Monday, April 14, 2014

2014 Concordia Conference-Days 3 and 4

by Richard Joyrich

Day Three (Saturday, April 12):

The day began at 9 AM with Roger Stritmatter on Small Latin and Less Greek: Anatomy of a Misquotation. Roger discussed his take on how the First Folio came to be published. In this, he follows generally what Peter Dickson and others have been saying about the Spanish Marriage Crises of 1622-23 when there was an intention on the part of James I to marry his son Charles to the Spanish Infanta Maria Anna (daughter of the king). This proposed match to a Catholic was opposed by the powerful Protestant nobility, among which were the two "Incomparable Brethren", William and Philip Herbert, to whom the First Folio was dedicated. It seems clear that the publication of the First Folio at this time was, in some way, a political statement by this court faction. 

It was also at this time that there was the big push to substitute William of Stratford as the author of the plays. Ben Jonson was hired to help in this endeavor. Roger discussed the form in which Jonson's Dedication to Shakespeare in the First Folio took. It is in the form of what was called a "Triumph". There is a 16-line Exordium at the beginning (containing references to "ignorance", "blind affection" and "crafty malice") and then a 48-line Narratio (in which the line "And though thou hadst small Latin and Less Greek…" appears) and then a 16-line Peroration (containing "Looke how the father's face lives in his issue", i.e. the true Shakespeare is to be discovered in the works).

Roger then demonstrated that Jonson's line about "small Latin and less Greek" is a mixed contrary-to-fact conditional. That is, Jonson is not saying that Shakespeare really had no real Latin or Greek training. The words "though thou hadst" actually mean "even if you had" and Jonson is acknowledging Shakespeare's mastery of these languages, but that this is not the only reason for his literary greatness.


Lynne Kositsky followed with Shrovetide in The Tempest, in which she defended the position she and Roger took in their recent book that The Tempest was written as a Shrovetide play. She concentrated on labyrinths and their use in Shrovetide celebrations, when people would walk labyrinths for religious purposes. In The Tempest small groups of characters perambulate from one part of the island to another until Prospero calls them all together at the end. Gonzalo mentions a "maze" at one time. Lynne and Roger argue that a play called The Spanish Maze, performed at Shrovetide around 1580 was an early version of The Tempest ("Spanish" because Naples was ruled by Spain at the time).

We then heard from Mark Mendizza on Ted Hughes' Shakespeare and the Goddess of Complete Being. Mark discussed this little known work by Ted Hughes, famous for being the husband of Sylvia Plath and for the last ten years of his life Poet Laureate of England. In the book under discussion Ted Hughes formulated a theory that all (or most) of Shakespeare's plays and poems could be put into a continuum where the myth of the Goddess becomes explored. The myth is between the Goddess, who can be seen as Mother, Queen of Hell, or redemptive force, and who is abandoned by man. It begins in Shakespeare with the rejection of Venus by Adonis in Venus and Adonis and then the rape and murder of Lucrece and then moves through various plays where the female character is rejected, or even killed until Antony and Cleopatra in which divine love becomes redemptive and then into the "Romances" where there is redemption through resurrection. I don't pretend to be able to understand all of this, but it seems interesting. Of course, such a scheme depends to some extent on being able to know the order in which the plays were written and may not really fit in with the chronology being developed by Oxfordians.

We then had the traditional Vero Nihil Verius Award Ceremony. Unfortunately, neither of the winners of the Award for Distinguished Shakespeare Scholarship, John Rollet and Peter Sturrock, were present at the Conference. Luckily, the winner of the Achievement in the Arts Award, Keir Cutler, was there and could be honored in person.

The next presentation was by Michael Delahoyde on Chaucer Hidden in Shakespeare's History Plays. Michael pointed out that traditional scholars usually only note Chaucer's influence on Shakespeare to be the obvious use of Chaucer's Troilus and Criseyde as a source for Troilus and Cressida and The Knight's Tale from the Canterbury Tales as a source for The Two Noble Kinsmen (which scholars say was partly written by Shakespeare). But, actually there are references and linguistic parallels to Chaucer throughout the canon, according to Michael. Michael concentrated on the plays Richard II and Henry IV, Part 1 since this is the historical time that Chaucer lived and worked. How could Shakespeare not have mentioned Chaucer at all in these plays? Well, it turns out that he did do so, as Michael showed, in the form of linguistic borrowings from the Prologue to the Canterbury Tales and other less known works of Chaucer. Chaucer mysteriously disappeared from the literary scene after the end of the reign of Richard II in the first years of the reign of Henry IV, and Michael wonders if de Vere saw his own literary life being similarly obliterated.

In a slight rearrangement of the schedule, we then heard from Michael Thomas, a professor at Concordia, on Pseudopigraphy and Forgery in Early Christianity: An Examination of the Correspondence between Seneca and St. Paul. Michael acknowledged that this topic does not have strict relevance to the Shakespeare Authorship Question, but could be instructive to us anyway since similar ideas are used in trying to attribute authorship. Psueudoepigraphy means "false attribution or naming", which was perfectly legitimate in the early Christian times (in which letters, gospels, etc were frequently put out under someone's name without that person really having written it). This presentation focused on a purported series of letters between the Roman poet and playwright Seneca and St. Paul (14 letters in all). These were subsequently found to be 4th century forgeries (this was discovered in the late Renaissance), but were taken as genuine until then. Michael presented some of these letters, showing that the Moral Ethics of Seneca could be matched by the teachings of the early Christian Church and other purported parallels. In the 1560s the works of Seneca started to be translated into English and performed at the Inns of Court. Seneca has always been known as one of the sources used by Shakespeare. This was a good presentation, but I didn't really see the necessity of including it in this particular Conference.

Earl Showerman then gave his presentation, A Midsummer Night's Dream-Shakespeare's Aristophanic Comedy, a revised version of the presentation on this topic Earl gave last fall at the Toronto Conference. In it, Earl again shows the use of original Greek sources in the works of Shakespeare, arguing that Aristophanes' play The Birds was one of the sources Shakespeare (i.e. de Vere) used for A Midsummer Night's Dream. There are many parallels, including birds named in the two plays, the idea of escaping from a place of authority, and the use of political allegory in similar fashion. In the second half of his presentation, Earl showed how the relationship of Bottom to Titania was a political allegory of the marriage negotiations going on at the time between Queen Elizabeth and the Duke of Alencon. Bottom is a comedic Herculean character (as Earl showed), while the Duke's given name was Francois Hercule de Valois.

Michael Morse then came to finish the presentation he started on Friday (on cryptographic "solutions" of the Sonnet Dedication).  He STILL didn't get through all of it, but got to some of his main points.

Michael presented some contemporary descriptions of anagrams and the "rules" governing what constituted an acceptable anagram. This would include deletion (or even addition) of a letter, doubling of a letter, interchanging "u" and "v", "s" and "z" and "e" for the diphthong "AE". He then went on to critique the recent discovery of Alexander Waugh of an apparent reference to de Vere as Shakespeare in the William Covell’s Polimanteia (1595). In a section about the poet Samuel Daniel, there is the phrase "court-dear-verse" with the word "Oxford" directly above it in the previous line and a printed marginal note mentioning "Lucrece" and "Shake-speare" to the left of it. Alexander Waugh anagrammed "court-deare-verse" to "Our de Vere-A secret". Michael Morse presented many other possible anagrams, like "de Vere oust career",  "de Vere Actor Reuse", "de Vere True Coarse", and "de Vere ere Court Ass" (this last one requires the doubling of the "s"), and many others that I couldn't get down. However, Michael's main problem with Alexander Waugh's "solution" was that, whereas Alexander claimed that the phrase "courte-deare-verse" was unique and unusual (and therefore invited making an anagram of it), this phrase (or similar phrases) were used elsewhere by people writing about Samuel Daniel. Also, the marginal note also mentions "Gaveston" (is this a claim that de Vere also wrote Marlowe's Edward II?). In addition, a marginal note a few lines later (still within the section on Samuel Daniel) mentions "Adonis". Michael asserted (but I don't know where he got this since it seemed to be new to most of the audience) that in 1595 there was wondering over who was writing behind the obvious pseudonym "William Shake-Speare" and that Samuel Daniel was considered a good choice. Could the writer of Polimanteia be referring to this?

Michael then went on to describe his own take on the Sonnet Dedication. He pointed out the obvious "V" structure of the Dedication (3 inverted triangles) and the awkward phrasing "wisheth the well-wishing". He also pointed out that the first part of the dedication reads pretty well and then it becomes less well written. Perhaps, a better writer (e.g. de Vere) wrote the first part and someone else (e.g. Thomas Thorpe) wrote the rest. Michael showed with a nice graphic that the frequency of the appearance of letters in the Dedication matches pretty well with the general frequency of letters in any text of similar length, with the exception of the letter "V" which occurs more than 130% more often than would be typical, and if one can also count "u" and "w" as forms of the letter "v" then the frequency is about 3000% more often. Perhaps this is, Michael wonders, why there is the awkward phrasing mentioned above, as it allows more "w"s. So someone wanted to have a plethora of “V”s (for Vere?) 

Michael then showed how John Rollett (and others) found the name "Wriothesely" hidden in the dedication if one puts it in the form of an 18 by 8 grid. But the name is "in pieces" with a "WR" reading down on the left, then "IOTH" reading up a few columns to the right, then "ESLEY" reading down in the next column to the right. Michael said that if someone REALLY wanted to conceal this name they would have easily been able to do it so that it could be together. He also notes that most of the letters used to spell this name appear in the "better-written" first part of the dedication. Michael thus wonders if de Vere initially had written a dedication that would better conceal "Wriothesely" but then Thomas Thorpe messed it up. Michael says there is much more work to do to really discover what this Sonnet Dedication means.

After breaking for dinner, most of us came back to watch a preview showing of Cheryl Eagon-Donovan's new film Nothing is Truer than Truth. Cheryl explained that there was still work to do, including a better soundtrack written by Melora Creager of Rasputina (who will probably be performing at the upcoming Madison Authorship Conference), a new voice-over track, some on screen narration at the beginning and end, and the placement of the captions to indicate who the speakers in the film are. However, the film as it exists now seems very well done and was appreciated greatly by nearly everyone there (some people had critical comments). There is great use of scenes filmed in Venice and other Italian cities, very good use of film clips of various Shakespeare productions tying in with biographical information on Edward de Vere in the voice-over narration, and many good interviews with prominent Oxfordians and theater people. I think the finished version will be very well received. Cheryl is already talking with potential distributors and will be submitting the film to upcoming festivals. She looks forward to showing it at our upcoming Madison Authorship Conference.

Day 4 (Sunday, April 13):

We began at 9 AM with James Warren on The Use of State Power in the Effort to Hide Edward de Vere's Authorship of the Works Attributed to "William Shake-speare". James pointed out that there is only circumstantial evidence (although very much of it) to prove Edward de Vere as the author. There is no direct evidence (of course, there isn't any for the Stratford man either). There are many "missing documents" such as government records (including the Minutes of the Privy Council), the papers of Francis Walsingham, records of theater performances, and personal documents (such as letters). It seems like the missing documents are precisely those that would have been able to shed light on the authorship of the plays among other things. Since the erasure of all of these important documents would have been a very complex undertaking James believes that it could only have been done using the power of the State. The question is why. James gives three reasons. 

1. The government's hidden use of Oxford's plays to promote the legitimacy of the reign of Elizabeth and the authority of the Church of England (as well as provide support during the "war" with Spain from 1585-1604). This can perhaps explain the mysterious 1000 pound annual annuity granted to Oxford.

2. The plays are political through and through (with hidden allegories, etc) and thus of concern to the state but the authorities could not censor them as they could do with plays by other authors (see point 1) and so they had to break the connection between the plays and the court by separating the plays from the author.

3. The need to hide Oxford from history as much as possible.

This last point is the most troubling for James. It seems that there was really an effort to obscure de Vere's presence and functions at court. As a result he is very little known (or mentioned) in historical records of the time. It seems to James that this effort cannot be explained only as a way to hide his authorship of the plays. There must be some non-literary reason. The only one that James can think of is what is known as the Prince Tudor theory (which comes in several versions). James himself is not completely convinced of this theory, but he has found deficiencies in other people's attempts to disprove it, and (as I said) it is the only reason he knows of now to explain why Edward de Vere needed to be obscured so much.

The last formal presentation of the conference was by Don Rubin on Sisyphus and the Globe: Turning on the Media. The use of the name Sisyphus recalls the myth of someone having to continually roll a stone up a hill, only to have it fall back down. This, says Don, is exactly what Antistratfordians experience all the time. Don related in great detail the story of the highly negative article that appeared in the Toronto Globe and Mail, a national Canadian newspaper, about the recent Toronto Authorship Conference and its fall out. Don described attempts to talk to the youthful theater critic who wrote the article, but was unwilling to hear any details or arguments about the authorship question, and other matters. This led to Don's exhortation to all of us that we need to establish better PR by forming a specific PR "committee" made up of representatives from various organizations so that we can better fight the "press war". We also need to continue to try to make inroads into universities and other academic institutions.

We then all went to a nice buffet brunch/lunch provided by Concordia (in a classroom across the hall). Dean David Kluth then spoke to us about possible plans for the Shakespeare Authorship Research Centre. He was not able to give any details on what happened (for privacy reasons) but described how the departure of Daniel Wright in December caused a "black hole" in the Research Centre, but also now opened up possibilities to go forward. Concordia University is completely committed to keeping the Research Centre alive, but the form in which it will go forward is still being worked out. The most likely thing is that a part-time director for the Centre will be hired and that, in time, the position will become full-time (by the way, Dan Wright was not full-time either, being paid by Concordia for his teaching duties only). Dean Kluth sees the center becoming more broad-based with the use of digital technology and "distance learning". There was quite a lot of discussion from those of us there and we all left with an optimistic, although unclear, picture of the future.

Well, there you have it. Another Concordia Conference consigned to history.

My heartfelt thanks to Dean Kluth for wanting the tradition to continue and to Earl Showerman for organizing the conference at such short notice.

I look forward to the next chapter in the history of the Shakespeare Authorship Research Center.


Also, good luck to Professor Daniel Wright in his future plans, whatever they may be. We all owe him a great debt for getting things off the ground in the first place and for the 17+ amazing conferences he managed to put on (he actually had already done some of the planning for this current conference before he left Concordia).

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