I just want to be sure that we are appreciating the Wall Street Journal interview of James Shapiro for what it accomplished.
First of all, the reporter states immediately, "today the controversy seems more alive than ever." That's a third party making a statement which the Strats have denied, and it is a direct result of her freshly done interview with one of the head Strats. No better third party than the Wall Street Journal. She does this, by the way, by framing Shapiro against Emmerich, so here is an early return on the Emmerich "investment" that perhaps we did not foresee.
Second, Professor Shapiro states, "There are certain things you can't say or do [in academia], and one of them is to talk about who wrote Shakespeare." We have said this countless times and countless times have been denied as whiners. Now here comes the head Strat himself attesting to this truth about the state of free and open inquiry in academia. Thank you, Professor Shapiro.
Third, Professor Shapiro makes his purposes quite clear: "I didn't write this book to be read by the people who don't believe that Shakespeare wrote Shakespeare." I love the way William Niederkorn addressed the circular thinking at the base of this statement, i.e. that anti-Strats also believe Shakespeare wrote Shakespeare using Shakespeare as a pen-name. The point is that no matter how much solace we would like to take in the seemingly kinder portions of Shapiro's Contested Will, those are for appearances only. He didn't write this book to be read by us.
Fourth. He didn't write this book for us because ". . . nothing, nothing I could say will change what is for them [anti-Stratfordians] a matter of faith." Here it is. It's like the politician accusing the other side of his own sins. No faith here, Professor Shapiro. For most of us it is a matter of careful reading, research and analysis. The religion of Shakespeare is really on your side, wouldn't you say, Professor? Starting with David Garrick--which, interestingly enough, you recognize a few lines further into the interview.
Fifth, commenting on claims that the Strat man lacked the experience in law and politics which one would need to write about them: "That's the lamest argument. Shakespeare performed at court over 100 times probably in the course of his career." Oh, I must have missed the documentation for that, Professor. Where do I find the documented record which would allow you to state as fact that the Strat man performed at court over 100 times? As if that bit of imagining weren't enough, Shapiro went on to state that the Strat man was in a better position as a court observer than those who were at court.
Sixth, Shapiro states, "Once you take away the argument that the life can be found in the works, those who don't believe that Shakespeare wrote Shakespeare don't have any argument left." This argument, a cornerstone of your book, has absolutely no basis in fact. I believe that Shaksper did not write Shakespeare and it has very little to do with autobiography. You need to actually become familiar with our work, Professor, to comment about it.
Seventh. "There's money in Shakespeare biography...I should know, I've written one...And people want a good story." Well, there you have it, from the Professor's mouth.
Need we say more?
This essay was originally posted on Elizaforum email list hosted by Robert Brazil, in reference to:
“The Shakespeare Whodunit: a scholar tackles doubters on who wrote the plays; Hollywood weighs in” by Alexandra Alter, interview of James Shapiro in Wall Street Journal April 2, 2010. The Niederkorn reference is to his review, "Absolute Will" in the April 2010 edition of The Brooklyn Rail: Critical Perspectives on Arts, Politics and Culture.