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 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 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: 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

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

Sources: Jared Taylor Remembers Joe Sobran Joe Sobran: How Old Was Oxford’s Daughter . . . ? Mark Twain: Is Shakespeare Dead? Shakespeare Authorship Coalition 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

BAR compares authorship controversies

In the current issue (Nov./Dec. 2010) of Biblical Archeology Review, BAR editor Hershel Shanks compares the Shakespeare authorship controversy to a New Testament authorship controversy raging in the field of biblical scholarship. In his First Person column titled "Shakespeare, the Earl of Oxford and Morton Smith". Shanks refers to James Shapiro's Stratfordian take on the topic, Contested Will: Who Wrote Shakespeare? published last year, but does not mention Shapiro's thesis that nineteenth century biblical study opened the intellectual doors to doubting the traditional Stratfordian attribution of Shakespeare's work.

Richard Whalen's review of Contested Will posted 01/19/10 SOS News Online
Linda Theil's review of Contested Will posted 12/05/09 SOS News Online

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Mantel said a mouthful

. . . And it's very difficult to get back beyond reputation, back to the real man, back to the sources, because a lot of the history we are taught is just packages of prejudice handed on from one generation to the next. And the package is never opened and examined. We just carry it unquestioningly and hand it on ourselves.
2009 Man Booker Prize for Fiction winner, novelist Hilary Mantel, made this comment in an NPR interview with Liane Hanson on October 25, last year. Wolf Hall -- Mantel's prize-winning novel featuring Thomas Cromwell as protagonist -- is out now in paperback. A transcript of the entire NPR interview, as well as an audio link, is available at "Booker Prize winner Mantel tells the story of Henry VIII" (scroll down web page). 

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Freed's "Beard" set for spring in Escondido

San Diego's North County Times included notice of auditions for a Patio Playhouse spring 2011 production of Amy Freed's 2001 play about the Shakespeare authorship controversy, Beard of Avon, in the paper's Community News section today:
Auditions for 'The Beard of Avon'
ESCONDIDO ---- Patio Playhouse will hold auditions for "The Beard of Avon" from 10 am. to 1 p.m. Oct. 30 and from 7 to 10 p.m. Nov. 1 at the theater, 201 E. Grand Ave, Suite 1D. The story is about a bumpkin known as Will Shakspere who longs to be an artist and flee from his filthy barn, his homebound wife and incessant chores. Parts include: Will Shakspere, in his 30s ---- simple, honest, an appealing fellow who possesses hidden gifts; Edward De Vere, 40s-60s ---- 17th Earl of Oxford, wicked, charming, sexy and gay; Queen Elizabeth, 50s-60s ---- a sacred monster who wants a boyfriend; Anne Hathaway, 30s ---- Will's lively, illiterate and promiscuous wife; Henry Wriothesley, 20s ---- young, beautiful and De Vere's lover; Old Colin, 60s-70s ---- shepherd who is Will's friend; John Heminge, 40s-60s ---- manager of an acting company; Henry Condel, 40s-60s ---- Heminge's partner; Geoffrey Dunderbread, 20s ---- actor; and Richard Burbage, 30s-40s --- actor. There are also numerous smaller roles for males; some roles may be doubled. Auditions will be cold readings. Head shots and resumes welcome but not required. Performance dates are Feb. 18-March 12. Call 760-489-6522 or e-mail .
The production will be produced by Gretchen Pili and directed by Jim Clevenger.

NOTE 10/19/10:
Freed's Beard of Avon was performed by the Notre Dame de Namur University Department of Theatre and Dance to critical acclaim by Keith Kreitman in San Mateo's Daily Journal, "Shakespeare -- as you like it". The show will continue through October 24, 2010.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Tepid Taymore Tempest

Julie Taymore's Hawaii-located Tempest with Helen Mirren as "Prospera" debuted at the New York Film Festival October 2, 2010 to a generally lukewarm reception. The film opens nationally on December 10, 2010.

Hollywood News review by Sean O'Connell:

Still photos and other info on Yahoo! Movies: