Those of us who have spent enough time researching the authorship question to realize that it’s simply not possible that William of Stratford wrote the Shakespeare canon need to remember, when arguing the question with his defenders, that old saw: a good offense is the best defence. Keep moving the argument back to the anomalies, back to the facts, back to the fact of the anomalies.
For instance, does it make sense that the most innovative writer of all time chose to rewrite the works of lesser writers rather than come up with his own unique plots? Who else did that? Not Milton. Not Byron. Not Keats, Shelley, Blake, none of them! Not even other playwrights from Shakespeare’s own time. Yet orthodox scholars have him copying Marlowe’s style, borrowing entire plots, characters and all, from Thomas Lodge and Robert Greene, stealing tropes from Samuel Daniel, one indigestible anomaly after another that, as per the White Queen’s advice to Alice, we’re to swallow without demur. “Open wide! Say ahhh!”
With Oxford, on the other hand, the only thing we have to swallow is the not nearly so absurd idea that he chose to hide his identity. Taken with a few spoonfuls of literary history such as the exile of Ovid, the martydom of Cicero, the burning of Tyndale, the fatwa that kept Salmon Rushdie in hiding for years, one might conclude that hiding his identity during the repressive regime of the early English Reformation might have been a rather clever maneuver, one that kept him going well into his fifties while Marlowe never made it past his twenties.
Whenever they raise the issue of his dying before The Tempest was produced, Roger Stritmatter and Lynne Kositsky now have their evidence of its early composition online, available to all to read, recommend, and pass along in emails to interested friends, including the rather amusing tale of how the Shakespeare establishment has been fighting to keep The Tempest in its little tiny teapot. S&K have got a book on this at the publisher’s. Hammer away at it, friends! Don’t let it drop!
When they raise the issue of Oxford’s lack of obvious involvement in the Stage, relegating it to the brief appearances of companies like Lord Rich’s players or Lord Berkeley’s Men, point out the fact that, however minor his connections appear in the record, and however brief, they cover a longer period than any other patron or playwright except Ben Jonson. Note how every momentous development in the history of the Stage seems to happen under the Earl of Oxford’s nose. This, along with the published statements of his abilities in The Arte of English Poesie and Meres’s Wits Treasury, should be more than enough. That is, it’s more than enough when taken together with the theory that he hid his identity! Don’t let them divide and conquer by arguing the one issue without the other! The reason why his name appears so infrequently is the same reason as his use of another man’s name! They are part and parcel of the same argument.
Don’t let them use dating schemes like that put forth by E.K. Chambers, on which so many Stratfordian conjectures rely, all based on late dates like publication and the time constraints of the Stratford biography, or the one brought forth by Elliott and Valenza’s Claremont Clinic, in which we learn––quelle surprise!––that Shakespeare wrote Shakespeare (astonishing!). The fact is, these word studies can’t possibly work in Shakespeare’s case. Why? First: because he rewrote so many of the plays, some more than once, over many years, so what date should we use? And second: because his writing style changed so radically over the years, as did styles in general. Every time they raise the issue of dates, hammer it home why there’s simply no way to date these plays. That is, there’s no way unless we use Oxford’s biography. For an example of how the biography, plus the history of the Court community, can help with dating, see Hamlet and The Spanish Tragedy and Dating the Shrew.
“I will find where truth is hid, though it were hid within the centre”!
“A golden mind stoops not to shows of dross”!
“Once more into the breach . . . “!
4 thoughts on “Once more into the breach, dear friends”
I read the linked essay about SHREW. You mention the pioneering Oxfordian H. H. Holland, and write ” Holland regards the Shrew as not by Oxford, dating it to 1598″. First of all, you don’t list Holland in the works cited, which leaves readers adrift. Second, Holland wrote two books in which he attempted to date the play, and on neither occasion did he date it to 1598. In his first book published in 1923 he dated it at 1578. Later, in 1933, he excluded it from the Shakespeare plays, and dated it at 1594.
Sorry. My bad. Some bits may have been added to the section on Oxfordian evidence by editors. I’ve taken out the reference. Thanks for letting me know.
To me, one of the most damning pieces of historical evidence against the Stratford lad is that his daughters were illiterate. Do you know what evidence we have that they were illiterate? If it is true, I don’t see how the author of these plays, the man who introduced thousands of new vocabulary words into the English language, would have allowed his daughters to be raised illiterate. It just doesn’t make sense and I don’t see how Stratfordians could spin it otherwise. Stephanie, do you know for a fact that the Stratford man’s daughters were illiterate? I, personally, don’t need any more evidence than that, even though it is available.
I found one reference to Susanna Shakspere being able to sign her name while Judith apparently could not, this in Schoenbaum’s A Documentary Life (234). Their mother signed with an X. That everyone in the Shakspere family was illiterate is universally accepted by Shakespeare scholars. Everyone except William of course, who, though the only evidence of his literacy is the six scribbled signatures, managed to write the greatest works of literature in the English language without anyone in Stratford knowing anything about it. In creating an authorship library, several books are basic. One is Schoenbaum’s A Documentary Life, the big one with all the facsimiles of important documents. Like all Stratfordians he fudges the anomalies, but he does present (most of) the facts, and does not present fables as facts. Being able to study the facsimiles is most helpful.
In Ramon Jiménez’s article “Shakespeare in Stratford and London: Ten Eye-witnesses Who Saw Nothing” (do a find for “James Cooke”) he retells an interesting anecdote in which it is clear that neither Susanna Hall nor her husband had any notion of her father’s writing career, nor did they know of any books he might have owned. Furthermore, it seems Susanna did not recognize her own husband’s writing in two notebooks in which he kept records. The Jiménez article is extremely important. And well-written.