only one “correct” opinion does none of these things.
“Normal science,” the term used by Thomas Kuhn to designate when a particular paradigm prevails, occurs either when the preponderance of evidence and analysis leads to one overriding interpretation or when a scholar or group of scholars exercise such authority in their field that few dare challenge them and their views. When such challenges occur, the usual response is to attempt to marginalize the challengers and their ideas. Sometimes these challenges become the next paradigm; more often they do not because they are not as good at explaining the evidence as the old paradigm.

A paper due at the end of Ostrowski's class requires students to update one of the topics from Paul Aron’s Unsolved Mysteries of History, or to improve a controversy’s Wikipedia entry. Ostrowski can be contacted at don@wjh.harvard.edu.

At NYU, former Hunter College professor and expert in the field of detective fiction B.J. Rahn will use her experience in crime solving to address the topic of the Shakespeare authorship question. The "What's in a Name: the Shakespeare Authorship Debate Investigated" class description says:

Doubts about the authorship of the plays published under the name "William Shakespeare" were first expressed at the end of the 18th century, and the debate has gathered momentum over the ensuing 200 years. Using a detective's logical analysis in the hope of discovering a "smoking gun" and solving the case definitively, review the principal evidence gathered by observation, interviews, and research that points to the four most likely suspects: Francis Bacon; the 17th Earl of Oxford, Edward de Vere; Christopher Marlowe; and "the Man from Stratford" himself. Readings and lectures include historical and contemporary sources.

B.J. Rahn can be reached at bjrahn@crimecritic.com. 


Harvard University Extension School “Historical Controversies” class:


Syllabus of the “Historical Controversies” class at Harvard Extension School:


About the “Identity of the Author of Plays and Sonnets attributed to Shakespeare” portion of the “Historical Controversies” class:


B.J. Rahn’s web site Crime Critic: http://www.crimecritic.com/

“What's in a Name? The Shakespeare Authorship Debate Investigated” class: http://www.scps.nyu.edu/course-detail/X02.9328/20111/whats-in-a-name-the-shakespeare-authorship-debate-investigated

Monday, December 27, 2010

Waugaman inaugurates authorship web-log: The Oxfreudian

Georgetown University psychiatry professor Richard M. Waugaman, MD has launched a new web-log about the Shakespeare authorship controversy. He has christened his space, The Oxfreudian. This quirky title is apt because Sigmund Freud was an early proponent of Thomas J. Looney's work on the Shakespeare authorship question, and an ardent Oxfordian. Waugaman said,
Freud's intellect has deeply impressed me since I first read him in college. Under Walter Kaufmann's direction, I did my college senior thesis on Nietzsche's influence on Freud. We studied Freud during my psychoanalytic training, then I read (or re-read) all his 23 volumes during the years after I graduated from the psychoanalytic institute. I puzzled over Freud's endorsement of Looney's authorship hypothesis. Then I put it out of my mind. Until 2002, when William Niederkorn's New York Times article introduced me to Roger Stritmatter's dissertation showing that de Vere's Geneva Bible might be the smoking gun that proves Freud was correct about de Vere. That excited me so much that I got Reader's privileges at the Folger, just to hold Shakespeare's Bible in my hands. I had no idea that I would get so hooked that I would devote 10-15 hours a week to Shakespeare research during the ensuing years.
Waugaman has written many articles highlighting psychological aspects of the Shakespeare authorship question. Links to Waugaman's work -- including his recent "The Bisexuality of Shakespeare's Sonnets and Implications for DeVere's Authorship" from the Oct. 2010 Psychoanalytic Review and "What's in a Manicle: the deVere Psalms as a New Shakespearean Source" from the 2010 edition of Brief Chronicles -- are a feature of the new Oxfreudian site. Waugaman said,
Research on de Vere has become part of my identity. I still love psychoanalysis, and I still conduct the clinical practice of psychoanalysis and psychoanalytic psychotherapy some 30 hours per week. The connections between psychoanalysis and Shakespeare are strong, and they help me integrate two vital parts of my identity. One of my goals is to persuade my fellow psychoanalysts to join me in Oxfreudian studies. Psychoanalysts have long been interested in literature, and especially in Shakespeare.
In addition to providing access to his articles, Waugaman's new blog may turn the tables on Stratfordians -- like James Shapiro in Contested Will -- who find reason to doubt the mental health of anyone who cannot, or will not, swallow the traditional Stratfordian gruel. Waugaman said:
One of the many psychological aspects of Shakespeare research is trying to understand the groupthink that has led centuries of scholars so far astray. It's true of the history of every intellectual discipline. The history of science, for example, is full of similar stories -- the establishment abuses its power in order to suppress new ideas. The new ideas are later proven to be correct, but those in power don't like to be proven wrong, despite the intellectual ideal of the pursuit of truth.

Monday, December 20, 2010

Keir Cutler re Shakespeare: Why Was I Never Told This?

Actor Keir Cutler, PhD, explains why he became interested in the Shakespeare authorship question.

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Dillon plays DeVere in Worchester, England Jan. 14, 2011

Reporter Lauren Rogers sums up Edward de Vere's "disgraceful" life in her Dec. 17., 2010 Worchester News article, "Is this the real Bard?" announcing playwright George Dillon's one-man show about DeVere, The Man Who Was Hamlet  that opens next month at the Number 8 Community Arts Center in Worchester, England. Rogers said:
Edward de Vere was a courtier, swordsman, adventurer, playwright and poet. He killed a servant, made love to Queen Elizabeth, abandoned his wife, got his mistress pregnant, was maimed in a duel, travelled in Italy, was captured by pirates, fought the Armada, was imprisoned in the Tower of London, kept two companies of players, and then disappeared from history for 15 years before dying virtually bankrupt. In youth he was hailed as the best of the secret court writers, but no plays bearing his name have survived and his poetry suddenly stopped after the first invention of 'William Shake-speare'.
Traditional Shakespeare scholar James Shapiro finds this biographical approach to solving the Shakespeare authorship mystery so alarmingly convincing that he wrote a book defending the Stratfordian viewpoint, Contested Will: Who Wrote Shakespeare?. In his book published this year, Shapiro argues that finding an artist in his work is a modern concept that can't be applied to Shakespeare's creative output because Elizabethans had no notion of biography.

This is like arguing that Elizabethans didn't have life stories because no one wrote them. 

In any case, Shapiro is mistaken in thinking that DeVere's life story in Shakespeare's plays is the vital component of anti-Stratfordianism. The undeniable impetus for denying the Stratfordian candidate as author of Shakespeare's work is the Stratford man's utter lack of connection to the life of an artist: no books, no letters, no manuscripts, no travel, no study in any field, no acknowledgement of his writing by local peers, and -- based on his signatures -- his apparent illiteracy. 

Other Shakespeare traditionalists besides Shapiro also seek ways to defend against encroachment on their point-of-view. Hardy Cook recently lifted his longstanding ban on any mention of the authorship question on his Shaksper Global Electronic Shakespeare Conference to open a discussion of how traditionalists should respond to Roland Emmerich's film Anonymous that features DeVere as Shakespeare and debuts September 23, 2011. Ridicule of anti-Stratfordian views was offered as a favored tactic by some correspondents, but pervasive bullying has not daunted curiosity in the past and will not stem the tide in the present. History has been imagined by the Stratfordians for too long.

Shaksper Conference: http://www.shaksper.net/

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Taymore Tempest opens nationwide Dec 17, 2010

Cover of Abrams Julie Taymor edition of The Tempest

A new hardcover Julie Taymor edition of Shakespeare’s The Tempest was released last month by Abrams with a foreword by Jonathan Bate. According to the publisher:
The book of The Tempest is both a handsome edition of Julie Taymor’s eminently readable adaptation of Shakespeare’s play and a stunning visual narrative of her new film, which stars Helen Mirren as Prospera, the magician/alchemist in a bold, gender-switched realization. 
Industry sources report the film will be in general release December 17, 2010. Taymor referenced the appeal of her gender-switching hero/heroine in an interview with Alison Stewart on the Dec. 10 2010 broadcast of the PBS news magazine, Need to Know. Taymor said:
Prospero's famous speech, “Ye elves of hills, brooks, standing lakes and groves . . ."  -- that speech ise airs and winds: ye elves of hills, of brooks, of woods alone, / Of standing lakes, and of the night, approach ye everyone”).
Those last lines mentioned are, however, Golding’s translation of Ovid, not Shakespeare’s lines from Act V, Scene 1 of The Tempest, which read:

Ye elves of hills, brooks, standing lakes and groves,
And ye that on the sands with printless foot
Do chase the ebbing Neptune and do fly him
When he comes back; you demi-puppets that
By moonshine do the green sour ringlets make
Whereof the ewe not bites, and you whose pastime
Is to make midnight mushrooms, that rejoice
To her the solemn curfew; by whose aid
Weak master though ye be, I have bedimm’d
The noontide sun, call’d forth the mutinous winds,
And ‘twixt the green sea and the azured vault
Set roaring war: to the dread rattling thunder
Have I given fire and rifted Jove’s stout oak
With his own bolt; the strong-based promontory
Have I made shake and by the spurs pluck’d up
The pine and cedar; graves at my command
Have waked their sleepers, oped, and let ‘em forth
By my so potent art. . . .

Here is Arthur Goldings translation of Medeas incantation from Ovids Metamorphosis (1567)

Ye charmes and Witchcrafts, and thou Earth which both with herbe and weed
Of mightie working furnishest the Wizardes at their neede:
Ye ayres and windes; ye Elves of Hilles, of Brookes, of Woods alone,
Of standing Lakes, and of the Night approach ye everychone
Through helpe of whom (the crooked bankes much wondering at the thing)
I have compelled strames to run cleane backward to their spring.
By charmes I make the calme Seas rough, and make the rough Seas plaine,
And cover all the Kie with Cloudes and chase them thence againe.
By charmes I raise and lay the windes, and burst the vipers jaw.
And from the bowels of the Earth both stones and trees doe draw.
Whole woods and Forestes I remove. I make the Mountaines shake,
And even the Earth itselfe to grone and fearfully to quake.
I call up dead men from their graves; and thee O lightsome Moone
I darken oft, though beaten brasse abate they peril soone.
Our Sorcerie dimmes the morning faire, and darkes the Sun at Noone.
The flaming breath of firie Bulles ye quenched for my sake
An caused their unwieldy neckes the bended yoke to take.
Among the earth bred brothers you a mortal war did set,
And brought asleep the dragon fell whose eyes were never shut
By means whereof deceiving him that had the Golden fleece
In charge to keepe, you sent it thence by Jason into Greece.

Golding’s 1567 translation of Ovid’s Metamorphosis is invoked repeatedly by traditional Shakespeare scholars as a source throughout Shakespeare’s work, on the assumption that the Stratford man must have somehow gained access to the book. Add to that Montaigne's Essays that some commentators believe influenced Act II, Scene 1 of The Tempest in its description of the ideal commonwealth, and the dozens of other sources traditional scholars believe influenced Shakespeare's works and you have an author of extraordinary erudition. (See a partial list of Shakespeare's narrative and dramatic sources gleaned from standard texts at Shakespeare-W.)

Stratfordians insist on the circular reasoning that argues because the Stratford man wrote the plays, he must have somehow gained access to this monumentally luxurious library without leaving even a sniff of a trail for posterity – just as he learned to read and write without leaving even a scrap of paper to show he could write anything but a few scrawled signatures – none of which, by the way, read “William Shakespeare”. But that’s just those crazy Elizabethans – none of them knew how to write their name, say the Stratfordians. And while they are quick to point out that Elizabethans refused to spell even their names consistently, Stratfordians never mention the fact that 80-percent of the population was illiterate -- that fact cuts a little too close to the bone.

International Movie Data Base: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt1274300/
Shakespeare-W, table featuring a partial list of Shakespeares's narrative and dramatic sources using standard texts for data: http://www.shakespeare-w.com/english/shakespeare/source.html
Medea's Incantation on Interlea: http://innerlea.com/aulit/ovid/GoldingsMedea/frame.html


Dec. 16, 2010 review of Taymor's film The Tempest by Liam Lacey at the Toronto Globe and Mail, "The Tempest: Taymor fails to conjure much of a storm"
Dec. 16, 2010 review of Taymor's The Tempest by Shawn Levy in The Oregonian, "Review: Helen Mirren, Julie Taymor bring magic to The Tempest"

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Jacobi's Lear HERE Feb. 20, 2011

Michiganders will be able to see Sir Derek Jacobi's acclaimed King Lear here in Michigan via the University Musical Society's  sponsorship of a National Theater Live broadcast at 7 p.m. Sunday, February 20, 2011 at the Michigan Theater in Ann Arbor. This program is one of a series of high-definition broadcasts from the National Theater in London that are being shown throughout the US and worldwide.

UMS says:
UMS and the Michigan Theater have joined forces to bring high definition screenings of live theater broadcasts by London’s National Theatre to Ann Arbor. NT Live broadcasts performances of plays produced by London’s National Theatre onto cinema screens worldwide. In the US, these screenings are delayed broadcasts to accommodate the time difference. Broadcasts will also feature behind-the-scenes footage and interviews with actors. 
US venues for NT Live broadcasts:
Tickets for UMS King Lear at Michigan Theater, Ann Arbor MI: http://www.ums.org/s_current_season/artist.asp?pageid=641
Mark Anderson's Shakespeare By Another Name Dec. 12, 2010 weblog entry on National Theater transmission of Jacobi's King Lear:

Note: The UMS will also sponsor the NT Live broadcast of Rory Kinnear's Hamlet at 2 p.m. Jan. 2, 2011 at the Michigan Theater.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Telegraph prints essay on authorship skeptic Sir Derek Jacobi

In yesterday's London Telegraph contributor William Langley wrote an interesting essay on Sir Derek Jacobi's decision to play Shakespeare's King Lear at long last. Langley's mini-bio is titled "Sir Derek Jacobi: Bard to the bone" with the subtitle: "Sir Derek Jacobi doesn't believe Shakespeare wrote King Lear -- but he's still given one of the greatest performances in the role, says William Langley."

Jacobi's anti-Stratfordian viewpoint is given some prominence in the article:
In recent years, Jacobi has emerged as a leading Shakespeare sceptic, taking the view that a semi-educated country boy from Stratford-upon-Avon couldn’t possibly have written the great works attributed to him. Three years ago, he co-launched the Shakespeare Authorship Coalition – a group dedicated to proving that the plays must have been penned by others, and later, in a speech to a like-minded American research organisation, declared: “The only evidence of Shakespeare’s literary life was produced after he died and is open to dispute. Nothing, apart from some shaky signatures, puts a pen in his hand. Legend, hearsay and myth have created this writer.”
John Shahan, chairman of the Shakespeare Authorship Coalition  corrected the record regarding Jacobi's "launching" of SAC "three years ago" as reported in the Langley article. Shahan said:
What he (Jacobi) actually co-launched in the U.K. (it had its initial launch in the U.S. four months earlier, in April 2007), along with Mark Rylance, was the Declaration of Reasonable Doubt. Sir Derek, Mark Rylance and Michael York are SAC Patrons. The SAC itself was founded in California in March 2006.
Shahan also said the "speech to a like-minded American research organization" referenced in Langley's article was the 2002 Edward de Vere Studies Conference -- since renamed the Shakespeare Authorship Studies Conference -- at Concordia University in Portland, Oregon. The ". . . Nothing, apart from some shaky signatures, puts a pen in his hand. . . ." quote is from Jacobi's acceptance speech for the conference's Vero Nihil Verius Award. Shakespeare Authorship Research Centre director Dan Wright presented the speech at the 2002 conference because Jacobi was not able to attend. (The text of Jacobi's entire speech is included here, below, courtesy of John Shahan.)

In his Telegraph article, Langley acquits Jacobi of allowing his art to be diminished by his heretical authorship views:
None of which has diminished his ability to play the lead role in somebody-other-than-Shakespeare’s greatest tragedy. “The finest and most searching Lear I have ever seen,” raved the Telegraph’s theatre critic Charles Spencer. “The miracle of Michael Grandage’s production,” enthused the Guardian’s reviewer Michael Billington, “is that it is fast, vivid, clear and, thanks to a performance that reminds us why Derek Jacobi is a great classical actor, overwhelmingly moving.”
All of which brings two issues to mind:
  • The first is the confusion caused by misunderstanding that questioning the authorship means questioning that "Shakespeare" wrote the plays, leading to the clunky "somebody-other-than-Shakespeare" locution. In fact, nobody doubts that a playwright used the name Shakespeare. The question in dispute is whether the man from Stratford was that playwright.
  • The second issue is a question -- why would anyone make the assumption that disputing the authorship would somehow diminish an artist's work? No data, real or imaginary, exists to support such a notion.
Address by Sir Derek Jacobi to the 6th Annual Edward de Vere Studies Conference at Concordia University, 13 April 2002
Dear Concordia University, dear Professor Wright, dear delegates, dear fellow sceptics:
Let me first thank you very much indeed for the honour you do me by conferring upon me the conference's Vero Nihil Verius Award for Artistic Excellence. My deep regret is that I cannot be with you to receive it in person. I must plead the peripatetic life of the strolling player, the vagabond, a life that keeps me traveling as a chronicler of the times, often to bournes from which I am only too eager to return. I wish I could be with you, but fate and the need to earn a living decree otherwise [Note: Sir Derek, on the night of the conference's Awards Banquet, was performing with Diana Rigg, Ian Richardson and the Royal Shakespeare Company in "The Hollow Crown" at the Michael Fowler Centre in Wellington, New Zealand].
Like a growing number of interested parties, I have had grave doubts for some time now of the validity of the Stratford man's claim to have written some of the greatest literature the world has produced. Indeed, I must admit that it still seems incredible to me that one mind could possibly have encompassed such a monumental feat -- but if so, that man is most likely to have been Edward de Vere -- possibly with a little collaboration.
Like you, I live in hope that an acceptable solution is possible and that this most fascinating riddle will finally be solved. My reactions are, of course, hardly academic, and I haven't the minutia of knowledge or arguments at my fingertips like your good selves -- I'm still studying and discovering -- but, as an actor, my instincts and antennae tell me that only someone connected with the vicissitudes of stage production could have created these complex dramas. Is there indeed any incontrovertible, unequivocal evidence that Stratford Will was even an actor? But, of course, with doubt comes not discussion but accusations. We are labeled eccentrics and loonies (oh, if only old Thomas had himself used a pseudonym!).
All these years of academic dedication lavished on the wrong man must be defended at all costs, it seems. Reputations tremble, an industry turns pale, and the weapons of't who constantly are told that 'less is more.' Our lifeblood as performers is constant questioning, research,
analysis, intellectual and emotional honesty: the play's the thing, not the player. Without the dramatist, we have no opportunity to strut whatever stuff we possess, and in this particular case above all, if we could find the true author of these exquisite dramas, the rewards for both actor and audience would be immense. A spotlight would be thrown on hitherto unfathomable passages, and centuries of delight would be highlighted by the knowledge of the real events, situations and characters that guided and informed the author's hand. Let there be vigorous and legitimate debate!

Once more, my heartfelt thanks and my sincerest regret that I cannot be with you this evening.

BSA "Sources . . ." conference to be held Sept. 9-11, 2011

The British Shakespeare Association in association with the University of Cambridge, the Association of Adaptation Studies, and the Cambridge Marlowe Society will host it's fifth biennial conference titled Shakespeare: Sources and Adaptation on September 9-11, 2011 at the University of Cambridge.

The BSA describes itself as " . . . a professional association of teachers, researchers, theatre practitioners, writers and anyone who regularly works with Shakespeare's plays and poems. The BSA was established in 2002 and has run a number of events since then aimed at furthering public knowledge of Shakespeare's works."
Shakespearean authorship skeptics may find the topic of Shakespeare's sources to be of interest, especially since the question of how the traditionally ascribed author from Stratford could have gained access to Shakespeare's sophisticated sources is largely unexamined. The topic of Shakespeare's sources leads inexorably to authorship heresy.
The following information about the conference is available on the British Shakespeare Association website:  

Currently in association with the Association of Adaptation Studies and the Cambridge Marlowe Society Proposals for academic papers and practical and educational workshops are invited on various aspects on the topic on Shakespeare: Sources and Adaptation to include:
Beyond Shakespeare Adaptation, Shakespeare for children and young people, Shakespeare’s Classical sources, Shakespeare’s Historical sources, Shakespeare in Art, Shakespeare in Music, Shakespeare on film and television, Foreign language adaptations of Shakespeare, Shakespeare’s influence on contemporary playwrights, and Shakespeare in 20th and 21st century fiction.
The conference is aimed at academics, theatre and film practitioners and teachers with some exciting speakers and sessions confirmed, including Carol Ann Duffy, Michael Rosen, Professor Helen Cooper, RSC new writing department and Theatre Royal Bury.
A free sample of the British Shakespeare Association's journal, Shakespeare, is available by request online From Taylor and Francis at:
http://www.tandf.co.uk/journals/titles/17450918.asp. The aims of the journal are described on the site:
Its principal aim is to bridge the gap between the disciplines of Shakespeare in Performance Studies and Shakespeare in English Literature and Language. The journal builds on the existing aim of the British Shakespeare Association, to exploit the synergies between academics and performers of Shakespeare.

The BSA's devotion to this synergy is heartening because actors -- such as Sir Derek Jacobi, Mark Rylance, Jeremy Irons, Michael York, and James Newcomb -- seem particularly open to the Shakespeare authorship question. (See signatories of the Declaration of Reasonable Doubt About the Identity of William Shakespeare)

Also four Shakespeare journal virtual special issues on the topics of: Hamlet, Reinventing Digital Shakespeare, Recent Work in Shakespearean Studies, and Shakespeare and Film are available free from the Taylor and Francis site.

Monday, December 6, 2010

Oberon meeting schedule change

Because of a date conflict with the Farmingon Community Library schedule, and contrary to an earlier announcement of the 2011 Oberon meeting calendar, Oberon will meet in the fourth Thursday of every month beginning January 27, 2011. Meetings begin at 6:45 p.m. No meetings are currently scheduled for November and December 2011.

Friday, December 3, 2010

Harper Collins to publish Roe's Shakespeare Guide to Italy November 1, 2011

Rosalie Books publication of Richard Paul Roe's private edition of The Shakespeare Guide to Italy, June 2010

Peter Henningsen, assistant publicist at Harper Collins, said the late Richard Paul Roe's book, The Shakespeare Guide to Italy will be released by the publisher on November 1, 2011. A limited private edition of The Shakespeare Guide to Italy was published by Rosalie Books in June 2010 to acclaim throughout the Shakespeare authorship community. The Shakespeare Guide reveals the work of Shakespeare in intimate detail -- mapping his characters' travels, play-by-play through the summer light and moonlit dark of Renaissance Italy. In his introduction, Roe says:

No book or article addressing the (Shakespeare) identity issue has provided a forensic examination of the uniue references that the author has specifically disclosed in his plays. Indeed, his familiarity with Italy, its sites and sights, specific details, history, geography, unique cultural aspects, places and things, practices and propensities, etc. -- is quite simply astonishing.
To enhance objectivity, this book shuns all existing arguments about the identity of the playwright, simply calling him "the playwright" or "the author". . . . What then, did the real author of the Italian Plays, whoever he was, know about Italy? What information does he reveal that was not available in the media of his day? And what does his body of unique and personal knowledge disclose about this man of actual travel and wide-ranging awareness of the affairs of state?
The author answers those questions with such charm, grace, and precision that Harper Collins' publication of The Shakespeare Guide to Italy next fall will thrill lovers of Shakespeare all over the world -- a fitting legacy for the work of Richard Paul Roe.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Richard Paul Roe passed away today in Pasadena CA

Daniel Wright, PhD, director of the Richard Paul and Jane Roe Shakespeare Authorship Research Centre at Concordia University in Portland Oregon, reported with great grief the death of Richard Paul Roe, 88, in Pasadena, California today. Wright said:
Dick and his wife, Jane, who survives him, were grand and active Oxfordians. Dick just published last year his breakthrough work of a lifetime -- one of the most important studies in the Shakespeare authorship question ever: The Shakespeare Guide to Italy. I was honored to attend a reception for Dick in Pasadena at the release of his book last year. We are all pleased, given this sad news, that Dick was able to receive the enthusiastic accolades of friends and supporters before his death for undertaking, and seeing through to completion, this titanic accomplishment -- the result of decades of travel, investigation and meticulous research, jaw-dropping in its significance. For this achievement Dick was slated to receive the Concordia University's Vero Nihil Verius Award for Distinguished Scholarship at the forthcoming Shakespeare Authorship Studies Conference in April, 2011.
Wright said the award will be given posthumously. Wright also reported previously that Roe's book -- The Shakespeare Guide to Italy, previously privately available in a small print-run -- will be published next year by Harper Collins. 

Oxfordian luminary Stephanie Hughes gave us permission to quote her response to the sad news of Roe's death:
Apart from the stunning information it contains, The Shakespeare Guide to Italy is also a very beautiful and engaging book. In my view (and leaving Oxford aside) Roe's lifework is the most important book about Shakespeare to be published in our time. I believe the winds of awareness will finally begin to blow in our direction once it's out there.
But sad as it is that he should miss this moment, I think that Dick would agree that the purest joy was in the doing. Nothing could ever match those marvelous trips to Italy, the excitement of the chase and the thrill of discovery. How wonderful that he's captured this for us, taking us with him as he locates, again and again, with the skill of a great detective the very sites where events in Shakespeare took place.
Much credit must go to Dick and Jane's daughter Hilary Roe Metternich and to designer Steve Hirsch for their efforts to see this exceptional book into print. And thanks to Dan Wright as well for his part in introducing us to Dick and giving so many of us the opportunity at the Concordia conferences to hear his lawerly briefs in behalf of Oxford. Many thanks to all involved.
Hank Whittemore, author of Shakespeare's Son and His Sonnets (published Dec. 1, 2010 by Martin and Lawrence Press and available from Amazon) also expressed gratitude for Roe's lifework and his response on hearing of Roe's death:
I grabbed his wonderful book The Shakespeare Guide to Italy, Then and Now off the shelf and read the opening sentences of his introduction: "There is a secret Italy hidden in the plays of Shakespeare. It is an ingeniously-described Italy that has neither been recognized, nor even suspected -- not in four hundred years -- save by a curious few. It is exact; it is detailed; and it is brilliant." What a gift he has given us!

R&J melange at the UMMA Dec. 4, 2010

University of Michigan School of Music, Theatre, and Dance performing at the University of Michigan Museum of Art:
The Romeo and Juliet Program
Museum of Art, Apse
Saturday, December 4, 2010 7:00 PM
Free, no tickets requiredUniversity news release:
William Shakespeare's beloved romance, presented in a collage of operatic settings by Charles Gounod,  Vincenzo Bellini, and others, with Leonard Bernstein's musical theater adaptation West Side Story and scenes from Shakespeare's original stage play.  Performed by voice students from the UM second-year opera workshop, directed by Professor Joshua Major, with musical direction by Professor Timothy Cheek.

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Merkel tutors Cook

In her new website/weblog The Edward Oxenford Review, Marie Merkel responds to Shaksper electronic Shakespeare conference owner Hardy Cook's plea for strategies to counter interest in the Shakespeare authorship question generated by Roland Emmerich's Anonymous, a film on the topic that will debut September 23, 2011. In her post titled "Academic Response to Anonymous" Merkel presents Cook with a reading list of material and offers in closing:
Finally, I suggest that you portray the movie as Opportunity rather than Disaster.  Ridicule – of the film, of the authorship question, of Oxford himself – may seem to your students like a nervous defense against a devil you don’t dare look in the face.  The way I see it, anything you can say that will send your seeker back to The Bard’s ever-living poetry, with confidence in his or her own ability to discern the truth, may turn out to be a kindness long remembered. 
Sounds reasonable to me. I must say, when I saw the fury and hysteria generated by Stratfordians' fear of people questioning the traditional author, I couldn't help but wonder: Why so worried, gentlemen and ladies? If the Shakespeare authorship question is a foolish notion, only fools will be fooled. If Stratfordians are secure in their ownership of universal truth, let the unbelievers be damned.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Shakespeare to music Dec. 1, 2010

I attended this University of Michigan School of Music, Theater and Dance event last year and enjoyed it very, very much. 

Wednesday, December 1
Opera Workshop
E.V. Moore Building, McIntosh Theatre
7:00 PM
First year graduate students under Joshua Major and Timothy Cheek will present an evening of arias and Shakespeare monologues.
Free - no tickets required

SMTD Events Hotline

Monday, November 1, 2010

Plummer in The Tempest-Another Chance to See

Although it had been announced previously (in obscure places) I just found out that Bravo Canada filmed one of the performances of The Tempest this past season (which just ended last weekend) at the Stratford Shakespeare Festival in Ontario, starring Christopher Plummer. They have made a "movie version" of this and it will be showing this coming weekend in selected theatres in Canada, including one in Windsor.

The film will only be shown in at one theatre and at one time (at least in Windsor). It will be at 1 PM on Saturday November 6 at the Cineplex Odeon Devonshire Mall (3100 Howard Avenue, (519) 967-0197)

Information and online tickets are available at www.cineplex.com/Movies/MovieDetails/The-Tempest.aspx

Actually, there will be an encore presentation at the same theatre on Wednesday, November 10 at 7 PM.

I saw the live production this past season at Stratford and I thought it was very good (although not as exciting or provocative as the way it was done by Patrick Stewart in Ann Arbor in 2006).

When some Oberon members traveled to Stratford last August we were not able to see this production of The Tempest, so now is everyone's chance.

This film will probably eventually show up somewhere else (such as on the Bravo satellite channel or at another movie theater) in the future, but it might be fun to be there at its "premiere".

On a related subject (Christopher Plummer at Stratford) there will be a showing of Bravo's film of the production of Caesar and Cleopatra, starring Plummer, at Stratford during the 2008 season (yes, I know it's George Bernard Shaw, not Shakespeare) at the Detroit Film Theatre at the Detroit Institute of Arts at 2 PM on Sunday, November 7. Info available at www.dia.org/detroitfilmtheatre/14/DFT.aspx

This film also had its premiere in Canada (including in Windsor) in 2008 and then eventually showed up in the US, so I would guess that the new film of The Tempest will "come across the border" later.

But why wait? Grab your passport (and your $19.95 for the ticket) and get to Windsor this Saturday.

Maybe you'll see me there (and maybe you won't).

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Traditional researcher vilified for going rogue

“Yes, there’s a lot of crankology out there,” (Judith)Curry says. “But not all of it is. If only 1 percent of it or 10 percent of what the skeptics say is right, that is time well spent because we have just been too encumbered by groupthink.”
Scientific American Magazine, November 2010
Scientific American reported on the phenomenon of how an academic is treated when she considers the criticism of skeptics in the Michael Lemonick article, "Climate Heretic Judith Curry Turns on Her Colleagues" Published November 2010.

I don't consider Shakespeare authorship inquiry either a conspiracy theory or a fringe concept, but the issue is often lumped with debunked theories like no-moon-landing and such, so I thought it was interesting that someone in the academy could bring herself to say that skeptics just might be worth listening to. The resulting Sturm und Drang is also enlightening.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Stille's schizo Hamlet doubles at Eastern

Liz from the Oberon Meetup Group reported that Eastern Michigan University Theatre is performing Hamlet this week at 7 p.m.October 28, 29, 30 at the Quark Theater on the EMU Main Campus in Ypsilanti, MI. The production features a schizophrenic Hamlet as reported by Ann Arbor.com reviewer Roger LeLievre in his October 23 review, "EMU Theatre's 'Hamlet' a fresh and compelling take on Shakespeare's tragedy":
EMU professor Lee Stille’s new adaptation splits the title role in half, each played by a pair of scarily well-matched actors (Matt Andersen and Evan Mann). They shadow each other on stage, they trade lines back and forth (it’s like they are finishing each other’s sentences) and are often at odds. Unusual as it was to hear the “to be, or not to be” soliloquy broken down into two parts, it worked beautifully. It’s a powerful way to explore the conflicts that rage within Hamlet; there’s the face he shows to the world and then there’s the one raging inside that lusts to rebel.
The theater is in the Quark Building at the intersection of Best Hall and East Circle Drive. Tickets are $15 available online, by phone at 734 487 2289, or at campus box offices.

An Oberon group may attend. Follow Oberon Shakespeare Study Group Meetup for more information, or contact Linda Theil.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

October Oberon Meetup!

Treasurer Tom Townsend gives his monthly report at the October 20, 2010 Oberon meeting.

At our October meeting, the Oberon Shakespeare Study Group decided to join the Meetup! community after hearing from Prashant A. about the success he is enjoying after signing his Plymouth Shakespeare and Epic Poetry Read Aloud group on Meetup!. Please join our group at http://www.meetup.com/Oberon-Shakespeare-Study-Group/ to enjoy a quick and easy way to keep up to date on Oberon activities. We're hoping that Meetup! will provide another method for reaching Shakespeare lovers who are interested in learning more about the work and the author.

Monday, October 18, 2010

Was Shakespeare gay?

Like the late Joseph Sobran, award-winning poet and editor Don Paterson comes down firmly in the gay camp on the topic of Shakespeare's sexual orientation in his upcoming book, Reading Shakespeare's Sonnets: a New Commentary, to be released in England on November 4, 2010 by Faber and Faber. In an essay titled "Shakespeare's Sonnets by Don Paterson" published October 15, 2010 in The Guardian, Paterson said:

However, the question: "was Shakespeare gay?" strikes me as so daft as to be barely worth answering. Of course he was. Arguably he was bisexual, of sorts, but his heart was never on his straight side. Now is not the time to rehearse them all, but the arguments against his homosexuality are complex and sophistical, and often take convenient and homophobic advantage of the sonnets' built-in interpretative slippage – which Shakespeare himself would have needed for what we would now call "plausible deniability", should anyone have felt inclined to cry sodomy.
The argument in favour is simple. First, falling in love with other men is often a good indication of homosexuality; and second, as much as I love some of my male friends, I'm never going to write 126 poems for them, even the dead ones. Third, read the poems, then tell me these are "pure expressions of love for a male friend" and keep a straight face. This is a crazy, all-consuming, feverish and sweaty love; love, in all its uncut, full-strength intensity; an adolescent love. The reader's thrill lies in hearing this adolescent love articulated by a hyper-literate thirty-something. Usually these kids can't speak. The effect is extraordinary: they are not poems that are much use when we're actually in love, I'd suggest; but when we read them, they are so visceral in their invocation of that mad, obsessive, sleepless place that we can again feel, as CK Williams said, "the old heart stamping in its stall".
Unlike Sobran, Paterson doesn't follow this biographical path down the authorship road. Of the first 17 so-called procreation sonnets, Paterson said:
I agree with William Boyd (who scripted a marvellous piece of free speculation for the BBC called A Waste of Shame) that they read a lot like a commission, and could well have been paid for by the Young Man's mother, perturbed by his Lack of Interest in the Opposite Sex.
Paterson makes this judgment based on his assessment of the dullness of these 17 poems.

Paterson is convinced that George Chapman is the Rival Poet of the sonnets. As such, he might be interested in Richard Whalen's 2001 paper, "On Looking into Chapman's Oxford: a Personality Profile of the Seventeenth Earl", presented at the Fifth Annual Edward de Vere Studies Conference at Concordia University.

In a commentary titled "Don Paterson braves lit crit's Bermuda Triangle: Shakespeare's Sonnets" in The Guardian today, editor and novelist Robert McCrum opines:

Over the years, the sonnets have developed a reputation as the Bermuda Triangle of Shakespeare scholarship: a place where good critics go missing, or become horribly confused. Some reviewers are going to worry that Paterson has eaten of the insane root that takes the reason prisoner, but I found his candour rather thrilling. Some Bardophiles will love it. Others will not.
Myself, I'm still reading Paterson's Commentary; there are some 450 pages of it. It's exhilarating stuff. With a bit of luck, he might even stir up a new approach to the argument about the poet's sexual identity. It will certainly make a change from the Bacon question.

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Joseph Sobran legacy

In the death of Joseph Sobran on September 30, 2010 the literary community lost a superb writer and William Shakespeare lost a brilliant advocate. Sobran’s polemic on the topic of the Shakespeare authorship, Alias Shakespeare: Solving the Greatest Literary Mystery of All Time, was published in 1997 by Simon & Schuster.

In December 1999 Sobran defined his viewpoint in "How Old Was Oxford's Daughter and When Did William Lose his Hair?", a reply to academic criticism of his work:
. . . in my view the balance of nature requires that some of us nonscholars be able to detect fraudulent scholarship. That is what Alias Shakespeare is meant to do.
Bogus scholarship is especially rife in academic Shakespeare studies, which are based on the dubious dogma that William of Stratford was, beyond doubt, the poet-dramatist we call “Shakespeare.” The scholars, their reputations at stake, can’t afford to admit that there is any question whatsoever about this. Alias Shakespeare tries to show how badly they have erred in their own field, by belittling and ignoring ample evidence that William didn’t write the Shakespeare works — and that Oxford did. They literally don’t know the first thing about their subject: who he was.
With Stalinist discipline, the academic party line requires William’s partisans to deny that there is any room for reasonable doubt of William’s claim (or rather, the claim made for him, which he may never have made himself), and to insist that those who do doubt his claim have never, in more than a century of controversy, raised a single valid point.
On the private Phaeton email list October 1, 2010, Shakespeare Authorship Coalition director John Shahan honored Sobran for his anti-Stratfordian contributions. Shahan said Sobran was helpful to him in writing and critiquing SAC's "Declaration of Reasonable Doubt". He called Sobran, " . . . intellectually brilliant, witty, a great debater, and always most gracious." Shahan’s comments are quoted here with his permission:
(Sobran) put most orthodox scholars to shame with his knowledge of Shakespeare, whom he truly loved.
One anecdote that I'll always remember about Joe, even though I only heard about it secondhand, was the way he dealt with Alan Nelson during a debate when Nelson repeatedly used the word "absolutely" in making points when arguing from authority about matters of opinion, as in "Oxford's verse is  'absolutely' unlike  Shakespeare's."
Sobran finally said "Alan, I wish I could be as absolutely certain about anything having to do with the authorship question as you are absolutely certain about everything." The audience cracked up, and Nelson, who uses "absolutely" so habitually that he couldn't help himself, was flummoxed when the audience chuckled every time he did. Joe confirmed this for me.
One of Joe's favorite debate stories was when he put this question to David Kathman: "We Oxfordians are in the position of having to argue that the First Folio testimony is wrong -- that it's a put-on, and that the works themselves would seem to have been written by someone like Oxford, not Shakspere. Suppose the shoe was on the other foot, and the First Folio had said that Oxford as the author. What could you point to in the works to argue that they were written by Shakspere, not Oxford?" All Kathman could say was "What a strange question!"
Joe made the observation that Stratfordians are forced to try to rule out as evidence any arguments based on the content of the works, but that in legal proceedings when one side argues that evidence should be excluded, that side tacitly admits that it favors the other side. Stratfordians do not want to admit that. It's too bad he wasn't able to write a review of James Shapiro's Contested Will. He would have had a field day with the idea that an author's works don't reflect his life. Note: It turns out that Sobran did write a column about Shapiro’s book, “Bard Thou Never Wert” April, 27, 2010.
Also commenting on Phaeton October 3, 2010, De Vere Society Secretary Richard Malim said, “Sobran’s contribution to the appreciation of Oxford’s poetry as ‘Shakespeare’s’ juvenilia is unsurpassed.”

Malim said Sobran’s essay on this topic appeared in the De Vere Society Newlsetter, Vol. 2, January 1996, p. 5 (beginning on p. 12) and was reprinted as Essay #15 in the society’s publication Great Oxford. The book is available for $18 plus shipping by contacting Elizabeth Imlay c/o Parapress Ltd., The Basement, 9 Frant Road, Tunbridge Wells TN2 5SD UK, or email: office@parapress.myzen.co.uk. Malim further noted that a version of this essay appeared in the appendix of Alias Shakespeare.

On October 3, 2010 on Phaeton, BK McDonald favorably compared Sobran to another Shakespeare skeptic, Mark Twain, citing Twain’s famous anti-Stratfordian essay, “Is Shakespeare Dead?” from Twain's Autobiography.

In his Oct. 1, 2010 VDARE blog entry titled "Jared Taylor remembers Joe Sobran" author and editor Jared Taylor quoted Joe Sobran on the promotion of Alias Shakespeare:
When Joe’s book on the Shakespeare authorship question, Alias Shakespeare, appeared in 1997, he lamented that try as he might, he couldn’t get the publisher to use what he was convinced was a brilliant advertising line: "He’s queer. He’s here. He’s Edward De Vere."
Shakespeare's "queerness" was the issue that goaded Sobran to defy the academy with the publication of Alias Shakespeare. Sobran considered the content of the sonnets celebrated intense emotional and physical desire for a man as well as a woman -- revealing an author of ambiguous sexual orientation.

Sobran's support of this "queer" analysis is rejected by many in both traditionalist Stratfordian and renegade non-Stratfordian camps alike. His viewpoint is supported, however, by the analysis of Richard Waugaman, MD in his recent article, "The Bisexuality of Shakespeare's Sonnets and Implications for De Vere's Authorship" published in The Psychoanalytic Review, Vol. 97, Vol. 5 (Oct., 2010) (not yet available online). Waugaman will make the article available to interested readers by contacting him at rwmd@comcast.net.

Joseph Sobran obituaries:
John F. McManus in New American Oct. 1, 2010
William Grimes in New York Times , Oct. 1, 2010

http://www.vdare.com/taylor/101001_sobran.htm Jared Taylor Remembers Joe Sobran
http://www.sobran.com/replynelson.shtml: Joe Sobran: How Old Was Oxford’s Daughter . . . ?
http://www.fullbooks.com/Is-Shakespeare-Dead-.html Mark Twain: Is Shakespeare Dead?
http://doubtaboutwill.org Shakespeare Authorship Coalition 
http://www.oxford-shakespeare.com/documents.html Nina Green's primary source website

Thanks for generous contributions to: BK McDonald, Richard Malim, John Shahan, Phaeton owner Nina Green, and Richard Waugaman, MD