Sunday, February 24, 2013

Richard Waugaman reports on his authorship presentation at Kreeger Museum in January


by Richard Waugaman, MD

I appreciate Oberon’s invitation to tell you about my presentation on Edward de Vere at the Kreeger Museum in Washington, DC on January 24, 2013. The full title of the program was “Shakespeare: Oxfordian and (Ox)Freudian Perspectives—Exploring Psychological Dimensions of the Authorship Question.” It was videotaped and may be available from the Kreeger Museum.

My fellow presenter was Peter Kline, and the moderator was his wife Syril Kline. They have been Oxfordians for many years. Syril has written a novel on the topic, and Peter has completed a manuscript outlining his theory that Shakspere served as de Vere’s research assistant for his history plays.

Syril was exemplary in serving as a neutral moderator. She explained to the sold-out audience that we Oxfordians do not always agree with one another. I admitted, for example, that I would personally be surprised if Shakspere knew how to read and write. I’m in a small minority of Oxfordians who are not convinced he was an actor, either. Since the record of the actor “William Shakespeare” in Ben Jonson’s 1616 First Folio stops in 1603, the year before de Vere’s death, I wonder if the name was equivalent to the author’s name: a sort of stage name that alluded to de Vere’s performances at court.

As I told the audience, Stratfordians are engaged in a disinformation campaign against de Vere. I gave an example of a local Stratfordian, upon meeting Roger Stritmatter, asking him “Well, are you for Shakespeare or against him?” This is an instance of the Stratfordian insistence on merging Shakspere with Shakespeare, insinuating that disagreement about authorship means disrespect of the works of Shakespeare. I made it clear that learning about the real author enriches our enjoyment of his stupendous literary works.

I warned the audience that information from the likes of James Shapiro, author of Contested Will (Scribners, 2010), ) leaves out essential facts: he was known as the best courtier poet of the early years of Queen Elizabeth’s reign; he was known as the best author of comedies; and, crucially, some knew that he wrote anonymously. Some of this information comes from the anonymous 1589 Arte of English Poesie. I briefly mentioned a few reasons I believe de Vere wrote that important but widely neglected book. (Waugaman’s two publications on the Arte, along with the text of many of his 50 other publications on Shakespeare are available on his website, The Oxfreudian, at http://www.oxfreudian.com.

I told the audience that Oxfordians have to try harder, and that, personally, I have often felt like the boy in the Johnny Cash ballad, “A Boy Named Sue.” That is, being the object of some degree of ridicule toughens one, and teaches one to fight back. With fresh evidence backing the Oxfordian authorship theory, that is.

The Kreeger Museum and its director, Judy Greenberg, have been admirably loyal to its founder’s interest in the Shakespeare Authorship Question (SAQ). David Kreeger, who was CEO of Geico insurance company, became so deeply interested in this topic that he funded the moot trial on the SAQ held at American University in 1987, that was moderated by three Supreme Court justices. David Kreeger’s son was Peter Kline’s student in an English class at the Maret School in Washington, and introduced Peter to his father. That launched Peter Kline’s several decades as an Oxfordian.

As the audience was gathering, an audio recording of the 1987 event was played. The museum also displayed the signed Simon Simpson print of de Vere and Shakesper given to David Kreeger by Lord Vere of Hanworth, to commemorate the 1987 moot trial. I brought with me a copy of Kreeger’s fascinating article on the event from the 1988 American University Law Review, and gave it to a Geico employee who introduced himself to me after the presentation.

The audience reacted warmly and enthusiastically to our presentations, and raised many friendly questions in the discussion afterwards. However, not a single person questioned our authorship theory. The Stratfordians apparently stayed home, or at least stayed silent.

In her gracious introduction, Judy Greenberg mentioned that I was recently named a Faculty Expert on Shakespeare for Media Contacts at Georgetown University. The day after I received this news, I was invited to review a book on Shakespeare by the book review editor of the Renaissance Quarterly.The Folger Theater in Washington, DC had me discuss The Taming of the Shrew last June, and I was just invited by the Shakespeare Theater in Washington to sit on a panel discussing the psychology of Coriolanus on April 28.

Saturday, February 9, 2013

Norwood reviews final "Uncovered" episodes: Hamlet and Tempest

David Tennant in 2012 National Theatre production of Hamlet

by James Norwood

The final program of the PBS series Shakespeare Uncovered explores the thesis that Hamlet and The Tempest are Shakespeare’s most personal plays.  

British actor David Tennant, who played Hamlet in a recent modern dress RSC production, asks why it is that Hamlet is so “unique.” But the program fails to locate the play in context in the Elizabethan age in order to identify why this play was special from the outset.  There was no discussion of the political world of the era and no mention of the court, including the key figure of William Cecil. The program never mentions the numerous resemblances of the character of Polonius to Cecil, which have been identified by such famous scholars as E. K. Chambers, A. L. Rowse, and Dover Wilson. The program’s narrative unfolds in a complete vacuum, relying on routine plot synopsis, as opposed to careful research and thoughtful critical analysis.

Unlike the other programs in the Shakespeare Uncovered series, the commentary of the actors in the Hamlet segment seemed pedestrian. The actors would typically discuss how playing the role of Hamlet triggered their own personal responses. Simon Russell Beale described the loss of his mother at the time he was playing Hamlet, but nothing about his acting process or preparation for the role. Jude Law struggled with articulating any main point about the actor’s discipline in interpreting the famous soliloquy (“To be or not to be”) other than thinking about himself during the performance. The discussion was so mundane and so generalized that it was difficult to understand how the formulaic revenge structure of Hamlet, as described by scholar Stephen Greenblatt, transcended such Elizabethan potboilers as The Spanish Tragedy.


When the producers attempted to link Hamlet to the life of the author, the scene shifted to Stratford.  We are told that the author “almost certainly learned Latin” at the local grammar school. After reaching adulthood and starting a family, the author lost his beloved son Hamnet, who died at age 11. The close resemblance of the names "Hamnet" and "Hamlet" leads Tennant and others to speculate that the author was writing a play to cope with the loss of his son. But the program does not explain why the author would write a play about a son who has lost his father—not vice versa--as appropriate to these tragic circumstances. And without delving deeply into Hamlet’s psychology, the program suggests that Hamlet is actually troubled not so much by the loss of his father, but much more profoundly by the actions of his mother Gertrude in sleeping with and marrying Claudius.  

Whalen updates Oxfordian edition of the Scottish play


Richard Whalen announced the second edition of his Oxfordian edition of Macbeth has been issued by Llumina Press. The book is available from Llumina and Amazon. Whalen said:

I hope you'll be intrigued . . . by this new interpretation. The introduction is entirely new, the line notes are much expanded and other sections incorporate new material. . . . The new interpretation refers to Macbeth's ambition or lack of it. His tragic flaw is not his "overweening ambition" as the Stratfordians would have it. That's not in the play. To the contrary, he exhibits a surprising lack of ambition. This interpretation of Macbeth's character reveals different reactions to what is going on around him and explains his actions, some of which Stratfordian commentators find puzzling. This is the principal difference from the first edition.

Whalen said he is looking into the possibility of producing an electronic verson of the book, but is running into difficulty with formatting the book since line notes face text on opposite pages.

The book is one of a series of fully annotated editions of Shakespeare plays informed by the view that the plays were written by Edward de Vere. For more information on the series, see Llumina at:  http://www.llumina.com/store/macbeth.htm.

Sunday, February 3, 2013

Jacobi sets fur flying in PBS series on Shakespeare


Sir Derek Jacobi in PBS series Shakespeare Uncovered, Richard II episode
by Linda Theil

In a new six-part PBS series, Shakespeare Uncovered, elucidating the glories of the Bard’s plays, Sir Derek Jacobi “ . . . sets the fur flying”, as he says in his one-hour segment on the play, Richard II, by advocating Edward de Vere  as the author of the work known under the pseudonym William Shakespeare. The Richard II segment aired February 1, 2013 on PBS stations and is available on DVD and for viewing online from the Shakespeare Uncovered site at http://www.pbs.org/wnet/shakespeare-uncovered/video/richard-ii-with-derek-jacobi/

Retired humanities professor James Norwood of St. Paul, Minnesota has given Oberon permission to publish his commentary on the Shakespeare Uncovered series that Norwood originally posted to the late Robert Brazil’s private authorship discussion list, Elizaforum. Professor Norwood taught a course on the topic of Shakespeare authorship at the University of Minnesota for over a decade and he was a friend of former Oberon chair, the late Tom Hunter.

“I was a close friend of Tom Hunter,” Norwood said.  “I think of him often with wonderful memories of our Shakespeare discussions. I'm planning on writing a third review next week after the final segment of “Shakespeare Uncovered” on Hamlet and The Tempest  has aired (February 8, 2013) on PBS.”

Professor Norwood’s commentary is published below in the chronological order in which it was written. His comments on Jacobi’s segment appear in the second post which was published in Elizaforum on February 2, 2013.

Review of “Shakespeare Uncovered”  Part I (posted originally to Elizaforum on January 26, 2013) by James Norwood
The PBS series Shakespeare Uncovered is a lively and informative set of programs. The strength of the series is in the area of production history and performance studies. In the early programs on Macbeth and the comedies, there was good background on famous Shakespearean actors (Orson Welles as Macbeth; Charlotte Cushman as Rosalind; and the Redgrave clan). There were also clips from a terrific production of As You Like It that was presented recently at the Globe in London.
The major weakness of the program is the inability to come to terms with the Shakespeare authorship question. It was especially disappointing that Joely Richardson, the narrator/hostess of the program on the comedies, offered a routine summary of the standard Stratfordian biography. There was no mention of alternative candidates. Didn't she learning anything from participating in the Anonymous film?'