BBC News – The Marlowe Papers wins Desmond Elliott Prize

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    • Ros Barber’s The Marlowe Papers, a novel written entirely in verse, has won the annual Desmond Elliott Prize for debut fiction.

      The book explores the intrigue around the death of Christopher Marlowe and the authorship of Shakespeare’s plays.

      Joanne Harris, the chair of judges, described the novel as a “unique historical conspiracy story”.

      The £10,000 prize is named after the distinguished publisher and literary agent Desmond Elliott who died in 2003.

    • “The Marlowe Papers is technically accomplished and hugely impressive in both style and scope, enhanced by being written in verse, it is certainly an ambitious undertaking for a new novelist – I cannot wait to read Barber’s next book.”
    • US-born Barber was inspired to write her debut novel while watching a Channel 4 documentary in which Shakespeare scholar Jonathan Bate dismissed the theory that playwright Marlowe was the true author of the works of Shakespeare as the stuff of fiction.
    • She is the author of three volumes of poetry and she was recently appointed associate of the Shakespearian Authorship Trust – a charity which aims “to seek, and if possible establish, the truth concerning the authorship of Shakespeare’s plays and poems”.

      The authorship debate was in the spotlight in 2011 when Roland Emmerich’s film, Anonymous, portrayed Shakespeare (played by Rafe Spall) as an inarticulate buffoon.

      Rhys Ifans played Edward de Vere – the 17th Earl of Oxford – who was credited as the true genius behind the words of the Bard.

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Shakespeare in Song

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    • Shockingly few recorded musical renditions of Shakespeare-inspired works exist. Although references to his texts frequently appear throughout various genres of music, the words themselves are rarely preserved in their entirety for a whole song. Of course, musicals based on Shakespeare’s texts are a common method of adaptation. Consider the popular Broadway hits West Side Story based on Romeo and Juliet or Kiss Me, Kate inspired by The Taming of the Shrew.
    • In 2002, an interesting collaboration surrounding Shakespeare’s sonnets was released entitled When Love Speaks. This CD features 53 different Shakespearean sonnets, many read by outstanding actors such as Joseph Fiennes, Alan Rickman and Fiona Shaw, in addition to sonnets set to music by Annie Lenox, Ladysmith Black Mambazo and Bryan Ferry, among others. Rufus Wainwright– who was recently tapped to perform musical renditions of the sonnets for a forum at the 2013 Stratford Festival in Toronto–  lends his voice to Sonnet #29 from the album:

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Shakespeare and Creativity (from the Shakespeare Birthday Trust)

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“We’re delighted to be working with the University of Birmingham. There are two great Shakespeare libraries in Stratford. One of them is at the Shakespeare Institute and one of them is here and they complement each other very well. We have 55000 volumes relating to Shakespeare’s work, life and times, including about 1000 rare books which he would have seen for sale on Jacobean and Elizabethan bookstalls and which we know he used in order to write the plays. So we can show where Shakespeare came from, where his creativity came from, the material  he was engaged with. You might like to come and design an exhibition based on precious items in the collection. What stories might you tell about Stratford and Shakespeare? Might they become performances in some of the Shakespeare gardens?”

    • Two years ago I was approached by our colleagues and friends at The Shakespeare Institute: would The Shakespeare Birthplace Trust be interested in collaborating on a new MA Programme on Shakespeare and Creativity?
    • One module, for example, is called Shakespeare and Society. Each of the contributing organisations — which also include The Royal Shakespeare Company and Birmingham Public Library — are making available their collections and spaces and expertise as creative resources for the MA’s students. The Shakespeare Birthplace Trust is uniquely placed to open up its  own collections from which students might devise a performance piece, installation, exhibition, or — and perhaps most bravely of all — an expression of Civic Shakespeare in a prominent public place.
    • Hope you enjoy finding out more about ‘Shakespeare and Creativity’ by clicking on the link here and watching the video.

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Shakespeare’s 19 million Facebook ‘friends’

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    • If Sir Francis Bacon and William Shakespeare were friends on Facebook, their interactions could have answered one of the largest questions in all of English literature.
      Did the famous scientist (or someone else) write some of Shakespeare’s plays?
    • “Six Degrees of Francis Bacon is many things, but above all it’s a tool for asking questions. It allows people to click on this historical network to see who’s connected, recreating this whole world and then raising even more questions about how an idea, say, religious toleration, or the circulation of blood, got from person A to person B, why it took this route and not that route, and so on.”
      “To get the project to its current point of visualizing this 6,000-person world, the researchers worked with Georgetown University’s Daniel Shore, a Milton expert whose current research focuses on tracing syntax, and they are developing a partnership with London- and Cambridge-based scholars Ruth and Sebastian Ahnert, who study the shape of 16th-century letter-writing networks.”
      “For example, what counts as evidence of a relationship? If someone writes in a book about a visit with a famous scholar, but the famous scholar doesn’t write about it, it’s one-sided evidence. People lie, and encounters that are important to one person are not necessarily important to the other. We need to dig into culture and motivations to understand what’s going on.”
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Movie Review – Anonymous

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    • You don’t screw with The Bard.

      “He has long been regarded as one of the finest literary minds in all of human history; his 30+ plays, countless sonnets and poems, and sheer volume of respected works have become established English language mainstays for centuries. William Shakespeare, however, is seen by many as a fraud. It has been claimed by those who follow the Oxford theory, that the works of Shakespeare were actually penned by a nobleman during Elizabeth I’s reign, the 17th Earl of Oxford, Edward de Vere. The question of authorship has long been disputed by both sides of the argument, although exactly what’s at stake for the “winner” of the argument baffles me – surely, no matter who wrote them, the quality of the work itself is not diminished? In any case, the weight of a major Hollywood director has been thrown into this controversial subject, in Roland Emmerich, a man best known for destroying the planet in nearly all his feature films thus far. Watching films like Independence Day and 2012, you might find it hard to imagine that a director of such commercially successful blockbusters might risk his reputation (ha!) on a film about the great English playwright, but it’s true. There’s no approaching asteroid, no gargantuan alien army, no marauding menace from Mother Nature here: no, Anonymous pits Emmerich against his most powerful foe yet – the English language. Does he succeed in making sense of the arguments? Does Emmerich lay waste to the naysayers and poppycockers that claim Shakespeare alone was the author of literary gems such as Romeo & Juliet, Hamlet, and Macbeth? Or is Anonymous too wrapped up in its own mystique to make much sense to anyone other than those for whom the argument remains a legitimate question?”

      “I’m no expert on Shakespeare, but even looking at the most miniscule evidence I did while researching this review, it’s a fair bet that some, if not most, of the plays attributed to the man weren’t written by him. I know, there’ll be some who cry heresy at that statement, but how can any rational, free-thinking man believe that an illiterate man like Shaksepare could produce some of the most glorious prose in the history of the English language. Regardless of your thoughts on the matter, this controversy only serves to fan the flames of Anonymous’s often zealous charges against the legitimacy of old Willie’s claim to authorship. The film presents itself in a cloud of political and dramatic postulating and posturing: Anonymous is a terribly dense film to watch, and for most people I suspect it’ll be too much. The film wanders tangentially through a variety of time periods, skipping back from present day, to Elizabeth I’s later reign, and back again to the early part of her life, all to try and encapsulate the eras that influenced one of literature’s great authors. Which, on reflection, is probably the film’s key failing.”

      “Performances across the board are exemplary. The entire cast, and I mean the entire cast, never put a foot wrong, in either delivery or characterization; leading the charge is Rhys Ifans, who is soulfully circumspect and potently driven as de Vere, bringing an intensity I’d not seen in him as an actor before. Vanessa Redgrave, as the older Queen Elizabeth, is simply breathtakingly powerful in her delivery – she reminds me of Judi Dench for the ease of her ability not to look like she’s acting. Redgrave’s real-life daughter, Joely Richardson, plays the younger version of Queen Elizabeth in a casting coup – Richardson’s nowhere near the level of her mother, but she’s good enough not to shortfall on this dual role. Sebastian Armiesto is commendably solid as a competing playwright, and of all the players here, it’s he who provides the most poignant emotional performance – he’s the Everyman character here, in a role I saw paralleled with F Murray Abraham’s Salieri in Amadeus: Ben Jonson wishes he could write like de Vere, but cannot, so he remains content simply to be a lesser man. It’s a potent portrayal of a man destined to be forgotten by history, although you’d never know it.”

      “The film is bookended quite potently by a monologue by Sir Derek Jacobi – himself a vocal proponent of the Oxford theory – and it’s here that Emmerich sets up the story, and the motivation to tell it, quite well. It’s the attention to detail that Emmerich provides the film with that I really enjoyed, regardless of the story. The unfolding drama seemed to my untrained eyes to be a collision of ideas and concepts, of personalities in clash with one another, and without a direct motivation as to why this story needed to be told in the first place. It is a well told story (if you can follow along), but the film’s about twenty minutes too long, and not focused enough on the core story, which should have been the authorship of Shakespeare.”

      “…but at its core Anonymous remains a loud, forceful film arguing against the legitimacy of one of history’s greatest writers. Whichever side of the conspiracy you come down on, regardless of your appreciation of the works of Shakespeare himself, there’s little doubt that Anonymous provides ripe fruit for discussion, and that in itself can only be a good thing. Densely plotted, almost infuriatingly so, Anonymous is recommended only on the strength of Ifans’ performance and the hilarious work of Vanessa Redgrave as the Queen.”

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The Tudor Heir in the Plays of Shakespeare

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The 13th Annual Summer Seminar at the Shakespeare Authorship Research Centre (August 18 to 23) will focus on the Tudor Heir in the Shakespeare plays, i.e. looking at the instances in selected plays where issues of succession may be more about the current times (i.e. Elizabethan) than the actual historical period that a play purports to be about.


Following is the notice recently sent out by the Centre with details about the seminar and how to sign up:

The 13th Annual

Shakespeare Authorship Research Centre Summer Seminar
August 18 – 23, 2013

The Tudor Heir in the Plays of Shakespeare

Seminar participants will study, amongst other works, Hamlet;
King Lear; Titus Andronicus; Troilus and Cressida; Henry the Fourth,
Parts One and Two; King John; A Midsummer Night’s Dream; The Winter’s
; and other works, as time allows

Seminar Leader: Prof. Daniel Wright, Ph.D.; Director, The
Shakespeare Authorship Research Centre at Concordia University, assisted
by James Daniel Gaynor, SARC intern and Assistant to the SARC Director

Location: The Michael B. Wray Seminar Room of the Shakespeare
Authorship Research Centre in the George R. White Library 2800 NE
Liberty Street, Portland, Oregon

Dates: August 18 – 23, 2013

Times: Sunday, 6:00pm – 8:00pm; Monday through Thursday 9:00 am – 4:00 pm; Friday 9:00 am – noon

Cost: $995 – includes Continental breakfast each day

In the Shakespeare Authorship Debate, Stratfordians Should Drop the “Conspiracy” Charge | Richard Agemo

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    • Those who defend the grain dealer from Stratford as the man who wrote Shakespeare – the so-called “Stratfordians” – have several labels for opposing schools of thought. One of them is “conspiracy theory.”

      They should drop that label.

      The Shakespeare Birthplace Trust, a strong proponent of the Stratfordian point of view, states on its website:

      “The Shakespeare Birthplace Trust has fired up a campaign to tackle head-on the conspiracy theories that William Shakespeare of Stratford-upon-Avon was not the true author of the plays which bear his name.” […] The authorship conspiracy is much ado about nothing.”

    • Black’s Law Dictionary defines “conspiracy” as follows:

      “A combination or confederacy between two or more persons formed for the purpose of committing, by their joint efforts, some unlawful or criminal act, or some act which is lawful in itself, but becomes unlawful when done by the concerted act of the conspirators, or for the purpose of using some criminal or unlawful means to the commission of an act not in itself unlawful.”

    • As far as I know, it’s not a crime for an author to write under a pseudonym
    • Moreover, if “Oxfordians” have it right, the powers-that-be during Elizabethan times would have required Oxford to use a nom de plume, given some of the political messages conveyed by the plays.
    • What Stratfordians really mean to say is that Oxfordians propose that there was a cover-up to hide Shakespeare’s true identity, which – forgive me for wanting to attach correct meanings to words – is different from a “conspiracy.” Only the act of concealing or hiding something in needed for a cover-up. Unlike conspiracy, no criminality or unlawful purpose is necessary. A pseudonym, by definition, is a type of cover-up.

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Mr. Shakespeare’s Plays: G.K Chesterton Shakespeare

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    • “Under the listings of Shakespeare, the Internet abounds in essays, reviews, texts, and comments, almost anything one can imagine about his works and about works explaining his works. My Viking Edition of Shakespeare comes to 1,471 pages. I suspect that at least that number of pages of new materials about Shakespeare appears almost every month. In various universities, moreover, from here to India, we can find listed courses on “Shakespeare and . . . —You Name It.”
    • “I also found an essay informing me that Shakespeare was an “atheist,” while larger efforts were found devoted to the question of whether he was or was not a Catholic, or an Anglican, or a Puritan. Chesterton devoted several essays to the question of whether Shakespeare was in fact Francis Bacon, and if he was, what difference would it make? Some people think Shakespeare was neither himself nor Bacon. The leading candidate seems to be the Earl of Oxford, but all admit some mysteriousness about just who Shakespeare was if he was not Shakespeare, and even more if he was.”
    • “Mark Twain once wrote an essay entitled “Is Shakespeare Dead?”
    • “Twain himself did not think that Shakespeare could have written Shakespeare’s plays for the same reason that someone who had not worked a packet-boat on the Mississippi could not write accurately about what actually takes place on the water. “Shakespeare couldn’t have written Shakespeare’s words, for the reason that the man who wrote them was limitlessly familiar with the laws, and the law-courts, and law-proceedings, and lawyer-talk, and lawyer-ways—and if Shakespeare was possessed of the infinitely divided star-dust that constituted this vast wealth, HOW did he get it, and WHERE and WHEN?” The same argument can be applied to Shakespeare’s accurate knowledge of Italy, or the Bible, or the sea.”
    • “For Chesterton, Shakespeare was the sane man, Bacon the mad scientist:

      The truth is, I fear, that madness has a great advantage over sanity. Sanity is always careless. Madness is always careful. A lunatic might count all the railings along the front of Hyde Park; he might know the exact number of them, because he thought they were something else. A healthy man would not know the number of the railings, or perhaps even the shape of the railings; he would know nothing about them except the supreme, sublime, Platonic, and transcendent truth, that they were railings (CW, XXVII, 416).

      The point is that Shakespeare, as seen in his works, seems to be the sane one when it comes to that universal balance of knowing things that matter. This is the same sanity that Chesterton saw in Aquinas who affirmed, against all the doubters, that “eggs are eggs.”

    • “In the end, let it be said of all of us, “I do not profess to know much about Shakespeare outside such superfluous trifling, as reading his literary works.” “Mr. Shakespeare” is only “dead,” to use Twain’s word, if we do not read him, even if, or especially if, we may not know exactly who he was. On reading his literary works, what we do know is something about practically everything that is humanly important, and indeed, not a little of the supernatural.”

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Shakespeare [authorship] Short Short Version | Hard Thinking

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    • “Shakespeare didn’t write Shakespeare. The five current and former U.S. Supreme Court Justices (among others) who agree with this assessment are not crackpots.”

      “Each of the five reasons listed below is sufficient to warrant close examination of the authorship question. All are routinely ignored by mainstream academics. Taken together, these five pieces of evidence make a virtually airtight case against the traditional authorship attribution.”

    • 1.  The author himself said in unambiguous language that he was writing under a pseudonym. 
    • 2. The writer of the sonnets was an older man who was quite close to the young Earl of Southampton.
    • 3. In 1609 the sonnets were finally published and dedicated to “our ever-living poet”; Shakespeare-the-author was dead. 
    • 4. Some modern experts go so far claim that Polonius in Hamlet was not based on Lord Burghley; methinks they dost protest too much.
    • 5. There is no independent evidence indicating that Shakespeare of Stratford could do more than scrawl his name. 
    • Conclusion

      “Shakespeare stated in rather clear language in the private, personal sonnets that he was using a pseudonym.  Also in the sonnets, he makes it clear he was middle-aged by 1590. The dedication in the sonnets written by the publisher in 1609 is clearly a eulogy. The plays are written from the point of view of a nobleman with the impunity that only someone very high up would have. Mainstream academics act as if they are terrified of the authorship question and frequently say absurd things as a result.”

      “As Justices Powell, Blackmun, O’Connor, Stevens, and Scalia and many others suspect, the man from Stratford whose two daughters never read a single line of Shakespeare’s work was, in all probability, a front-man for the true author whose name we may never know.”

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New book reveals the real Shakespeare | Irish Examiner

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    • “His plays are renowned, but a new book unravels the mystery of the man, says Rita de Brun.”
    • “The man behind the plays has long been mysterious, but that’s changing, with the publication of 30 Great Myths about Shakespeare, a new book by Laurie Maguire and Emma Smith.”
    • “The intention was to evaluate the evidence that exists, illustrate how that has been interpreted or misinterpreted, and show what our conclusions as to the truth about Shakespeare reveal about our own personal investment in the stories we tell,” she says.”
    • “As to whether she got much insight into Shakespeare’s elusive personality while researching the book, Maguire shakes her head. “The personal papers, which might well have revealed so much of his personality, could not be scrutinised, as, after his death, they probably went to his favourite son-in-law. However, we do know that he wasn’t particularly philanthropic — legal documents show him lining the insides of his own pockets rather than giving to the poor,” she says.”
    • “As to his nature, we really don’t know much, but he’s unlikely to have been flamboyantly ostentatious, and he’s likely to have been the type who would sit in a corner, watch people, take notes and take stock.”

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