In recent weeks in this space I’ve commented on how the authorship debate is a story unto itself, and how the Stratfordian camp keeps cranking out one “new ” story after another in response to the debate, all the while denying that there is a debate. New biographies! New interpretations! New facts! Like a carnival barker … come one, come all! It’s new!

And now, right on cue, comes a new portrait (touted by the prominent Stratfordian Shakespeare scholar Stanley Wells) , with headlines around the world, even in the midst of the financial crisis of a lifetime. And then we — those of us on the authorship beat, at least — start to learn “the rest of the story” (as the recently departed Paul Harvey would have put it).

Mark Anderson over at the Shakespeare By Another Name blog is already peeling back the rest of the story by noting the eerie similarity of this story to the 2002 story about the same man (Cobbe) “discovering” that he owned a portrait to the Earl of Southampton. I think the current story quickly sinks of its own weight when one just considers, 1) the dissimilarity of this portrait with the Droeshout and the memorial bust, plus 2) what’s with the lace collar (as some have already been asking). Isn’t such attire for aristocrats only? Given these two glaring problems (plus the peculiar linkage of the Cobbe angle in 2002 and again today) one might think that somewhere in the current media someone would be onto the authorship angle in all this. But, sadly, no. No surprise there.

What interests me the most in all this is the Shakespeare-Southampton linkage, both in the provenance of the current portrait and in the 2002 story about Cobbe and the Southampton portrait. This comes as no surprise to this writer, since it is an indisputable fact that there had to have been some sort of Shakespeare-Southampton personal contact (V&A, Lucrece, the Sonnets, RII and the Essex Rebellion) that is the Achilles heel of the entire Stratfordian attribution. Given recent new evidence on the anti-Stratfordian side of the fence (e.g. the possible linkage of Shakespeare’s Sonnets with the Essex Rebellion as Hank Whittemore has demonstrated), plus such recent mainstream scholarship on the Elizabethan Succession, Shakespeare and treason as this and on Shakespeare, Richard II and the Essex Rebellion as this), it is reasonable to say that it is this connection that we should all be looking at.

There is one hell of a Shakespearean story in “Shakespeare and Southampton,” but it’s sure not the one Stanley Wells is trying —yet again— to sell. And when I say sell, I do mean sell, since the rest of the “rest of this story” is that Wells and Cobbe are working together to publish a new book on Shakespeare and Southampton sometime next year!

The Shakespeare authorship debate … it is the never-ending story … or as the Stratfordians might put it, the “never eVer” story.

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