How Should We Deal With Anonymous?

We all know that it’s coming – Anonymous, the “Shakespeare didn’t write his plays” movie. I’m getting inundated by articles and events both pro and con, on a daily basis.

I’m torn about what to do.  On the one hand, as one of the bigger places where we talk about events in the Shakespeare-related community I feel somewhat obliged to do something more than ignore it.

However, I also think that we’re making it a bigger deal than it needs to be.  I saw somebody the other day saying that this movie is poised to significantly alter people’s perceptions of Shakespeare’s authorship for generations to come.  Are you kidding me? It’s just a movie, by a guy known primarily for disaster flicks.  I am expecting people to care as much about the authorship question after this movie as they do before it – some people will have an opinion, which will not change, and some people will continue to not care.  I feel pretty safe in thinking that if somebody was actually convinced to believe the Oxford theory based solely on this movie? That any Stratfordian would not find that a difficult debate to win.  Shakespeare in Love came out, what, 10+ years ago? And I’ve yet to meet someone who thinks that Shakespeare’s life was anything like that.

So, I’m putting it open to discussion. Do you want to hear about every (well, most) bit of goings-on regarding this event? Do you think we should be making a more active effort to shoot it down before it catches on, like the folks at the Shakespeare Birthplace Trust are doing with their “60 Minutes” project?  I fear that if we actually take up the trolls on this one, we’ll have to spend all of our time dealing with questions of whether Shakespeare was a gay atheist, too.

39 thoughts on “How Should We Deal With Anonymous?

  1. I say, take the movie with a grain of salt. See it for the comedy (or general interest) if you want, ignore it otherwise. Or look at it from James Shapiro's point of view–why are we, as a culture, obsessed with Shakespeare not being Shakespeare? Is it some elitism in us ("He's not educated enough to have written that"), our hopeless loss of the imagination or faith since the Enlightenment, or maybe just a love of conspiracy theories?

    Because it's pointless to argue with people who believe this stuff. At least they aren't claiming Shakespeare was a Sicilian escaping to England after murdering someone (an appalling conversation I had to deal with once!)

  2. I hope this film will not make much of a ripple, but if it does, I thnk it's pointless to argue and just point them in the direction of the "60 minutes with shakepeare"
    Looking at all the Conspiracy Theories in YouTube (about any subject from 9/11 to the weather!)and I think people will believe anything they are told

    "But men may construe things after their fashion,
    Clean from the purpose of the things themselves"
    JULIUS CAESAR Act 1 Scene 3

  3. Shakespeare was not a gay atheist? Now I'm all confused.

    I went to the website and comment page for the movie the other day. Most comments are in favor of damning our guy. Once again, I think the power of popularity and the PR employed in making something popular are dangerous. PR is all about altering perceptions. That's been the direct aim of the Oxfordians and, now, this movie. I think it's more influential than surface evidence might indicate at present. People who don't know much about a particular subject–in this case Shakespeare–are high risks for influence, especially with the bandwagon attractions of glitz and glamor attached. This is highly visible stuff now.
    I'm not so sure those who will be attracted to it will suddenly be willing to do the investigation which might balance the scales somewhat. It's a way mis-informational trends can get started.

    Without 'trying' to make it a big deal, I think some attention needs to be paid as counterbalance. How much? Ya got me. But I think you're spot on about not overdoing it. I sure won't be arguing nip and tuck with trolls in any event. That kind of attention it already gets on other "alternative" websites.

  4. The film may not be good, but Stratfordians cannot ignore it. But we can't spend too much time on it, either. On my own blog, I've noticed that a soft answer turneth away wrath (not by Shakespeare). A polite insistence on the facts combined with a resolute determination not to rise to the bait is, I believe, what's called for.

    The distressing part is that the percentage of authorship-related questions asked Shakespeare scholars at cocktail parties is likely to increase; that's distressing because there are so many more interesting things to talk about! One example that springs readily to mind is this delightful blog.


  5. Well, I think that people will be certainly be persuaded by this movie. Do not forget that many people have never even considered the authorship question, and will not be aware that there is* any debate.

    It is very different than "Shakespeare in Love", obviously, because the director is visibly and aggressively marketing it as truth.

    The point is, who cares? I don't really understand why anybody cares who wrote the plays, and I can't even fathom why anyone would care who someone else thinks wrote them.

    It is not worth changing anybody's mind about. If tomorrow we discovered beyond a doubt that Dr. Seuss had, in fact, used a time machine to go back 400 years and write the plays, nothing would change for us. The 'truth' about the author seems wholly irrelevant to me.

    For what it's worth, I also think it's completely irrelevant that he was a bisexual polytheist, as I have come to believe.

  6. I have to deal with this question fairly often at work, and I've discovered the only way I can deal with it without blowing my top is to shrug it off as blithely as possible. I compare it to other nonsense conspiracy theories (the "birther" controversy regarding President Obama being particularly relevant), state flatly that there is zero evidence backing it up, and move on. You just really can't engage them. It's like arguing with a wall — only a wall that actually throws its bricks at your head.

    So, mostly, I have to avoid this movie so I don't have an embolism, so I'll be perfectly cheerful if you don't give it the time of day. 😉

  7. When it comes to toxic anti-Shakespearian revisionism, Emmerich is in Kindergarten with Anonymous, compared to Orson Scott Card, who is in Grad School with his book, Hamlet’s Father. In his review, William Alexander calls the book “horrifying,” “ridiculous” and a “nightmare of vitriolic homophobia.” From his plot summary: “Old King Hamlet was an inadequate king because he was gay, an evil person because he was gay, and, ultimately, a demonic and ghostly father of lies who convinces young Hamlet to exact imaginary revenge on innocent people. The old king was actually murdered by Horatio, in revenge for molesting him as a young boy—along with Laertes, and Rosencrantz, and Guildenstern, thereby turning all of them gay. We learn that Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are now "as fusty and peculiar as an old married couple. I pity the woman who tries to wed her way into that house." Read the entire review here:

  8. I'd like to respond to CRS's comment, which (as I read it) wonders aloud whether it matters—whether knowing who wrote the plays is relevant or not.

    When I have time, I'll write a more polished, thoughtful post on this issue. I think it matters enormously, and and think it's indubitably relevant.

    It matters because truth matters. It matters because it's important to stand for the truth. It matters because seeking for the truth matters.

    And it's relevant. I can see the argument that says "We have the plays–what does it matter who wrote them?" In fact, I even know a line by a famous poet that addresses the issue: ". . . that which we call a rose / By any other name would smell as sweet." But there's a lot to be said for knowing everything we can about a rose—especially if we want to do something more with the rose than just smell it.

    I'm not a horticulturalist, but I think the analogy holds. We can call a rose a rose, but it helps to know which variety of rose it is—to know when it blooms, whether to prune it or water it or give it sandier soil or whatever else you do with roses nowadays. If we intend to argue about the plays, speculate about their significance, marvel at their persistence, and contemplate the way they sound the depths of humanity, we should know as much about them and about their author as we can.

    And since we do, we can use all that to make better sense out of the plays.

    The truth matters and is worth seeking out.

    More in the future!


  9. KJ, I don't understand your analogy about the rose. I don't think it applies.

    I don't have to know anything about the "creator" of roses to learn about them, and knowing that information would not change the facts; such as how much water they need, how sandy their soil should be, or when they bloom. I can discover all those things just by examining the roses themselves.

    I think the same is true of plays.

    It's clear that you sense some relevance in the authorship issue, but you don't provide any example, even a hypothetical one, of how our understanding of the plays might change in a meaningful way; You just insist it is so.

  10. I don't care whether Shakespeare wrote Shakespeare's plays or not. I just care about them because they're great plays. Knowing who wrote them (or not) is of little consequence.

    I have a source who knows inside information on the movie, and says that it will be good. I have not seen anything about it yet.

  11. I'm not really sure what your point has to do with Emmerich or his film, bd. I'm torn about whether it's spam. Had it been loaded with links I would have to delete it, but it's harmless as posted.

    If you want us to discuss a topic here, feel free to contact me directly and I'll see what I can do. There's no need to squeeze in an agenda in the comments of unrelated posts.

  12. I think how influential it is will depend almost entirely on if it's a good film. Crappy film, no influence. Which is what we must all hope for.

    I agree with most people here that the plays matter, not the authorship. But I also want to note that even the question of authorship didn't come up until 200 years after he wrote, and that was based on a classist assumption that a rural nobody could never have written these plays. It'd be like two hundred years from now someone saying that John, Paul, George, and Ringo didn't really write their music because four poor lads from Liverpool could never have the training and knowledge to do what they did. It leaves out the whole concept of genius. And I think we can all agree that the author of Shakespeare's plays was a genius. So why is it far-fetched to think it was the man himself?

  13. Fair enough, CRS.

    First of all, I was attempting (and not succeeding terribly well) to say that the more you know about roses, the more things you'll be able to do well with them. Different types of roses need different care. If all you're going to do is look at them, it doesn't matter–but if you're going to work with them and think about them, the specific type of rose is enormously important.

    If you're just reading the plays, you may not care who wrote them. But if you're going to engage in serious study of the plays, the facts of their authorship seems self-evident.

    I think it makes a difference to read Act IV, scene i of As You Like It (the pseudo-marriage scene) knowing that Shakespeare was the author. We are able to read this "marriage" in light of his own marriage, marriage practices at this time, and contemporary rituals. We can read the scene in light of his country upbringing, his social station, and his specific use of language. We can even argue about his thoughts on religion as they're revealed in this scene. If we don't consider the author, most of that is lost to us. And if we think the author is someone else entirely, any conclusions we draw about these things is erroneous.

    I know that's brief–I hope to write a lengthier post with more details (for example, considering Shakespeare as author enables us to consider the cast of Shakespeare's company, and that enables us to make claims about the characters in his plays in general and this play in particular).

    Thanks for challenging my thought to become clearer! I'm completely abandoning the rose analogy from here on out.


  14. We run a little community theater that focuses on Shakespeare. Our feeling is that we will be asked about the movie, and what we think of it, and we've been talking about assembling talking points about the authorship question. I think, personally, that some kind of well-written & researched document (one page) with some links and media would be GREAT. Much better than my kneejerk response, which is that Oxfordianism is very elitist and represents a shitty attitude. 🙂

  15. I think that it might be a good idea to engage with the film for
    what it is.
    Shakespeare, along with his
    contempories, played fast-and-loose with historical accuracy;
    is it so very wrong for Emmerich
    to want to produce an exciting
    movie around a popular conspiracy
    I enjoy "Capricorn One" without
    imagining that I am giving any validity to those who argue for
    the Moon landings being faked.
    The cgi in the trailer is very fine, and the actors involved are equally so..grab your popcorn and relax.

  16. KJ, I appreciate your clarifying your thoughts. I have found the basic crux of our disagreement:
    And if we think the author is someone else entirely, any conclusions we draw about these things is erroneous.

    I don't believe there is any 'correct' interpretation of the plays. I don't believe any interpretation is erroneous if it can be justified in the text.

    All those things you said about "As You Like It" are indeed interesting to consider, but they don't rely on any 'truth' in order to be valid considerations. We can imagine any author for the plays, and it will only lead us to more interpretations, which in my mind can only be positive.

    I approach all plays (and indeed most art) from a deconstructionist mindset, believing that what the author intended or meant for us to hear, and what his writings meant to him, is basically irrelevant. You can see how that extends to 'who he was'.

    It seem we are simply in different camps of literary theory. You are coming from a historicist viewpoint, and me from a deconstructionist one. I do care about studying the play sin depth, I just think that seeking 'truth' in this case can only close down our understanding of the plays, not expand it.

    For what it's worth, I must say that I do agree with you that factual 'truths' are worth standing up for as an epistemological value. I am not arguing that the truth about authorship is irrelevant to history, just to our understanding of the plays.

    I do read you blog, so I will look forward to your further thoughts.


  17. Thanks for your own clarification, CRS. That helps.

    I remember you posting on my blog a comment that helped me clarify my own views on another analogy–Hamlet as a game of chess. I must remember to run all my analogies by CRS for clarification checks!

    I do have some deconstructionist tendencies in my own approach to the plays–I think I can agree that I'd like meanings to open up rather than to shut down.

    Here's what I think we can agree on. If referring to the author's intention is a fallacy (the good old "intentional fallacy"–which always sounds like the person committing it is doing it on purpose when it's really just the fallacy of appealing to the author's intention in creating a given work), it's even more of a fallacy to refer to the wrong author's intention!

    And we also agree that the truth matters–though we may want that truth to serve different purposes.

    Thanks again for contributing to a lively and significant discussion! And thanks to Shakespeare Geek, our host, for enabling it to take place here.


  18. Having been an Oxfordian for years and now agnostic on the issue, I find any negative self righteous response by the traditional community after "Shakespeare in Love", which was a ridiculous Strat fantasy and won the OSCAR FOR BEST PICTURE to be hypocritical to say the least.

    There is no biography of Shakespeare worth anything because there is no literary record for the MAN, not the author. Alan Nelson agreed with me when I ripped "Will in the World" at a conference, an egregious, outrageous fantasy by Greenblatt which was hailed as some kind of great work.

    Shapiro says in "A Question of Will" that Polonius could not have been Burghley because the play would not have passed the censors, But any sane person realizes Polonius is Burghley from about twelve different vectors and it DID pass the censors. It is typical Stratfordian BS to engage in circular arguments without addressing the fact that something is amiss.

    What I do believe, and a film like this which will have many inaccuracies, some terrible, is the question needs to be raised as to what was the relationship between Oxford and Shakespeare? If a person reads one piece of evidence, The Bedingfield letter, which Oxford wrote at 23 when he financed the translation of Cardanus Comforte, the clearest source of the "to be or not to be" soliloquy, and introduces 'Murder" in the figurative in the most sophisticated manner TWENTY YEARS before the OED gives first usage to Shakespeare in "Venus and Adonis", one has to wonder what was between the two men that was lost to history.

    But as Charleton Ogburn found out, the Shakespearean community is dishonest and religiously zealous in a most foul and venal way, such that it was described by a former curator of the Folger of guilt of a virulent "form of mutant racism".

    That this question, brought on by a biography void completely of any significance of merit relating to a literary career would find its way to film is a good thing. But to expect honest debate from the traditionalists? Pigs will fly first.

  19. Angela, (and others)

    If you don't care who wrote the plays, you might miss a tremendous context and back story and deepening of what's in them. Most people do not know the complexities of the authorship arguments.

    But take one scene. In Twelfth Night Feste ridicules Malvolio in the dark house. An Oxfordian, Richard Desper, brilliantly deconstructed the scene to demonstrate conclusively that Shakespeare, under the radar, was delivering a withering critique of the crown's handling of the martyrdom of Edmund Campion, who was put to death around 1580. Yet this detailed view shows up for the first time in 1602?

    It also reveals a very political Shakespeare who was deft at conveying ideas (part of the point of Anonymous) in such a way that it could be hard to catch him. Even Shapiro admits Henry V had the shortest run of any Shakespeare play because of its possible perfidy in comment on the Ireland campaign and was broken up in quarto.

    Traditionalists, especially Shapiro. take an extreme position that in that time life could not inform art. Yet how can one see Hamlet and not see life informing art. And Oxford's life is all over Hamlet. "Falling Out at Tennis". Why is that in there.

    Look it up, Sydney and Oxford and a famous "falling out at tennis".

    Think about it.

  20. I'd love to make just one point about life informing art. Here's the quote from an earlier commenter:

    "Traditionalists . . . take an extreme position that in that time life could not inform art."

    I don't think that this is the issue (and I think it's overstated as well). Oxfordians in general argue that life must inform art. If there's a character named "Gobbo" in a play and there's a statue called "Gobbo" in Venice, the author of the play must have had direct life experience of the statue called "Gobbo" in Venice in order to turn that life experience into art.

    Stratfordians argue that life may inform art in any age but that life experience is not the only way art is created. Even though there's a character named "Gobbo" in a play and a statue called "Gobbo" in Venice, the author of the play need not have had specific life experience of the statue in order to turn the idea of the statue into art.

    The danger for both Oxfordians and Stratfordians is arguing that specific parts of the play reflect specific life experiences. The death of a child may inform the author's writing on the experience of grief, but it need not do so of necessity.



  21. KJ,

    I happen to agree with you and am sorry if my posts were a little harsh. After dealing with chat groups that were extraordinarily hostile for years, and being called things like a Holocaust Denier in venues such as the NY Times, it gets a bit much. If this issue were not so sensitive to the "powers that be", why get so bent out? The Harpers issue on this was their highest selling publication of all time.

    Shapiro is an extremist in "A Question of Will". Some Oxfordians are extremist in that they see the works as completely autobiographical. There are a lot of very intelligent, sophisticated people who have written some very thought provoking articles on this matter and especially in regards to the author's potential state of mind, either generally but more importantly specifically.

    We call this "biographical echoes". Anything is possible, but for me, I find that that it is odd that a a man for which all personal data left (unusual even for authors of his time)was about financial affairs, who seemed to care about social position and money and became quite rich, would write consistently against such a mind set.

    I am agnostic precisely because of what you suggest and what we may never know because people can be strange, but the biggest stumbling block that has never been answered for me is how Oxford, who died in 1604, wrote many plays before he died that have a Jacobean, not Elizabethan style and sensibility, as pointed out strongly by Stephen May.

    However, my interest is that there really is too much of Oxford's life and experience in the works, especially when examined in detail, and this leads me to wonder what was their relationship. The epic poems dedicated to Southampton (for which no relationship has ever been established) happened when the Earl was supposed to marry Oxford's daughter. They had to know one another, or at least of one another.

    When the most famous speech in the English language is drawn precisely from a work Oxford brought into being as a patron, among many other what seem to be nods to the Earl, I can't but wonder what influence the elder had on the other, if he weren't the author.

    You do know that Venus and Adonis draws from the UNPUBLISHED portions of the translation by Golding and that Golding was Oxford's uncle, with whom he lived.

    It is this exploration that the traditional community will not take because in their mind the slippery slope is too great. This I consider intellectually dishonest.

  22. As a writer and Shakespeare (works) enthusiast, I have to say that I am now a believer that Edward de Vere was indeed the author of the Works.

    Seek out a hard-to-find but new book by Michael A'Dair, Four Essays on Authorship, and perhaps you, too, will be persuaded.

    It's not big deal. Someone wrote the Works. While it doesn't really matter who wrote them, it fascinating to now have changed my mind — or rather my mind has opened to new information.


  23. The handwriting is on the wall. The best thing you can do is read JT Loony's Shakespeare Identified. If you are not convinced then you should do what three centuries of scholarship have been unable to do: find some real evidence linking the man from Stratford with the works that don't seem to resemble him at all. The absence of real evidence is what drives the search for the real author, and justifies the theory of a cover-up. Good luck!

  24. Editorial note – I'm not going to delete Bob's Oxfordian comment just because I disagree with it. He's not spamming or otherwise being unacceptably offensive.

    Having said that, I resort to the answer that I've already given – this is not science, and it is impossible to prove or disprove a past event. Therefore it is a matter of politics and belief systems, and the most you can ever hope to do is change someone's opinion or belief based on their own evaluation of the evidence. As such, I have no interest in getting dragged into a discussion where my inability to "prove" my position is somehow twisted into evidence that it proves the other. I know what I believe, and I've not yet seen evidence to dissuade me from that position.

  25. I think we do need to take it seriously. Some people love when the so-called "intellectual elite" take one on the nose, and this movie seems to be trying to do just that. It's not that they will care about the authorship, but it will give some people more proof that Shakespeare doesn't matter. Look – people who spend all that time learning about his stuff don't even know that he didn't really write it – what do they know? You get a similar backlash in science and medicine when someone publishes a claim that seems to fly in the face of established Theory/Fact. It becomes proof that those scientists/doctors don't know any more than Joe the Plumber about these things.

  26. I think you're right Rob.
    All the hubbub ain't just about "Shakespeare".
    The underlying ideological and political class elements of this issue have been apparent since its inception. Once a particular element within a subject has been accepted within its own context, it only takes a concentrated focus to drive home the 'veracity' of that claim, as it's agenda is sweepingly applied, blanket fashion, to anything remotely related. The possible ramifications of an issue such as this one aren't immediately apparent. But those who might have an interest in an issue's possible 'ancillary' uses never expect a windfall result. The larger results are eventual–and sometimes permanent. The mountain is built piece by piece until it eventually blocks the vision to what it stands before–namely, another viewpoint. Completely altering perception is achieved through employing a cumulative technique, its ramifications only felt later.
    As I said above, I think the visibility this has now achieved has the potential to affect much more than our perceptions of 'who wrote the plays?'. The proponents of all of this continue to make a push back necessary for reasons which become more numerous commensurate to the size of its scope.

  27. Hi all,

    I found a pdf called Historicizing Shakespeare by David Chandler who challenges the Orthodoxian pov, which several commenters here do too.

    The movie is only the first stage. There is a pdf being sent to educators and there will be a dvd on the controversy brought out. This issue will not die when people have seen the movie and judged for themselves or achieve enlightenment that the establishment has lied to them all along.

    There will be a reply from the orthodox camp in a book being planned and written by Stanley and Paul. But of course that will be dismissed by the Oxfordians et al.

    I still fail to see what will happen if it is proven one way or the other. How does it alter my your our interpretations and appreciation of the plays and poems as plays and poems?

    Plus ca change…

  28. Shakespeare lives with his through his works and not as a person. I couldnt care less, if the guy who wrote the finest plays, was a grammar school graduate or some highly educated earl.
    Whats the fuss about finding the real shakespeare and making it into a movie? Isnt history itself a mere lie : a concoction of narratives and ideals?
    This movie, I think is just a cheap way to lure people (OMG! Shakespeare is not who we think he is) and make money.
    For me the image of Shakespeare is still the same. The guy who wrote masterpieces like Julius Caesar, Merchant of Venice, Romeo & Juliet.
    Why do people waste so much time debating about who the real Shakespeare was, instead of understanding his work?

  29. My opinion. IGNORE IT. This film will sink without a trace and be out of the public's consciousness by Thanksgiving Day, It won't even be in first run theatres by new years day. There is no real star power attached to this film! Vanessa Redgrave is all they have and she hasn't been a box office draw since the 1970's! Joely Richardson is best know for Nip/Tuck, a tv show , AND she can see 50 from her front porch! The incest angle will have any evengelicals or Fox News type viewers heading for the pitch forks and torches, and the typical American movie goer wouldn't know Derek Jacobi, Mark Rylance or any of the others if they tripped over them. Box office gold, this ain't
    ! And Hollywood is all about the Benjamins, baby. Trust me on this, the movie will FAIL and sink into the obscurity it deserves.

  30. The answer is not complicated. We should read up on the debate and refrain from pseudo-sociological analyses such as that offered by "J.M." and a number of other commentators here. The people that are "at risk" here — to borrow the unfortunately prejudicial terminology — are those unwilling to re-examine their own assumptions that the sun circles around the planet of bardolatry.

    here are a few resources to begin your education:

  31. KJ says:

    "Traditionalists . . . take an extreme position that in that time life could not inform art."

    I don't think that this is the issue (and I think it's overstated as well). Oxfordians in general argue that life must inform art."

    Actually, KJ, if you follow the arguments made by the current leading public "Stratfordian," namely Professor Shapiro, this is exactly the point. He insists that it is anachronistic to think that the work of Elizabethan writers was in any way influenced by their lives. He categorically states in myriad ways that this cannot be done, and then to cover his positions adds that even if they did, we'll never understand how.

    The Oxfordian position is NOT that life *must* inform art (although most reasonable persons would, I think, find it hard to understand how this would not be so – even though exactly *how* this happens will vary tremendously from one writer to another.

    The Oxfordian position is that in this case, life *did and does* inform the work. Smart traditionalists know that you cannot say this with any conviction following the orthodox view of authorship. Your example at finding a biographical connection with marriage really proves this point. Hence they skip the biography as irrelevant. But it is worse than that. The traditional biography is an impediment to understanding the work. Exactly the opposite is true for Oxford,as serious students of the question have understood for ninety years.

    Try reading act five of AYLI and ask yourself why William is the butt of the Touchstone's joke.

  32. psi, The subject here happens to be "Anonymous".
    But do you suppose none here have read all about the issue and refuse, even still, to become 'true believers'?
    –And "pseudo sociological" analyses?
    You are speaking of the totally conjectural pseudo sociological analysis on why Shakespeare couldn't possibly have written the works, adopted by every unsuccessful agenda-driven opportunist since the 1800s, now trumpeted so loudly in Anonymous?

    And by the way, there's nothing "pseudo"–at all– about the sociological manipulation of selling conjecture and out and out fictional historical "fact" (read LIES) wrapped very prettily in sensationalism, *as* fact to school kids. Perhaps a little education on behaviorism and marketing techniques is in order.
    You can "begin your education" (your words) with John B. Watson and advertising.

  33. psi–

    Forgive the brevity of this comment.

    I think that CRS and I will be in complete agreement on this: Reading a work for the purpose of finding biographical details about the author is reductive in the extreme.

    Reading Act V of As You Like It as a joke on William Shakespeare really doesn't make much sense—but if we feel the need to read it in light of its author's biography, we don't have to go far to imagine that William Shakespeare could have made jokes at his own expense.

    Thanks for the forum for invigorating discussion you provide, Shakespeare Geek!


  34. Kenkap99 said:

    “I find any negative self righteous response by the traditional community after "Shakespeare in Love", which was a ridiculous Strat fantasy and won the OSCAR FOR BEST PICTURE to be hypocritical to say the least.”

    Why? The makers of Shakespeare in Love were absolutely upfront that it was a fantasy: Stoppard and Madden did everything short of jumping up and down behind the actor’s heads waving placards reading “This movie is a JOKE, folks!” (Will’s garret containing a coffee-mug saying “A Prefent from Stratford upon Avon”; his weekly sessions on the couch with a priest of Psyche; et cetera et cetera). In what way is there any hypocrisy or inconsistency at all in enjoying a spoof like that and objecting to Anonymous being sold as a true story?

    BTW, Duane, if it’s really true that you’ve “yet to meet someone who thinks that Shakespeare's life was anything like that”, you’ve been remarkably fortunate, because I have met a whole slew of people, some of them not even semi-literate, who took it as a serious information film. Shortly after its release the Museums Journal (the magazine of the Museums Association, the professional body for UK museum curators) carried a letter from a member asking “how do we know that it isn’t true? Shakespeare could have got inspiration for the story of Romeo and Juliet in just this way!”

  35. I used to be a strong “Oxfordian”. I presented at conferences and avidly followed online debates. My position at the moment is agnostic but I do feel strongly about one thing. The traditional position is so closed, it ignores imo important conduits of potential Shakespeare influences and currents. The biography and signatures are so vapid and troubling, as outlined by Price, that one has to be curious. Shapiro’s “Contested Will” demonstrates how confused the Orthodox community is in dealing with the issue for the book is a mess. One HAS to wonder at Hamlet for it is filled with allusions and influence (such as Cardanus Comforte and the Hamlet, Polonius, Ophelia triangle) that point to some association with Devere. I feel the traditional community has been so threatened it has closed ranks against important areas of investigation. For example, Shakespeare is credited in OED for first use of “murder” in the figurative in Venus and Adonis in 1593 but Devere uses it for the first time far more elegantly in 1573 (at age 23) in the Bedingfield letter (the intro to the translation into English of Cardanus Comforte that Devere sponsored ). To say Polonius is not Burghley is idiocy and Shapiro uses circular reasoning to evade the argument. Burghley died in 1598, Shakespeare openly skewers him on stage (symbolically and literally) in 1599? Are you kidding? This is just the tip of the iceberg. I am convinced the men knew each other at the least. My God, the early Sonnets point to Southampton’s engagement to Devere’s daughter. London was not that big a town.

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