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RIchard Joyrich reports on 12th Annual Shakespeare Authorship Studies Conference at Concordia University in Portland, Oregon

April 3, 2008

Hi Oberoners,

I made it to Portland and I have just come back from the first day of the 12th Annual Shakespeare Authorship Studies Conference (hereafter SASC) at Concordia University. It's always nice to be here (I think it's my 6th time) and see some of the familiar faces. I have regards from the three Sharpes for those Oberoners they met when they attended the Ann Arbor Conference in 2006.

Bonnie Miller Cutting on Pembroke portrait
Well, here goes the first installment of my conference reports:The first talk (at 4 PM today) was by Bonner Miller Cutting, titled "The Case of the Wrong Countess". She spoke of a large painting by Sir Anthony Van Dyke which can be seen at Wilton House (seat of the Earls of Pembroke). It was probably painted in 1625 and shows Philip Herbert, 4th Earl of Pembroke (one of the "incomparable brethren" who the First Folio was dedicated to) with many members of his family (sons and their wives, his daughter and her husband, his oldest son, Charles, and his intended wife Mary Villiers (Charles was to die suddenly just before the marriage could take place soon after this painting was done). There is also a woman in black sitting just to the left of Philip in the painting. The question is, who is she?

The current scholarly opinion is that she is Lady Ann Clifford, Philip's second wife. However Bonner argues very persuasively that the woman is really Susan Vere (daughter of Edward deVere) who was Philip's first wife and who died in 1629 and so is painted "posthumously". Interestingly, scholarly opinion in the 18th and 19th century was that this WAS Susan Vere, but the tide turned around 1900 to identifying her as Lady Anne instead. Bonner wonders why this turn of events happened. Is Susan Vere being "erased" from history as her father has been?

Ian Haste on authorship
Next was a very entertaining presentation by Ian Haste, called "Shakespeare: Can We Be Sure". Ian has been working on creating a CD to be used at high schools to introduce the students to the Authorship Question. He played the current version for us. Some parts were finished and had his narration included along with the music and PowerPoint slides. For the other parts, Ian filled in the narration "live". Ian is a master at PowerPoint and the presentation had all kinds of animation and special effects which would make it quite fun for students to watch. It goes through the standard objections to William of Stratford as the author, but leaves the question of who actually DID write the plays until "next time".

Alex McNeil, J.D,: "...but not Shakespeare
Then came Alex McNeil with "...but not Shakespeare". This talk was based on a category he used when doing Oxfordian Jeopardy at the Carmel Conference last October. The five "answers" in the category all referred to things that we would expect Shakespeare to have done, but instead we find that he didn't. The reason seems to be that his identity was unknown or that he had already died before being able to do them (but the Stratford man would have still been alive).

The five things were:
1) Number of books dedicated to Shakespeare-zero
2) No mention of tobacco in any plays. Tobacco was introduced to England around 1590 and became all the rage. Does this mean that the plays were all substantially written before this?
3) Henry Peacham mentions several poets in The Compleat Gentleman in 1622 who he considers the best ones. Shakespeare is not one of them.
4) Dozens of poets and playwrights wrote elegies to Prince Henry (son of James I) on the occasion of his sudden death in 1612, but not Shakespeare.
5) Dozens of poets and playwrights contributed verses to the introductory material of a famous travelogue in 1612 called "Coryat's Crudities", but not Shakespeare.

Professor Sam Saunders, Ph.D. on Stratford Grammar School
The next talk, by Sam Saunders, was "Some Odds on Life, Education and Other Anomalies of Elizabethan England: A Statistical Analysis of Stratfordian Date" This impressive title is not a real good description of the talk, but it was interesting to hear anyway. Saunders is a mathematician and he wanted to check out what the chances were that young Will Shakspere would have been able to attend and graduate from the Stratford Grammar School.

Stratfordians always maintain that he could have (there are no records either way), but Oxfordians have questioned this. Was there room for all the young boys from Stratford in the small school house? How many stayed in school until they graduated? Using complicated statistical analyses of birth and death rates to determine the probable population of Stratford and other analyses regarding infant and childhood mortality, Saunders concluded that, in fact, there WAS a good chance that young Will could have gone to the school. But he added that the school was very oriented to Protestantism and Will's father, likely being a Catholic recusant, might not have wanted his son to attend.

David Gontar, Ph.D. on Hamlet
The last paper of the day was given by David Gontar, Ph.D., called "Hamlet Made Simple". Actually it wasn't so simple. Gontar explained that his paper was 59 pages long so he would only read us the highlights of the first half. There was nothing particularly relevant to the Authorship Question in this first half (but there were some indications of things presumably to come in the unpresented second half), but it was still quite interesting.

Dr. Gontar maintains that four troubling questions about the play could be partially answered by considering that Hamlet could really be the illegitimate son of Claudius and Gertrude and that either Hamlet or Claudius knew or suspected this. The four questions that could be helped by this consideration are:
1) The interesting things that the ghost says or does not say to Hamlet. Is the ghost lying? Why doesn't he give Hamlet more information?
2) Why hasn't Hamlet inherited the kingdom from his father who was the previous King?
3) Why is Hamlet so mad with his mother in the Closet Scene?
4) Why does Hamlet seem to be unable to kill Claudius?

Well, that brought us to 9 p.m. and it was time to retire to the Kennedy School for a nightcap. 

April 4, 2008

Another full day at the Conference -- here's a rundown:

Professor Daniel Wright, Ph.D. on illegitimacy
First up, Daniel Wright on "Fine word, ‘legitimate’! Legitimizing illegitimacy in Shakespeare". Dr. Wright reminded everyone about some things he has lectured on before, the ways in which Shakespeare seems to take great care in the History Plays to bring out the best in the various Earls of Oxford in history, exaggerating their good deeds and not mentioning their bad ones. It seems that Shakespeare has some feelings for this family line, hmm?

Dr. Wright then went on to his main topic, how the themes of succession and what makes a rightful and legitimate ruler are found throughout the plays. It seems obvious that his intended audience was not the public or the box office, but the rulers of his day.

Professors Delahoyde and Draya on Titus
Next up, the familiar tag-team approach of Michael Delahoyde, Ph.D. and Ren Draya, Ph.D. (this is the third time they have teamed up) on "Edward deVere's Hand in Titus Andronicus". They mentioned that Titus is now considered a lesser play by most scholars, some of who would like to be able to show that Shakespeare didn't write it, but in reality it is a good play for what it tries to accomplish. It is filled with metaphor and allegory with body parts symbolizing politics and proper behavior at the beginning, then becoming more literal with them being chopped off, etc.

Aaron the Moor seems to be a kind of playwright in the way he orchestrates much of the action of the play. A powerful symbol is when Lavinia with her tongue cut out and her hands chopped off picks up Titus's chopped off hand in her mouth. This represents a text which is mutilated, but holding its creator (father). Does this speak to deVere's feelings of not being able to acknowledge his authorship?

Titus was the first Shakespeare play to be printed (although without an author's name attached) and can be seen as a primer for the later works. Many themes and happenings are seen here first, such as the obsession with family, the revenge tragedy, the play within a play, the role of the "outsider", etc.

Charles Beauclerk on author-ity
After lunch we had the Keynote Address by Charles Beauclerk, "Shakespeare's Identity Crisis". As always Charles, a collateral descendent of Edward deVere, gave us a wonderful presentation. He points out that we can look into the plays to assess the psychology of the author, even though most traditional scholars would prefer to divorce Shakespeare from his works and make him "an icon of respectability".

As was mentioned in other talks, a primary theme for Shakespeare is the association of truth and kingship. Another related theme is the king who loses his status and then has to regain it through "suffering" or a "journey" Mistaken or concealed identity is seen throughout the plays. In short, Shakespeare's words are his "kingdom of truth".

Amy Freed's Beard of Avon
Next was playwright Amy Freed, author of the play Beard of Avon which explores the authorship question and has been playing successfully all over the country (but apparently not in Michigan yet). It just finished a run here in Portland. Too bad it couldn't have extended its run so that the conference attendees could see it!

Amy talked about how she came up through the ranks of being an actress, then director, then playwright and that she could see how the traditional story of Shakespeare could have occurred, or at least could understand the draw of the theater that could have brought young Will out of Stratford. She still has trouble with many other parts of his so-called biography however. She has not yet committed to a favorite authorship candidate.

She does admit to undergoing a "sea-change" however in writing the play and then seeing the response it has gotten. She is happy that so many people seem to be interested in the authorship question and seem to know about it. The idea of writing the play started out as a funny thing (what if Oxford was found to be the true author and all those mugs had to be thrown away?) but it has now turned more serious for her.

Peter Dawkins on Bacon
The final presentation was by Peter Dawkins, probably the most prominent Baconian around. He presented a brief overview of the "Evidence for Francis Bacon as Leader, Principal Poet and Editor-in-Chief of a Group of Poets Who Composed the 'Shake-scene' and Acknowledged Bacon as Their 'Shakespeare'"

He drew on Green's Groatsworth of Wit, the Northumberland Manuscript, (now incomplete, but which originally had three plays ascribed to Bacon, two of which are what we now considerer Shakespeare's Richard II and Richard III, Nashe's Isle of Dogs, and some other works which all scholars accept as by Bacon), and John Haywood's book on Henry IV which was based on Shakespeare's Richard II and what happened when Bacon, as Queen's Counsel, tried to defend Haywood on the charge of treason for writing it.

Many other documents were also described which purport to show Bacon's authorship of the plays. Many were quite interesting. That's all I have time or space to write about now. I have to get a good night's sleep.

April 5, 2008

Well, day three of the conference is finished. Here’s what happened:

Professor Michael Thomas, M.A. on authorship
First talk was by Professor Michael Thomas of the Classical Language Department at Concordia. He talked about some of the considerations used to date and ascribe authorship of ancient texts such as books of the Bible. He pointed out that the view of authorship then was different in that there was no real author. There were oral traditions that just finally got written down, so it’s not really comparable with what we are trying to do with the Shakespeare works. There are a few similar methods used however.

Earl Showerman, M.D. on Hercules allusions
Next we were treated to another in Earl Showerman's series of talks on Greek sources for Shakespeare.  This talk was on allusions to Hercules in the Shakespeare plays, of which there are over 35. The point is (just like in Earl’s talks before) that many of the allusions come from sources that were not yet translated into Latin or English when the plays were written. Thus the author had to be able to read Greek, something difficult to imagine for the Stratford man.

Alan Nelson, Ph.D. on The Lodger Shakespeare
Next was Stratfordian Alan Nelson. It was another of his talks which Macbeth would call “full of sound and fury, signifying nothing”. It was actually two talks. The first one was Professor Nelson’s attempt to lay to rest the argument that the term “ever-living poet” in the dedication to the Sonnets in 1609 means that the poet was dead at that time (eliminating the Stratford man). He listed many examples of the use of “ever-living”, but it seems to me that many of them DO refer to people who are dead and others refer to “ever-living” works or fame, not to a person. Maybe one or two could refer to a living person, but in those cases the person is a royal personage, so the context is different.

In the question period Roger Stritmatter wondered that even if we could find one or two examples where the term was really used for a living person, wouldn’t the fact that there are countless other times (almost always) that it refers to a dead person cause us to still conclude that the use of it in the Sonnet dedication most likely meant that the poet was dead? Nelson replied (I paraphrase here) “No, if you don’t know something completely, you should shut up”.

Nelson’s second talk was a criticism of Charles Nicholls' new book, The Lodger Shakespeare, about Shakespeare’s (from Stratford) stay with the Montjoys in London. Nelson finds fault with some of Nicholl’s readings of the original documents. Of one in particular, Nelson says that Nicholls got it wrong and then built up a whole scenario about what it meant. Nelson says it’s typical of how Nicholls works. He gets a few small facts and then builds up a whole story around it. As Nelson put it (again I paraphrase) “It’s like that bubble soap that floats, just full of air” Hearing this, I somehow was put in mind of Stratfordian methodology.

Richard Whalen on the Basse Elegy
After lunch, we came back to hear Richard Whalen on the “Basse Elegy” to Shakespeare, found in some later editions of the plays (after 1633), which some Stratfordians use to bolster their case. Whalen reports on a new take on it by a Stratfordian named Brandon Centerwall in Shakespeare Survey 2006, apparently endorsed by top orthodox scholars, which finds that the poem was actually written by John Donne with a hypothesized scenario as to how it came to be attributed to Basse. Whalen shows that this scenario actually fits better with the Earl of Oxford as Shakespeare. I can’t really explain it here because you need to see the actual elegy poem.

Hank Wittemore on "A Lover's Complaint"
Next was Hank Whittemore on A Lover’s Complaint. After noting that this poem (printed together with the Sonnets in 1609) has started to disappear from editions of the Collected Works of Shakespeare since Brian Vickers came out with his theory that it was really written by John Davies, Hank went on to show that:
1) it was written by Shakespeare
2) it was written by Edward deVere
3) the Young Man in the poem is Oxford’s view of himself
4) Oxford is describing the dynamics of his early relationship with the Queen
5) even though the poem is printed after the Sonnets, it is actually telling the beginning of the story (the one about Southampton being the son of Oxford and Elizabeth) which continues in the Sonnets and then in the other poems of Shakespeare.

Bill Boyle on Willobie
Last talk for the day (in the lecture room anyway) was by William Boyle. It was about the poem "Willobie, His Avisa" which has been largely ignored by scholars of all persuasions. Bill went through the argument put out by a Stratfordian, Barbara DeLuna, in 1970 which identifies Avisa as Elizabeth and the five suitors who appear in the poem as real-life suitors of Elizabeth. The important thing here (and maybe why DeLuna’s work has been virtually ignored by Stratfordians) is that, with her theory in place, the character “W.S.” in the poem cannot refer to William Shakespeare (at least not the one from Stratford) as has always been maintained by orthodox scholars.

Awards Banquet
But wait, that’s not all. It was now time for the Awards Banquet at the University Club!

The award for Artistic Excellence was given to Amy Freed, author of the play Beard of Avon. Two awards for Scholarly Excellence were given out, one to Peter Dawkins (the Baconian who spoke to us on Friday) and one to Bertram Fields, author of the book Players which goes through the case for all viable candidates for the Shakespeare authorship.

Bertram Fields, author of Players
Bertram Fields then gave the Banquet Address, in which he spoke of his book. As a lawyer, he told us that there will probably never be certainties, but we can go with the things that seem most probable, given the facts that we know (i.e. the “preponderance of the evidence”).

He went through his feeling that the man from Stratford could not be the author (at least not the primary one) and that someone more noble and better traveled, etc had to be the one. He favors the Earl of Oxford. However, he still hears a “second voice” in the plays which he takes to be the actor-manager Will Shakespeare of Stratford who has added some lines here or there to the plays to make them more palatable or exciting to the audience, knowing more about what they would like than the nobleman would.

Well, that’s it for now. More tomorrow on the last day of the Conference.

April 6, 2008

Well, it’s over. Another Shakespeare Authorship Conference has come and gone. Here’s what today brought:

An Initial Disappointment
The first talk was supposed to be by Chris Coleman, Artistic Director of Portland Center Stage (which just finished a run of Amy Freed’s play, Beard of Avon) on “Searching for Directorial Style in the Silence of Shakespeare’s Biography. However Mr. Coleman couldn’t make it at the last minute, so we had an extra 30 minutes of free time. It’s too bad. I would have liked to hear him.

Rima Greenhill, Ph.D. on Love's Labor's Lost
The second talk (the first one actually given) was another in the series of talks by Rima Greenhill on Russian influences on the play LLL. I think this was the fourth in the series. In this talk, we heard about the history of English-Russian relations as far as trade and economics in Elizabethan times. At this time there was a lot of “secret” stuff going on in trade. Privateers like Francis Drake were sent out, allegedly for exploration, but also for plundering enemy ships (like from Spain).

In the case of Russia, in addition to legitimate trade, there was covert shipments of arms and shipbuilders to Russia to build up its army and navy. This was all officially denied by Elizabeth, who even had an official proclamation made that such things would be considered illegal and punishable (but in reality she encouraged it secretly for economic and political gain). Rima believes that the play LLL was written, in part, as a response to this kind of thing, instructing the Queen how to properly rule.

William Farina on Coriolanus
Then came William Farina, from Chicago, to run through Oxfordian considerations in the play Coriolanus (which I had just seen in Ashland). He went through the traditional dating of the play (to about 1607 or 1608), showing how shaky it was (even most traditional scholars would agree to this). It’s mostly placed at this time since it seems to be a later play of Shakespeare on stylistic reasons and has to fit into Shakespeare's (of Stratford) lifetime.

He then went on to show how Oxfordians might date the play earlier. He then talked about many biographical parallels in the play to Oxford. It was a good concise statement of an Oxfordian reading of the play.

Professor Roger Stritmatter, Ph.D. on Jonsonus Virbius
Next was Professor Roger Stritmatter on a 1638 work done in honor of Ben Jonson (recently deceased) by several of his friends and colleagues. Stritmatter has been working on this topic for many years and his results are still preliminary, but it seems that, while praising Jonson, the contributors are also hinting at Jonson’s penchant for trickery and secrecy. This kind of thing sheds a lot of doubt on the material Jonson wrote to be included as prefatory matter in the First Folio of Shakespeare.

Michael Delahoyde named Jeopardy champion
The conference ended with a rousing game of Shakespeare Authorship Jeopardy with Alex McNeil (this is usually called Oxfordian Jeopardy, but this conference is not supposed to be exclusive). I reprised my role (at the Carmel Conference last October) of game board manager. Contestants were Professor Michael Delahoyde, Winona Sharpe, and Michael Thomas (a student of Daniel Wright at Concordia) Michael Delahoyde managed to “squeak” a win. Final scores were Delahoyde 19400, Thomas 200, and Sharpe 0. It was all quite fun.

Well, it’s now time to get ready to come home. My plane leaves at 6:40 a.m., so I’ll have to turn in early.

See you all soon,



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