A painless dose of cultural and literary history, Shakespeare scholars unite to see off claims of the ‘Bard deniers’
A group of 22 of the world’s leading Shakespeare scholars have come together to produce a book that details what they consider to be definitive evidence that the Bard really did write his own plays.
Since the 1850s, 77 people have been suggested as the likely author, with Francis Bacon, Edward de Vere – the 17th Earl of Oxford – and Christopher Marlowe the most popular candidates, and Queen Elizabeth I among the most outlandish. The academics feel the anti-Shakespeare campaign has intensified lately, and that the elevation of Shakespeare authorship studies to master’s degree status has been the final straw.
Three eminent experts on Bacon, Oxford and Marlowe are among the Shakespeareans who demonstrate in a series of essays precisely why only Shakespeare could have written his plays and poems, apart from his collaborations. Cambridge University Press will publish Shakespeare Beyond Doubt: Evidence, Argument, Controversy on 18 April, days before the Shakespeare birthday celebrations in Stratford-upon-Avon on 20-21 April. The publication – which they say will be scholarly, but accessible for general readers – is co-edited by Paul Edmondson and Stanley Wells, noted scholars from the Shakespeare Birthplace Trust, the academic charity.
Edmondson told the Observer that Shakespeare academics have until now had their heads in the sand, hoping the doubts were ludicrous enough to fizzle out. However, they have been alarmed by the spread of authorship challenges in universities on both sides of the Atlantic – at Brunel in west London, and Concordia in Portland, Oregon. He told the Observer: “The University of Brunel has an MA in Shakespeare authorship studies and, as part of that, they could write a dissertation on why they think the Earl of Oxford wrote Shakespeare, for example. It’s absolutely crazy.”
The academic debate has descended into personal attack. Edmondson was shocked to discover a recent paper by an American academic entitled The Factual Desert of Stanley Wells, which compares the emeritus professor of Shakespeare studies at Birmingham University to the farmer describing a creature in his pasture: “Half-man and half-bear, and the other half was pig. No matter how he told the story, it didn’t add up.”
Signatories to an online “declaration of reasonable doubt” – which affirms a belief in an enormous gulf between the author’s life and the contents of his works – include leading actors such as Sir Derek Jacobi, Mark Rylance and Michael York. Hollywood sparked further outrage in 2011 with the film Anonymous portraying Shakespeare as an inarticulate buffoon and the Earl of Oxford as the covert author.
Edmondson said of the new book’s diverse textual and biographical evidence: “This is the first time the discussion has been treated by so many different people in one volume.” For example, discussing the “stylometrics”, or “computational stylistic” tests, MacDonald P Jackson of the University of Auckland concludes that Shakespeare’s and Oxford’s poetry are “intergalactic distances” apart. “De Vere’s models are of the mid-16th century and earlier, with heavy use of alliteration … and a liking for metrical forms with long lines of 12 or 14 syllables. No Shakespeare poem is written in these metres.”
David Kathman, an independent scholar, writes on Shakespeare and Warwickshire, showing how the works are “peppered” with signs that the author came from around Stratford, pointing to local dialect words such as ‘”batlet”, a paddle to beat laundry.
It does seem that the Shakespeare birthers will either have to start producing some concrete evidence and stop the name calling, or start to adjust to the fact that one of history’s biggest mysteries is not much of a mystery.
Bridge, 1922 by Wilhelm Lachnit (12 November 1899, Gittersee, near Dresden — 14 November 1962, Dresden), Oil on canvas. Lachnit made two mistakes at once by joining the communist party in 1924. One was just being a communist, but the other was automatically becoming an enemy of the Nazis when they came to power in 1933. According to history experts Glenn Beck and Jonah Goldberg this should not have happened since they have preached that fascism and communism are the same thing. Lachnit would have even more bad luck when his works, which had been confiscated by the Nazis was were destroyed in the fire bombing of Dresden in 1945.
What happens when the watchers abuse their power and people start thinking we should watch the watchers. The watchers start squealing about being watched. Suddenly, NYPD doesn’t love surveillance anymore
The Big Brother theory of surveillance goes something like this: pervasive snooping and monitoring shouldn’t frighten innocent people, it should only make lawbreakers nervous because they are the only ones with something to hide. Those who subscribe to this theory additionally argue that the widespread awareness of such surveillance creates a permanent preemptive deterrent to such lawbreaking ever happening in the first place.
This hypocrisy has been going on for a long time in the U.S. We considered and rightly so, though the paranoia wasn’t necessary, that the Soviet Union was a tyrannical police state in which no one had any privacy.
Yet, in now opposing the creation of an independent monitor to surveil, analyze and assess lawbreaking by police and municipal agencies after a wave of complaints about alleged crimes, Bloomberg and Kelly are crying foul. Somehow, they argue that their own Big Brother theory about surveillance supposedly stopping current crime and deterring future crime should not apply to municipal officials themselves.
Most of the people who object are civil libertarians ( nothing to do with the conservative libertarians like the Kochs or Rand Paul) and minorities. Most everyone else seems all too ready or complacent, valuing the perception of more personal safety over their civil liberties.