Monday, December 19, 2016

Reynaldo Perez memorial will be held January, 2017

Reinaldo Perez, 1944-2016

Our long-time friend and colleague Reinaldo Perez (1944-2016) passed away December 12, 2016 at St. Joseph Mercy Ann Arbor due to complications from heart surgery performed October 26, 2016. Rey is deeply mourned by his Oberon friends.

Rey was retired from the University of Michigan where he taught in the language department at the Dearborn campus. A memorial gathering will be held in January 2017. More information will be added as it becomes available.

UPDATE January 14, 2017: The obituary of Reinaldo Perez has been published at Legacy website and will appear in the Detroit News and the Detroit Free Press on January 15, 2017. No information is yet available regarding memorial services.

Pam Verilone and Rey Perez enjoy conversation during the Oberon party at Stage Deli -- annual holiday party on January 4, 2013 at the Stage Deli in West Bloomfield, Michigan

Rey Perez with his mother in his homeland, Cuba, where he
lived before moving to New York City at the age of 14.

Monday, November 21, 2016

Oberons met Nov. 19, 2016

Oberons met Nov. 19, 2016 at Bloomfield Twp. Library: Richard Joyrich, Robin Browne, Mara Radzvickas, Rosey Hunter (back) and Sharon Hunter (back). Photo credit: Linda Theil

by Linda Theil

Oberon's met on Saturday, November 19, 2016 at the Bloomfield Twp. library for the first time in several months. We were delighted to enjoy the company of Sharon Hunter, Robin Browne, Mara Radzvickas, Rosey Hunter, and our chairperson Richard Joyrich, MD for an afternoon of companionship. We missed our good friend Reynaldo Perez who suffered complications from surgery on October 26 2016 and is currently being cared for at St. Joseph Mercy Hospital at  5301 McAuley Dr, Ypsilanti, MI 48197. We send our love and support.

Joyrich reported on the Shakespeare Oxford Fellowship's Nov. 3-6 conference in Boston where he retained his first vice-president position on the SOF board of trustees. 

Joyrich gave a PowerPoint review of our Oberon colleague Tom Townsend's conference presentation, "DeVere's Lesser Legacy: The Legal Compact of Equity" on the topic of equitly law and common law in Shakespeare's work and milieu. He enjoyed dinner in Boston with Tom and Joy Townsend, now relocated to Seattle. We send our hearty congratulations to Townsend on his intricate study of this topic.

Joyrich also told us that the upcoming 2016 edition of the SOF journal, Brief Chronicles edited by Roger Stritmatter and Michael Delahoyde, will be the final edition of that publication. He also said that the latest edition of SOF journal The Oxfordian, Vol. 18, is available to SOF members online. Because the newest edition is published, volume 17 is now available to the public online.

Oberon chairperson Richard Joyrich, MD, sports new SOF logo totebag 

Chairperson Joyrich returned from the conference with a nifty new tote bag embellished with the SOF logo now available to the public from Zazzle. Read more about SOF swag on their weblog post "Show your SOS support with style" by Theresa Lauricella.

Friday, October 28, 2016

New Oxford Shakespeare adds Marlowe as co-writer

Christopher Marlowe, 1564-1593
by Linda Theil

Oxford University Press raised a storm of major media coverage this week with the announcement that their new edition of Shakespeare’s complete works credits Christopher Marlowe as co-writer on Shakespeare's Henry VI plays. OUP editor Gary Taylor and others have recently devoted themselves to the notion of Shakespearean “collaboration”, but this is the first time that an academic publisher has broken the authorship taboo by admitting there may be unanswered questions about the origin of Shakespeare’s works.

Taylor, a staunch Stratfordian, doesn't realize that an emphasis on Shakespearean “collaboration” invites investigation of the entire Shakespeare authorship question by validating the search for authentic attribution. 

Oberon asked Dr. Ros Barber -- who wrote her 2012 doctoral dissertation and her award-winning novelThe Marlowe Paperson the topic of Marlowe writing Shakespeare -- what she made of the news from Oxford.

Oberon: Did you know this was coming?

Barber: No, not in such a formal manner regarding co-author attributions in the new Oxford Shakespeare. But I've been aware of some of the work that led up to it -- Craig & Kinney's work on Henry VI Part 2, John Nance's follow-on work. In addition, some of my own and Peter Farey's research on specific Kentish knowledge in Part 2 which I wrote up in Shakespeare: The Evidence is suggestive of Marlowe's authorship. 

Part 1 has long been considered co-authored (since the nineteenth century), but several hands have been suggested -- not just Marlowe but Kyd and Nash. Possibly Peele. Have they been written out of the equation? It is too patchy a play to be solely a Marlowe-Shakespeare project, especially when put up against Parts 2 and 3 (both of which were written earlier, scholars think). Part 3 was more of a surprise, and I haven't yet seen the underlying scholarship for giving Marlowe a co-authorship attribution on this play, but since Parts 2 and 3 are stylistically very similar and they were published very much as a pair, that doesn't feel very surprising.

Oberon: Do  you feel vindicated?

Barber: Certain scholars deciding that Marlowe co-authored three Shakespeare plays is not the same -- as I'm sure they would point out! -- as entertaining the idea that Marlowe might be the chief author of the Shakespeare canon. It's good that it raises Marlowe's profile and highlights his importance to the Shakespeare 'project' -- if I can call it that. It emphasises how close Marlowe's style is to 'early Shakespeare' -- something that other scholars have noted but not formalised with an attribution, generally explaining away (parallelisms, for example) as 'influence'.

But Gary Taylor et al are suggesting their methodologies can tell the difference between the hand of Marlowe and the hand of Shakespeare-influenced-by-Marlowe. If this were so, it would put paid to any wider authorship claims for Marlowe. However, nearly all the stylometric methodologies I've investigated are unconvincing:
  • They do not conform to proper scientific (or statistical) methods. 
  • They do not take into account, for example, the purpose of a particular scene (a court scene, for example, will have more formal language than a scene involving 'commoners').
  • They do not take into account genre when setting baseline standards (lumping the Shakespeare canon into one, rather than breaking it out into histories, comedies etc).
  • They do not consider that we have no 'clean' text that has not passed through several hands (including scribes).
  • And most important of all, they do not consider the fact that a single writer's style and word usage changes over time. 

Consider this from Peter Farey:

Suppose that there are two bodies of work, one which we will ascribe to playwright A and the other playwright B. 
We work out that the frequency with which they each use the words 'most' and 'then' differs greatly. In fact, if we add up the total for both words in a play by either of them and find what percentage of them are 'most' we can be fairly sure that:
* if it's less than 40%, it's by playwright A
* if it's more than 40%, it's by playwright B
(In fact this works for all of A's 21 plays bar one, and all of B's 16 except two. You would need to get a bit more complicated to get 100% in each case!)
Now let’s imagine that we have a play where we suspect collaboration between the two playwrights. We find that Acts 1 & 2 are well below 40% (so probably playwright A) and Acts 3 & 5 well above (playwright B). Act 4 is more doubtful at 43%. 
So does this tell us anything at all about whether the two playwrights are different people? No. In fact playwright A is Shakespeare before 1600, and playwright B is Shakespeare after 1600. And Twelfth Night (1601?) was the play in question, if you were wondering. 
What we can see, therefore, is that to claim that this tells us they were different people is circular reasoning. If you start with an assumption that they are two different people, and take no account of time, then it’s hardly surprising that this is just what the figures will seem to show.
Oberon: Are you surprised Gary Taylor was involved?

Barber: Not at all. He has been at the forefront of the co-authorship movement for many years. However, his attempts to gift 200 lines of Macbeth to Thomas Middleton, and give Middleton credit for parts of Measure for Measure have been entirely dismantled by other scholars, and I imagine the Marlowe attribution will be ripe for dismantling too.

Oberon: How does this data fit into your thesis?

Barber: It isn't data so much as an argument around that data, and that argument is entirely disconnected from my PhD thesis, which was looking at the relationship between Early Modern biography (Shakespeare and Marlowe biographies in particular) and fiction. I did mention in passing the fact that certain early Shakespeare plays (including the Henry VI trilogy) were sometimes attributed to Marlowe right up until 1920, and the similarity of 'early Shakespeare' stylistically to Marlowe. But the work of Gary Taylor et al is claiming they can distinguish between the two. 

Oberon: Do you plan to write about this?

Barber: When the underlying research is published, I'll take a good look at it and decide from there. 

Oberon: Are you excited, or is this not as important as we, here, think it is?

Barber: I have seriously mixed feelings about it (as you can probably tell). I need to drill down into the underlying research before make up my mind one way or another.  As you can tell, I don't have a lot of faith in stylometry, and I suspect that reducing Marlowe to co-author on three early and minor plays will be seen as destructive to the theory of his wider involvement. This announcement is important just because of the amount of press interest it has generated, but unfortunately that can have the detrimental effect of cementing something as 'true' that is actually unproven or even false. And I'm always against that, no matter what the subject area.

We are grateful to Dr. Barber for sharing her insight with us at Oberon. We also thank Richard Waugaman, PhD and Elizabeth Waugaman for their assistance with this article.

Additional information:

New Oxford Shakespeare: Modern Critical Edition: The Complete Works edited by Gary Taylor, et al, will to be published Dec. 27, 2016.

Download Ros Barber thesis, "Writing Marlowe as Writing Shakespeare" from the British Library EThOS system at
EThOS registration is free.

Media reports on OUP announcement:

Peter Farey citation: "Stylometrics and Edward II by Peter Farey" The Marlowe-Shakespeare Connection weblog, Sept. 18, 2014.

Note: Because this article includes a written interview, we have left the authentic British spellings in place, Ed.

UPDATE 11/4/16: "How Statistics Solved a 175-Year-Old Mystery About Alexander Hamilton" by Ben Christopher, published Oct. 31, 2016 on the Priceonomics website, is an excellent explanation of the statistical methods used to determine the Marlowe attribution of the Shakespeare Henry VI plays. Well worth reading!

Thursday, September 8, 2016

Tired, weak, pathetic, desperate Shakespeare Live! celebration

"Shakespeare Live!" from by Royal Shakespeare Company, April 23, 2016

By guest blogger Catherine Hatinguais

About two weeks ago, I went with friends to the Coolidge Corner Theater in Brookline, MA, one of several Boston cinema venues for Shakespeare plays:

All have telecast events there and worldwide. We wanted to see the re-broadcast of the joint BBC and Royal Shakespeare Company celebration entitled "Shakespeare Live!" which promised a feast: extracts from various plays as well as music, operas and ballets inspired by Shakespeare. The place was packed, largely but not exclusively, with grey heads.

The performers -- actors, musicians and dancers -- were all good to excellent. With Miren, Dench, Suchet, Cumberbatch, McKellen, Fiennes, and more; how could it go wrong? the short scenes were alternatively funny and moving, but the hosts, David Tennant and Catherine Tate, were uninspired and as predictable as show hosts at one of those self-congratulatory, Hollywood, fund-raising galas, or life-achievement award ceremonies. And the guide on the obligatory and reverent walk through Shakspeare's birth room and courting cottage -- evoking Will’s and Anne’s “sweet nothings”, I kid you not! -- was pure cant.

The presence of Prince Charles in the audience and -- briefly and somewhat awkwardly -- on stage, was a reminder of the might and imperviousness of the Stratford establishment, especially when they cunningly enlisted John of Gaunt's stirring "sceptered isle" speech to defend the fortress.

It occurred to me then and there that challenging the identity of the Bard meant also challenging the identity of the English nation. I shuddered at the enormity of the task.

Not everything was as intimidating, though. We were treated to a huge neon portrait of the Bard -- based on Droeshout, of course -- lighting up bright and blue at the back of the stage, toward which the performers all pointed and bowed at the end, in worship. It was embarrassing to watch.

And also obnoxious: we were so transparently being admonished “This is the man; don’t you ever doubt it!”. But then, why the urge to admonish if there is really no doubt?

Droeshout portrait of Shakespeare rendered in fireworks at Shakespeare Live! April 23, 2016. Image courtesy BBC.

The same outline Droeshout portrait lit up with fireworks outside at the closing of the broadcast. Who needs Disneyland when we have Stratford?

Overall, this show left me with a weird sense that the Stratford story is dying and that the Stratfordian organizers dimly know it. Whatever power the performance had for me came from Shakespeare's words; the fluff around them was corny and kitsch.

It was tired. It was weak. It was pathetic. It was desperate.

I don't think it is only wishful thinking on my part: one of my friends had the same visceral reaction -- halfway between a cringe and a chuckle. Both the Stratford and Boston audiences clearly seemed to enjoy the various performances; it is impossible to know if they experienced the same unease.

Reviews from the United Kingdom were predictably laudatory:
But, I left the theater vaguely nauseated and embarrassed for the actors, nagged by the sense that something was amiss in the celebration, by a silent undercurrent, a dissonance I cannot quite name, and almost sad for the ordinary Stratfordians-by-default who don't know yet their man is already dead, who can’t see what's coming and are missing all the fun and excitement of the hunt for the true author.

Did any other masochist among you see that show? Am I the only one who heard the bells toll? Am I deluded in seeing a feeble last hurrah where others saw a triumph?

Catherine Hatinguais was born in France and lived in NYC, where she worked as a translator at the UN. She now lives in the Boston area. See also, "Catherine Hatinguais: How I became an Oxfordian".


Wednesday, June 29, 2016

Oberons met at Paisano's June 25, 2016

Rosey Hunter, Richard Joyrich, and Pam Verilone at Paisano's in Ann Arbor June 25, 2016

by Linda Theil

Oberons met June 25, 2016 in the private "wine room" at Paisano Restaurant in Ann Arbor, MI. Oberon chair Richard Joyrich, Rosey Hunter, Pam Verilone, Rey Perez and guest, and Linda Theil attended the luncheon get-together.

At our meeting, Oberons committed to participating in a Shakespeare symposium on April 23, 2017 at Interlochen Center for the Arts in Interlochen, MI. We are grateful to Interlochen instructor of theater, David Montee, for his invitation to participate in the event.

All Pam Verilone's Oberon friends congratulated her on her natal day, and on her successful teaching career at her recent retirement from Southfield Public Schools.

Our group sends good thoughts and best wishes to Oberon members Sharon Hunter and Robin Browne who are recuperating from illness, and unable to join us in Ann Arbor. 

Sunday, May 15, 2016

Report from May 14, 2016 Oberon meeting

Rosey Hunter at after-meeting dinner at Beau's in Bloomfield Hills, MI May 14, 2016.

Oberons send hugs to our friend Robin Browne who is recuperating after surgery at Beaumont Hospital May 11. Get well soon, Robin!

On June 18, 2016 several Oberon members will attend author James Shapiro's talk on the topic of "The Scottish Play"at 10:30 a.m. in the Studio Theatre as part of the Festival Forum series of lectures in Stratford, Ontario.

We discussed the Oberon blog, particularly the Mark Twain Project Online (MTPO) article titled “Mark Twain’s Benighted Book”  and the Shakespeare Oxford Fellowship's letter of protest to the Bancroft Library at UC/Berkley and the National Endowment for the Arts that is partially funding the MTPO. An article titled "SOF responds to omission of authorship book from Mark Twain Project" appears on the SOF News weblog online

We urged Oberon members to sign up for email notification of Oberon posts on the Oberon blog page to get information and links regarding interesting topics such as the MTPO, the Rylance/Jacobi interview on NPR, etc. Just enter your email address in the box below the words: "Follow Oberon by email:" (see photo below)
Sign up online for email notification of Oberon blog posts.
Just enter your email address under the words "Follow Oberon by email:"

Several members: Richard, Pam, Mara, and Sharon plan to attend the "Shakespeare Live" film on Monday, May 23 at the Livonia theater at 7 p.m. Please see more information in Richard Joyrich's report below.

We discussed our "Reasonable Doubt about Shakespeare" event at UM-Flint on April 24, 2016 and agreed Matthew Wyneken and Richard Joyrich’s presentations were masterly. Matt will investigate the possibility of presenting a reprise event at UM-Flint this fall.

Although chairperson Richard Joyrich was unable to attend the meeting, he sent us information about other Shakespeare events available to us in Southeast MI. Richard Joyrich reported:
DETROIT: Mosaic Youth Theatre’s new production: A Midsummer SOULstice looks interesting. Here is the description from their website (
“A mash-up of Soul hits from the 60’s and 70’s and one of the funniest plays ever written, A Midsummer SOULstice is a non-stop, hilarious musical romp through the woods on the longest day of the year.” This will show at the Detroit Film Theatre at:4 PM today (may 15),10 AM May 19,PM May 20-21, andPM May 22. The Detroit Mosaic Youth Theatre is a wonderful institution. Get more info about them show and this particular show by reading the story from the Play section of today’s Detroit Free Press at: 
STRATFORD: On Sunday, May 29, at 3 PM there will be a showing of the HD film of last year’s Stratford, Ontario production of The Taming of the Shrew. Unfortunately, the closest theater to us where it is showing is the Celebration Cinema in Lansing. We have already missed the showings of Hamlet and The Adventures of Pericles. Eventually, these will be released on DVD so you will have to wait for them. (I saw all of these productions live in Stratford and they were all great.)
LONDON: Another cinema experience (at many closer theaters) coming up, on Monday, May 23, is The Shakespeare Show. Here is the description from the Royal Shakespeare Company website: Recorded live from the Royal Shakespeare Company in Stratford-upon-Avon on the anniversary of Shakespeare’s death, the event known as Shakespeare Live, will be a once-in-a-lifetime celebration of Shakespeare’s plays and their enduring influence on music, dance, opera, musical theatre and comedy. 
As part of a year-long celebration of the Bard, this star-studded show was conceived and directed by Gregory Doran and will be hosted by David Tennant and Catherine Tate and features Judi Dench, Ian McKellen, Benedict Cumberbatch, Helen Mirren, John Lithgow, David Suchet, Joseph Fiennes, Rufus Wainwright, Tim Minchin, Al Murray, Meera Syal, Alison Moyet, Sanjeev Bhaskar, Paapa Essiedu, Pippa Nixon, Alexandra Gilbreath, the Royal Ballet, the Orchestra of the Swan and many more. Don’t miss this spectacular cast for a unique tribute to one of the most influential storytellers of all time.
This movie will be shown at 7 PM on Monday, May 23 at the Quality 16 in Ann Arbor, the Livonia 20, and the Commerce Township 14. Tickets are $15. More info available at

Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Oberons participate in worldwide "Reasonable Doubt about Shakespeare" event at UM Flint

Oberons and guests at "Reasonable Doubt about Shakespeare" presentation April 24, 2016 at UM-Flint. In photograph back row: Paul Gifford; Matthew Wyneken, PhD; (Declaration of Reasonable Doubt) Richard Joyrich, MD; Pam Verilone; front row: Sharon Hunter, Rosey Hunter (almost invisible behind Sharon), et al.
by Linda Theil

Richard Joyrich, MD spoke yesterday at the Oberon Shakespeare Study Group presentation, "Reasonable Doubt about Shakespeare" organized as part of a worldwide project by the Shakespeare Authorship Coalition.

Matthew Wyneken, PhD, welcomes attendees at "Reasonable Doubt about Shakespeare"
April 24, 2016 at UM-Flint
Oberon member and University of Michigan--Flint associate professor Matthew Wyneken, PhD organized the local event at UM-Flint and welcomed guests to the program, saying: "I feel it is incumbent on academia to study and investigate the matter [of the Shakespeare authorship]." 

Richard Joyrich, MD, gave a talk on the Shakespeare Authorship Coalition's
Declaration of Reasonable Doubt at the "Reasonable Doubt about Shakespeare" presentation
at UM-Flint April 24, 2016.
Oberon chairperson Richard Joyrich, MD, gave a talk explaining the SAC's Declaration of Reasonable Doubt and the new evidence that makes the Shakespeare authorship question "Beyond Reasonable Doubt" to a small audience in the Happenings Room of the University Center Building. Joyrich said:

"I think [the Shakespeare authorship] is  question of evidence. As a physician thats what I do -- investigate evidence -- and the same is true of lawyers. I think thats why there are so many doctors and lawyers interested in the issue."

After his presentation, Shakespeare scholar Mary Jo Kietzman and her husband, archivist Paul Gifford engaged Joyrich and others in a wide-ranging discussion of aspects of the authorship debate including the topics of Hamlet's sources, dating Macbeth, and Roger Stritmatter's work on deVere's Bible. When Kietzman suggested Shakespeare's attitude toward the common man is admiring, Joyrich disagreed saying the works derive from an aristocratic point of view and the only wise servants are representative of commedia dell'arte influence on some of the plays. Kietzman said that the authorship angle that would most persuade her would be the Italian connections. 

Archivist Paul Gifford signs the SAC's 
Declaration of Reasonable Doubt April 24, 2016.
Archivist Paul Gifford's interest had been piqued by the PBS Frontline program "The Shakespeare Mystery". "It does bring up interesting questions," Gifford said. 

Kietzman is currently working on a book with the working title, Shakespeare's Covenantal Theater and its Biblical Muse of Fire about how the Old Testament view of covenant informs Shakespeare's plays.

"I chanced upon [the topic] when I began reading the Bible and could not help but apprehend all the ways Shakespeare was weaving the stories into the subtexts of the plays to give them more ethical resonance," Kietzman said. 

Of her work, she said:

Covenant is, in my view, the biblical beating heart of Shakespeare’s secular-seeming drama, central to its content and form. By subtly yoking his characters and their struggles to the flawed yet chosen men of the Bible, Shakespeare gives them a sublime or spiritual dimension. . . .It is the biblical component which I believe lends Shakespeare’s alienated others like Aaron, Shylock, Hamlet, Othello, Falstaff, Caliban, and the mad kings their grandeur: no matter how flawed or troubled, they are in touch with another reality and struggle to trust that reality enough to say “Here I am” in response to it. 
A chapter of Kietzman's Shakespeare's Covenantal Theater. . . titled "The Merchant of Venice:  Shylock and Covenantal Interplay", has been accepted for the journal, English Literary History, published by Johns Hopkins.

Oberons Sharon Hunter, Richard Joyrich, Matthew Wyneken, and Rosey Hunter confer
after "Beyond Reasonable Doubt" at 501 Bar and Pub in Flint, MI.

UPDATE: May 13, 2017
This article has been redacted by request of one of the participants in the event.

Monday, April 25, 2016

Jacobi and Rylance appear on NPR's Morning Edition and YouTube

Shakespeare Authorship Coalition Chairman John Shahan, shared this news with Oberon readers:

Jacoby and Rylance discuss the Declaration of Reasonable Doubt on SAC YouTube channel.

by John Shahan

Claremont, California -- In an interview with Renee Montagne, host of NPR's Morning Edition, on the occasion of the 400th anniversary of Shakespeare's death, Shakespearean actors Derek Jacobi and Mark Rylance reaffirmed support for theDeclaration of Reasonable Doubt About the Identity of William Shakespeare, which they launched in the U.K. in 2007. The Declaration has been signed by "over 3,000 actors, academics, lawyers and others," Montagne said, later adding that several U.S. Supreme Court Justices have been doubters, and Justices Sandra Day O'Connor and John Paul Stevens have actually signed the Declaration.

In the interview, titled "Shakespearean Actors Revive Debate Over The Bard's Identity," Jacobi and Rylance say that Shakespeare, uniquely among Elizabethan writers, left no contemporary evidence of a writing career, that the life he lived seems unrelated to the plays, and when he died in 1616 nobody seemed to notice. In contrast, "When Frances Beaumont, a lesser-known writer, died a month before Shakespeare..., he immediately goes to Westminster Abbey," Rylance said.

Jacobi and Rylance give a "portrait" of the sort of person the real author must have been, based on their understanding from reading and performing the plays -- someone with a documented literary career; extensive education in "a huge range of subjects;" fluent in multiple foreign languages, including French, Italian, Spanish and Greek; easy familiarity with the ways of the nobility and with aristocratic pastimes such as falconry and equestrian sports. He would also have traveled widely in Italy. "So anyone to be a candidate to be the author would have to meet these basic characteristics of the works we have," Rylance said.

"Writers write from their own point of view, and the point of view ... in the works just isn't that of Mr. Shakspere, based on what we know of his life." Jacobi said.

"We are not questioning out of any animosity to the author," Rylance said, "we are questioning because we love the author and think there's ... a mystery here."

In addition to the interview, Jacobi and Rylance produced a 30-minute video for theShakespeare Authorship Coalition, the host organization for the Declaration. The video, titled "Sir Derek Jacobi and Mark Rylance Discuss the Declaration of Reasonable Doubt," can be viewed at the SAC website at:

Open letter to WNYC's On The Media program re: "On Shakespeare"

On the Media podcast April 22, 2016 "On Shakespeare" with James Shapiro 

Open letter to On The Media from Linda Theil:

Hi, thanks for your show; I love it! 

I would like to comment on your [April 22, 2016] Shakespeare presentation with James Shapiro:

I know you are in the business of bringing truth to light, and you dislike conspiracy theories and ignorance of all kinds, but I would like to point out that perhaps your zeal was inappropriate in the case of the Shapiro interview [re: the Shakespeare authorship controversy].

For one thing, you allowed no one but Shapiro to speak on the topic — so only one viewpoint was allowed. I know this has to do with false equivalence on the part of newscasters, but I think it produced an inaccurate view of the topic.

Secondly, the language used to describe the topic is antagonistic: calling those who are interested in the authorship question “Shakespeare deniers” — a term used several times in the course of the interview — is remniscent of “holocaust deniers” a repugnant term that is vicious and inaccurate. Also the term “anti-Shakespeareans” is prejudicial and inaccurate since anyone who is interested enough in Shakespeare to study this issue is anything but “anti” Shakespeare. Stanley Wells of the Shakespeare Birthplace Trust urged using this term as a substitute for the "anti-Stratfordian" adjective typically used in the discussion.

Third, when Shapiro said that we have more documentation of Shakespeare (implying the Stratford man) than anyone else, Brook correctly asked, “Is that true?” but accepted Shapiro’s “Yes” with no further comment. A respected academic researcher named Diana Price wrote Shakespeare's Unorthodox Biography that counters Shapiro's claim.

Furthermore, Brook allowed Shapiro to ridicule an alternate candidacy based on the assumption that Shakespeare's plays can be reliably dated -- a completely baseless assumption since the dating of the plays is by no means a settled issue.

AND she let Shapiro use his canard from his Contested Will book tour about bestiality with Richard III's horse to besmirch the name of an alternate candidate for the authorship. Really?

You may decide that there is no arguing with a confirmed conspiracy theorist, but I hope you will acknowledge that perhaps in this case you may have chosen a point of view too soon. 

Many thanks again for sharing your work and your talent with your listeners,

Linda Theil

Friday, April 22, 2016

Mark Twain's benighted book

Is Shakespeare Dead? by Mark Twain (Harper, 1909) is not in the Autobiography of Mark Twain or Mark Twain Project Online because the editors didn't know where to put it.

by Linda Theil

Samuel Langhorne Clemens, AKA Mark Twain, wrote his autobiography in chunks, and although he published much of the work before he died, he made legal arrangements stipulating that the complete work could not be published until 100 years after his death in 1910. That publication was completed last year with the third and final volume of Autobiography of Mark Twain.

This autobiography, including the entire corpus of his work, letters, and other writings is available at the Mark Twain Project Online. Here is what that site says about their vital work:
Mark Twain Project Online applies innovative technology to more than four decades' worth of archival research by expert editors at the Mark Twain Project. It offers unfettered, intuitive access to reliable texts, accurate and exhaustive notes, and the most recently discovered letters and documents. 
Its ultimate purpose is to produce a digital critical edition, fully annotated, of everything Mark Twain wrote. MTPO is produced by the Mark Twain Papers and Project of The Bancroft Library in collaboration with the University of California Press; the site is hosted by UC Berkeley's Library Systems Office. During 2005–8 the California Digital Library collaborated in MTPO's creation and initial development. 
In April 2009, the MLA Committee on Scholarly Editions designated MTPO an "Approved Edition," and in 2015, MTP was honored as part of NEH@50.
As one of those favored projects honored last year when the National Endowment for the Humanities turned 50, the NEH website wrote about the Mark Twain Project:
The Mark Twain Papers and Project at UC-Berkeley’s Bancroft Library began documenting Clemens’s life in 1949. The collection began when the library received the papers Clemens had personally selected and made available to his official biographer, Albert Bigelow Paine. Since then, the library has amassed more than 17,000 letters to Clemens or his family and another 11,000 written by them. There are also unpublished manuscripts, working notes, typescripts, business documents, clippings, scrapbooks, interviews, bills, checks, and photographs. 
With $4,093,639 from NEH, the Mark Twain Papers and Project has been publishing the archive in four series. The Mark Twain Papers consists of scholarly editions of letters, notebooks, and unpublished literary manuscripts. The Works of Mark Twain are authoritative critical editions of Twain’s published works.  The Mark Twain Library is meant for use in the classroom and by the general reader. The final series, Jumping Frogs: Undiscovered, Rediscovered, and Celebrated Writings of Mark Twain, showcases Twain’s short stories, travelogs, plays, and journalism. The project also has a robust website that offers digital versions of the completed volumes. . . .
Lest one think that $4-million-plus was sufficient to the task, here is what MTPO says on their site regarding funding:
Mark Twain Project Online is an ambitious undertaking, requiring ongoing work. In addition, financial and other crucial support has been instrumental in the development of the critical editions and this Web site—and will continue to be so. 
Please support the Mark Twain Project Online by donating now.
The Bancroft Library of the University of California at Berkeley is the home of the Mark Twain Papers & Project. The Bancroft plays a vital role in housing the archive and has also provided financial support for Mark Twain Project Online. 
The Mark Twain Foundation, a perpetual charitable trust located in New York City, possesses the publication rights to all of Mark Twain's writings unpublished at his death. It was created by a provision in his daughter Clara's will, which also stipulated that the income from the Foundation be used for, among other things, “enabling mankind to appreciate and enjoy the works of Mark Twain.” The Mark Twain Foundation has given UC Press and Mark Twain Project Online exclusive rights to publish copyright-protected writings by Mark Twain, both in print and electronically. 
The National Endowment for the Humanities has supported the editorial work of the Mark Twain Project, without interruption, since 1967, and made generous funding grants for the development of Mark Twain Project Online.
Yet, Mark Twain's treatise on the Shakespeare authorship question, Is Shakespeare Dead?, appears nowhere in this monumental endeavor. If you query the massive trove on the title Is Shakespeare Dead? you will be rewarded with exactly nothing.

We contacted the MTPO on behalf of this weblog in January and received an immediate reply from Autobiography of Mark Twain associate editor Sharon Goetz. She supplied links on the site to letters and/or dictations wherein Twain discussed the topic of his book:
"Is Shakespeare Dead?" isn't part of our current offerings at The essay is related to Clemens's autobiographical dictations of 11 January and 25 March 1909, which are part of our recently published _Autobiography of Mark Twain, Volume 3_.11 Jan 1909:;;toc.depth=1;;style=work;brand=mtp#X25 March 1909:;;;toc.depth=1;brand=mtp;style=work#X
Clemens went to Stratford-upon-Avon in 1907:;;;toc.depth=1;brand=mtp;style=work#X
For the essay itself, see the free-to-access Project Gutenberg version of the 1909 Harper & Brothers printing, which is out of copyright: 
Best wishes,Sharon Goetz
Brief postscript: Clemens was benighted with respect to Shakespeare, though he didn't have access to some important pieces of information that might have changed his mind (again). See, for example,

A Google query defined benighted as "in a state of pitiful or contemptible intellectual or moral ignorance, typically owing to a lack of opportunity".

We wrote back with additional questions to which Goetz replied on Jan. 6, 2016:
Thank you for your reply. Yes, certainly, Clemens's issues with Shakespeare and Bacon would not be a reason to suppress content.
I've passed your query to the co-editors of volume 3. My colleague Benjamin Griffin has responded--please see below. 
Regarding my earlier words, "isn't part of our current offerings": our goal is to prepare accurate texts of everything Clemens wrote, in due course. We've edited nearly thirty years' worth of his letters, for example, with another thirty years of letters remaining. I expect that MTP will edit "Is Shakespeare Dead?" but have no clear sense of when. 
Our website does include some content that the print version of vol. 3 does not: the textual commentaries for all dictations in that volume, that is, descriptions of the typescripts, manuscripts, and printed texts that underlie our edited text, and records of how each text varies (see Note on the Text for context); Clemens's working notes for the Ashcroft-Lyon Manuscript; and color scans of a few of the photographs (print is all b/w). 
Best wishes,Sharon Goetz 
[Benjamin Griffith:]
There are several long pieces which Clemens intimated, in one way or another, to be "part of" or "from" his Autobiography. Some of them are on the borderline as far as whether they can be considered part of the *finished form* (intended final form) of the work. 
"Is Shakespeare Dead?" is definitely on the borderline. One consideration is both intentional and pragmatic: if this text is part of the Autobiography, where does it go? We didn't include anything that is without indications of where, in the sequence of dictations, it should go. Clemens does not introduce it, make a place for it, in and among the dictation series, as he does with other heterogeneous texts of his own in the book--such as "Was It Heaven? or Hell?" and "Wapping Alice," for example. 
One work that he says is "in this Autobiography" is [1907 short story] "Captain Stormfield's Visit to Heaven," which we also have not included. Here, our conclusion was that by the time Clemens published it separately as a book, he had lost interest in the question of the Autobiography. Book publication therefore represented his final intention--so far as one can tell. 
In the end, it was our feeling that Clemens felt the same way about "Is Shakespeare Dead?" It's debatable, of course.
What we could have done is to publish "Is Shakespeare Dead?" as an appendix. That at least seems unnecessary in view of the text's wide availability.
If we understand correctly, according to these communiques there are several reasons why Is Shakespeare Dead? does not appear in Autobiography of Mark Twain or the Mark Twain Project Online:

  • Is Shakespeare Dead? has to be edited before it can be included; but there are no plans to edit it.
  • The editors don't know where to put Is Shakespeare Dead?
  • Is Shakespeare Dead? is widely available elsewhere so does not need to appear in the Mark Twain Project Online.
  • 1909 publication represented Mark Twain's final intention for Is Shakespeare Dead?
This seems so patently nonsensical that we have delayed commenting for fear we had missed some essential nuance of reasoning, but we can delay no longer because we don't think we will ever understand why Is Shakespeare Dead? has been eliminated from Mark Twain's life work.


Is Shakespeare Dead? is available on Amazon, and free in ebook and audio formats on the Internet. Perusal of the book reveals an historically valuable, first-person account of the status of the Shakespeare authorship question during Twain’s lifetime, told with passion and humor in Twain’s unmistakable voice. 

In Chapter One of Is Shakespeare Dead? from My Autobiography, Mark Twain reveals his introduction to the Shakespeare authorship controversy:
Did [Captain Ealer] have something to say--this Shakespeare-adoring Mississippi pilot--anent Delia Bacon's book? Yes. And he said it; said it all the time, for months--in the morning watch, the middle watch, the dog watch; and probably kept it going in his sleep. He bought the literature of the dispute as fast as it appeared, and we discussed it all through thirteen hundred miles of river four times traversed in every thirty-five days--the time required by that swift boat to achieve two round trips. We discussed, and discussed, and discussed, and disputed and disputed and disputed; at any rate he did, and I got in a word now and then when he slipped a cog and there was a vacancy. He did his arguing with heat, with energy, with violence; and I did mine with the reserve and moderation of a subordinate who does not like to be flung out of a pilot-house that is perched forty feet above the water. He was fiercely loyal to Shakespeare and cordially scornful of Bacon and of all the pretensions of the Baconians. So was I--at first. 

UPDATE May 18, 2016: The Shakespeare Oxford Fellowship board of trustees sent a letter of protest re: the exclusion of Is Shakespeare Dead? from my Autobiography from the Mark Twain Project Online to the director of the Bancroft Library, and copied the NEA. See SOF News Online article at:

Resources: ebook — all formats