ORGON: I know the facts, and I shall not be shaken.
ELMIRE: I marvel at your power to be mistaken.
…………….Le Petit Tartuffe by Moliere (trans. Richard Wilbur) 4.2
I certainly have argued with Stratfordians in the past, quite often in fact, and at length: in debates at conferences, online on HLAS (before the mud-slinging made any effort at communication impossible) and Hardy Cook’s SHAKSPER (before he banished the subject, and even, valiantly, for a year or so afterwards), and in print. I’ve gone rounds in person with Ward Elliott and Alan Nelson, and online with Mike Jensen, Gabriel Egan and Tom Veal, sometimes just to see how long they would keep it going (in Jenson’s case, forever, it would seem, for he never tires of repeating himself).
For a long time I argued to hear what they had to say, like the optimist in the old joke, thinking there must be a pony in it somewhere. Nope, no pony (only pony poop). Then I got curious about the mind set that prevented otherwise intelligent beings from seeing the problem with their scenario. Rather than argue to arrive at some sort of understanding, which was obviously not working, I kept it going to see where it came to a halt, whether with a burst of ill humor, a (virtual) slammed door, or a silence, usually followed by a retreat to a familiar position of safety. Over time I came to see that the problem was blind spots, some of an amazing size. Things that seemed obvious to me were simply invisible to them. At some point I realized it was due to their almost total reliance on left-brain thinking.
I have observed the right brain-left brain syndrome at work in American society since early childhood, only recently getting a handle on it by learning more about the differences between these two sections of the brain, separate but entwined, ying and yang. This learning began a few years ago when my mother had a left-brain stroke and with what I saw that that meant in terms of what she could still do and what she could no longer do.
I see that American society, at least at the levels of control, derives largely from the same rather rigid formula that gave us the Protestant Reformation, Education in America, and Britain, inherited from a formula developed by Erasmus in the early 16th century, whatever it may have been originally, has become dominated by left-brain thinking. This may be somewhat more appropriate in areas like math and science (though without right-brain oversight, they too can wind up on some awfully unproductive tangents), but it’s seriously misplaced in history, literature, and the arts, where it turns them into piles of dry facts, draining them of their fire and life, their human interest, their stories. I am reminded of an old Southwest American Indian saying passed around during the 1960s regarding their use of peyote, “White Man goes into his church and talks about Jesus; Indian goes into his teepee and talks to Jesus.” With Shakespeare, English audiences didn’t just talk about Henry V and Richard III, they watched them and heard them speak. And on a number of occasions, no doubt, shouted out arguments and warnings.
As I began to see how dominated was the Shakespeare establishment by left-brain thinking, I saw the other side of what happened to my mother. Sure, these people have functioning right brains, otherwise they couldn’t make it to work in the morning, but they don’t use them once they get there. They were discouraged from using them as children in grade school, and by the time they reach PhD level, the ability to communicate, even to think, with anything but the left brain is gone. It wasn’t through a single stroke, but a series of small ones, dealt every day, by teachers who fed them the answers they wanted to hear on tests, never asking them what they themselves thought or felt. After awhile the ability to think for oneself simply dries up, and so anyone who incorporates right-brain cognition into his or her worldview is considered a radical, a heretic, a lunatic, or, less pejoratively though still dismissively, someone who “thinks outside the box.”
Following the stroke that damaged her left brain, my mother, an actress and a great talker by nature, could no longer express her thoughts in words, but she could understand everything that was said to her, and her laugh was still spontaneous and appropriate. These left-brainers can talk a blue streak, but they don’t get half of what we’re saying, certainly the most important half, and in an arena where comedy is king, they don’t get the jokes! Tell them that William Shakespeare of Stratford was chosen to stand in for the real author because his name held a pun (“will shake spear”) and they stare in disbelief as though you had just said something so embarrassingly off the wall that they’re at a loss for a response. I recall the response of one Stratfordian prof years ago during one of Charles Beauclerk’s television debates; all he could do was splutter, over and over, “Preposterous! Preposterous!”
Tell them that these writers delighted in puns, that puns were not only vehicles for humor, for laughs, for ludi (Latin for fun), they stare, thinking “so what?” Tell them that puns were also shorthand for subliminal messages, as with Doll Tear-sheet, whose name signals the audience what manner of creature she is, there being no room for a rumpled bed on the Shakespearean stage, and they stare. Tell them the name Will Shake-spear signals the pun-loving and still totally right-brained 16-century English audience that he’s a writer who will shake a spear, a being no more substantial than Doll herself––a boy in tart’s clothing––and they stare. Like those who don’t understand puns, and who simply smile and wait for the pointless laughter to die down, they don’t get it.
Most Oxfordians get it. Shakespeare’s audience got it. But the descendants of Holofernes who’ve inherited the keys to Shakespeare’s kingdom don’t get it, even when it’s spelled out for them, left-brain style, one word at a time. The sad truth is, most of them simply can’t get it, which is why I don’t bother to argue with them anymore.