Shakespeare and Skeptoid

In a recent episode of Skeptoid, Brian Dunning answered questions from students around the world. One student, Stephen from California, asked Dunning’s opinion about the Shakespeare authorship question. Briefly, Dunning concludes that “all available evidence supports Shakespeare as a real living author, and the only support for the opposing viewpoint is supposition.” He also notes that the authorship question “may be worthy of its own complete Skeptoid episode.”

I agree with Dunning’s conclusions, and think Shakespeare does warrant an episode to himself. If Dunning does choose to devote an episode to the authorship question, however, I hope he does better research and uses better sources than he did in this episode. The two sources he cites in this episode are from those two great literary heavyweights, Scientific American and physorg.com*. Why must skeptics appeal to science even when discussing the humanities? The Scientific American article was written by Michael Shermer, who has a Bachelor’s degree in Psychology/Biology, a Master’s in Experimental Psychology and a Ph.D. in the History of Science. He also seems to want to make history into a science: “But reasonable doubt should not cost an author his claim, at least not if we treat history as a science instead of as a legal debate.” He was responding to former Supreme Court Justice John Paul Stevens’ use of legalese in making his argument for the Earl of Oxford. But history is neither of these: it is its own field with its own methods and standards for scholarship. It may be messier than science and more open to interpretation, but that is largely unavoidable. It can’t be fixed by trying to make it into a science.

In introducing the physorg.com article, Dunning says:

Perhaps the most compelling reason to accept Shakespeare as the real author is his unique and recognizable writing style, which does not match that of the authors to which his works have been attributed by doubters. And this is not merely an unreliable, subjective opinion: It’s backed by hard science.

Again there is a suggestion that the humanities are only trustworthy when science is involved. Of course science can be a useful tool in literary studies. In this case, literary scholars used computational stylistics to detect Shakespeare’s hand in various works. That is to say, they used a computer program to compare Shakespeare’s diction, syntax, etc. to other writers from the period. For instance, a scholar would look at a work whose authorship is disputed and use the computer program to compare it to works by many different authors. The frequency with which certain typical features of a certain author appear in the disputed work suggests a likely attribution.

Obviously, a computer can sift through a huge amount of data at great speed. Still, it builds on work done for years by literary scholars who have painstakingly studied the language and usage of Shakespeare and his contemporaries. In addition, it is wildly optimistic to assume that such computer analyses will actually settle many questions. Someone else is bound to say, “Oh yeah, well my computer program said Shakespeare wrote this unattributed play.” Indeed, some of the conclusions drawn by the group headed by Arthur F. Kinney, director of the Massachusetts Center for Renaissance Studies at UMass Amherst, have already been questioned.  Kinney, for example, claims in the article cited by Dunning: “I have now proven that Shakespeare is part-author of Arden of Faversham. They guessed that in the 19th century but no one would believe it in the 20th century. Now we know.” He makes this argument at greater length in Shakespeare, Computers and the Mystery of Authorship. Sir Brian Vickers, however, has argued, based on his own computer analysis of the play, that Thomas Kyd is the sole author.**

Based on the thumbnail descriptions of studies in the physorg.com article, some of the conclusions just seem…odd. For instance, in regard to the play Sir Thomas More, we learn that

Timothy Watt at last proved that Hand D in the manuscript of a play called The Book of Sir Thomas More is Shakespeare’s own handwriting and so extends examples of his writing past the seven signatures which alone have been attributed to him.

In the first place, there are only six signatures that are more or less universally regarded as genuinely Shakespearean (I assume the seventh refers to a copy of William Lambarde’s Archaionomia. If that signature were considered genuine, it would prove that Shakespeare did indeed own at least one book. Although a number of eminent scholars have accepted the signature as likely genuine, the attribution is still in question). Moreover, how could a computer program that evaluates authors’ styles conclude that the passage was in Shakespeare’s handwriting? It seems, based on the article in Computers, Shakespeare and the Mystery of Authorship, that Watt concluded that Shakespeare was the author of the Hand D passage. At the end of the article, Watt argues that “[s]ince the nature of the manuscript indicates an author at work–correcting and amending along the way–rather than a scribe making a fair copy,” if Shakespeare is the author of the passage, it logically must be in his hand. In other words, the handwriting isn’t being used as evidence of Shakespeare’s authorship; Shakespeare’s authorship is used as evidence of his handwriting. At any rate, the study has not quelled questions about Sir Thomas More.

Another assertion in the physorg.com article concerns one of Shakespeare’s putative sources:

Kevin Petersen noted that although people think Shakespeare was influenced by Montaigne’s skepticism in his work from Richard II through Hamlet to The Tempest, and was the source of his skepticism in parts of many of his plays, in fact there is no indication of any Montaigne – in French or in the popular English translation.

This article did not make it into the book, so it is hard to judge. It is possible that the brief description misrepresents the argument, but, as stated, it just doesn’t make sense. In the first place, while many of Montaigne’s essays have been suggested as sources for Shakespeare, very few of them are widely accepted. Many of the most compelling arguments for Montaigne’s influence on Shakespeare concern The Tempest. In 1781, Edward Cappel suggested that Gonzalo’s “commonwealth” speech in Act 2, scene 1 of The Tempest very closely resembles a passage in John Florio’s 1603 translation of Montaigne’s “Of the Cannibals:”

I’ th’ commonwealth I would, by contraries,
Execute all things, for no kind of traffic
Would I admit; no name of magistrate;
Letters should not be known; riches, poverty,
And use of service, none; contract, succession,
Bourn, bound of land, tilth, vineyard, none;
No use of metal, corn or wine, or oil;
No occupation, all men idle, all;
And women too, but innocent and pure;
No sovereignty–
Seb.                                       Yet he would be king on’t.
Ant.  The latter end of his commonwealth forgets the beginning.
Gon.  All things in common nature should produce
Without sweat or endeavour. Treason, felony,
Sword, pike, knife, gun, or need of any engine
Would I not have; but nature should bring forth
Of it own kind all foison, all abundance,
To feed my innocent people.
Seb.  No marrying ‘mong his subjects?
Ant.  None, man, all idle–whores and knaves.
Gon.  I would with such perfection govern, sir,
T’ excel the golden age.  (2.1.145-66)

Here is Montaigne’s description of life among the Brazilian cannibals:

It is a nation…that hath no kind of traffic, no knowledge of letters, no intelligence of numbers, no name of magistrate nor of politic superiority, no use of service, of riches or of poverty, no contracts, no successions, no dividences, no occupation but idle, no respect of kindred but common, no apparel but natural, no manuring of lands, no use of wine, corn or metal. The very words that import lying, falsehood, treason, dissimulation, covetousness, envy, detraction, and pardon were never heard of amongst them. (“Of the Cannibals,” Bk 1, ch. 30 of The Essays by Michel de Montaigne, tr. by John Florio. Included in Orgel’s ed. of The Tempest, pp. 230-31)

No one claims that Shakespeare got his ideas for Gonzalo’s commonwealth from Montaigne–they were not original to Montaigne. It is the way those ideas are expressed: primarily in negatives. Neither Montaigne nor Shakespeare describes his Utopia in terms of what it is or what it has, but rather of what it is not and what it doesn’t have. In addition, many of the details are the same. And you do not need a computer program to point out the verbal parallels. Indeed, if a computer were to tell me that the verbal parallels did not exist, I’m afraid I would have to disbelieve it.

Computational stylistics is a useful tool, but it is naive to think that science can definitively answer questions that literary studies have failed to answer.  It can lend credence to arguments that Shakespeare had a hand in a particular work (or that a collaborator had a hand in a work generally attributed to Shakespeare alone), and it can question other attributions. It is less useful in the argument that Shakespeare wrote the works attributed to him. A particular disputed work, such as Arden of Faversham or Sir Thomas More, can be compared to Shakespeare’s acknowledged works, but when the entire corpus is disputed, to what can we compare it? One of the anti-Shakespeareans’ main arguments is that we have no works that can be definitively attributed to Shakespeare (this is not true, of course, but that’s the argument). Admittedly, we can compare “Shakespeare’s” works to those by Oxford, Bacon and Marlowe, but, with the exception of Marlowe, none of the main candidates wrote in the genres for which Shakespeare is known, which makes comparison more difficult. Not impossible, of course. Many idiosyncrasies are likely to be the same, regardless if the poet is writing drama or lyric poetry, but it’s certainly not going to be good enough to satisfy Oxfordians (not that anything is).

ES

*This article is taken word for word from a press release from the University of Massachusetts at Amherst.

**I have not yet read this article (I have ordered it from Inter-Library Loan), so I am basing my interpretation of it on second-hand accounts.

Further Reading:

Craig, Hugh and Arthur F. Kinney, eds. Shakespeare, Computers and the Mystery of Authorship. Cambridge UP, 2009.

Hodgen, Margaret. “Montaigne and Shakespeare Again,” Huntington Library Quarterly 16 (1952-53): 23-42.

Montaigne, Michel de. “Of the Cannibals.” The Essays. Tr. John Florio. 1603. Included in Orgel’s ed. of The Tempest, pp. 227-238).

Paster, Gail Kern. “Montaigne, Dido, and The Tempest: ‘How Came that Widow in?’” Shakespeare Quarterly 35 (1984): 91-94.

Prosser, Elaine. “Shakespeare, Montaigne, and the Rarer Action,” Shakespeare Studies 1 (1965): 261-64.

Shakespeare, William. The Tempest. Ed. Stephen Orgel. Oxford World’s Classics. Oxford UP, 1987.

Vickers, Brian. “Thomas Kyd, Secret Sharer.” Times Literary Supplement 18 Apr. 2008: 13-15.

43 Responses to Shakespeare and Skeptoid

  1. hschumann says:

    A one-on-one comparison between Oxford’s poetry is very difficult since there are so very few poems, approximately twenty, directly attributed to Oxford. Of these poems, most are from his early years before his writing style had matured.

    Even with that, there are some similarities. Oxford in his poem “Woman’s Changeableness” uses the phrase. “Unsettled still like haggards wild they range.” Haggard was a specific term from the aristocratic sport of falconry, a sport forbidden to commoners, yet this metaphor is used five times in Shakespeare in a variety of contexts (Much Ado About Nothing, III, 1, 35), Taming of the Shrew (IV, 1, 196), Taming of the Shrew (IV, 2, 39), Twelfth Night (III, 1, 71), Othello (III,3,260).

    Unfortunately there are no letters that have survived dealing with literary matters. However. there are parallels between the ideas expressed in the letters and the ideas in the plays.

    or example, “Measure for Measure” says “Truth is truth, to the end of the reckoning” and , “Nay, it is ten times true; for truth is truth.” In his letter Robert Cecil, May 7, 1603, Oxford states, “For truth is truth, though never so old, and time cannot make that false which was once true.”

    Therefore, I conclude that the statement by Dunning that none of the candidates for Shakespeare have a similar writing style is not well taken.

    • Bob says:

      “Oxford in his poem “Woman’s Changeableness” uses the phrase. “Unsettled still like haggards wild they range.” Haggard was a specific term from the aristocratic sport of falconry, a sport forbidden to commoners, yet this metaphor is used five times in Shakespeare in a variety of contexts (Much Ado About Nothing, III, 1, 35), Taming of the Shrew (IV, 1, 196), Taming of the Shrew (IV, 2, 39), Twelfth Night (III, 1, 71), Othello (III,3,260).”

      John Lyly used haggard as a metaphor in his Euphues. He’s not a member of the nobility. Is he Oxford too? I’ve never been on a yacht, but I still know my bow from my stern, if you catch my drift. That’s just a bad argument based on the completely unwarranted assumption that just because you use a word more than once, that you must have first hand knowledge of…whatever it refers to.

      “Measure for Measure” says “Truth is truth, to the end of the reckoning” and , “Nay, it is ten times true; for truth is truth.” In his letter Robert Cecil, May 7, 1603, Oxford states, “For truth is truth, though never so old, and time cannot make that false which was once true.”

      The commonplace book is a regular feature of Renaissance public speech and writing. A commonplace is a formal saying that is readily accessible to writers and speakers. There were dozens and dozens of commonplace books at the time. They were the freaking self-help books of the age, fer crying out loud. Truth is truth strikes me as a fairly unremarkable commonplace, and, when you look it up in google books and limit the dates of works to between 1400 and 1750, you get 75 hits.
      Hell, here it is in a 1730s commonplace book, Thomas Fuller’s Gnomologia.
      Here are two instances during Shakespeare’s lifetime:

      http://www.google.com/search?tbo=p&tbm=bks&q=%22Truth+is+truth%22&tbs=,cdr:1,cd_min:Dec%2024_2%201399,cd_max:May%2031_2%201616&num=10

      This is not a useful argument. Sorry.

      RJB

    • Eve says:

      As Bob said, these examples really don’t prove anything. A couple words or phrases used in both Shakespeare’s and Oxford’s works does not show a connection. The requirements for attribution are far more rigorous than that. But, again, you don’t need a computer to tell you that Oxford’s style really doesn’t match Shakespeare’s very closely. An example is Oxford’s “Loss of Good Name.” The Frontline special uses this as an example of a work that Looney found “remarkably similar to the works of Shakespeare,” but it really isn’t. It uses the fourteener (a fourteen syllable line, usually in iambic heptameter). As far as I know, Shakespeare never used this verse form. In addition the poem uses alliteration to a degree that is unknown in Shakespeare. Line 3 has 6 alliterating words–all but one strong stress alliterates. William Langland would think that was a bit much. In addition, all the lines feature end stop, while Shakespeare was a big fan of enjambment.

      • hschumann says:

        There are some poems assigned to Oxford where the attribution is not very strong. A precise one-to-one comparison of Oxford’s poetry to that of Shakespeare is very difficult. There so few of Oxford’s poems and most of them are from his early years.

        The poems published under the name of Shakespeare came from the time when he was more than forty years old. One can hardly compare the work of the Beatles when they were writing as the four mop-tops to their later works.

  2. hschumann says:

    I can’t say anything about John Lyly’s use of the term. However, it must be noted that many writers connected with the English Court in the 16th and early 17th centuries used a variety of ruses, including anonymity, pseudonyms and fronts, to hide their identities when publishing their own works, so I would not be surprised if Oxford borrowed the use of John Lyly’s name. Even if he did not, John Lyly’s was Oxford’s confidant for many years.

    Lyly dedicated his novel “Euphues and his England” to de Vere and acted as his personal secretary. De Vere also sponsored companies of both adult and boy actors, employing Lyly as their manager.

    The point I was making is that Shakespeare used the term as a metaphor for a woman who was untamable. The word “haggard” was not in common use. It was not a description of anything in the ordinary course of life for a commoner in Elizabethan England.

    Shakespeare’s vision is a deeply conservative, feudalistic and aristocratic one and the use of the word “haggard” in Shakespeare’s plays is compatible with the overall aristocratic bent of his works.

    Of the 37 plays, 36 are laid in royal courts and the world of the nobility. The principal characters are almost all aristocrats with the exception perhaps of Shylock and Falstaff. From what I can tell, Shakespeare fully shared the outlook of his characters, identifying fully with the courtesies, chivalries, and generosity of aristocratic life.

    • Eve says:

      Was Oxford also Thomas Nashe? “Though Christ‥hold out neuer so moouing lures vnto vs, all of them (Haggard-like) wee wil turne tayle to” (Christs Teares, f. 89, 1593).

      37 plays? Most scholarly editions include at least 39.

  3. hschumann says:

    Who used who’s name to protect themselves from the authoritarian government is speculation and we will never know for sure, except that the practice was widespread. In any event, the literary circle was small and they most likely all knew each other.

    Whether its 37 or 39, the point is still clear, n’est-ce pas?

  4. Eve says:

    So the answer is no, you don’t have any evidence. In a debate about the authorship of the works attributed to Shakespeare, you claim several people used pseudonyms and fronts to produce their work. I as for examples and evidence and you offer Shakespeare and Oxford. That is as fine an example of begging the question as any I have ever seen.

    Hughes offers no evidence. All she does is extend the snobby assumption that Shakespeare was insufficiently educated to write his works to a bunch of other writers. Oh, and for some reason, she tries to use the language of science.

    • hschumann says:

      I wasn’t there and you weren’t there. If there was all this proof and all this evidence, there would be no Shakespeare Authorship debate. Every argument is built on circumstantial evidence, including that of William. To cull out all the available circumstantial evidence would require writing a book. Since there have been many excellent books on the subject,I am not inclined to do so, at least at the moment. Have a good day.

      • Bob says:

        Worst.

        Argument.

        Ever.

        I wasn’t in the American Revolution, but I’m pretty sure that Thomas Jefferson was George Washington. It was common practice at the time for one politician to go to war under the name of another and then govern in that guise. What, you weren’t there!

        THERE IS NO DEBATE, HOWARD. PEOPLE WRITE STUPID SHIT ALL THE TIME. NO MATTER HOW MANY TIMES THEY REPEAT THE STUPID SHIT, IT DOESN’T GET ANY MORE CLEVER. IT’S STILL WRONG.

      • Ken says:

        For years I have thought much the same about creationism, and homeopathy, and Velikovskianism, and Fomenko’s chronology, and the vaccine-autism link. And yet, despite the immense amount of evidence that each of these is wrong, wrong, wrong – somehow the “controversy” continues. For that matter there are people out there who find Cantor’s diagonal or Godel’s incompleteness “controversial”, and those are mathematical proofs.

        So I’m afraid that I don’t find your argument persuasive. Actually, I find it so unpersuasive that it deserves to be enshrined as a new fallacy. Let’s see; it’s similar in some ways to ad populum, but with the distinction that it is based on the ignorance of the population; so would that be argumentum ad ignoranti populum?

  5. Pacal says:

    So the evidence for William Shakespeare writing the plays is circumstantial? Well what about the prefaces to the various folios naming Shakespeare as the writer of the play? How about the various Quatro editions of the play that named Shakespeare? I could go on. These is good non-circumstantial evidence that Shakespeare wrote the plays.

    And one can ideed compare written works done when one was young with works done when one was older for similarities. Translated ITS DONE ALL THE TIME! As for the music of the Beatles its done with that also.

    Do I have to also mention that Shakespeare was a member of Theatre acting companies that were heavily patronized by the Aristocracy. Including one called The Lord Chamberlain’s Men.

    Please explain why this charade of hiding the author would go on long after Oxford’s death and why after Shakespeare’s death it was puiblished as Shakespeares work?

    AS for hiding his name because of fear. Why? The plays were produced and do not seem to have gotton anyone into trouble. Yeah they were so subversive that a bunch of players heavily dependent on Aristocratic favour had no problem putting them on. So just what was Oxford afraid of?

    Please explain how Oxford wrote plays after his death, esspecially Macbeth which has topical references.

    And since your so big on the “Aristocratic” point of view of the plays please explain the detailed and yes intimate knowledge of the theatre in the plays which indicates the plays were written by a actor / someone involved heavily in the theatre. (I’m being sarcastic).

    Well the fail is massive and so is the question begging. There is a massive amount of evidence ewgarding Shakespeare and huis authorship, its just that the doubters ignore it and substitute question begging and fantasy. See Contested Will

    As for the larger question. I agree the computer studies have proven nothing. However they are very suggestive and in my opinion are evidence, but not proof. I’m very leary of using such studies to prove or disprove authorship esspecially of small samples of work, or of work in a milieu where there may have been deliberate imitation of a certain style.

  6. Eve says:

    Pacal,
    Certainly the computer programs are a great tool in authorship studies (real authorship studies), but they don’t remove all subjectivity and probably won’t resolve highly contested questions. I imagine, though, you could compare the works of Shakespeare, Lyly and Nashe and show fairly definitively that they couldn’t all be Oxford.

  7. Bob says:

    I’m Oxford. FOOLED YOU!!! MUAHAHAHAHA!

  8. Alan Tarica says:

    Just so readers are aware I’ve offered the possibility that Shakespeare’s Sonnets can be demonstrated to be read in reverse order. Forming a first person and personal appeal and protest addressed to Queen Elizabeth I. Forming a continuous advocacy for a secret prince’s utilization as heir to the throne. Most likely by the 17th Earl of Oxford.

    It may be a purely accidental illusion or a grand mistake of mine. Or perhaps the Shaxsper/Shakespeare might have done this as an exercise or on behalf of an Earl like Oxford.

    But thought perhaps if nothing else this would this be interesting to anyone as a literary exercise. Perhaps it illustrates the complete indeterminacy of Shakespeare’s Sonnets. Perhaps it raises other issues I’m not aware of.

  9. Pacal says:

    Oh God help us! More Prince Tudor rot!!

  10. Michael Prescott says:

    Sorry to jump in late, but regarding authors who used a real person as a front for their own work, yes, there are many examples.

    In ancient times Terence was rumored to be a front man for two Roman aristocrats. Whether or not he was, the rumors show that such a ruse was not unheard of, even then. Shakespeare, btw, was described by a contemporary as “our English Terence.”

    It has been argued that Percy Shelley used his wife Mary as a front for the novel Frankenstein, though this remains controversial.

    During the blacklist years, many screenwriters used front men. This situation was dramatized in the Woody Allen movie The Front. The front men were often not writers at all, simply stooges paid to meet with the producers, drop off the script, and collect the check.

    In more recent years it’s become commonplace for ghostwriters to pen books attributed to celebrities. The sci-fi novels credited to William Shatner and the murder mysteries credited to Margaret Truman are among the many examples.

    So yes, the practice of a writer concealing his identity behind a front man has a long if not particularly noble history.

  11. Pacal says:

    All your examples are bad. first of all in the case of Terence it is almost certainly untrue, and rooted in snobbery – the idiot notion that a mere former slave could not write great drama. So the reference to the English Terrence as a coded way of referring to Shakespeare being a front for the Earl of Oxford fails.

    Regarding Shelley and his wife Mary being a front for “his” novel Frankenstein. Well despite this notion based on the idea that Mary could not possibly have thought up the story herself and therefore it must have been hubby’s idea. The evidence is as indisputable has these things can be that Mary thought of the idea when living in a Chateau beside lake Geneva. May I point out that Frankenstein was published after Shelley’s death and Mary was devoted to him. So why would she take credit for a work that was his after Shelley died and why would Shelley want it hidden? Oh and there is nothing, I repeat nothing, in Mary’s or Shelley’s correspondence that indicates that Shelley wrote Frankenstein. Further Mary continued to claim she wrote it until she died. Mary also wrote several novels after Frenkenstein including the extraordinary The Last Man on Earth.

    The stylistic similarities with Frankenstein are obvious. No expert on Mary Shelley disputes she wrote most of it. Only a few died hard Shelley fanatics think Shelley wrote the whole thing. In fact we have a manscript of Frankenstein in Mary Shelley’s hand, what we also have are in Shelley’s hand are additions and interventions which were added to the novel. However they make up only a small portion of the work, and seem to amount ot nothing more most of the time than Shelley being an editor of Mary’s work. In fact the original draft before Shelley edited it has been published and lets just say it seems to be better than Shelley’s edited version of Mary’s work. So it appears that Mary was not a front for Shelley. Aside from the question of why would Shelley hide? At best the example of Mary and Shelley indicates a “co-writer” hiding himself.

    As for your other examples. The blacklist writers were people trying to get work and we know exactly why and how and further it was an open secret at the time. The Earl of Oxford was not a writer in desperate need of work. In fact this comparison would work better if Shakespeare used the Earl of Oxford as a front because he was unemployable having gotton on the wrong side of the authorities. Since Shakespeare never it seems got into any real trouble with authorities such a thing never happenned. Why the Earl of Oxford would use a front remains uttertly inexplicable.

    Oh and please give an example from Shakespeare’s time of someone concealing themselves behind a real person. I suspect the numbers involved are very few. At the time if you wanted to remain hidden you could simply published anonymously or use a completely fake name. Using and using repeatidly for well over a decade a real person as a front would seem to be highly unusual to say the least. I do not know of any example from Shakespeare’s time or before.

    As for ghost writers of today. So? First the ghostwriter is almost always mentioned, as in celebrity with ghostwriter’s name. Secondly the ghostwriter is not using the celbrity as a front for his/her work, the celbrity is using the ghostwriter to write a work, they don’t have the time or inclination to write. Thirdly the celebrity is known and what pushes the book. would it make anysense for a celbrity to write a book and put a ghostwriters name on it and try to sell it!? No it would not. Your comparison makes no sense it amounts to a celbrity, in this case the Earl of Oxford putting / giving one of his works to a ghostwriter, Shakespeare, to sell under the name Shakespeare. Fourthly the purpose of using a ghostwriter is to use the celbrity name to sell something written by someone else, because the celbrity can’t or won’t write. This didn’t apply in the 16th century.

    We have no evidence that hidding behind a real person happenned very much if at all in the 16th century. We have no evidence that the Earl of Oxford was such a person. We have no knowledge of any reason why the Earl of Oxford would hide himself. We also have the fact that plays by Shakespeare with topical references cameout years after the Earl of Oxford died.

    The examples you give are quite unconvincing and fail.

  12. Alan Tarica says:

    Pascal perhaps you might get your argument straight. If as you say the question of why the Earl of Oxford would use a front remains utterly inexplicable and the Prince Tudor theory is “rot” and even in reference to a variation you have never seen. Then there is a fundamental disconnect.

    Even the most obtuse should be able to see that if Shakespeare were the Earl of Oxford and the very product of Shakespeare’s pen was in reference to a secret Tudor Prince that would not only explain the need for a front, it would demand it.

  13. Pacal says:

    First its Pacal not Pascal.

    Second the only disconnect is with your fantasy. There is no reason to believe even has a remote possibility in the Prince Tudor hallucination, and therefore it still stands that there is no known reason for the Earl of Oxford to hide behind a real person.

  14. Alan Tarica says:

    Sorry Pacal but the S was free. In fact maybe another would have been in order because we are talking about Shake-Speare and that is the non de plume Edward de Vere adopted. And the only fantasy here is the notion that you and those devoted to the Stratford myth have any semblance of actual evidence to support your position. You might be in the enviable position of not having to prove that there was tremendous political secret surrounding the works of Shake-Speare but you can’t demonstrate otherwise. And in fact I can come much closer to doing so and if you were not completely oblivious you would understand largely how I already have.

    • Eve says:

      I have written so much about the “authorship controversy” that I fear that I have become somewhat burned out. I have also found that discussion is largely pointless; however, I will point out one more time that there is a huge amount of evidence linking Shakespeare to his works: they were published in his name, and there are many documents from his lifetime and within a couple decades after his death referring to him as an author. There is NO evidence linking Oxford to Shakespeare’s works. In some cases, the evidence linking Oxford to works attributed to Oxford is quite shaky.

      And an autobiographical story you think you can identify in the sonnets (if you read them backwards) is not evidence. It’s not clear that there is any autobiographical information in the sonnets at all. They could have been entirely made up, the author using and subverting common conventions. Or maybe they do include autobiographical elements. Who knows? If they do, how can we tell what is true and what is art? Sonnets are not narrative poems. They do not have a plot. They do not tell a coherent story with a beginning, a middle and and end. Stringing a bunch of lyric poems together into a sonnet sequence does not magically transform them into one big narrative poem.

      • Alan Tarica says:

        This response is almost too ridiculous to believe. It belies a complete disrespect for the poet, for the text, for textual analysis, for probability and for anything remotely resembling common sense.

        It’s just obviously a complete coincidence obviously that the initials in the dedication are backwards and that the dedication talks about an “eternity promised”. And the fact that the dedication suggests there is a cohesive purpose to the work and it is precisely what I’ve suggested can’t be important. That would not be evidence.

        It must just a some pure non sequitur and just another example where the work of the of the greatest writers meaning is “unknowable”. But you’ll never understand that because your whole argument is a non sequitur.

        And the reality is you have no respect either for literature or the poet to express his most cherished and important thoughts and how they relate to his oeuvre.

        It’s also really just a complete coincidence that intuition has told so many great minds that the nonsense you so easily subscribe to just could not be.

        Why did your Stratford ever write a parody like that of Christopher Sly? That is a rhetorical question please don’t answer you might injure yourself. Let me answer for you. The man you know as Shakespeare was the fool impersonating the noble that actually was “Shakes-Speare”.

  15. Alan Tarica says:

    Sorry for the typo again make that nom de plume.

  16. Bob says:

    Other than the evidence that is clearly available in any edition of the Riverside or Norton Shakespeare, none whatsoever.

    Crank status confirmed.

  17. Ken says:

    Besides, everyone knows the works attributed to Shakespeare are fairly recent. Go on, interview as many people as you want – visit retirement homes, Florida, Tibetan monasteries, all the places where really old people hang out – and you won’t find anyone who remembers seeing a Shakespeare play before 1860.

    The plays were actually written in the 1850s by Abraham Lincoln for his good friend, Edwin Booth. Lincoln used the pen name Shakespeare to avoid damaging his growing political career. It was jealousy over Abe and Ed’s friendship that led Edwin’s brother, John Wilkes, to assassinate Lincoln, but that’s another story.

    • Eve says:

      That’s just what THEY want you to think. The real authors were the aliens who built Stonehenge and the Pyramids.

      • Eve says:

        And by “THEY,” obviously I mean the global cabal of elites behind Big Shakespeare.

      • Ken says:

        Impossible. Shakespeare is clearly a more recent author. If Shakespeare was supposedly around since the 1600s, why are there no photographs of people in his plays from before the 1850s? However, there are plenty of photos of “Fast Eddie” Booth and contemporaries in Shakespearean costume.

      • Eve says:

        Oh, Ken, Ken, Ken, how naive you are. The answer is right there in the sonnets for all to see. Take Sonnet 55 (please!). The little gray author is saying, “Hey we came here and built a lot of stuff out of stone, but that wasn’t getting us any human tail, so now we’re going to try poetry.” It’s perfectly clear.

        Now look at the Droeshout engraving which accompanies the First Folio. Notice how huge and out of proportion the head is. It is obvious that that is actually a gray disguised as an Elizabethan/Jacobean gentleman.

        Finally there is The Tempest, an allegory exposing the fact of successive alien invasions of earth. Do you think it’s a coincidence that the Sycorax were a vaguely reptilian alien species on Doctor Who? Pshaw. They have aliens on their writing staff. The Sycorax came and created human beings (Caliban). Then more enlightened aliens arrived and enslaved the humans, as enlightened invaders do. These enlightened aliens taught the natives “…how / To name the bigger light, and how the less / That burn by day and night….” Obviously, ancient humans (especially the brown or black ones) were too stupid to work out even the most basic astronomical alignments or build big stone things without alien intervention. Again, I say “pshaw” to your naivete.

  18. Alan Tarica says:

    There is little use in discussion here that is plainly obvious. But in case anyone that is not one of these ideological individuals, perhaps they would be interested in the notion that the author of a piece of juvenalia known as “July and Julian” and currently residing in the Folger almost certainly is the same person who annotated the Halle Shakespeare in the British Library known as “Shakespeare’s Halle”. And that the title page of that same work contains a version of the Shakespeare insignia (griffe de notaire) found on the Northumberland manuscript and the Holinshed identified by Cara de Chambrun in a copy of the Holinshed also likely annotated by Oxford. It might not be immediately obvious why this is significant but it is.

    see

    https://docs.google.com/?hl=en&tab=wo&authuser=0#query/vr?view=2&mimeTypeSets=folder&mine=1&explicitlyShared=0

    This is just one of several ways to link Oxford to physical evidence that links to Shakespeare. Another is that Oxford’s italic hand can be rather clearly shown to be the hand of John Shakespeare’s coat of arms applications.

    But if you see the link attached to my name you would realize that unifying the Sonnets into their real explanation should amply demonstrate that Oxford was Shakepeare. But of course I’m just a crank. And this is all just the kind of thing you would hear from devotee of the Bermuda Triangle (or is the Bermoothe Triangle?)

  19. Bob says:

    I’m sorry, Alan. I don’t mean to disparage your interest, but I don’t really see I’ll have a chance of convincing you that you aren’t using the right type of evidence. Do you have an explanation of all those intersecting lines of evidence that see in the indexes of the Shakespeare collections that paint a fairly full image of a person of the era who was actually really THAT Shakespeare. Your hypothesis has to explain that too.

  20. Pacal says:

    Alan says “rather clearly shown” about all sorts of dubiousness that is dubious and not “clearly shown”. its all been dealt with before and its all flimsy.

    Alan you’ve haven’t said anything that hasn’t been rehashed over and over again.

  21. Alan Tarica says:

    Pacal first of all you have never seen anyone ever claim these things because I’m the only one who ever has. So you just revealed yourself to be a complete fraud. And you clearly thus have no idea what you are talking about.

    And as for you Bob, how you are so sure you need to convince me that I’m the one that needs to change my mind? I’ve already pointed out to you the odds of weaving the very narrative through the complete collection of the Sonnets that is in agreement with the dedication all the while in agreement with two prominent theories of authorship. The odds are utterly and completely astronomical. It defies imagination what a dullard you would have to be to not understand that.

  22. Pacal says:

    Alan you say:

    “Pacal first of all you have never seen anyone ever claim these things because I’m the only one who ever has. So you just revealed yourself to be a complete fraud. And you clearly thus have no idea what you are talking about.”

    You have no idea how incrediably funny you are.

  23. [...] time he discussed Shakespeare, I applauded his conclusions but questioned some of his premises (see here). Again, I find myself in agreement with his conclusion (Shakespeare wrote Shakespeare), but feel [...]

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  25. Pacal says:

    Alan you’ve outdone yourself with your last comment!! (Snort!)

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