Monday, April 26, 2010

Sir Derek Jacobi joins Emmerich's Anonymous

Our Pennsylvania correspondent alerted us that the International Movie Database site on Roland Emmerich's upcoming film on the Shakespeare authorship controversy, Anonymous, recently updated information about the film including the fact that Oxfordians Sir Derek Jacobi and Mark Rylance have been added to the cast. Jacobi is slated to enact a prologue, and Rylance will play Gloucester.

Other additions include Australian Twilight veteran Xavier Samuel who will play Southampton. Relative unknown Antje Thiele will play Lady de Vere, although the site doesn't specify whether Thiele plays Anne Cecil or Elizabeth Trentham. Newcomer Sebastian Reid will play Essex. Tony Way and Robert Emms will play Elizabethan scribblers Thomas Nashe and Thomas Dekker.

These actors join the Anonymous cast headed by Vanessa Redgrave and her daughter Joely Richardson as Elizabeth (old and young), Rhys Ifans as Shakespeare/Edward de Vere, David Thewlis as Cecil (pere) and Edward Hogg as Cecil (fils).

James Shapiro says this film will be a disaster for English teachers, but I don't recall any disturbance in the force after Bette Davis and Errol Flynn did their best to rewrite history in the Private Lives of Elizabeth and Essex. I think Anonymous is going to be fun.

CNN quotes Egan

Shakespeare Oxford Society journal editor Michael Egan was quoted in a CNN online review of James Shapiro's Contested Will: Who Wrote Shakespeare?:
"The case for Oxford derives from the fact that almost everything we know about Shakespeare of Stratford doesn't seem connectible to the author of the plays," he (Egan) says. "It's that gap between what we could infer about the author, and what we know about Shakespeare of Stratford, which has raised the questions."
Egan said he was sorry that the author, CNN entertainment producer Todd Leopold didn't use Egan's main objection, that ". . . Contested Will is a profoundly dishnonest book in the sense that Shapiro's book 1599 directly reads Shakespeare's life from his works."


Leopold's article published today on CNN Entertainment,  "Was Shakespeare's Ghostwriter Shakespeare?", numbers the Shakespeare authorship controversy among conspiracy theories such as rumors that Elvis lives. He quotes UC/Davis history professor Kathy Olmsted author of Real Enemies: Conspiracy Theories and American Democracy on the topic:


"When people don't have that information or can't get it, they like to sort of speculate on what the real story is," she (Olmsted) says. "People see those blank spots and they want to fill them in."
Since hard data linking the Stratford man with the Shakespeare plays is non-existent, those who believe the man from Stratford wrote the plays should bear the burden of proving his authorship. Investigating the source of the Shakespeare canon is no more irrational than investigating the source of dark matter in the universe.

Leopold gets a great quote from Shapiro on the Roland Emmerich film
Anonymous that will feature Edward de Vere, the seventeenth Earl of Oxford (1550-1604), as Shakespeare:
"It's going to be a disaster movie for people who teach Shakespeare," he (Shapiro) says. "In the great rock-paper-scissor of movie and book, movie beats book."
Ironically, many alternate authorship advocates also consider the Emmerich film to be a disaster for authorship inquiry because the film promotes an implausible authorship scenario that may damage the reputation of authorship research.

Friday, April 23, 2010

CNN preparing an authorship article for online release

Todd Leopold, entertainment producer for CNN.com/SHOWBIZ, interviewed Shakespeare Oxford Society journal editor Michael Egan yesterday for an upcoming article on the Shakespeare authorship controversy. The article is being produced for CNN online, according to Leopold. We will post the URL when it is available.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Hamlet on PBS Great Performances



From Tom Townsend, Oberon Treasurer -- Here are the details for all those interested in viewing the PBS production of Hamlet.

Date: April 28
Time: 8.00pm
Network: PBS
Program: “Great Performances – Hamlet from the Royal Shakespeare Company"
Starring:  Patrick Stewart as Claudius

What's a popp'rin' pear?

James Wheaton reported yesterday in the Jackson Citizen Patriot that the Michigan Shakespeare Festival high school tour of Romeo and Juliet was criticized for inappropriate content -- "Some take issue with sexual innuendoes in Michigan Shakespeare Festival’s High School Tour performances of ‘Romeo & Juliet’":
Western [High School] parent Rosie Crowley said she was upset when she heard students laughing about sexual content in the play afterwards. Her son didn’t attend the performance Tuesday because of another commitment, she said. “I think the theater company should have left out any references that were rated R,” Crowley said. “I would say that I’ve read Shakespeare, and what I was told from the students, I’ve never read anything that bad.” She said she objected to scenes that involved pelvic thrusting and breast touching and to a line in which Mercutio makes suggestive comments to Romeo after looking up the skirt of a female.
The problem with cutting out the naughty bits in R&J is that one would be left with a tattered tale, indeed. In Filthy Shakespeare, author Pauline Kiernan says:
Romeo and Juliet is one of the most famous tragedies about love in Western literature. It is also one of Shakespeare’s bawdiest plays. Its plethora of sexual puns gives the play a levity which some critics have found inappropriate.
One might make the argument that any naughty bit that must be glossed might be considered titillation-free. Kiernan gives this example of Mercutio's gutter-minded exuberance when speaking in Act II, scene 1 of Romeo's first-love Rosaline:

O, Romeo that she were, O that she were
An open-arse and thou a popp'rin' pear.

This open-arse, Kiernan says, is a reference to a Medlar fruit that has a cleft (like a peach, perhaps) and is nicknamed in Elizabethan parlance an “open-arse”. The popp’rin’ pear is a Poperinghe pear from Flanders/Belgium -- perhaps what we call a Buerre Bosc pear -- that was shaped like an erect penis. 

That's a long way to go for a little amusement.

Mercutio's line objected to by parent Crowley: “What has thou found. No hare, sir, unless a hare, sir, sit in a Lenten pie.” is similarly dense -- something about a whore and no meat. I don't get it.

***
Jackson Citizen Patriot 4/21/10 article by James Wheaton
A Dictionary of Shakespeare's Sexual Puns and Their Significance by Frankie Rubenstein (McMillan, 1984 & 1989)
Filthy Shakespeare by Pauline Keirnan (Cuercus, 2006)
http://bardseyeviewblog.blogspot.com/2005/12/romeo-and-juliet-and-pornography.html by Jeremy Abrams

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

May 10 deadline for applications to Shakespeare monologue contest

The deadline for applications to participate in this year's statewide Michigan Shakespeare Festival High School Monologue Contest is May 10, 2010. All high school students enrolled in grades 9-12 in the spring of 2010 are eligible to participate by performing one Shakespeare monologue of no more than two minutes in length. Finalists will compete for $350 in prizes on July 31, 2010 at Jackson Community College. Registration is $5. For more information, call Michigan Shakespeare Festival at 517-998-3673 or check the Michigan Shakespeare Festival website.


The Washtenaw region semi-finals will be held at 10:45 a.m. May 15 at sponsor Whole Foods Market, 3135 Washtenaw Avenue in Ann Arbor. Students will compete for $200 first and second prizes and tickets to the Michigan Shakespeare Festival to be held July 15-August 8, 2010.


Click here for a copy of the application for the Washtenaw County Region

Jackson region semi-finals will be held at 10:45 a.m. May 15 in the Shakespeare Room at Jackson High School, 544 Wildwood Avenue in Jackson.


Click here for a copy of the application for the Jackson County region

Saturday, April 17, 2010

UN-birthday party April 21


Dear Oberon,

We will be back together this Wednesday evening April 21 celebrating Shakspere’s UN-birthday. You will be hearing birthday greetings from Stratford, the Shakespeare Birthplace Trust, traditional professors and teachers, Stanley Wells and no doubt James Shapiro who undoubtedly will be given another round of interviews and book reviews to celebrate the event.

Of course, not even Shakspere’s birthday is known for sure. It’s a surmise like the rest of his life, counting backward three days from the date of his Baptismal day, one of the few facts about the man known for reasonably sure. 

In any event, we will be celebrating with cake and with Robert Duha, managing director of the Michigan Shakespeare Festival, and other guests and regulars.  We will be discussing with Robert ways that Oberon can help the Festival. As you know, Robert has asked us to give presentations relating what we do to the plays featured at the Festival this year:  Comedy of Errors and Romeo and Juliet.

We will also be treated to Richard Joyrich’s report from the Concordia conference in Portland, characterized this year by many as quite successful. Richard will have lots to report, and we are looking forward to hearing from him as his reports are always entertaining.

I will also be telling everyone about James Shapiro at the Folger on Friday night and my experience doing research at that esteemed library. Lots of wood paneling there and very impressive indeed.

So we are looking forward to seeing you Wednesday. Come celebrate Shakespere’s UN-birthday with us and join us in our usual enjoyable talk about the real Shakespeare who is much more interesting than that other guy.

Happy UN-birthday to all,

Tom Hunter
Your Oberon Chairman

A Lone Oberoner Reports From Portland

As the only Oberoner to attend, I will take this opportunity to report on what happened during the four days of the 14th Annual Shakespeare Authorship Conference, held at Concordia University in Portland, Oregon

Day 1—Thursday, April 8, 2010

The Conference convened at 4:00 PM.

First up was Mark Goggin on "The Case for Bacon as the Author of Julius Caesar". Mr. Goggin focused on the underlying symbolism and allusions of the play and how it is all about using rhetoric for persuasion. Of course Bacon was a master of rhetoric. Bacon also wrote the most of any writer at the time about the psychology of decision making, another important theme in this play. Mr. Goggin went through the usual "qualifications" that the writer Shakespeare must have had, such as knowledge of law, medicine, music, military matters, and the new astronomy as well as possessing a large vocabulary. Bacon fits the bill quite well. (Of course so does Edward deVere and, in my own opinion, better).

After a break we heard from the brother and sister team of Dr. Bruce Thompson and Claudia Thompson. Their talk, entitled "Shakespeare on the Orient Express" was delivered in tandem, with each one of them taking turns to read a few paragraphs of the paper. The significance of this "group reading" became clear as their message was imparted. Taking their cue from the famous Agatha Christie mystery Murder on the Orient Express, in which the detective Hercule Poirot finds that none of the twelve suspects by himself or herself possessed complete motive, means, and opportunity of committing the murder, and consequently finds that they all did it together, the Thompsons conclude that the works of Shakespeare were not all written by the same person.

There are some plays which seem like they could only have been written by a woman and others that must have been written by a man. There is good evidence that Bacon wrote Venus and Adonis, but not the sonnets (the best evidence is for deVere as the sonnet author). Roger Manners, 5th Earl of Rutland had visited Denmark and was thus best suited to be the author of Hamlet. William Stanley, 6th Earl of Derby fits many of the plays, but if he was the author why did he apparently stop writing in 1612? The "Italian" plays fit deVere very well, and so on.

Then there are the references to tradesmen and early capitalism in the plays. These might seem to fit William of Stratford (who the Thompsons see as the "stage manager" for the acting company) or other actors in the company like Richard Burbidge, William Kemp, Augustine Philips, John Hemmings, Robert Armin, and Thomas Pope. Any of these people could have contributed plays or at least "additions" or "improvisations" which have come down to us in the final printed version of the plays.

After another break, we got Dr. Peter Macintosh on "Dating Shakespeare's 'Late Plays': Coriolanus". I'm not sure what Dr. Macintosh's "authorship persuasion" is (last year he presented evidence purporting to show that the author of the Sonnets was Robert Devereaux, 2nd Earl of Essex), but his talk today was "candidate-neutral" He only wanted to show (and he did it very well) that the traditional dating of Coriolanus to 1608 (or at least to after 1605) cannot be sustained. On evidence based on things such as publication date, date of source material, borrowing of phrases of other writers by Shakespeare, borrowing of other writers FROM Shakespeare, etc. Dr. Macintosh concludes that Coriolanus could be dated anytime from 1598 to 1609. (Oxfordians in the audience would prefer to extend the beginning of this range to 1579 or even earlier). Thus deVere cannot be definitely ruled out as the author because he died in 1604 (maybe). The main (perhaps only) reason for traditional scholars to date the play after 1605 is apparent use of Camden's Remaines of a Greater Worke Concerning Britainne from 1605 as well as some very tenuous allusions to topical events occurring in 1607, 1608 and 1609, Dr. Macintosh points out that these are all quite weak arguments.

We then all watched an 80 minute feature about Marlowe's death. This is a DVD extra found on the DVD of the BBC's version of Marlowe's Edward II from 1969. It is kind of a "mock inquest" into whether Marlowe's death (or apparent death) on May 30, 1593 in a Deptford tavern was an accident, a deliberate murder to prevent him from testifying at his scheduled court appearance the next day and implicating "powerful men" or a scheme to fake his death and let him escape to the Continent to avoid imprisonment or worse. There were three apparently real barristers presenting each of these cases and questioning actors who were playing some of the main people involved in the case (such as Thomas Walsingham, Robert Poley, Ingram Frizer, Thomas Kydd [the royal coroner of the time], and a member of the Star Chamber). Then a "jury" of about 70 people in the audience (on the film, not at Concordia) voted on which story was true. The murder for political reasons came out on top, followed by the fake death story. Only 11 people on the jury believed the "official" story that Marlowe was killed by accident by Frizer in self-defense.

Of course this, by itself, does not impinge on the authorship question (such as providing evidence for Marlowe being Shakespeare), but it does go to show how secretive the times were in Elizabethan England and how major secrets could be hushed up and "official" stories provided at the request of "powerful men" (and a powerful Queen).

Everything was finished at 9 PM and we all left for our various hotels, motels, and hostelries.

Day 2—Friday, April 9, 2010

At 9 AM we got the first talk. It was Dr. Ren Draya on "The Three Queens of Hamlet". Quick, can you name all three queens that appear in Hamlet? I'll give you a few minutes before I write down the answer. OK, that's long enough. The three queens are Gertrude, the Player Queen, and Queen Hecuba. Did you get all three? I knew you would.

Queen Hecuba (who appears in a speech given by the Player King on request from Hamlet) is important because she "spurs Hamlet on" to his revenge when he sees how the Player King gets tears in his eyes just talking about her while Hamlet apparently feels nothing even though his own father has been murdered.

The Player Queen (who "protests too much") represents Hamlet/Oxford/s ideal Mother figure and True Loyal Wife, both important issues for Oxford.

Gertrude is also a mother/wife figure for Oxford, but flawed. Almost all of her lines are just responses to what others are saying. She hardly ever initiates any actions. Nonetheless, there remain questions in the play about how complicit she was in the murder of Hamlet's father and even in the death of Ophelia.

Then came Dr. Michael Delahoyde, speaking on "Oxford Wrote Richard the Second, Know Ye Not That" (the title taken from a famous quote by Elizabeth when she likened herself to Richard II after that play had been performed on the eve of the Essex Rebellion in 1601).

With his usual flair for the dramatic and the humorous, Dr. Delahoyde explained about "perspective art" in the Renaissance. These were artistic tricks to cause false illusions of depth or to have the observer see a "hidden" image when looking at a painting from an unusual angle. He showed that Oxford could easily have seen such paintings during his continental travels. The plays of Shakespeare are just like that, having many layers and perspectives that can be found.

Delahoyde showed some examples on how different characters in the play Richard II had parallels or pointed symbolically to Oxford and Elizabeth. In some ways, Oxford can be seen in the characters of Richard II, Bolingbroke, and Mowbray, while Elizabeth can also be seen in Richard II.

Delahoyde then explained about Chaucer (who was an important poet during the reign of Richard II, but who appears to be absent). In reality, there are several subtle allusions to Chaucer in the play (and in other Shakespeare plays as well).

After a break, Richard Whalen gave his talk on "The Tragi-Comedy of Othello: A Link to Oxford the Dramatist" This was an expanded version of a talk Richard gave at the SOS/SF Conference in Houston last October. It concerns the amazing use of Commedia dell'arte in the play Othello, even though it is supposedly a tragedy.

Commedia dell'arte, a form of theater which was at its heyday in Italy during the late 1570s when Oxford was on his continental tour, consists of spontaneous improvisation using stock characters and stock situations. Richard pointed out how many of these stock characters have conterparts in the main characters in the play Othello (The “Zanni” is Iago, the “sub Zanni” is Roderigo, the “Capitano” is Othello, “Pantalone” is Brabantio, “Pedrolino” is Cassio, and of course the heroine and her maid are Desdemona and Emilia). All of these stock characters have certain defined characteristics and ways of behavior in Commedia and there is an extremely close association with the way the characters of Othello are portrayed. Richard gave many examples of this throughout the play.

The important thing to note is that Commedia dell'arte had been performed (in a variant style) in England during the 1560s and 1570s, but there were no performances of it (with one exception) during the supposed writing career of William of Stratford. So how could he have learned of it and used it so carefully. (The only exception was a SINGLE command performance in 1602 at court, doubtful that Will of Stratford could have been there). Of course, deVere could easily have seen Commedia in Italy while he was there (and there is even good evidence that places him in the audience at a specific performance).

After lunch we were all back for a rousing, unscripted romp through the wonders of SARC by Dr. Daniel Wright and Bill Boyle in a presentation called "An Authorship Initiative of Unparalled Magnitude: Opening up the SARC to the Whole World". As you may recall, SARC stands for Shakespeare Authorship Research Centre.

The presentation was a demonstration of how, in the privacy of your own home, you can access the many online databases of literary and other scholarly information that only university libraries can offer (although as LInda has told us, many of these are available to us through the state library of Michigan). All you have to do is become an "associate scholar" of the SARC. In addition to gaining access to all these great resources you will also get a nice button the wear that says "SARC SCHOLAR" and the knowledge that you are helping to support a great thing.

Anyway, access to all these databases seems to be "way cool" and could really help someone who is trying to do good research. In addition, you can get access to all of the holdings of the Concordia University Library. Bill demonstrated how you can get any of the BBC Shakespeare plays and watch them online, for example.

After another break it was time for Kevin Gilvary, all the way from The deVere Society in England, on "On the Date and Authorship of The Contention...". Kevin is the editor for the deVere Society's "dating project" and he tells us that the book should be out by the end of the year. As you may know, this has been a multiyear project where different people worked on different plays in an attempt to use all available evidence to "fairly" and "factually" date the plays. This means that there should be no preconceived notion of who the author is so there is no "fitting the dates" to the author's life (like the Stratfordian dating is). Kevin himself apparently worked on the History plays and passed out a copy of what will be Chapter 21 of the finished book, on The Second Part of Henry VI. His talk today was an expanded version of this chapter.

This play appeared in the First Folio under the title I gave in the last paragraph (the F version). It had also appeared in Quarto version in 1594, 1600, and 1619 (all basically the same as each other, but a little different than the F version). These editions (the Q version) had the long title (I'm probably going to get this wrong) of "The First Part of the Contention between the Noble Houses of Lancaster and York".

Scholars have debated whether the F version was written first and then revised (by the author or the company) into the Q version or if the Q version was first and then revised to make the F version. Most scholars now agree that F is later (and Kevin agrees). The next question is whether Shakespeare's main source was the Holinshed edition of 1577 or the 2nd edition (slightly different) of 1587. (This is important if you want to see how early the play could be dated). Actually, according to Kevin (based on other scholars) Shakespeare apparently used Hall's Union of the the Two Houses..." from 1548-1550 as his main source anyway.

Kevin then went on to detail some apparent parallels between Eleanor Cobham, Duchess of Gloucester in the play and Margaret Clifford, a descendent of Henry VII, who was heiress presumptive to the throne of England after 1578 (for complex reasons I can't go into now-I can tell you later). Margaret was disgraced at court in 1579, paralleling what happened in the play to the Duchess of Gloucester so that might point to 1579 as a good date for the initial writing of the play (the Q version). This agrees with the date that Eva Turner Clark came up with in her book (but for different reasons). But then, according to Kevin, the play was revised in 1594 (into the F version) when Margaret Clifford's second son, William Stanley, 6th Earl of Derby married Elizabeth Vere, Oxford's daughter. In the F version of the play, Eleanor Cobham is treated in a more sympathetic way than in the earlier Q version.

Anyway, it's all quite fascinating and complex.

After another break we came back for another whirlwind presentation by Dr, Earl Showerman on "Shakespeare and the Queen's Farcical Dalliance with Alencon". This was a followup of research previously presented by Earl at other conferences on Greek sources for the plays, in particular the references to Hercules. It turns out that the Duke of Alencon who was being somewhat seriously considered for marriage by Elizabeth from around 1578-1582 had been given the birth name of Hercule, but was renamed Francois at his confirmation (might only a court insider like deVere have known this?)

Earl spent most of the time demonstrating that Bottom in A Midsummer Night's Dream is a Herculean anti-hero and that the whole play of MSD can be seen as a political allegory about the Alencon marriage negotiations. He then had to rush through his similar findings (but not to the same extent) of allusions to Alencon in Much Ado about Nothing, Loves' Labours' Lost, and I Henry VI.

That was it for the presentations. However, there was still more to come. We all trooped over to the SARC for the official dedication ceremony. The SARC's full name now is "The Richard Paul Roe and Jane Roe Shakespeare Authorship Research Centre"

Day 3—Saturday, April 10, 2010

We began at 9 AM to hear Charles Boyle on "The Court of Queen Elizabeth in Shakespeare". This is the talk that Charles was planning to give at the 1996 SOS Conference in Minneapolis (the first SOS Conference I ever attended, BTW) when he was prevented from doing so when he suffered a massive stroke right in the hotel. Since then he has been continuing to be interested in the authorship question and has contributed papers to multiple conferences. However these have been all mostly been read by his brother William. Well, now Charles felt that he was well enough to take on the presenting himself.

Boy, it was great to see this paper finally delivered! Charles was assisted in reading some of the more dramatic parts of the talk (excerpts from plays and other speeches of the day) by his brother William, Hank Whittemore, and Charles' son Jack (age 13). There were also some great video clips of excerpts from previous Shakespeare performances, including the 1933 Midsummer NIght's Dream (with Mickey Rooney as Puck), the BBC version of Troilus and Cressida, Olivier's Hamlet, and part of a rehearsal for As You Like it from 1994 with Charles Boyle himself as Touchstone.

The presentation itself was about many Oxfordian allusions in several plays, including As You Like It, Midsummer's Night's Dream, Troilus and Cressida, Titus Andronicus, Twelfth Night, Henry IV Part II, and Hamlet. The allusions were mostly about the relationship of Oxford to the Queen (Charles believes that Oxford was the son of the Queen)

After a break we heard William Boyle on "Building a Shakespeare Authorship Database: What's In, What's Out and Who Decides?" William, a professional librarian has been working on an online resource he calls SOAR (Shakespeare Online Authorship Resources) which is a part of his New England Shakespeare Authorship Library (www.shakespeareoxfordlibrary.org). There are currently 200 records in SOAR and in the future Bill would like it to include thousands. It is a searchable list of many journal articles, published and non published conference presentations, and book excerpts, all having some interest to researchers of the authorship question. Once a record is found, one can click to find out how to get it. Most of them can be gotten immediately through links that Bill has provided. Some links require that you are a SARC scholar and therefore have access to JSTOR or other closed databases that Concordia University subscribes to. A small number of records cannot be gotten immediately and have to be gotten by intralibrary loan or something (but Bill still gives exact details and what journal or book the record is from.

This should prove to be an invaluable resource in the future. The difficulties are the time and effort it takes to catalog all these records (Bill will be asking for assistance from others for this). Another difficulty is the questions asked in the title of this presentation. Who will decide which things to include or exclude? Right now, of course it's Bill Boyle exclusively.

In this regard, Bill pointed out that the otherwise fine book by Warren Hope and Kim Holston, The Shakespeare Authorship Controversy has a long annotated bibliography but that (according to a conscious decision by the authors) completely excludes any books which discuss the Prince Tudor theory (PT is likewise not mentioned in the text of the book itself). This kind of thing should be avoided, says Bill Boyle (and I agree with him).

The next presentation was by Hank Whittemore on "Commanded by the Motion of Thine Eyes: Shakespeare and the Dark Lady" Actually, despite the title, Hank did not spend much time talking about the Dark Lady. He broke the talk into four parts, each discussing one of four "named persons" in the sonnets (or in the Dedication). These were "Onlie Begetter", "Better Spirit", "Suborned Informer", and "My Mistress" (oh, the Dark Lady).

Hank's conclusions were 1) "Onlie Begetter" refers to the person who inspired the Sonnets, the Earl of Southampton, not (as some scholars say) the one who procured the sonnets for the publisher Thorpe; 2) "Better Sprit" (the Rival Poet in sonnets 77-86) is the pseudonym Shakespeare which Oxford had to use and which threatened to (and did) eclipse him; "Suborned Informer" (from Sonnet 125) is "time", not a person at all; and 4) "My Mistress" is of course Queen Elizabeth.

We then broke for a 90 minute brunch/lunch break.

At 1:30 it was time for the Keynote Address. This was Charles Beauclerk on "Shakespeare's Lost Kingdom" This was in some ways a repeat of the talk he had given during the launch of his new book on Wednesday (the day before the start of this Conference), but not everyone had been there then. But this presentation was expanded and included other information. The message was the same however, that Oxford was the son of Queen Elizabeth and also the father (with Elizabeth) of Southampton and that the Shakespeare plays were written largely to assuage Oxford's personality trauma and identity crises over this and also to try to affect the way Elizabeth ruled England and planned for her eventual successor.

For this presentation, Charles both read from his paper and and also his new book.

After a break we were treated to an incredible presentation by Alan Green, titled "The Holy Trinity Solution: John Dee's Master Key Unites the Sonnet's Dedication with the Stratford Monument and Gravestone Inscriptions." Alan has apparently found an immensely complex master code involving all of these dedications and inscriptions which, combined with John Dee's Enochian Tables can be made to reveal a specific place in Holy Trinity Church where something "very important" is hidden. This place turns out to be under one of the four consecration crosses on the altar of the church. The decoding of this requires knowledge of Free Masonry, Middle English, Latin, and anagramming skills. It is generally based on a 6-2-4 code (like the one Rollett found), but gets much more complicated.

I tried to get some of the details down, but it was just not possible. Luckily (or maybe not, depending on your feelings of the use of cryptography in the authorship question) the details will apparently be published next month in a book called The Holy Trinity Solution.

Alan told us that (somehow) he got permission to film all over Holy Trinity Church in Stratford and so he will know if any Stratfordian of scrupulous bent (Are there any of those? You bet there are!) tries to remove whatever might be hidden under the consecration cross or change things in any way.

What will come of this? We shall see, won't we?

The next thing was a panel discussion on "A Declaration of Reasonable Theorizing". The panel was made up of Charles Beauclerk, William Boyle, Dan Wright, and Hank Whittemore. As all of these are supporters of the PT theory and also apparently the "super PT theory" (that Oxford was Elizabeth's son as well as her lover and father of Southampton), things seemed a little lopsided to me.

The idea of the panel was to try to find some way for all of us to "get along" and respect others' conclusions or theories even if you don't agree with them. (There has recently been some quite nasty commenting on Elizaforum and other forums recently. Phaeton forbids any mention of PT at all.)

There was some spirited discussion, but nothing really was resolved in my opinion.

Well that was the end of the presentations for the day, but wait! There's more to come.

After another lengthy break for people to relax and "get ready" we reconvened (at least those who had paid for it) for the Awards Banquet. This was held on the main floor of the George R. White Library and Learning Center at Concordia (which of course houses the SARC on the third floor).

Several awards were given. The annual SARC Award for Artistic Excellence went to Chris Coleman, the Artistic Director of the Portland Center Stage. Awards for Scholarly Excellence were given to Michael Delahyoyde and (in absentia) to Stephanie Hopkins Hughes and a Spanish Oxfordian scholar, Jose Carrillo de Albornoz Fabregas. Some of the work of this last awardee will soon be available in English for the first time thanks to the new Translation Project of the SARC (to facilitate access to Authorship research in other languages). Then a Special Award was given to Charles Boyle for his many contributions (he got a standing ovation).

Day 4—Sunday, April 11, 2010

The last day of the Conference started at 9 AM with a Panel discussion. It featured Paul Nicholson and Chris Carter. The subject was "The Importance of Knowing Shakespeare for Dramatizing the Plays" Paul Nicholson is the Executive Director of the Oregon Shakespeare Festival and Chris Carter, you'll recall, is the Artistic Director of Portland Center Stage and got the SARC Annual Award for Artistic Excellence yesterday.

Chris explained to us his method of first approaching a play which he is going to be directing. This involves reading the play, determining how the situations and the characters interact, etc. But it also involves trying to know something about the "world of the play" In the case of a noncontemporary play or one which is outside of his "frame of reference" he likes to go to the biography of the playwright to help him out. But this doesn't help if he sticks to the traditional biography of Shakespeare.

Paul (who doesn't direct plays, just manages everything else involved in running the Festival) has talked to many people involved in the production of plays at Ashland, including directors, actors, dramaturges, and vocal coaches. He told us that with very few exceptions most directors "don't seem to care" about who Shakespeare is. This may be due to the Oregon Shakespeare Festival's unofficial mission to have the plays "speak to contemporary audiences" and not to be presented as "museum pieces" Thus, the actual political situation which might have been present when Shakespeare wrote a play (and which he might have "encoded" into the play) may not be important to address now.

On the other hand, Paul has talked to actors who tell him that when they investigate the playwright's life (and not all of them care to do so) it does sometimes help them to develop their characters when they have an idea of what Shakespeare may have meant them to represent.

Dramaturges tell Paul that knowing about the author could possibly make for interesting comments during rehearsal. They tend to look at the world in which the playwright was living and not his biography. Vocal coaches say it doesn't matter at all to them.

We next heard from William J Ray on "Rollett in Reverse: Objective Evidence That Edward deVere Wrote the Sonnets" This was a bit of a whirlwind tour through various means of "decoding" the dedication of the Sonnets and some of the sonnets themselves, as well as some thoughts on the monument inscription at Shakepeare's grave. William went through Rollett's "solution" and some ways of "completing it", some Cardano Grill methods of finding the names "Henry Wriotheseley" and "Vere", David Roper's decoding of the Monument Inscription, and some anagrams (or near anagrams) that he (William Ray) found in certain lines of the sonnets for "Wriotheseley".

After a break for brunch the next talk, by Jacob Hughes, was on "Chaucer Lost and Found in Shakespeare's Histories". This was a follow-up talk from a presentation he gave last year on Chaucer and Shakespeare. The difficulty some scholars have is wondering why Chaucer, who played an important role during the reigns of King Richard II and King Henry IV does not appear (at least overtly) in Shakespeare's plays dealing with these kings. It is known that Shakespeare used Chaucer as a source in at least two plays (Midsummer Night's Dream and The Two Noble Kinsmen) and seems to be the source of the name Sir Topas in Twelfth Night, but he is not ever mentioned by name (as are other famous source writers like Gower and Ovid).

In fact, there are Chaucerian influences throughout the plays of Shakespeare. Jacob focused mostly on allusions to Chaucer in the History plays, particularly in the character of Falstaff.

The last presentation was Frank Davis on "Shakspere: A New Look at the Claim for His Literacy" This was a followup presentation on work Frank has presented in the past on signatures of actors and writers during Shakespearean times. Frank wanted to consider 1) the definition of "literacy" at the time, 2) The incidence of illiteracy in Warwickshire, 3) the degree of literacy required to be an actor, 4) Shakspere's education, and 5) his writing ability.

Literacy in those times meant more that one could read. The ability to write was not considered so important. Studies show that the illiteracy rate in Warwickshire was at least 75%. Frank's study of Henslowe's Diary and other references did manage to find 2 (and possibly 3) actors who were apparently illiterate, but all the rest seemed to be able to read and write at least their names. Frank went through many examples of actors and writers having well-formed signatures, mostly using the Italian hand but sometimes in Secretary hand (most educated men at the time wrote in secretary hand, but used Italian hand for their signatures). All of the actors and writers in Henslowe's diary could write their names well. These signatures were compared to the six illegible signatures we have by Shakspere.

As far as Shakspere's education goes Frank detailed a history of what people have said about Shakespeare's learning from 1623 on, showing how "unlearned" Shakespeare has become "learned" Shakespeare (giving him knowledge about law, Italy, etc).

The conclusions were that 1) even if Shakspere did go to the Grammar School (good though it was), it would not have given him enough education, 2) Most actors were literate, 3) No example of ACTOR's signatures in Henslowe's diary were as illegible as Shakspere's, let alone WRITERS, but 4) lacking the ability to write does not prevent acting as a profession.

So that finished a very good Conference. We can all look forward to the next one in April 2011.

Monday, April 12, 2010

Oberon Makes It To The Big Time (in a manner of speaking)




I have just returned from Portland, Oregon where I attended the 14th Annual Shakespeare Authorship Studies Conference at Concordia University. It was a wonderful experience and I will be posting some excerpts on this blog in the near future.

For now, I would like to report on something which made me proud. Above you can see the lobby of the new SARC (Shakespeare Authorship Research Centre) at Concordia University (image courtesy of Dr. Daniel Wright, Director of the SARC). The SARC was formally dedicated during the Conference.

In the picture you can see the classroom (just to the left of what is probably a portrait of Edward deVere). You can even see the "light of wisdom" present within the room. (Well, actually, it's just the sunlight. This picture was taken on one of the comparatively rare sunny days in Portland).

On all the walls of this room (and other rooms in the SARC) there are posted many items related to the Authorship Question. I am very happy to say that there is an actual Oberon bookmark there! It is on the wall just to the left of the door as you go in. I am glad that Dr. Wright thinks so highly of us here at Oberon (as far as I could see there is nothing posted specifically about any other local group).

If you continue along the hallway past the classroom you come to a boardroom which is also used for classes (and special meetings). Also (not included in the picture) are an office for Dr. Wright and another one for his assistant (a student intern, currently a chemistry major at Concordia who "fell in love with the authorship question" while studying at Concordia-go figure). These two offices are located just to the left of the framed Declaration of Reasonable Doubt hanging at the left of the picture (just above the wooden globe-like thing, the significance of I could never discover).

The SARC is very impressive and even more impressive is the fact that such a thing could have been established at an honest-to-goodness University. Maybe the tide is turning (ever-so-slightly).

Saturday, April 3, 2010

Hunter comments on Shapiro's WSJ interview

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?

Tom Hunter

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.

Thursday, April 1, 2010

Startling news? Well...

For a bit of fun, head over to Shakespeare Geek (the link is on the right side, the first one under Interesting Blogs) and click on the title. Look for the first post for today (April 1), titled "Actual Shakespeare Letters Found?!" and read it. Be sure to click on the link provided at the end of the blog entry to see what is really going on. Just remember what day this is.

I don't want to spoil the surprise, but after you finish you will agree with me when I say that people in the past have gone to a lot of trouble to supply ANYTHING that could link William of Stratford to the author of the plays and sonnets of Shakespeare. Yes, Stratfordians would give their eye teeth (what does that expression mean anyway?) to be able to have even a millionth of what we Oxfordians have to link our candidate. The only recourse Stratfordians (like James Shapiro) have is to deny that the plays and sonnets can be autobiographical in any way or that they can tell us anything about what the writer read and knew about, even if they contradict themselves while doing it (again like Shapiro). It's kind of pathetic in its way.

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Note on the William Henry Ireland forgeries: Doug Stewart has written a novel about the Ireland scandal, The Boy Who Would Be Shakespeare: A Tale of Forgery and Folly due out this month from DaCapo Press.