Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Interview with Richard Whalen about The Oxfordian Shakespeare Series

Richard Whalen,MA, co-publisher with Llumina Press of The Oxfordian Shakespeare Series, has  released two editions in the series: Macbeth, which Whalen edited, and Othello, which he co-edited with Ren Draya of Blackburn College. Three more editions are due out soon: Hamlet, edited by Jack Shuttleworth, PhD professor emeritus USAF Academy, may be out by then end of 2011, Antony and Cleopatra by Michael Delahoyde, PhD of Washington State University and The Tempest by Roger Stritmatter, PhD of Coppin State University and Lynne Kositsky are forthcoming. Whalen serves as co-general editor of the series with Dan Wright, PhD of Concordia University and is the author of Shakespeare -- Who was he? The Oxford Challenge to the Bard of Avon (Praeger, 1994), a seminal Shakespeare authorship work for which there is a Kindle edition availableWe asked Whalen about his work on The Oxfordian Shakespeare Series.
What can the reader expect from your Oxfordian editions of Othello and Macbeth that is different from traditional editions of the plays?
RW: In a word, or two, an introduction that summarizes all the solid, significant, easily grasped evidence for Oxford’s authorship of the play, plus line notes that testify to its authorship by a well-traveled, multi-lingual aristocrat who read widely in the classics and was an insider at Elizabeth’s court, plus an appendix that expands on especially significant, new evidence for Oxford’s authorship.
So these new editions are specifically Oxfordian?
RW: Yes, but they are designed for the general reader, just as most of the Stratfordian editions are designed for the general reader. Come to think of it, it would interesting for someone to compare and contrast one or two of the Stratfordian editions of Othello or Macbeth with our editions.
When and why did you decide to publish the Oxfordian editions?
RW: I think Oxfordians have always wondered what an Oxfordian edition would look like, and in 1998, Jack Shuttleworth, then chair of the English department at the USAF Academy (and editor of the forthcomingHamlet) issued a challenge at Dan Wright’s authorship conference. A few years later, I wrote a paper on Macbeth that required a lot of research, and I remembered Jack’s challenge. I thought I would continue researching to see what an Oxfordian edition of the play would look like, and Dan agreed to be co-general editor of the series. I must say I was amazed at all the evidence in Stratfordian writings about Macbeth that supported Oxford as the author.
Do you mean that Stratfordian evidence supports Oxford as the author of Shakespeare's works?
RW: Yes, much more than I expected, although the Stratfordian researchers of course did not realize it.
Was the work difficult and time-consuming?
RW: Yes, and no. Yes, because it requires a great deal of searching in the voluminous literature on the play by Stratfordian scholars to find the nuggets of evidence supporting Oxford– from the earliest Variorum editions to the latest single-volume scholarly editions and the scores, if not hundreds, of articles in journals and in anthologies. It also requires a careful sifting and sorting of evidence to verify validity and pertinence. And all the Oxfordian scholarship must be consulted. But if you like to do literary-historical research, it’s very rewarding. It’s not especially difficult work, compared to just a few decades ago, because of the advance of technology–word processing, Google and Google books, on-line bookstores for out-of-print books, inter-library-loans, Concordia University’s access to JSTOR and LION for journal articles. The texts of many books of interest have been put on line in total, previews or snippets in just the past few years. I used to spend many days (and travel dollars) at the Harvard libraries, now I get it all on my home computer.
Is there original research in the editions of these first two plays?
RW: Not primary source research. Our editions parallel, if you will, Stratfordian editions of the plays. The value of our editions is in the collection and organizing of all the existing and often overlooked evidence that can be found for Oxford as the author. That said, both plays include some original research, for example, the role of the Thane of Ross in Macbeth and the port of Famagusta as described in Othello. Both have been overlooked or ignored by Stratfordian scholars but are significant as evidence for Oxford. Future editions of plays will undoubtedly include results of primary source research that the editors have published in journals or Oxfordian publications.
How did you and Ren Draya work together on Othello?
RW: By email, scores of emails exchanging drafts and comments on each other’s drafts. I wore two hats, as publisher on what the edition should look like physically, and as co-editor with Ren Draya on the research and writing. Ren brought not only her research and Oxfordian perspective but especially her experience as a professor of British and American literature at Blackburn College. I must say I think it worked very well.
What was the most surprising aspect of creating the work?
RW: The great amount of Stratfordian research and interpretation that supports Oxford as the author. Sometimes the Stratfordian scholars appear to miss completely how their finding argues against the Stratford man. It’s quite amazing. For example, at the start of 1.3 a Venetian senator says that estimates of the size of an enemy force often differ. The footnote by E. A. J. Honigmann in his Arden edition says that movements of enemy forces "were reported to the Privy Council exactly as here: cf. HMC, Hatfield House, Part 12 (1602), 386." In our line note, we add to Honigmann's footnote that Will Shakspere, unlike Oxford, would hardly have heard about, much less seen, such reports to the Privy Council. (56) 
How do you feel about your accomplishment?
RW: I have to say it was a most rewarding experience. For me, researching the plays and editing them to write the line notes and introduction gave me a whole new perspective on them. I’ll never read or see them again colored as they were for me by the traditional, romantic view of them as spilled intact from the mind of "genius" who had no life experience to draw upon or personal concerns informing his creative drive (maybe obsession?) to write great plays. He made great literature out of life, just like all writers of genius.
What do you think will be the result of the publication of these Oxfordian editions?
RW: First of all, I hope it will lead to a greater appreciation of the literary genius and tumultuous life experience of the author. Although these editions are aimed primarily at the general reader who loves Shakespeare, I also hope they will catch the attention of Stratfordian professors who are curious about what Oxfordians find in the plays that leads them to think Oxford wrote them. And of course I hope that that in turn will lead them to think that maybe there really is something to the Shakespeare authorship controversy and that they should take it seriously. When I send a review copy to a prominent but very busy Stratfordian professor I suggest going first to the introduction to the play and act one with the line notes. Oxfordians, I trust, will want to see just how "Oxfordian" these plays can be.
Who are the other editors and their plays?
RW: The editors are all Shakespeare professors. Coming soon will be Hamlet, edited by Jack Shuttleworth, Antony and Cleopatra by Michael Delahoyde of Washington State University and The Tempest by Roger Stritmatter of Coppin State University with author Lynne Kositsky. They will be followed by King John by Dan Wright, Henry the Fifth by Kathy Binns-Dray of Lee University, Love’s Labor’s Lost by Felicia Londre of the University of Missouri-Kansas City, and Much Ado About Nothing by Anne Pluto of Lesley University. More professors may sign on soon, and our fond expectation is that some day all the Shakespeare plays will be in Oxfordian editions, although probably not in our lifetime.
How are the reviews so far for your edition of Othello?
RW: Quite good: So far, we’ve seen Felicia Londre’s review in Brief Chronicles and Bill Farina’s in The Shakespeare Oxford Newsletter. I hope there’ll be more as word spreads. I haven’t seen any in the literary media or Stratfordian publications, but that may be too much to expect. The first reaction to our Othello, published last year, was by Frank Davis, who emailed that he knew the edition would be good but found it excellent. We’re breaking new ground with these editions and are very interested to know how they are received by Oxfordian scholars and how we might do better in future editions.
How can we buy copies of your editions?
RW: Easiest is by telephone to my co-publisher, Llumina, at 966-229-9244 with a credit card in hand ($16.95 plus shipping). Othello and Macbeth can also be ordered online. 

NOTE: See also SOS News entry: "Oxfordian edition of Othello available from Llumina" 03/30/10.