Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Shakespeare and the Met

The Metropolitan Opera will simulcast eight operas this year, two of which are taken from the Shakespeare canon: Gounod’s "Romeo and Juliet" will be broadcast live to movie theaters all over the world on December 15, with a recorded encore on December 16 and Verdi’s "Macbeth" will be broadcast on January 12 with an encore on January 13. These simulcasts are a brand new project of the Met and having seen five of the six broadcasts last year, I can recommend them as a wonderful way to experience opera whether you are a neophyte or dedicated fan. With tickets at $22, they are an entertainment bargain. You can find local theaters and buy tickets at the Metropolitan Opera site. If you are unfamiliar with the opera, here is a sample of Gounod’s music inspired by Shakespeare’s genius: “ah, leve toi solielsung here by Richard Troxell.

If you are interested in seeing how the aria fits with Shakespeare's poetry, you can view a literal translation of the opera at The Aria Database. Although the poetry may not be Shakespearean, the beauty of the music and the sound of the human singing voice magnificently represents the emotion of the play and adds a layer of richness to the experience of Shakespeare's work.

For further study into the ways in which Shakespeare's work has been adapted into musical form, Arthur Graham -- professor emeritus at Kentucky University School of Music -- taught a class at the university titled: Shakespeare in Opera, Ballet, Orchestral Music, and Song: An Introduction to Music Inspired by the Bard. His book by the same name was published by Edwin Mellen Press, Ltd. in 1997.

Graham provides a detailed study of both Shakespeare plays Macbeth and Romeo and Juliet and their relationship to the various musical works inspired by them including the Gounod "Romeo and Juliet" and Verdi's "Macbeth" being offered by the Metropolitan Opera on simulcast this year. Graham also includes discussion of Verdi's "Otello" in his book. "Otello" is also being offered at the Met this season, although not on simulcast.

You can investigate Graham's work for yourself on Google Books. Page 45-46 gives a poetic translation of the "ah, leve toi soleil" aria.

In his book, Graham also gives a short discussion of Shakespeare's use of music in the plays. On page 200, Graham says:
In the plays he (Shakespeare) mentions several instruments with understanding of the mechanics of their performance, he puns on musical topics, frequently uses music as metaphor, and employs music in songs, dance, and for dramatic purposes. These give evidence of better than superficial knowledge of the art.

Yes, I would agree -- Shakespeare evinces a much better than superficial knowledge of the art of music. On page 199, Graham gives examples of Elizabethan musical culture, all relating to Elizabeth's court. And what does Graham have to say about the Stratfordian's deep knowledge and appreciation for the art of music?

Again, on page 200, "Shakespeare's middle-class upbringing would have included much contact with music in church, at home, and elsewhere."

Of course, there is no documentation of any such thing, but we are used to supposition in Stratfordian biography. That "elsewhere" is a particularly neat (and pointless) touch. And how much is "much contact"?

"Middle class" upbringing? What does that mean? There is no "middle class" as we think of it in Elizabethan England. There are some non-aristocrats who are beginning to get very rich, but the Shakspers of Stratford are not among them. Music in the home? This is not the Nineteenth Century -- there are no pianos in every parlor. Shakespeare's knowledge and deep understanding of music is yet another example of the Stratfordian's "genius". I'll bet he performed surgery with his bare hands, too!

I have no doubt that Graham is a man of depth and knowledge, and I find his book interesting and useful. But over and over, men of understanding twist the work to fit a shadow and I only wish they would begin to look for real substance.
On page 106, Graham says of the source of Shakespeare's Othello:
Giraldi Cinthio's Hecatommithi, published in Venice in 1566, provides the inspiration for Othello. We do not know whether Shakespeare read the story in the original Italian, in the French translation (1584), or in a now lost English translation. A knowledge of Italian was not unusual for educated Elizabethans.

This guy from Stratford, not only was he a "genius", he had all the polish of an aristocrat!

I don't think there is any conspiracy regarding the Shakespeare authorship -- I just think they got it wrong and it would be a lot more interesting to get it right.

Sunday, November 25, 2007

Michael Moore and the true Shakespeare

Now who would you expect to run into leaving the book and crafts sale at the Community Center of tiny Alden, Michigan, on the southeast, currently snowy shores of Torch Lake?

This morning it was Michael Moore, holding a can of Vernor’s in his hand and telling us it was the best pop art in the place.

Rosey and I have extended an invitation, again, to Michael, who lives up the lake from us, for dinner when he is down south of Clam River with an extra hour or two on his hands. No telling, once he has solved the health care problems of the country, that he might want to turn his attention to the true author of the works which carry the name William Shakespeare on their cover.

Michael, we have a tale of intrigue, genius, power, murder, corruption, and cover up for you all encased in a tale of the fall into oblivion of perhaps western civilization’s most brilliant literary talent, whose works have taken on a name of their own which we continue to call Shakespeare. I can also promise you, Michael, a meal prepared by the culinary genius known as Rosey.

Shakespeare and food by Rosey. Michael, how can you resist?

Tom Hunter
Oberon Chair

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

No turkey for Oberon

Oberon’s November meeting last week definitely was no turkey. As promised, Tom Townsend delivered a feast of evidence about Hamlet’s Rosencrantz and Guildenstern that knocks the stuffing out of Stratfordian pretensions that their boy Will Shaksper ever could have put pen to paper and produced anything like Hamlet. Of course, de Vere received his just desserts as Tom doled out one course after another of evidence including the following:

  • De Vere’s brother in law Lord Willoughby led a diplomatic mission to Denmark in 1582 and returned with information about the Danish court that shows up in Hamlet. A state reception was held for Willoughby which only Danish nobility attended. A Rosencrantz and two Guildensterns were on the list of attendees.
  • The dating of Hamlet, traditionally put at 1595-1600, could be the early to mid-1580s. A Guildenstern from Sweden visited Hedingham when de Vere was 12-years-old. By the way, de Vere was 12 when his father, the 16th Earl, died. Is there a connection?
  • Frederick Rosencrantz and Krud Guildenstern, similar in age to the characters in Hamlet and both of whom attended Wittenberg, visited England in 1592. They were sure to have met the top nobility there, as was the custom, including de Vere as among the highest rank of English nobles.
  • Shakespeare demonstrates familiarity with Thomas Digges’ heliocentric theories in imagery throughout the play. Diggs was a Copernican whom de Vere would likely have meet at court, so that de Vere would have personally known the English source of a cosmology which antedated Galileo by 40 years and which appears abundantly in Hamlet.
  • Ophelia means “the moon.” Op = opposite. Helio = the sun.
  • Leonard Diggs, Jr., who wrote the lines in the front matter to the First Folio which refer to “thy Stratford moniment” and which the Strats hold out as documentary evidence for their man Shaksper, was employed by the Earl of Montgomery, de Vere’s son-in-law who was married to his daughter Susan and one of the publishers of the First Folio

This last bit of information was the icing on the cake, the pumpkin in the pie, leading us to more evidence of indirection and purposeful ambiguity in the front matter to the First Folio, complementing the purpose of Jonson’s poem.

The rest was of Tom’s talk was, of course, just gravy. We are encouraging him to publish a condensed version of it on our blog, so please check it out in the coming weeks.

Circle Thursday, January 17 on your calendar for our next Oberon meeting. Our guest will be Charles Kelly of Ann Arbor who has just published his study of the quarto and folio editions of Hamlet. This could be another worthy contribution to our Hamlet project, so please plan to be at the Farmington Library, Room B, that evening. 2008 is already shaping up as another promising and fruitful year.

In the mean time, we wish you and your loved ones the best of holidays. There is, in this harsh world, much to be thankful for and much to celebrate, including each other.

Bless you all and warmest regards for this season and throughout the year,

Tom Hunter
Oberon Chair

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Did Shakespeare Anticipate Mad Cow Disease?

I just read an amusing article published in Clinical Infectious Diseases, a medical journal published by University of Chicago, in 2006. The article is titled "'Strange things I have in head': Evidence of Prion Disease in Shakespeare's Macbeth". You can access it (I hope) at

The article purports to show that Macbeth may have acted the way he did because he was suffering from a disease. Prion diseases (formerly known as slow-virus diseases) are a collection of neurologic diseases affecting humans and animals. The three human forms are Familial fatal insomnia, Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease and variant Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease. This last one is considered the human form of bovine spongiform encephalopathy, more commonly known as Mad Cow Disease.

The article in question uses multiple quotations from Macbeth to show that Macbeth may have been suffering from variant Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease . The article is well written and contains a really good table (which can be accessed from the web page above-click on Table 1 in the text of the article) with all of the quotes and which of the prion diseases the quote fits best.

I really love this kind of fun with Shakespeare. It just shows how much there is to find in there.

Wednesday, November 7, 2007

Shakespeare NOW!

When I was browsing in Shaman Drum last month, I came upon a set of slim volumes with the series title, Shakespeare NOW! The series is published by Continuum Books, London and New York and is edited by Simon Palfrey and Ewan Fernie with the intention of offering “ . . . a series of intellectual adventure stories: animate with fresh and often exposed thinking, with ideas still heating in the mind.”

The book that caught my eye is Shakespeare Thinking by Philip Davis of the University of Liverpool School of English. This is a dense book in terms of ideas and thrilling to read – I believe Davis has met the challenge of talking about the work of Shakespeare in new and challenging ways. From what I understand, Davis argues that Shakespeare’s language accesses the actual creation of thought – that Shakespeare shows us reality coming into language, unfiltered by consciousness.
In this language, nothing is taken for granted and nothing is already known. With Shakespeare, whatever it is, it is always as though for the first time again. Mind, like character itself, is not there to begin with in Shakespeare; it is dramatically thought into being on the stage. It is that way round: the thought suddenly creating consciousness – the consciousness of what it is that is thinking it. It is not the old classical principle of operari sequitur esse – such that ‘being’ comes first and then ‘function’ follows from it. It is not that characters can enter fully-formed. Rather, the right order with Shakespeare is that of evolutionary theory and of process philosophy – that being follows from function and is itself created by what can be done. In a sort of mental loop, the mind of a Lear or a Macbeth is terrified to see what events show he has become. p. 39

Intriguing and exciting with lots to think about. My copy bristles with orange, yellow, blue and green flags – ridiculous! I must simply read it over and over again and not try to piece out the good parts.

The other books in the Shakespeare NOW! series that are already published are:
To Be Or Not To Be by Douglas Bruster
Shakespeare Inside by Amy Scott-Douglass
Godless Shakespeare by Eric S. Mallin

Coming out next year are:
Shakespeare’s Modern Collaborators by Lukas Erne Feb
Shakespeare’s Double Helix by Henry S. Turner Feb
Shakespearean Metaphysics by Michael Witmore June
Shakespeare & the Political Way
by Elizabeth Frazer Jul

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Raymond McDaniel introduces Charles Adams Kelly

Raymond McDaniel introduced Charles Adams Kelly before Kelly's presentation of his book, Echoes and Shadows in the Text of Shakespeare's Hamlet at Shaman Drum Bookshop in Ann Arbor on October 25. I thought the introduction was so beautiful (and so evocative of the mystery of the received word) that I asked McDaniel if we could publish it here. He graciously gave his permission.

I hope his words will serve as a delicious incentive for you to attend Charles Adams Kelly's appearance at our Oberon meeting -- 7 p.m., January 17 at the Farmington Community Library.

In addition to hosting the reading series at Shaman Drum Bookshop, Raymond McDaniel writes for Fence magazine's The Constant Critic and teaches at the University of Michigan. He is the author of Murder (a violet). His second book of poetry, Saltwater Empire, is forthcoming from Minneapolis based Coffee House Press.

Here is what he said on October 25:

Good evening and welcome. Thank you for coming out tonight to greet Charles Adams Kelly, and congratulate him on the publication of Echoes and Shadows in the Texts of Shakespeare’s Hamlet.

When you are reading Hamlet, what are you reading? Words, as he himself might reply, words, sir. But to what degree does your knowledge of what you are reading depend on your prior convictions regarding what it must be? The multiplicity of Hamlet as a character is the source of ceaseless exegetical worry, but what if I were to tell you that the space in which the character is housed – literally, the text that allows him – is also not singular?

You need not riddle yourself over the hypothetical implications of this question; Charles has done the work for you, and with a greater degree of zeal and precision than the lay reader can easily recognize. For a bad quarto of Shakespeare offers not just a paleographer’s challenge, but rather challenges the limits of what we can know about the provenance of a text. In meeting this challenge, Charles has performed an astonishing act, one that expresses the rigors of historical, literary, archival, and – most tellingly – deductive scholarship.

Those whose devotion to English language is accidental at best, and whose suspicions of scholarship are devastating at the worst, often cite the storied and legendary difficulties of Shakespearean attribution as proof that all social aspects of literature are fraught, contingent, convenient, incomplete to such a case that any authoritative claim is, in its authority, proof of its own illegitimacy. And then there are those who err on the opposite extreme, and who treat one quarto, folio, performance or interpretation as if it came into being immaculate, singular and complete, unaltered and unalterable. Both of these are easy claims to make, just like it is easy to fight. What is difficult is to build a case from the widest array of facts, and to discern from those facts patterns of likelihood, and to establish thereby the most probable case.

In so doing with this both literary and social documentation, Charles has paid a set of tremendous compliments: to the Bard himself, of course, and also to those under-sung Elizabethan entrepreneurs and functionaries without whom we have so much less than we do, but also to you, the reader, for whom he has taken a potentially fatal uncertainty and made of it a sweet and wholly persuasive cure.

"What is difficult is to build a case from the widest array of facts, and to discern from those facts patterns of likelihood, and to establish thereby the most probable case." -- difficult indeed, but so rewarding!

An Arabian Night's Dream?

Yesterday two members of Oberon, Susan Nenadic and myself, went to the Ann Arbor District Library to hear director Jeff Myers and some of his cast talk about the Ann Arbor Civic Theater's upcoming production of A Midsummer Night's Dream, to be presented November 15-18 at the Lydia Mendelsosohn Theater. (Information on times and tickets at

Mr. Myers has decided to adapt the play (while keeping 75-80% of the original text) with an eye towards Arabian or Islamic culture, pointing out that the original play (although not really historical) is set in Athens during the "Golden Age" of Theseus, whereas later in world history the "cultural capital of the world" had shifted to Arabia and particularly Baghdad.

Mr. Myers is setting his adaptation in Baghdad at around 800 AD. While retaining most of the original text, he has changed references to locations and has changed the names of the characters to reflect Islamic culture. Thus, instead of Oberon and Titania, we have Enkidu and Shamhat, the "wildman" and the woman who tamed him from the Ballad of Gilgamesh. Instead of Theseus we have Harun al Rashid, one of the most infuential of the caliphs during the "golden age" of Islam. Instead of "nonsensical" names for the mechanicals (Bottom, Flute, Snout, Starveling, etc.), Mr. Myers has opted for Arabic names, such as Kebab (type of food), Samoon (round of bread), Taboon (clay oven), Dishdasha (robe), Burut (mustache), and Masoor (lentil).

The biggest departure from Shakespeare is that Mr. Myers has completely removed Pyramus and Thisby and replaced it with a play adapted from the tale of Aziz and Azizah from the Tales of a Thousand and One Nights (He is using, by permission, an adaptation by the well-known New York playwright Mary Zimmerman).

Mr. Myers explains that this change is for two main reasons. First, it is in keeping with the Islamic cultural basis of the adaptation. The story of Aziz and Azizah (about two cousins who have an unhappy love affair) points out some of the more restrictive cultural elements of Islam and forms a nice counterpoint (according to Mr. Myers) of the more loose and free way the two pairs of lovers in the main plot (Ja'far and Abassa [originally Lysander and Hermia] and Kassim and Saffiah [originally Demetrius and Helena]) act when they are away from the court and in the woods.

The second reason for the change is that Mr. Myers has always found fault with the way the mechanicals are ridiculed by the nobles when they try to perform Pyramus and Thisby in Shakespeare's version. (This kind of ridiculing commoners and giving them funny names and having them speak in prose and having them make rude puns, etc. is of course rampant in all of Shakespeare's works. Perhaps this can be seen as a product of the true author's upbringing and world outlook?) In any case, Mr. Myers will be having the mechanicals actually be good actors and do a good job in presenting their play. The effect of this change will probably be the most interesting part of watching this adaptation.

I am hoping to be able to attend a performance of this work and I would encourage others to do so as well.

If enough of our group go and enjoy it, we can consider changing our name to the Enkidu Shakespeare Study Group.

Monday, October 29, 2007

Report: Shakespeare's herbal imagery and advancing Oxford

Dear Oberon,

I am pleased to report that Thursday's meeting featuring herbalist Lonnie Morley discussing Shakespeare's herbal imagery as a clue to the author's identity was a huge success. Ms. Morley brought insight into the important role of herbs and flowers in Shakespeare's plays and poems. She has agreed to post a shortened version of her talk on our Oberon blog, so please stay tuned. If you are interested in Shakespeare, you will be very interested in Morley's treatment of this key topic.

In addition, Ms. Morley is a staunch supporter of the view that Edward de Vere authored the works of Shakespeare. After all, he grew up in the home of his ward, Sir William Cecil, Lord Burghley, whose gardens were among the most magnificent in all Elizabethan England and whose master gardener, with whom young de Vere was surely well acquainted, wrote a compendium on herbs of such authority that it is still in use today. Shakespeare shows a remarkable familiarity with herbs, flowers, and gardens, and here were the best gardens and gardeners in all of England right in his back yard.

And that's not all. At the end of Ms. Morley's presentation to an Oakland Community College gathering of 70-80 the previous afternoon, a Wayne State University English professor rose to challenge her as to who wrote Shakespeare. When he demanded proof of her thesis, Ms. Morley replied that she would need a semester to present it all. Indeed, this reply goes right to the heart of the Stratfordian advantage: they own the playing field. They control the classrooms. But on Wednesday, Oakland County seniors demonstrated that they have open minds if university professors do not, and so Ms. Morley won the day in telling Oxford's story.

All in all, Ms. Morley made Thursday evening a most uplifting experience for Oberon. On Thursday, via Linda Theil, we also made contact with Charles Kelly of Ann Arbor who has just published new work on the quarto editions of Hamlet, Echoes & Shadows in the Texts of Shakespeare's Hamlet. We are looking forward to hosting Charles at our January meeting, now scheduled for Thursday, January 17 at the Farmington Library.

In the mean time, don't forget Tom Townsend's presentation on Rosencrantz and Guildenstern at our meeting Nov 15. Tom will demonstrate Oxfordian connections to these minor but important characters in the play. With Tom's help, we will be taking another step forward in our Hamlet project. The year is concluding on a strong note, and that will be continuing in 2008.

Yours as always for a deeper understanding of Shakespeare,

Tom Hunter

Thursday, October 25, 2007

Derran Charlton on Katherine Eggar

In a message dated 10/21/2007 12:23:48 P.M. Eastern Daylight Time, Derran Charlton wrote:

Tom Hunter, and Phaeton:

Miss Eggar often addressed the Shakespearean Authorship Society re Edward de Vere and Ferdinando Stanley. The Shakespearean Authorship Society (formerly the Shakespeare Fellowship, founded in 1922) publications No.3 (Spring 1960) and No.5 (Spring 1961), together with her Oxfordian pamphlets, refer.

Miss K. Eggar, A.R.A.M., was a distinguished Vice-President of the Society, alongside Miss Hilda Amphlett, T.L. Adamson, Sir John Russell and William Kent, F.S.A. The Hon. Secretary was Miss Gwynneth M. Bowen. I am fortunate to own several annotated Oxfordian books and pamphlets ex libris Gwynneth. The President of the Society was Christmas Humphreys, Q.C.

Quote from Miss Eggar`s talk to The Shakespearean Authorship Society, 26th November, 1960:

"Miss Eggar drew attention to the significant fact that the "poet"
Shakespeare only comes into existence as the man, Edward de Vere, retires from Court. The question then arises as to where he is to be found at work, and where is the connection with the output of William Shakespeare? The important date to remember was the year 1590, which was a "watershed" in the Authors life. Before this date he writes as a private individual, for, and to, his private friends. Under the name "Shakespeare" he writes for the Public. After the date 1590, the enquirer is in search of a man of middle age, with a wide experience of life, still in touch with the heart of national affairs, but beholding his age and his contemporaries from the standpoint of a dramatist of Life itself. Should he not be found, Miss Eggar said, in the midst of that stage-world, writing for it, running for it a Company of his own. If so, this could explain one of the mysteries of Elizabethan stage chronicles - a phenomenon which occurs in the last decade of Vere`s life. This is the Private Playhouse of the Blackfriars. If the Newcomer, or Enquirer, will look into the plays which were performed at this theatre much might be discovered to illustrate this subject. The expenses connected with the production of such an enterprise could well swallow up even
the legendary wealth of the Earl of Oxford."

Friday, October 19, 2007

Glimmerglass salutes the bard

Glimmerglass Opera near Cooperstown, New York will devote its 2008 Festival Season to musical works inspired by Shakespeare. Here is a note from their announcement:
Glimmerglass Opera will stage its 34th Festival Season July 5–August 24, 2008, “If music be the food of love, play on!” Four new productions with links to Shakespeare will be presented on a set resembling an Elizabethan theater: Porter's Kiss Me, Kate, Handel's Giulio Cesare in Egitto, the American fully-staged premiere of Wagner's Das Liebesverbot (inspired by Shakespeare's Measure for Measure), and Bellini's I Capuleti e i Montecchi. Additionally, Glimmerglass will present two concert performances of Felix Mendelssohn's Complete Incidental Music to A Midsummer Night's Dream. Click here to subscribe now to Glimmerglass Opera's 2008 Festival Season.

Thursday, October 18, 2007

SOS/SF Joint Shakespeare Authorship Conference, Oct. 5-8, 2007, Carmel, CA

The following is a play-by-play from Oberon founder and SOS board member Richard Joyrich on the Carmel, CA SOS/SF joint conference on Oct 5-8, 2007 (adapted from a series of E-mails).

Carmel, Day 1

Wish you were here! But since you're not, I will begin my daily report of the goings-on here at the Carmel Shakespeare Authorship Conference.

We're off to a great start. But I do have to mention that I am still getting compliments from people about how good last year's Ann Arbor Conference was. Virginia told me that she is already missing all the help given to her last year by Rosey, Sue, Linda, and others in registering people and selling books.

There were four talks this afternoon. Earl Showerman started us out with another of his marathon run-throughs of Shakespeare's use of Greek sources. However, this time he actually finished on time! And he covered four plays instead of only two as he did last year! He pointed out that, although scholars (read Stratfordians, of course) know about Shakespeare's use of Plutarch's Lives for the plots of the "Roman" plays, Shakespeare also used Plutarch to get names for most of the characters in Winter's Tale, Pericles, Midsummer Night's Dream and Timon of Athens. Earl points out that this use of names of historical or mythic-historical people for characters in plays can lend some dimension to the characters for those in the audience who are educated enough to pick up on this (another indication that the plays were probably first written for the court and also that the author was "educated" as well). More details on this later.

Talk 2, by Helen Gordon was about two secret societies which existed in Elizabethan times (and still do to some extent), the Freemasons and the Rosicrucians, and Oxford's possible connection to them.

After a break, came talk 3 by John Hamill. This was also on the sonnets, but from a completely different interpretation. This time it was from the point of view that the sonnets refer to homosexual love for the Fair Youth, not love of a father for his son, Of course, this difference of interpretation is at the heart of the (dangerous in my opinion) schism of Oxfordians today (which I would call, with apologies to Hamlet, PT or not PT). Anyway, John's take on the sonnets (shared by many in the room, and not shared by many others) is that the Dark Lady is Elizabeth Trentham, Oxford's second wife and that Henry Vere, Oxford's son and heir, may have been in reality a bastard son of Elizabeth Trentham and Henry Wriothesley (the Fair Youth). John gets a lot of this from consideration of the anonymous Willobie His Avisa. The marriage of Oxford and Elizabeth and the birth of Henry Vere took place in 1592-3. In 1593 the name "Shakespeare" appeared for the first time (as the author of Venus and Adonis). Coincidence? John doesn't think so. More later on this bit of scandal.

Finally, the last talk, by Lew Tate, was not really about the authorship. It was more about how Shakespeare is disappearing from being required study at colleges and how Lew found that he was able to teach Shakespeare by trying to relate it to current events and ideas. His talk focused on some of the parallels the story of Henry V has with our current post-911 and Iraq situation. Of course, this is what John Neville-Andrews tried to bring out in his recent production of Henry V at the Michigan Shakespeare Festival in Jackson.

Carmel, Day 2

Sorry I couldn't write last night. It seems that someone hit a telephone pole in Nevada and wiped out the network that my hotel uses for wireless Internet access. It's fixed now.

Well, yesterday (Friday) was certainly action-packed. It started out with the always stimulating annual meeting of the Shakespeare Oxford Society (good thing the coffee was flowing at the Golden Bough playhouse where we are holding the conference). Three former members of the Board were reelected and a new member, Andrew Frye from Midland, MI was also elected. Now we have a dominating Michigan presence on the Board! We also passed a resolution that we will work with the Shakespeare Fellowship to form a new combined organization. The same resolution is expected to pass today at the annual meeting of the Fellowship (which will be starting in about three hours).

Now, let the presentations begin!

First off the mark was Frank Davis on an intriguing annotation found in the First Folio belonging to Glasgow University. Frank has already written on this in a recent issue of the SOS newsletter. In the "List of Principall Actors" found at the beginning of the Folio (listing William Shakespeare first) someone (evidence shows that he was an original owner or at least contemporary with the Folio) put short annotations under 11 of the actor's' names. Frank found that the actors who were dead at the time of the Folio printing had things such as "hearsay" or "by report" whereas others had "know" or "so to do" or "so to hear" suggesting that the annotator knew of them personally. The outlying annotation is under Shakespeare. Glascow (and Frank agrees with them) reads it as "leass for making". Frank finds in the OED that "lease" (which could also be spelled many ways including "leass") had a meaning of "false or untrue or lie" until 18th century. "Making" was, of course, a term for writing or producing a work such as a play. Is this annotator implying that Shakespeare was NOT a writer of the plays? Intriguing to say the least (or is that leass).

Then came the team of Lynne Kositsky and Roger Stritmatter. They did two talks (separated by our lunch break). First Lynne reported on her fortuitous discovery of what apparently was Strachy's first draft of the famous "letter" which orthodox scholars claim HAD TO BE a source for the Tempest, fixing its date at 1611 (Lynne and Roger have already done amazing work showing that this is not true, but that's another subject). Anyway, this "first draft" (which might not really be written by Strachy, but was certainly the basis for Strachy's later letter (actually this later letter, called True Reportory, was 23, 000 words long-more of a book-a topic for another time as well). This earlier letter is much shorter (3000 words) and does not contain any of the terminology found in the later "letter" which makes it the ONLY POSSIBLE SOURCE for the Tempest. Lynne and Roger's point is that Strachy took this earlier letter and added (plagiarized) many travel books and descriptions of storms, etc to make up his famous "letter" which was not published until 1625 (although orthodox scholars say that Stratford Will MUST HAVE SEEN A COPY IN MANUSCRIPT in 1610). I will have to explain all of this in more detail at one of our upcoming meetings. It's really great stuff!

During lunch we heard Stephanie Hughes talk about how this is the 10th anniversary of her editing the Oxfordian (issue 10 is a little delayed. It should be out in January) and that it has been a wonderful time, but she feels it is time for her to step down as editor. Hopefully, we can find someone else to continue this publication. It is scholarly and is therefore accepted at University libraries and the Library of Congress (newsletters are not).

Back to Lynne and Roger after lunch. Roger gave a humorous talk called "Lynne and Roger's Excellent Adventure" detailing their attempts to give a paper on the Strachy letter at various international and national orthodox Shakespeare meetings. The humor was in the way the story was told, not in what happened to them. Even though their paper is not "Oxfordian" (except that their conclusion destroys the necessity of dating the Tempest to 1611 as they show that the sources Strachy used to write his "letter" and that Shakespeare used in the Tempest for his descriptions of storm scenes were dated much earlier) they were not invited to present their paper at any of these meetings. However, some good news is that some articles by them WILL be appearing soon in traditional journals such as Review of English Studies and Shakespeare Yearbook.

Next was the eagerly awaited return of Richard Roe to the stage of an SOS or SF Conference. His book on Shakespeare and Italy will be a blockbuster if he ever finishes it. (Come on, Richard! We're waiting!) In today's (actually yesterday's) talk he went over some history of relations between Spain and Venice which resulted in alterations of how Venetian merchant did business (such as using foreign ships instead of only Venetian ones and new banking practices). This all took place around 1573 and had profound impact on the way English merchants would have to do business around the Mediterranean. Richard shows that Shakespeare knew about these new business practices and describes them in Merchant of Venice and Taming of the Shrew. Of course, deVere was right there in Venice and other parts just at this time (1570s). Richard points out that the new ways of doing business in Italy and environs was "headline news" in the late 1570s NOT in the 1590s when orthodox scholars maintain these plays were written. He therefore concludes that deVere wrote them in the 1570s for the court and other educated audiences which would be interested in the new business models and that the plays were later produced for the "masses". This is a recurring theme in our understanding of how Shakespeare plays were done. Great stuff!

Marty Hyatt then talked more about how the Sonnets have many underlying structural patterns, describing one and explaining how to analyze them in a reasonable way. This may help in dating certain sonnets or seeing how certain sonnets can be found to have special meaning for the author. I actually have a copy of his PowerPoint presentation on my computer and I can show it sometime at one of our meetings. It's way too complicated to explain in this E-mail. Fascinating!

John Shahan then reported on his Declaration of Reasonable Doubt which made an amazing world-wide splash recently when all the major news services picked up on the public signing of it by Derek Jacobi and Mark Rylance. There are now 1103 verified signatures and John states that he expects Jeremy Irons, Michael York, and Roland Emmerich (who is still planning on making his movie about Oxford) will sign the Declaration soon. Have you all signed it? What are you waiting for? Go to right now and do it. I'll wait for you.

The day finished off with a rousing game of Oxfordian Jeopardy (with your humble reporter as the guy running the game board) hosted by Alex McNeil. This is always a favorite with conference attendees. The game was won by Stephanie Hughes, but Ren Draya and Michael A'dair (who I don't know yet) gave it a good try. Don't worry that you missed out too much. Alex let me copy the game and we can play it soon at an upcoming Oberon meeting. I warn you, though, the answers (or should that be questions?) are really tough.

Well that's it so far. Today promises to be equally enjoyable, starting with the annual meeting of the Shakespeare Fellowship and including performances of Macbeth and A Midsummer Night's Dream. I'll write about it tonight (assuming no other Nevada telephone poles get hit).

Carmel, Day 3

First was the annual meeting of the Shakespeare Fellowship, which was less exciting than the SOS meeting yesterday (a thing I wouldn't have thought possible after attending the SOS meeting). The only things that were newsworthy are the election to the Board of Lynne Kositsky and Marty Hyatt and the nomination of Alex McNeil as President. The SF also approved the resolution to direct the Boards of the SOS and SF to form a Joint Merger Committee to study the possibility of forming a new organization out of the two existing ones.

First Katherine Chiljan spoke on A Lover's Complaint, a short work mostly neglected by scholars. It was printed along with the Sonnets in 1609. It concerns a woman who is spurned by a young man she loves. The description of the young man seems to correspond with what we know about the young Oxford. Katherine reported that the orthodox scholar (although he IS kind of a fringe type) Brian Vickers has been pursuing removing Lover's Complaint from the Shakespeare Canon, believing it is by John Davies. Katherine disputes this and thinks that Vickers may be doing so because he recognizes the similarity of the young lover to Oxford.

We next heard from Ramon Jimenez (who has become something of a legend in Oxfordian circles with his work on the early history plays and the even earlier "anonymous" history plays, like Edmund Ironside and Famous Victories of Henry V which Ramon argues are also by Oxford). Today, Ramon talked on the three Henry VI plays, without much in the way of Oxfordianism. It was more of a kind of survey on what these plays contain and how they are actually quite good and deserve to be staged more often. Ramon told us that there is more disagreement by orthodox scholars over these three plays than any other ones by Shakespeare (such as what order were they written in, was there collaboration with other playwrights, how are they related to earlier anonymous plays, etc.) With a chuckle, Ramon said that there are only three things the scholars agree on and, ironically, they are wrong on all three. These are that the plays are Shakespeare's first history plays, that they were written between 1589-92, and that they were written by William of Stratford. The presentation was spiced up (as is usual for a Jimenez presentation) by performance of excerpts of the plays by professional actors. In this case it was none other than Stephen Moorer and Julie Hughett (who we would see later as the Royal Couple in the Scottish play-you know the one I mean). Very nicely done.

Then came Allegra Krasznekewicz. She is a junior in a local high school who recently won the California History Day paper competition and placed highly in the national competition with her paper on the Authorship promoting Oxford as the author. She presented her winning paper (and put most of the other presenters at the conference to shame with her polished delivery). It was very moving to me to see this example of the next generation of the Oxfordian movement (hopefully the one to see the idea widely accepted).

We broke for a catered lunch right there at the Golden Bough theater and then filed back into the auditorium (some of us still eating) to hear Richard Whalen talk about the mostly overlooked subplot of the Thane of Ross in the play Macbeth. The basic idea (I can expand on it at an Oberon meeting) is that Ross is not just a messenger. He is actually a calculating courtier engaged in subtle intrigue which Macbeth recognizes and uses. As Richard Whalen points out, this is exactly the kind of thing Oxford saw at Elizabeth's court firsthand.

Immediately after this talk we all rushed around to the other side of the building to enter the smaller Circle Theater. Yes, it was time to actually see Macbeth, starring (as I said above) Stephen Moorer, who you will remember is the one hosting and doing all the real work for this Conference. It was a very exciting and well done performance of the play, marred only a little by the fact that the part of the Thane of Ross was cut out (I guess the director hadn't heard Richard Whalen's talk yet).

Coming back into the larger auditorium, we continued the presentations with two on Midsummer Night's Dream. First was by Stephanie Hughes in which she stated her opinion (gaining favor with many Oxfordians) that this play was written for the May, 1594 wedding of Thomas Heneage and Mary Browne, dowager Countess of Southampton (the mother of Henry Wriothesely-the likely Fair Youth of the Sonnets). Stephanie is of the opinion (but she is quick to point out that its only a theory, without any "hard" evidence) that Mary Browne was a young Oxford's first love before she was forced into marriage with the 2nd Earl of Southampton in 1564. Stephanie then painted a somewhat lyrical description of Oxford's unhappy childhood spent without his parents or any children of his own age around, and how such a childhood could have been the impetus for the development of his artistic talents. It was a little too speculative for me.

Peter Austin-Zacharias then gave his talk on MND. He was describing the world of the fairies and how it could be looked at in various ways (such as a world of lightness and innocence or a world of darkness and terror). He gave examples of how different people described it through their work. He particularly focused on Mendelssohn with the differences between his earlier "Overture" and his later "Incidental Music" and the painter John Henry Fuseli (who painted scenes from the play in a very dark manner.)

It was now time to make our way across town (about ten blocks) and up the hill to the outdoor Forest Theater for our catered picnic dinner, followed by a performance of A Midsummer Night's Dream. It was a nice performance, but I thought it was a little too silly and that there were too many repetitions of some of the "gags". It was also a bit long to be sitting outside with the temperature at 50 degrees.

Carmel, Day 4

We began at 8:30 AM as usual (no getting up late on this vacation). First up was the eagerly anticipated Panel Discussion on the two plays we saw yesterday (Macbeth and Midsummer Night's Dream, you may remember) led by Ren Draya with Richard Whalen (editor of the new Oxfordian edition of Macbeth) and Stephen Moorer (playing Macbeth, directing Dream, setting up the conference, keeping everyone on time, answering questions, etc. Doesn't the guy ever stop?).

There were really only two actual presentations today (and then lunchtime speeches).

First talk was by Rima Greenhill, the third in her series of talks on Love's Labour's Lost and the hidden allusions to contemporary political and economic matters between England and Russia. Part 1 of these talks has been published in Oxfordian 9, part 2 will be in Verite, the new journal out of Concordia (if it ever gets done), and here's part 3. Actually part 3 is an amplification of part 2 and deals with the names of various characters in LLL and what historical Russian characters they are meant to represent (or at least remind the educated audiences of).

In brief, the correlations are Don Armado=Ivan the Terrible, Costard=Ivan's first son, also named Ivan, who Ivan the T. accidentally killed, Sir Nathaniel=Fyodor, Ivan's second son and successor as czar, Moth=Dmitri, Ivan's third son, who was deposed and killed by Boris Gudenov, who corresponds to Holofernes in the play. Of course the historical relationships between these people does not correspond with the relationships of the characters in the play completely, but there are interesting "clues" in what they say to each other.

Again, this is too complicated to go into here (yes, we'll wait for another meeting-at this rate I'll be booked up until next year's conference and we won't finish the Hamlet project. Sorry, Tom). I can't resist telling you about the one clue which nearly floored me, however. Nathaniel is a Hebrew name, appearing in the Bible, meaning "god given". When the Bible was translated into Greek, this was translated as "Theodorus" and then when the Russians got a hold of it, they changed its pronunciation to "Fyodor". This stuff is just amazing! As you all will no doubt realize, all of this stuff indicates that the author of the play knew intimate details of the political dealings with Russia (i.e. he had to be a Court Insider) and the play was intended for a court audience.

Next up was Earl Showerman, take 2. Yes, he did so well keeping on time that we gave him another chance. This time he didn't make it. Over Stephen Moore's repeated whisperings of "our lunch banquet is getting cold" came Earl's repeated "I've just got a couple more slides to go" About 15 slides later, it was done. Actually, it was worth waiting for the end (and the food didn't get cold). In another of his seemingly endless supply of talks about Greek sources for Shakespeare plays (Earl said he can E-mail me some of them to show you), Earl discussed the influence of Euripides' Alcestis on the ending of Much Ado About Nothing (as it also is for Winter's Tale). It is the source of the "coming to life of someone thought dead" idea as well as other references in the play. Earl talked about how orthodox scholars, while recognizing Alcestis as the source for this plot device, tend to explain that Shakespeare got it through intermediate works which were published in Latin or English (after all, he COULDN'T HAVE READ THE ORIGINAL IN GREEK, now could he?). However, Earl points out that these putative other sources either didn't mention the "coming to life" part of the story or were published in Paris where Stratford Will couldn't get them. There is so much substance in Earl's talk (that's why it takes so long to get through it even with Earl's mile-a-minute delivery) that I can't do it justice. I guess, if he E-mails it to me, we can book two or three Oberon meetings to get through it.

We now went on to the traditional (since 2005) end of conference luncheon banquet. Very nice. During the lunch Matthew Cosolotto gave his talk about some highlights of the 50 years the SOS has been in existence. Gordon Cyr had been scheduled to do this talk; but, alas, he passed away suddenly last May.

The Conference then ended with the giving of awards and thank-you gifts. Stephanie Hughes got a gift (a set of happy and sad theater masks picked out by Earl Showerman) for her contributions over the last few years, especially 10 years as editor of the Oxfordian. Richard Whalen got the Oxfordian of the Year Award (an engraved desk clock picked out by me at Things Remembered at Twelve Oaks Mall). Stephen Moore got a thank you gift for doing such a great job on the Conference planning and execution. This was a combination clock, thermometer, compass, and hygrometer (humidity) that I picked out. Actually, we had to give Stephen his gift and recognition as soon as we got to the hotel where the banquet was being held, before we even started having the lunch, since he had to leave right away to get ready to play Macbeth again!

Well that's it. Another successful conference for the history books.

What about next year's conference I hear you ask? Well, despite my pleadings to the two organizations to come to a decision we could announce today, it's not yet decided. We know it'll be on the East Coast. The leading contenders are Washington, DC and New Haven, CT (home of Yale). Hopefully, the new Joint Conference Committee can narrow it down (or come up with something else) real soon. You may not be surprised to learn that I have volunteered to be on this Committee (I just love helping to plan conferences).


Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Early Oxfordian Katharine Emily Eggar, 1874-1961

When I was putting together my notes for the labyrinth party, I came across an intriguing citation from the Journal of the Royal Musical Association. I had been trying to find information about Oxford's interest in music and Katharine Emily Eggar's 1934 paper, "The Seventeenth Earl of Oxford as Musician, Poet, and Controller of the Queen's Revels" sounded exciting.

The Eggar citation from the Journal of the Royal Musical Association is available online, but I was unable to get access so I asked my local library, the Howell Carnegie District Library, to get it for me. They got a copy of the article from Michigan State University.

I also got a list of Eggar citations from Google Scholar Beta.

Tom Hunter, meanwhile, found that Eggar's papers are held at the University of London Libary from the Archives Hub

Here is the citation:

Papers of Katherine Emily Eggar Held at: University of London Library
Reference and contact details: GB 96 MS 987
Title: Papers of Katherine Emily Eggar
Dates of Creation: 1909-1961
Name of Creator: Katharine Emily Eggar (d 1961)
Extent: 30 boxes
Language of Material: English.
Level of Description: fonds
Revisions: 18 April 2005 GB 096 MS 987 converted from EAD 1.0 to 2002 by v1to02.xsl (sy2003-10-15).
Legal Status:
Administrative / Biographical History: Katherine Emily Eggar spent over thirty years researching the life and times of Edward de Vere, 17th Earl of Oxford. Eggar argued that Lord Oxford was the real author of Shakespeare's works. Her plan was to publish her writings, but unfortunately she died on 15 August 1961, before her preparatory work for her book was complete.
Scope and Content: The collection contains printed volumes, mainly on Shakespeare and a collection of typescript and manuscript notes for a book, which was being prepared on the life and times of Edward de Vere, 17th Earl of Oxford.
Dates of Accumulation: 1909-1961
Access Conditions: Access to the items in the collection is unrestricted for the purpose of private study and personal research within the controlled environment and restrictions of the Library's Palaeography Room
Note: 1999-08-12 Simon McKeon
Personal Names: Eggar , Katharine Emily . ( d 1961 ) literary critic de Vere , Edward . ( 1550-1604 ) 17th Earl of Oxford writer
Subject Terms: Literary history

Besides being an early Oxfordian, Eggar was one of the founders of the Society of Women Musicians that held its first meeting on July 11, 1911 at the Women's Institute in London and was disbanded in 1972. In a 2007 article "Marion Scott and the Society of Women Musicians" on the MusicWeb International website, Pamela Blevins said:
Eggar had studied piano in Berlin and Brussels, and composition with Frederick Corder at the Royal Academy of Music. She had composed a number of chamber works, including a piano quintet and string quartet as well as songs.
Although Marion Scott and Katharine Eggar were close friends who had collaborated as writers and worked together to champion women in music, they were not always in agreement, particularly in regard to the identity of Shakespeare. In addition to her writings on music, Eggar also became a literary critic and spent more than thirty years researching the life and times of Edward de Vere, 17th Earl of Oxford. Eggar believed that de Vere was the real author of Shakespeare's works, that ‘Shakespeare’ was his nom de plume. She planned to publish her findings but died before she completed her book. In an interview shortly before her death, Eggar described herself as a ‘heretic on Shakespeare’.
As for Eggar's article on Oxford as musician, poet and controller of the queen's revels -- Eggar's work is very interesting. Since the article is un-footnoted, I can't assess its validity, but for someone who is obsessed with Shakespeare as a musician, I found Eggar's material quite fascinating.

I have always wondered why no one has seen fit to discover more about Oxford's role in the court theater and Eggar seems to have investigated this topic thoroughly. She makes this point toward the end of her presentation (p. 54):
Well, at last Lord Oxford, having exhausted all direct means of making her (ER) face the truth, took up his pen and addressed a petition to her, in which he represented that he had toiled for thirteen years to carry out her command to "aim all his courses at the Revels," and that she had never redeemed her promise to reward him; and, in short, that he felt himself very badly treated and would she kindly do something quite definite about it.

Eggar says what Elizabeth R did was give Oxford the famous one-thousand pounds a year. But there is no citation for this intriguing letter of petition. Much of what Eggar says is equally intriguing and we in Oberon believe much would be gained by a study of her work.

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Declaration of Reasonable Doubt update

From Shakespeare Authorship Coalition Chairman John Shahan (published with permission):

Due to the spectacular success of the recent Declaration signing event in Chichester, the SAC needs to coordinate more closely with our U.K. affiliates. Therefore, the next signing deadline has been pushed back one week to Sunday, October 21, and the next update of the signatories list has been pushed back two weeks to October 29. If you signed after the last update on July 2, your name will not appear on the list on our website until then. If you know of any doubters who haven't yet signed, you have an extra week to recruit. Just tell them to visit our website at

BTW, if you will be in the U.K. during November, you may want to check out the John Silberrad Memorial Lectures on the Shakespeare Authorship Issue at Shakespeare's Globe Theatre in London. Co-sponsored by the Shakespearean Authorship Trust (SAT) and Brunel University, the series kicks off on November 1st with the same three prominent doubters who attracted so much attention to our cause in Chichester: Sir Derek Jacobi, Mark Rylance, and Dr. William Leahy of Brunel University.

Thanks for your patience and continued support.

John Shahan
SAC Chairman

Monday, October 8, 2007

Echoes & Shadows in the Texts of Shakespeare's Hamlet

Charles Adams Kelly of Howland Research in Ann Arbor, Michigan will read from his new -- April 2007 -- book, Echoes & Shadows in the Texts of Shakespeare's Hamlet at 7 p.m. Thursday, October 25 at Shaman Drum bookstore, 315 S. State Street, Ann Arbor, Michigan. You can order Kelly's work from Shaman Drum in Ann Arbor or from

Kelly says:

Echoes & Shadows is a concise but dense re-examination of a range of evidence that tends to challenge the accepted notion of the 1st Quarto of Hamlet as a bad quarto, an unauthorized abridgment. The author advances the scholarly perspective of two significant areas of evidence, and provides a convincing indication that the planned textual analysis will further support the theory of Q1 Hamlet as an earlier authorized text.
The Howland website provides sample pages and illustrations from the book. Kelly's analysis tools are available free for research purposes from the website.

Monday, October 1, 2007

Cymbeline in Chicago

Cymbeline runs through November 11, 2007 at the Chicago Shakespeare Theater on Navy Pier. The production is directed by the theater's artistic director Barbara Gaines and features Larry Yando and Chaon Cross. Their new production of Othello runs February 3 through April 6, 2008.

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Oberons in the labyrinth

Above: Richard and Dorothy made it to the center of the labyrinth while Rosey continuted her journey.

Thanks to all Oberoners who spent a glorious Sunday afternoon together. I had a great time watching my friends walk the labyrinth with Sting singing Dowland in the background.

Here is the resource list I used for my introductory talk about the labyrinth and the music of John Dowland (1563-1626).

Design of the labyrinth at Theobalds, Burleigh's Hertfordshire estate, circa 1560-1600 from Matthews' Mazes & Labyrinths.

Oberons' favorite -- the eating part.

Friday, September 21, 2007

Oberon Report to the Unsatisfied: Thursday's Meeting

Dear Oberon,

Some special people couldn’t be with us at Oberon Thursday evening. We missed you all, but we want to send special wishes to Laura and Gary, and also to Robin and Judy. Although we missed Robin, we certainly understand. He did get some cookies, however, so not to worry.

For those of us who were there, we had, as Richard said, “another great meeting.” Thank you, Richard, for that. I can’t disagree.

Preparations are under way for our Oct. 25 meeting with guest speaker Lonnie Morley. Lonnie will tell the assembled multitude about herbs in Shakespeare and their authorial implications. Linda Theil and her committee have already gotten the word out to a number of groups, will make some follow-up contacts, and will work on final preparations. The meeting will be at the Farmington Library, Room 1A, starting at 7 p.m., doors open at 6:45.

Also Linda urged everyone to visit our blog, which by now features many contributions from various people. Even better, she urged everyone to contribute to it, especially those who have not yet had the opportunity to do so. We would like to see it become a flourishing center of Shakespearean thought and exchange of ideas on authorship and related issues, especially issues which our members feel are important.

Finally, Linda extended an invitation to her Labyrinth Party this Sunday afternoon. Please contact Linda at

We noted the successful, well-covered introduction of the Declaration of Reasonable Doubt, which many of us have signed, by Oxfordian actors Mark Rylance and Derek Jacobi at the Chichester Festival in England which introduced Mr. Rylance's new comedy about authorship.

Richard briefly reviewed our Stratford outing and the fact that The Merchant of Venice turned out somewhat better for him the second time around. Part of this was due to a better understanding of director Richard Rose’s intentions with this production which he shared with me in an e-mail exchange which I intend to resume some time soon. The last e-mail from Mr. Rose contained an invitation to visit with him in Toronto where he is artistic director of Terragon Theatre. Mr. Rose has been most open and willing to talk about his work.

Richard (our Richard) will also be reporting on the joint SOS/Shakespeare Fellowship conference in Carmel, CA early next month. He will be our only representative and plans to provide daily updates for us as he has in the past with his inimitable reporting skills.

The Hamlet Project is now underway. We discussed key lines from Act I for themes, issues, and connections to Oxford, finding at least six connections to work with: Polonius for Burghley, Oxford’s mother’s quick remarriage, truepenny, Burghley’s gardens, reflections on nobility, and “ever I was born.” We will start with the last lines of Act I when next we work on the Hamlet Project at our meeting in November. Also, Tom Townsend will be presenting thoughts on Rosencrantz and Guildenstern, their role in the play, and their Oxfordian connections. I am hoping that we will make significant progress over the next few months and have every confidence that Oberon can make it happen.

In the mean time, we have extra seating for the October meeting. Lonnie’s last visit to Oberon was very successful. She was well received and stirred interest. We look forward to seeing you all there except perhaps those of you in Colorado, Nevada, Oregon and Kentucky. Not a good excuse, mind you, but with the price of gas what it is, understandable.

Tom Hunter
Oberon Chair

Saturday, September 15, 2007

Ian McKellon plays Lear

Ian McKellon as Lear in the world tour of Trevor Nunn's Royal Shakespeare Company production will be at the Guthrie in Minnesota from October 5-14, 2007. Check the NPR interview from September 13.

Thursday, September 13, 2007

Oberon meeting Thurs., Sept.20

Dear Oberon,

Well, now. We are meeting at just the right time--next Thursday, Sept 20 at 6:45 at the Farmington Community Library, which apparently has become our comfortable new home. It's the right time for updates about the Declaration of Reasonable Doubt authored by the Shakespeare Authorship Coalition which many of you signed and which is creating quite a stir in England, having been presented by Derek Jacobi and Mark Rylance this past week to a responsive public! Not bad company to be in. And this right after Prof. Jonathan Bate, from up high on his Stratfordian throne, declared that no major actors have ever doubted Stratford Bill (my term not his, of course) as the true author.

I say let's start with this glaring error and take a systematic look at the rest of what Prof. Bate has said on the subject!

By the way, a report just in from John Shahan, one of the originators of the Declaration, that whereas we had just under 300 signers when Jacobi and Rylance made the announcement, we now have 1,000! Nothing truer than truth, as they say.

Anyway, we should have a rollicking good time with this and with the other stuff we will cover at this meeting. We will have updates on our October meeting featuring Lonnie Morley re herbs in Shakespeare and what that tells us about authorship. Also a report from our techno phenom Linda who will also update us, I'm sure, on how her garden grows. If the fates are kind, we will have our Treasurer's Report! Also, we will forge ahead with the Hamlet Project.

Then, if we are especially fortunate and Robin attends, we will have cookies from Rosey!

So it will be good to get together again. And not a moment too soon. If we haven't seen you recently, please make a special effort to stop by. This is a good time for Oberon.

Oberon Chair

P.S. from Linda: Tom, I just gave my labyrinth a haircut and it is looking good for our 3 p.m. Sunday, September 23 Autumn Pot Luck. All Oberons and guests are welcome; send me an email and I'll send you a map. L.

Monday, September 10, 2007

AP touts anti-Stratfordian actors

Here is my note to Jos. Harker, Response Editor of The Guardian, after The Associated Press scooped The Guardian on the anti-Stratfordian actor issue raised in my letter to the editor -- see text in Sept. 7 blog below. Note: The coalition referred to in the AP story is the Shakespeare Authorship Coalition. Tom

To Joseph Harker, Response Editor, The Guardian

Dear Joseph,

I followed your suggestion of Wednesday, Sept 5 and sent the letter below to correcting Prof. Bate's misinformation passed along by your reporter. Apparently nothing was done about correcting the error.

Apparently my letter was not printed.

Apparently The Guardian has not bothered to look into the error.

Now Yahoo has run a story by Associated Press writer D'Arcy Doran providing accurate information about famous actors who have doubted the traditional attribution of Shakespeare authorship which you can link to here:

"Coalition Aims to Expose Shakespeare" by D'Arcy Doran, Associated Press Writer

I don't understand why the press, which is supposed to be seeking out the truth, allows so called authorities like Bate to go on with their errors and not even bother to correct them--or at least look into them--when they are pointed out.

What is The Guardian guarding? Is it tradition and the status quo which have misled us all these years, or is it the truth? I would think that your newspaper would at least be interested in looking for the truth. You can see that if this keeps up, the unsatisfied will be looking for their news from the Yahoos of the world and will bypass The Guardian because it doesn't seem to care about the first commandment of journalism: accuracy.

If I am wrong and you indeed have confirmed and corrected Prof. Bate's misstatement and your publication of it, I would be most gratified if you would write back and show me the error of my ways and that your publication is indeed interested in the truth after all.

By the way, my list of famous actors challenging Shakspere authorship omitted Charles Chaplin. Yahoo got that right, too. Thank you again for your response of Sept. 5.

R. Thomas Hunter
Independent Shakespeare Scholar

Friday, September 7, 2007

New Novels to Look Out For

Earl Showerman has told me (and the other members of our Joint Committee for putting on the upcoming Conference in Carmel) about an upcoming novel by Jennifer Lee Carrell called "Interred With Their Bones" due to be published in "early September". Earl somehow got an advance manuscript copy and he is two-thirds through reading it. It seems that the novel is going in an Oxfordian direction (although Earl didn't want to "spoil" it for us). He is going to invite the author to try to attend the Carmel Conference to do some book signings and maybe speak to us. She has a good academic background including a PhD in English from Harvard. Reading about the book on her website, it seems like it will be interesting, but I can't tell from what is on the website whether she is really an Oxfordian, but there are many good links on her site to information on the Authorship. The book is about a murder and then the search for clues to a "Shakespearian puzzle" I know it has to do with finding lost manuscripts of Shakespeare, including the long-lost play Cardenio.

Then, I heard from Matthew Cosollotto (who was on the conference call with Earl and I) about another novel, this time definitely Oxfordian, by some friends of his, Toni and Stephen Downs. This is called "The Hidden Lie" and is a mystery starring Bob Hastings, "a working class self-educated Shakespeare scholar from the North of England" (description from the website description of the book). I am quite sure that this character is based on Derran Charlton and there seems to be many other characters based on "real Oxfordians" This book is available now on the website (yes, I already ordered my copy)

So much reading ahead for all of us!

Reviewer takes Bate

It appears that Stratfordian Prof. Jonathan Bate (see letter to the Guardian below) has been caught in a display of ignorance. Chances are my letter will never see print in the Guardian, but we need to answer the obvious gaffes of the traditional camp to get the discussion out into the open -- sooner or later it will happen. Tom Hunter

To the Editor of the Guardian:

In his review of Mark Rylance’s new play, The BIG Secret Live - I Am Shakespeare - Webcam Daytime Chat-room Show at the Chichester Festival Theatre, Michael Billington (Guardian, Sept. 3, 2007 ) quotes scholar Jonathan Bate: "It is a striking fact that no major actor has ever been attracted to anti-Stratfordianism," the notion, Billington explains, that someone other than Shakespeare wrote the plays attributed to him. Says Billington, “Now Mark Rylance proves Bate wrong.”

The problem is that Bate is as accurate in this statement as he is about the authorship question in general, about which he displays only a woeful ignorance.

Mark Rylance is only one of many major actors to prove Bate wrong. How about Sir John Gielgud, Leslie Howard, and Orson Welles for starters? How about we add Jeremy Irons, Michael York and Sir Derek Jacoby? All have stated reasonable doubt, some outright disbelief, about the authorship of poems and plays attributed to William Shake-speare, later spelled Shakespeare.

Add to that list the author Mark Twain, who recorded his reasons for opposing Shakespeare as the author of the works in a long essay, Is Shakespeare Dead?

Twain himself is a good example of the issue. Professor Bate would insist that Mark Twain wrote Mark Twain's works, wouldn't he? Nothing could be more obvious. Twain's name is all over them, isn't it? It would be looney to think Twain's works might have been written by somebody named Samuel L. Clemens.

R. Thomas Hunter, Ph.D.
Independent Shakespeare Scholar

Additional reviews of Rylance play

Shakespeare Fellowship's Skeptics Hall of Fame

Monday, September 3, 2007

Eastward Ho! to Stratford

Our Oberon Stratford group this year was able to fit into one car. The five of us, Richard, Linda, Sue, Rosey, and I, headed eastward toward the bridge at Port Huron/Sarnia early last Saturday morning, August 25. There was no wait at the bridge, and the merry little band was admitted to Canada after brief questioning by the attendant as to who we were (Oberon, Shakespeare study group), what did we do (study Shakespeare), where we were bound (Stratford),for what reason (to see a play), at what time (2 p.m.), which play (Merchant of Venice), brief plot summary please (one followed--just kidding), by which author (Shakespeare), was he the real author (just kidding).

Fortunately, I had given the driving over to Richard, so it was Richard who patiently answered the questions as opposed to me who, as Rosey likes to relate, undoubtedly would have become totally irritated and scornful and who would have gotten everyone strip searched and jailed, thereby missing the curtain.

The drive through Canada by Richard was masterful indeed, following an off the beaten path itinerary of two lane roads and small towns with colorful names, none of which shall be made public here since Richard made us take a vow of silence having discovered and patented the route.

It was by far the best way to get to Stratford, Richard maintained, and he should know having gone there several times a year for the last 40 or so years of his life.

When we passed the familiar Tim Horton’s at the edge of town, we knew we were there, only to be confirmed as Richard pulled up to the tourist office where everyone disembarked to load up on free literature inside.

Richard and Sue disappeared while Linda, Rosey and I munched delicious date bars at one of Richard’s favorite restaurants -- the York Street Kitchen -- which appeared to be a covered alleyway between two buildings with doors on either end and some tables, chairs, and a kitchen in the middle. Richard appeared some minutes later with bags filled with puzzles which he had bought at a store at the end of the block with some kind of secret access which involved stairs. Lord knows where Sue was.

All together again, the merry band pressed onward to Jack Scofield’s seminar on The Merchant of Venice. For the first 20 minutes, Mr. Scofield zeroed in on another play that we weren’t going to see that evening. I was getting impatient, but luckily Jack turned his attention to the Merchant of Venice before I rudely voiced my impatience which would have gotten everybody strip searched and arrested by the local police. Fortunately that didn’t happen either when I began to monopolize the conversation with my cockamamie theories about the Merchant. Mr. Scofield, very polite, from time to time managed to wrest the floor away from me, but it was a struggle.

Luckily, I soon solved for all time the MOV enigma for all who were present, and a grateful public, including our merry band, departed to see the play.

But first lunch.

That was at an Italian restaurant after we almost lost Sue who gave in to the siren call of an ATM machine. The group together again, we found the restaurant -- Trattoria Fabrizio Cooking School & Restorante on Wellington Street -- recommended by Richard who has an unerring knack for such things, and enjoyed a filling lunch sitting next to a vast table of luscious desserts with signs basically saying, Keepa You Hands Off.

We noticed that when we approached this table to get a better look, battalions of wait staff gathered to enforce the signs. The whole event ended nonviolently, and, cookies and gelato consumed, the group departed post haste for the theatre, curtain in twenty minutes, although Sue thought there was plenty of time to do some shopping.

The play was almost everything I wanted it to be. It should be OK to say that everyone had a most entertaining afternoon. Even Richard, who vehemently warned us against it due to an apparently unhappy experience with it earlier this year, found something of redeeming value. I had been in e-mail contact with the play’s director Richard Rose that week and had found out some things that caused Richard to take a different look at the proceedings and to come away more at peace with it so at least we didn’t have to listen to him crabbing about it all the way back home which probably would have caused us to be strip searched and arrested at the border.

Incidentally, I found out from Mr. Rose that he would be seeing it this past Tuesday evening for the first time since he last saw it before it opened. I hope he liked it.

With Richard mollified, we made the traditional stop at Tim Horton’s on our way out of town, feasting on muffins and bagels and coffee until we found an actual restaurant for dinner. Richard took us through St. Mary’s, a lovely town to the west of Stratford, to which we would like to return to spend more time. The wait at the bridge was 32 minutes. Richard won $1.50 Canadian on the over/under pool, dropping some of it under the car seat and so leaving a share for the house, so to speak. Dinner was at Dmitri’s on Gratiot north of 59. I took over the driving the rest of the way, immediately making a wrong turn, but no matter, since all roads lead to Hunters Ridge.

Home again, but never far from Shakespeare.

Tom Hunter
Oberon Chair

Merchant credits:
Artistic credits -- Director / RICHARD ROSE, Costume Designer / PHILLIP CLARKSON, Associate Set Designers / GILLIAN GALLOW, DOUGLAS PARASCHUCK (Based upon an original concept by GRAEME S. THOMSON), Lighting Designer / STEVEN HAWKINS, Composer / MICHAEL VIEIRA, Sound Designer / TODD CHARLTON, Fight Director / JOHN STEAD, Choreographer / MARK CHRISTMANN

The cast -- Salerio / PAUL AMOS, Bassanio / SEAN ARBUCKLE, Solanio / BRUCE DOW, Nerissa / RAQUEL DUFFY, Shylock / GRAHAM GREENE, Stephano / GRAHAM HARLEY, Old Gobbo / BERNARD HOKPINS, Duke of Venice / JOHN INNES, Salarino / JACOB JAMES, Launcelot Gobbo / RON KENNELL, Lorenzo / JEAN-MICHEL Le GAL, Prince of Arragon / TIM MacDONALD, Gratiano / GARETH POTTER, Prince of Morocco / JAMIE ROBINSON, Leonardo / ROGER SHANK, Portia / SEVERN THOMPSON, Jessica / SARA TOPHAM, Tubal / BRIAN TREE, Antonio / SCOTT WENTWORTH

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

As You Like It CD out

The soundtrack CD from Kenneth Branagh's new As You Like It film for HBO is available now. The original music was composed for the film by Patrick Doyle who also scored Branagh's Hamlet, Henry V, Much Ado and L3 as well as many other films.

The music includes Shakespeare's songs from the play such as "Blow, Blow Thou Winter Wind" and "It Was a Lover and his Lass" that appear in the play without music, encouraging the songs to be set according to current fashion.

In 2005 the Stratford Shakespeare Festival in Ontario produced an As You Like It with original music by Canadian band, Barenaked Ladies. Our Oberon group saw that production during a visit to Stratford that year. You can order the BNL As You Like It CD from BNL Audio.

Setting Shakespeare's songs was also popular in the early part of the Twentieth Century. Roger Quilter and Gerald Finzi are famous for their atmospheric, English art-song, settings. My favorite CD is a compendium of their Shakespeare songs (and Ralph Vaughn Williams' settings of Robert Louis Stevenson poems) sung by Kiwi baritone Teddy Tahu Rhodes. Rhodes sings Quilter's version of "Blow, Blow" and Finzi's "It Was a Lover and His Lass" from As You Like It. The 2005 CD is titled "Vagabond" and is available from Middle Eight Music in South Yarra, Victoria, Australia.

By listening to all three CDs, you can see how three distinct musical stylists responded to two songs from Shakespeare's As You Like It.

If all this talk of Shakespeare's songs has piqued your interest in Shakespeare's use of music in his work, you will find the very fine Shakespeare and Music by University of Leeds professor of Renaissance literature David Lindley wonderfully enlightening. The book was published in 2006 by Thomson Learning as one in the Arden Shakespeare's Arden Critical Companions series.

Parenthetically, Lindley has made available an annotated edition of Beerbohm Tree's 1904 production of The Tempest on the web.

Heigh-ho! Sing, heigh-ho!

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Oxfordian theater critic

On our drive to Stratford on Saturday, Richard introduced us to an Oxfordian theater critic he had discovered on the web. According to his website, Bob Bows has been reviewing regional theater for over 11 years. His reviews are broadcast on KUVO 89.3 FM and published in The Denver Post. In an August 10, 2007 review of the Colorado Shakespeare Festival's All's Well That Ends Well, Bows had this to say:

"Let's be frank: In Shakespeare, there are no problem plays, only problematic interpretations. The root of the issue is the refusal by entrenched academic and ancillary industries to acknowledge that many think Edward de Vere, the 17th Earl of Oxford, was the actual author of the plays, sonnets, etc. attributed to William Shakespeare."

On his website, ColoradoDrama, Bows provides an essay explaining why he feels the authorship question has a place in theatrical criticism. He says:

"It is of the utmost importance that we do not allow these misperceptions to continue, for understanding the nature of this genre is as integral to its theatrical presentation as theatre is integral to our spiritual health . . ."

I was pretty much gob-smacked. Who knew there was this guy out there shouting from the mountaintop?

Friday, August 24, 2007

Richard Rose dialogue on Merchant

Dear Oberon,

Having no shame, I recently invited Richard Rose, the director of
Stratford's Merchant of Venice, which some of us will be seeing Saturday, to share the event with us at dinner. I did this despite warnings from one of our esteemed members (you know who you are, Richard) that there were some problems with the production. In politely declining, Mr. Rose has some good answers although we won't have a chance to pose the questions. I thought the exchange might be interesting to Oberon. Mr. Rose has indicated that he is very comfortable discussing his production with us. With his permission, his reply and my reply to his reply follow.

Tom Hunter, Oberon Chair

In a message dated 8/22/2007 8:54:54 P.M. EDT, Richard Rose writes:

Dear Mr. Hunter,

Happy to see your presentation but not sure when I can actually read it as I am onto other projects. I think you will find that this Merchant adheres quite closely to a line by line interpretation (with a few obscurities removed). I think that may actually be the provocation of it because the text does not get interpreted softly and the hatred of the characters does not become forced into the benign. To my mind it is a play about prejudice and about how prejudice comes to be. It is a play about how we know an "other". How we know them via our sense or via our thought? The act of knowing and being known and the desire to be known and to know is pivotal in a racist society as it is in falling in love. Act five is critical.

To my mind, Shakespeare wrote a coherent and complex play. It is only the critics who can't see that not the audience. Act 5 definitely relates to and is a consequence of the Court scene. I very much trust in the coherence of Shakespeare but in our current political climate it would seem very difficult to present how we come to have prejudice without offence hence the rather watered-down versions of this play, the inoffensive versions of this play. It is my feeling that offensiveness is inherent to the play however unpopular it is with the audience.

I will leave you to judge and would love to talk about it more. Very best,

Richard Rose Artistic Director Tarragon Theatre, Toronto

Tom replied:

Dear Richard,

Thank you for your gracious reply and for giving me some things to look for on Saturday. I am heartened by your comments and will be paying close attention to them and to the following.

One of the age old questions is whether the play is a comedy or a tragedy. In Shakespeare you have to be prepared to consider that it is both. The key to answering this question in Merchant is the well recognized theme in the play (and throughout Shakespeare) of outer appearance v. inner reality. That theme applies to the very structure of The Merchant of Venice: the human tragedy within the world’s comedy.

The play’s comedy relies not only on comic business—wordplay, mistaken identity, and other such devices—but on the much broader consideration of the human comedy, the satire attending Shakespeare’s humanistic view of the society which day to day fuels itself on human imperfection. Within the comic shell, the play’s tragedy resides in Shylock whose conflict grows into true tragic conflict as a man at odds with his society, his culture, his history and himself, who, making choices forced upon him by a vicious anti-Semitic society and succumbing to the human imperfection which has created this world of Babel in the first place, chooses ultimately against his religion, his culture, his own values, and ultimately against himself. It is why I titled my paper “Shylock: Jew and No Jew.”

All that said, I totally agree with you that Shakespeare wrote a play against prejudice. He portrayed its vicious social aspects and its tragic consequences. The irony, of course, is that as you suggest, the lesson has been missed—certainly by the vast majority of critics—usually due to the very human imperfections which Shakespeare is portraying.

Central among these is religion itself as a force which divides men from each other. Critics have defined one of the central conflicts as Christianity v. Judaism, of Christian mercy v. Jewish justice. The first mistake is to take Shylock as a representative of all Jews. As the play progresses, he becomes an individual and actually chooses against Judaism’s most central values. He chooses revenge, telling us that he learned it from the Christians and that he would out-do them on it. The critics have got it all wrong. Shakespeare does not oppose Shylock with Christian values, he opposes Shylock with Jewish values.

My paper shows this directly from Shakespeare’s text. But how could that be? The critics have told us that Shakespeare was a creature of his times. He pandered to public opinion to sell plays. All this biographical crap, created by the critics without paying close attention to Shakespeare’s texts, has clouded the issue for centuries. The point is that when you pay attention to what the play actually says, all the cockeyed, strained (Remember, the quality of mercy is not strained) attempts to explain it fall away, and the simple truths of the play remain.

Merchant is not a psychological thriller a la Dostoevsky as Goddard and others who struggle with it and manufacture answers would have us believe. It is a morality play pure and simple. The admittedly difficult—and not so simple—challenge is to portray Shylock’s tragedy, for Shylock is irrevocably human in ways Harold Bloom can never even imagine. Ultimately his humanness overcomes whatever redeeming—that’s right, redeeming—Jewish attributes he has lost.

The play is profoundly supportive of Jewish moral teachings. At its heart is a man who does not follow them. Of course, neither do the Christians in the play practice Christianity. But Shakespeare chose Shylock as his tragic character because his dramatic sense told him that Shylock’s is the greater drama. It truly is, and that is the challenge which I believe directors must answer. It is one thing I'll be looking for on Saturday.

With all due respect, Richard, although your focus on prejudice is right on, the knowing of the “other” is a concern which might work fine in the 21st century, especially as it might relate to Shakespeare’s central theme of identity/mistaken identity but which has nothing to do with Shakespeare’s intentions in Act 5.

However, I am heartened that in your Merchant, “the hatred of the characters does not become forced into the benign.” That is a wonderful way to put it, and I will be looking for that on Saturday, too. It is a key to what this play is all about. Antonio may be a Christian, but he is no hero. He is one of the chief exemplars of the human imperfections targeted in this play.

But I have gone on too long. How amazing that work created 400 years ago so powers these discussions.