Contested Will: Who Wrote Shakespeare?, by James Shapiro | The Incurable Bluestocking

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    • Lifting this veil is, to my reading of it, the major triumph of James Shapiro’s Contested Will: Who Wrote Shakespeare?. Both history and historiography, this book examines the case both for and against Shakespeare as the author of the works attributed to his name – and comes down, quite definitively, on the side of Shakespeare. Shapiro notes, in the opening pages of the book, his interest, which lies “not in what people think – which has been stated again and again in unambiguous terms – so much as why thy think it. No doubt my attitude derives from living in a world in which truth is too often seen as relative and in which mainstream media are committed to showing both sides of every story.” Noting the prevalence of opposing viewpoints in modern society – such as those on creationism vs evolution, whether or not man walked on the moon, and “more disturbingly,” those who deny the Holocaust deniers – Shapiro states, “I don’t believe that truth is relative or that there are always two sides to every story. At the same time, I don’t want to draw a naïve comparison between the Shakespeare controversy and any of these other issues. I think it’s a mistake to do so, except insofar as it too turns on underlying assumptions and notions of evidence that cannot be reconciled. Yet unlike some of these other controversies, I think it’s possible to get at why people have come to believe what they believe about Shakespeare’s authorship, and it is partly in the hope of doing so that I have written this book.”

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Movie Review: ‘Anonymous’-Starring Vanessa Redgrave, Rhys Ifans, Sebastian Armesto, Rafe Spall and Edward Hogg | Staten Island Bob (SIBob)

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COMMENT: Another review of Anonymous, now out on DVD. This enthusiastic review augurs well for the long-term effect that Anonymous may yet have on the authorship debate.

    • ‘Anonymous’ is a great movie. Based on fact, and conjecture, it is a “what if” tale that settles the true authorship of the William Shakespeare catalog once and for all. In fact, it ties up a lot of other loose ends as well. Having just finished ‘Players-The Mysterious Identity of William Shakespeare’, by Bertram Fields, earlier in the week, it has become evident to me that the producers of this film have exercised a large amount of artistic license. I guess you could say it falls into the category of historical fiction, based on the assumptions that are made. But it is also true, based on the limited facts that are available from 400 years ago, that it could have happened as presented. We will never know for sure.
    • But you can say one thing for sure. All of the latest developments in the Shakespeare legend have also “punched-up” that story. No longer will he be remembered just by the long dreary dissections we are all forced to undergo in English class. We can now consider that this whole thing may have been the biggest put-on in history. But one thing is for sure, once you get past all of the hype, there can be no denial that this canon of work stands alone. No matter who did it, it is likely never to be matched.

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Thoughts on Shakespeare and Anonymous | LiteraryMinded

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    • Are you a Stratfordian or an Oxfordian? For a long time I’ve avoided the debate around Shakespeare’s ‘true identity’. Partly because, like many people, I enjoy the romantic idea of the enigmatic genius. And partly because any debate around authorship (I believed) could potentially take away from the focus on, and the enjoyment of, the words themselves.
    • What I don’t doubt is that whoever the author was, he (or maybe even she) was a phenomenally insightful and entertaining storyteller.
    • What do you think? Does it matter? History and authorship are contentious and malleable concepts. The words and stories live on. You might say they are celebrated, some might argue they are abused, perhaps t’is neither here nor there. To mourn a mischief that is past and gone is the next way to draw new mischief on.
    • Funnily enough, the film Anonymous, which still attributes all the Bard’s works to one man (though not the man from Stratford-upon-Avon), is mainly about the ‘power of words’, and is still, definitely a celebration of the plays.
    • I never believed Shakespeare was a brand name for a conglomerate of writers (as some do) because there is too much symmetry across the body of work: through literary, rhetorical and dramatic devices; imagery and figurative language (use of analogy, different types of irony, metaphor, puns and symbols, to name a few); types of humour employed; and a certain self-awareness or meta-aspect (in many of the plays).

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Saving Southampton


It’s not everyday that anyone can say that a real bombshell has landed in the Shakespeare authorship debate. And, as some of our readers may be aware, the term bombshell has been thrown around loosely by some Oxfordians in the past year in discussing their theories about how and why the authorship problem came to be. But now, with the discovery of a poem apparently written by the 3rd Earl of Southampton shortly after his conviction for treason in the Essex Rebellion in 1601, such a bombshell may indeed have landed, and it’s for real.

In the Winter 2011 issue of the journal English Literary Renaissance researcher Lara M Crowley has reported on this discovery in her article, Was Southampton A Poet? A Verse Letter to Queen Elizabeth. In the article she reports that she found this heretofore unknown poem in a folio of manuscript copies of miscellaneous verses, compiled sometime in the early 17th century.

My friend and colleague Hank Whittemore has already written several posts about this article on his blog during the past week. I invite readers to check out what Hank has to say about how this discovery fits perfectly with his Monument Theory about Shakespeare’s sonnets, particularly that Sonnets 27 to 126 were written to Southhampton while he was in the tower following his conviction and death sentence in the Essex rebellion. I do not wish to repeat here what Hank is posting on his blog about this discovery. However what I do want to do is call attention to what the author Lara Crowley has to say in her article about the Essex rebellion, Southampton’s death sentence and reprieve, and the all-important question of how it came to be that Southampton was not executed. In other words, who saved Southampton?

In the first paragraph of her article Crowley notes the key question. She writes,

 “Southampton was the only conspirator tried with Essex and both men were convicted of treason and sentenced to death. Essex was executed soon after, followed by several other participants, but, surprisingly, Southampton was spared .” (111)

When Crowley uses the word “surprisingly” she cuts right to the chase: why was Southampton not executed when most assuredly he should have been?

Just a few paragraphs later Crowley writes (after noting that it would seem unlikely that Robert Cecil would have interceded on Southampton’s behalf):

“It seems possible, even likely, that someone or something else influenced Elizabeth’s decision, making one wonder if, at his time of greatest need, Southampton — a ‘dere lover and cherisher of poets’ — composed what could be his lone surviving poem.” (112) 

The first part of the article is spent considering the question of whether this poem was actually written by the Earl of Southampton. She present strong evidence that indeed it was, evidence that includes the similarity in the language and arguments of the poem to the language and arguments used in Southampton’s letters to the Privy Council asking for mercy. This is tremendous supporting evidence for the Monument  Theory, for a key part of Whittemore’s argument has also been how much the language and argument of the Sonnets is similar to the language and arguments in these same Privy Council letters.

But it is towards the end of her article that Crowley, in a concluding section, really digs into this key point about “saving Southampton.” She notes, quite correctly, that what is missing for the years 1601-1603 is any record of who made the decision to spare Southampton, and why that decision was made (remember, the pardon was issued by King James — not Elizabeth — in April 1603). This section of the article (Section IV) is actually the longest section, running from pages 123-141, which is 19 pages in a 34 page-long article. It is in these pages that Crowley explores the question of whether it was Southampton’s writing alone (in either this poem or his Privy Council letters) that saved him, or, as she noted earlier, whether it was “someone or something else.”

To those of us who have been following this story for years this is extremely interesting, because Crowley arrives at the same conclusion that Hank Whittemore and I arrived at years ago — that there is no good reason for Southampton to have been spared, at least not based on the record handed down to us in history. The idea that Robert Cecil interceded to save Southampton out of sympathy alone is questionable, and Crowley herself does question it. She directly analyzes this historical notion that Cecil saved Southampton out of “sympathy,” and concludes that it is unlikely. In looking at Cecil’s letters to others about Southampton (letters in which he expressed some sympathy towards him), Crowley characterizes the letters as “self-serving,” and in talking about them as evidence she puts the word “evidence” in quotation marks, indicating her skepticism that these letters alone are proof that Cecil saved Southampton — or at least saved him out of “sympathy.” Especially revealing is this observation in a footnote:

” …while Cecil might have intervened for purely benevolent reasons, he likely expected some sort of compensation for his assistance, perhaps in the form of information, assurance of  position under James I, or even money. ” (138, fn69)

This is exactly what the Monument Theory proposes is being recorded and passed down to posterity in the Sonnets. The final couplet of Sonnet 120 is the key:

But that your trespass [i.e., your treason conviction] now becomes a fee,
Mine [my fee] ransoms yours, and yours [your fee] must ransom me.

In other words the Monument Theory proposes that Edward de Vere, 17th Earl of Oxford, paid a ransom to Robert Cecil to save Southampton, and this couplet records that fact. And the ransom? Hank and I believe that the ransom payment was Oxford’s agreement to be consigned to oblivion for eternity (“My name be buried where my body is,” Sonnet 72), and to accept — and participate in as “40” — Cecil’s secret correspondence with Jame
s of Scotland, resulting in James’ peaceful accession to the English throne (“Incertainties now crown themselves assur’d,” Sonnet 107). The ransom deal most likely followed close upon a “great reckoning” in a “little room” (AYLI, III.ii). Crowley, in her ruminations on the key question of how Southampton was saved, gets very close to the same conclusion in so far as she believes that more than just sympathy must have been involved.

This is why, in my opinion, both the discovery of this poem and the article written about it constitute as close to a bombshell as anything I’ve encountered in 30 years of studying the Shakespeare authorship debate and considering that the Essex rebellion is at the center of it all.

Readers should visit both Hank Whittemore’s blog and his Shakespeare’s Monument website for further information on this new poem and an overview of the Monument Theory. Readers are also invited to read my essay Unveiling the Sonnets in which I present some of the historical background that is integral to the argument that the sonnets are telling us the story of how Edward de Vere (“Shake-speare”) sacrificed himself to save Southampton, which is why there came to be a Shakespeare authorship mystery.

Bill Boyle

Dr. Bill? Retired physician says medical lingo betrays Shakespeare | DailyTidings.com

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    • Showerman said the plays also have references to the Hippocratic Oath taken by physicians, resuscitation, toxicology, a variety of infectious diseases, circulation of the blood and mental illnesses, among other medical topics.

      Although Showerman likes to debunk the idea of Shakespeare as the author of the plays, he said his research into the canon has made him appreciate the works themselves even more. It has also enriched his experience as a theater-lover.

    • Showerman is among those who think the advanced medical knowledge displayed in the plays proves they were authored by the highly educated and well-traveled Earl of Oxford, Edward de Vere. Showerman and others argue that Shakespeare — a successful merchant involved in the theater — didn’t have the earl’s access to learned people and extensive private libraries that included medical literature.
    • Retired emergency room physician Earl Showerman believes that a detailed description of syphilis symptoms in “Timon of Athens” helps prove that the Earl of Oxford is the real author of plays attributed to William Shakespeare.

      Speaking to a pair of prostitutes, Timon directs them to sow a disease that will collapse men’s noses, ruin their voices, make their hair fall out, cause their shin bones to develop sharp edges and quell their love-making abilities.

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The private lives of great writers – Books – Salon.com

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    • Just how relevant is an author’s private life to our appreciation or understanding of his or her work? Many would argue that we should disregard it entirely. Others (myself included) might point out that while you can thoroughly enjoy a novel or poem without knowing who wrote it, any deeper grasp requires at least some basic information. It matters that Edna O’Brien is Irish, certainly, and it’s almost impossible to imagine how the writings of Jack Kerouac or Charles Bukowski could be separated from their life stories.
    • Disparaging a man’s looks simply doesn’t have the same impact. But a similar shame does attach itself to failures of “manhood,” such as the cuckolding of Saul Bellow, recently detailed in the Awl by Evan Hughes. In the late 1950s, Hughes explains, Bellow helped his “closest friend,” Jack Ludwig, get a job at the University of Minnesota, where Bellow himself was taking a position. Ludwig, unbeknownst to Bellow, was having an affair with Bellow’s wife, Sondra, who vented her frustration with the grim role of faculty spouse by adopting the “habit of criticizing Bellow’s sexual prowess to their friends,” most of whom were aware of the affair.
    • Bellows’ marital problems and sexual potency may seem as irrelevant to his writing as Wharton’s looks are to hers, but only if all biographical facts are ruled equally superfluous. Byron’s clubfoot, Flannery O’Connor’s lupus, Coleridge’s opium addiction and whatever was wrong with Hemingway do interest many readers because these factors shaped the life experiences from which the great work sprang.
    • I have a hard time writing off Franzen as biased against women writers per se, given that I only learned about geniuses like Christina Stead and Paula Fox because of his energetic efforts on behalf of their neglected books. The way I read it, he wants to see Wharton as, at heart, “an isolate and a misfit, which is to say a born writer,”

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Contemporizing Coriolanus

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    • From the speculative storm kicked up by Anonymous to the popular release of Stephen Marche’s How Shakespeare Changed Everything, public curiosity in the Bard’s work was piqued just in time for Ralph Fiennes’ directorial shot at Coriolanus.
    • He chose to preserve the iambic pentameter in the film, and with the expert screen-writing help of John Logan (best-known for his work on Gladiator, The Aviator, Rango, not to mention his exceptional play Red, about Mark Rothko), Coriolanus has turned out to be an exhilarating contemporary take on Shakespeare’s story of a tragic, bull-headed patriot.
    • Fiennes as Martius is a perfectly calculating, persistent soldier, but also a dry and useless politico. His refusal to play popular is overt enough to be almost comical, and that obstinacy becomes his downfall when the quick-tongued Tribunes (moonlighting as slimy lobbyists) conspire to expose Martius as a politician who doesn’t particularly care about what the Citizens think. The media, in Fox News style, becomes a forum for the trial of Coriolanus’ character, and his eventual exile from Rome is reflected not just in a distancing from the city, but as a descent into extreme poverty.

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A Review A Day: Today’s Review: Anonymous

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    • The premise of Anonymous is quite excellent. Although there may be no proof whatsoever into the theory, it is very nicely integrated with the political turbulence of the time. There are some historical inaccuracies that have been pointed out on Wikipedia and the like, but in the name of entertainment the movie is a very good effort.

    • The only real problem I had with the movie is that fact that it jumps around a lot. Some of the action takes place in the time of Shakespeare’s rising fame, while half shows the earlier life of de Vere, his prodigious talent for writing, and his relationship with Elizabeth. Many characters are introduced and the action often jumps backwards and forwards without warning, so if you’re not paying attention it’s quite easy to get lost.

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Being Bess: On this Day in Elizabethan History…February 25th 1601

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    • Contemporaries outside of Essex’s circle of sycophants and modern scholars can agree that Essex’s allegations had no bearing; these were the rants of a madman nursing his wounded pride. And as I have explained in previous articles, everyone who knew Queen Elizabeth, especially those members of her inner circle, knew that no one persuaded to the queen to do anything against her own will. Queen Elizabeth was a pragmatist and a master politician, who heard endless points of view and deliberated for months, sometimes years before ever making a decision. No man could influence her without her permitting it.

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Rough Edges: Anonymous

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    • I enjoyed ANONYMOUS quite a bit, but I think you’d need to know a lot about Shakespeare and English history to get the full effect of it. Reading reviews of the film in various places, I see that it seems to be one of those "love it or hate it" movies, with a recurring theme among the haters being that it’s not "historically accurate", their basis for this being their belief that Shakespeare actually wrote the plays. To which my response is: it’s a movie. It’s fiction. The framing sequence even makes it clear that this is a case of "What if this is what really happened?" I don’t know or even really care who wrote the plays. I just enjoyed the story.

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