James Shapiro appeared at the Stratford Festival in Canada this past Saturday morning to a packed Studio Theater. His message was the very same message he gave to a packed house for his Folger talk in April, 2010. The problem with the message is that it is full of error and misleading statements about Oxfordians and the work we are doing.
Even worse than that, it became clear Saturday that Shapiro is interested in nothing less than the dumbing down of Shakespeare. He encouraged his audience to read the plays and to ignore the centuries of scholarship and research which have brought great insight into those plays. For example, in maintaining steadfastly that there are absolutely no allusions in Shakespeare, he denied the work of scholars, traditional and Oxfordian alike, who have determined six specific references in Hamlet that, taken together, demonstrate that the character Polonius is a fictional representation of Lord Burghley.
Instead of embracing the work Oxfordians are doing which demonstrates greater genius by the writer than he or other Stratfordians could ever imagine, he ridiculed them for daring to question traditional assumptions about Shakespeare. With this kind of thinking, Stratfordians will do themselves in without any help from Oxfordians or anybody else.
The Stratford Beacon Herald reported on the event in an article “Shakespeare Authorship Debate Rages On.” To its credit the Beacon Herald did attempt to give voice to Oxfordians by quoting Dr. Roger Stritmatter who attended the Shapiro event. The following letter to the editor responds to that article.
To the Editor:
Thank you for reporting Dr. James Shapiro's presentation at Stratford on Saturday about the identity of the true author of works attributed to the glover's son from Stratford-Upon-Avon.
Contrary to your headline, there was no debate. Dr. Shapiro does not allow debate or even statement by those who disagree with Dr. Shapiro. He told us so in his opening remarks. Also, the Festival has declined our requests for equal time. The reasoning, of course, is that to doubt the authorship of the man from Stratford is to believe in conspiracy theories and suffer psychological deficiency. I suppose that makes us similar to those who believed the earth actually orbited the sun.
In the mean time, Dr. Shapiro continues to ridicule us and to spread misinformation about us. He has no idea of the incomparable and profound achievement of Shakespeare's work. Traditional scholars like to refer to Shakespeare's genius, but until they throw off the restrictions imposed by the biography upon which they insist, they will have no idea of how great a genius Shakespeare really was.
Thomas Hunter, Ph.D.