August 20, 2019

"We at the Folger revered Justice Stevens for his independent-mindedness. But his denial of Shakespeare’s authorship is founded on a conspiracy theory..."

"... that no reputable Shakespeare scholar countenances. The historical evidence of Shakespeare’s career as an actor and a playwright—including praise of his greatness by his contemporaries—is clear and undeniable. Those interested in the question should consult Shakespeare Documented, the Folger’s authoritative Web site. While we at the Folger will remember Justice Stevens fondly, we strongly disavow his wrongheaded opinions about Shakespeare."

Letter to the editor in the new issue of The New Yorker.

The letter is a reaction to "Justice Stevens’s Dissenting Shakespeare Theory/Among the late Supreme Court Justice’s controversial opinions: a belief that the Bard’s works were actually written by Edward de Vere, the seventeenth Earl of Oxford" (where we learn that Scalia shared the same discredited belief.) Also in The New Yorker, "An Unexpected Letter from John Paul Stevens, Shakespeare Skeptic," by the author of "Contested Will," James Shapiro, who interacted with Stevens on the subject and wrote:
... I was curious about what led so wise a jurist to embrace a conspiracy theory—and that’s the only word for it, since there’s not a shred of documentary evidence linking Oxford to Shakespeare’s plays, only speculation and surmise. To look back on my exchange with Stevens is a reminder of how firmly conspiracy thinking has taken hold in America, from anti-vaxxer propaganda to the belief that the moon landing was faked....

The Bible of the Oxfordian movement was J. Thomas Looney’s “Shakespeare Identified,” published in 1920. Stevens knew from having read my book that Looney, a member of the cultish Church of Humanity, had landed upon Oxford as an alternative candidate because the Earl’s life (inventively reimagined) dovetailed with Looney’s own nationalist and reactionary views. Looney’s interest in Shakespeare was more political than literary: he despised modernity and was profoundly anti-democratic. The plays of Shakespeare, understood as the works of an aristocrat, offered Looney a guide for a wished-for restoration of a repressive feudal regime, in which everyone knew his or her place....
Through a series of letters, Stevens doggedly stuck with his arguments and Shapiro refrained from writing about what he clearly regards as nonsense until after Stevens died.

102 comments:

rehajm said...

a reminder of how firmly conspiracy thinking has taken hold in America, from anti-vaxxer propaganda to the belief that the moon landing was faked....

Now do climate change.

buwaya said...

" he despised modernity and was profoundly anti-democratic"

Well, ditto and ditto.

tim in vermont said...

It’s kind of scary that a “Justice” of the Supreme Court would find it impossible to believe that a non aristocrat could have written those plays.

Lucien said...

So it’s a Looney conspiracy theory?

tim in vermont said...

"offered Looney a guide for a wished-for restoration of a repressive feudal regime, in which everyone knew his or her place....”

I see you got there first.

buwaya said...

I don't see why a provincial commoner should be anti-royalist.
This is historically quite common, the general norm.

And Shakespeare is much more complex than that trite class argument.

Bay Area Guy said...

One of my pet peeves - here goes:

Option 1: Many great well-known books and plays (Hamlet, Othello, MacBeth, et al.) that we all read in high school are written by one Englishman, named "William Shakespeare.

Option 2: Many great well-known books and plays (Hamlet, Othello, MacBeth, et al.) that we all read in high school are written by -- a group of anonymous or less well-known guys using the pen name "William Shakespeare."

Myself, I subscribe to Option 1. I'd never heard of Option 2, until Stevens raised it several years ago. I am reluctant to buy Option 2. But I haven't dug deep into it, and don't really care.

Question: Can a person, who does care about this issue and does raise Option 2, discuss the facts and theories underpinning it, without being called a "conspiracy theorist"?

I think logic dictates that the answer has to be Yes.

The Lincoln murder (1864) was a conspiracy.

The Watergate burglary (1972) was a conspiracy.

The moon-landing (1969) was NOT a conspiracy, jeez. And, yes, we can make fun of folks who believe the moon-landing was faked, because we have tons of evidence (starting with Buzz Aldrin) from the guys who actually went there and planted an American flag there.

So, I don't know if "Shakespeare" is a pen-name. More important than the authorship, is that the work (whoever did it) remains monumental, and a big cornerstone of Western Civilization.

My 2 cents. As always, I could be wrong.

Char Char Binks said...

None of the writing attributed to "Shakespeare" was actually written by William Shakespeare. All of it was the work of another man of the same name.

tim maguire said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
tim maguire said...

In law school, I always knew when I was reading a Stevens opinion without needing to look at the authorship.

The tell was the lousy reasoning. He was the weak link in the Supreme Court chain. The court is better without him.

Amexpat said...

At first glance, thought this was an Onion article.

Infinite Monkeys said...

I think the doubters want to believe that the plays came from an author with more advanced education than Shakespeare. I wonder if there's any correlation between education level and doubters of Shakespeare. Also, whether the doubters think it was Marlowe, de Vere, or someone else who wrote the plays.

rcocean said...

Of course Stevens believed in conspiracy nonsense. His legal opinions weren't "Wise or Just". Mostly they were just his eccentric ramblings, that got more and more Left wing. IRC, in the last 15 years on the SCOTUS he was voting with Ginsburg 90% of the time. Souter, Stevens, and O'Connor were three of 3 biggest mediocrities on the Court. All nominated by Republican. O'Connor was a state legislator put on the Court because she was a woman and she was Renquist's friend. Souter was a NH state judge and appointed by Bush to fool conservatives. Stevens was a So-called Moderate put on the Court by Socially liberal Ford. Who of course, lied about being socially liberal.

Dave Begley said...

I agree. Now that JPS is dead, let's all dump on him. In his old age he wanted to abolish the 2nd Amendment. His worst decision was allowing the EPA to declare carbon dioxide an air pollutant. That's the basis for the entire global warming SCAM. 5-4 case.

Fernandistein said...

All of it was the work of another man of the same name.

I think it was that guy's bother who had the same name, and the guy, maybe even a Sir Guy, used his brother's name so he wouldn't get blamed for writing plays in gibberish.(0:29)

rcocean said...

Lets say Mrs. Shakespeare actually wrote the plays. What difference would it make?

Lucien said...

There’s a theory that the dread pirate Roberts was not just one man. Inconceivable!

rcocean said...

I didn't wait still Stevens was dead to criticize him. The Left criticizes Conservative justices the minute they are nominated and never stop. Even after they're dead.

Sebastian said...

"We at the Folger revered Justice Stevens for his independent-mindedness."

Translation: we like GOP nominees who turn out to be progs.

"I was curious about what led so wise a jurist to embrace a conspiracy theory"

Well, why wouldn't he? Prog justices need no stinking' evidence and can rule as they damn well please. The Living Constitution is just part of Living History, always to be rewritten to suit prog whims.

Stevens was wise enough to know that, once he had moved left, no one would hold him accountable--and sure enough:

"Shapiro refrained from writing about what he clearly regards as nonsense until after Stevens died."

He refrained because . . .

Laslo Spatula said...

I don't think Shakespeare was really 'Shakespeare'. Also: trust me on analyzing the Constitution.

I am Laslo.

Unknown said...

William Shaksper of Stratford upon Avon was the son of illiterate parents and, more importantly, his children were illiterate.

The plays draw from a tremendous range of earlier literature, including Greek plays not yet translated at that time.

William Shaksper of Stratford was mocked on the London stage in his lifetime as an illiterate pretender.

We see time and time again the desire to separate art from artists in the cases of Michael Jackson, Kevin Spacey, etc. etc.

The true author was canceled in his own lifetime. #metooshakespeare

I'll debate anyone at anytime on this topic.

There's 1 billion pounds of tourist revenue that depends on the current fiction continuing.

daskol said...

I like the one where Shakespeare spent his lost years a la Francis Drake privateering/pirating in the New World.

Laslo Spatula said...

So you're saying Shakespeare wasn't the Lone Writer, and there were playwrights on the Grassy Knoll?

I am Laslo.

Roger Sweeny said...

"so wise a jurist"

Translation: he was on my team.

Dave Begley said...

Laslo, "I don't think Shakespeare was really 'Shakespeare'. Also: trust me on analyzing the Constitution."

That sums up John Paul Stevens.

Known Unknown said...

We here at Folgers have replaced Shakespeare with Francis Bacon Crystals. Let's see if anyone notices.

Laslo Spatula said...

Shakespeare simulacra?

I am Laslo.

Mike Sylwester said...

I agree with Justice Stevens that the works were written by Edward de Vere.

D 2 said...

Whether he be or not be isn't the question. I presumed ol Bill entered the stage, and played his many parts, and what good he might have done people have tried to bury with him. 'Twas ever this. Whether he was born great or had greatness thrust upon him, let his modern critics wallow in a season of discontent, and be full of sound and fury. Ultimately they signify nothing. Being long dead, they can prick away - he will not bleed.

Fools that all mortals be, in the end, I think ol Bill realized you got to be true to your own self, and know that it's got nothing to do with the stars.

Whoever he was - he was no Lazlo. Now there's sweet writing no matter whatcha call it.

stevew said...

Well, shite, if Justice Stevens is wrong about that, which of SCOTUS votes and opinions need to be reevaluated?

Everyone loves a good conspiracy theory. Americans especially.

Mike Sylwester said...

Edward de Vere secretly married Queen Elizabeth, and she secretly gave birth to a son.

After she gave birth, Queen Elizabeth decided to remain a "virgin queen", and so she gave up her son to be raised by the head of her Intelligence service, William Cecil (the First Baron Burghley). The boy was named Henry Wriothseley, but he later became known by his title, the Third Earl of Southampton.

Queen Elizabeth ordered de Vere to keep quiet about the marriage and birth. Her order was enforced by Cecil.

When the boy Henry became a young adult, de Vere wrote all the sonnets to him.

De Vere was one of the richest, most highly educated men in England. As a young man, he had spent many months in Italy, an experience that provided him the basis for his many plays that take place in Italy.

The history plays about the English kings established -- in de Vere's mind -- that the rightful successor to Queen Elizabeth was their son Henry.

Louie Looper said...

Shakespeare could not have written those plays because he lacked a formal education.
Now, let’s speculate on the real identity of that guy who claimed to be Abraham Lincoln.

Mike Sylwester said...

The 2011 movie Anonymous depicts a plausible story of how de Vere wrote the plays and attributed them to William Shakespeare.

Bricap said...

There have been other deniers on the Court.

Mike Sylwester said...

While spy-chief William Cecil was raising de Vere's (and Queen Elizabeth's) secret son Henry, de Vere married Cecil's daughter. Therefore, de Vere joined the family that was raising his son.

Although the boy should have succeeded Queen Elizabeth after she died, she had ordered Cecil to keep the boy's parentage secret. So, Cecil did enforce the secrecy, which meant that Cecil had to keep de Vere under control.

When William Cecil died, Queen Elizabeth replaced him as her spy-chief with his son, Robert Cecil, who continued the secrecy about the actual parentage of Henry Wriothseley.

gilbar said...

Justice Stevens is WONDERFUL, when he agrees with us
Justice Stevens is MISGUIDED when he doesn't

Char Char Binks said...

Fernan, I almost didn't click your link, but I'm so glad I did!

Rory said...

The Shakespeare Authorship Question (let alone "Conspiracy") is a misnomer: there's a general question about the authorship of plays in that era. The concept of a solitary genius, "The Bard," has given way in recent years to a splintered authorship with co-authors for many of Shakespeare's plays and Shakespeare's hand detected in the plays of others. Many of the canon plays have multiple versions, with one lofty version and one or more crude ones. After years of various explanations as to why crude versions were historic dead ends, it's become respectable to suggest that at least some of these crude efforts were actual performance texts designed to please a crude audience.

gilbar said...

. More important than the authorship, is that the work (whoever did it) remains monumental, and a big cornerstone of Western Civilization.

Robert Heinlein has one of his characters declaring that:
"The Iliad and the Odyssey weren't Really written by Homer,
In Fact, they were written by a Completely Different Greek; that happened to have the same name"

gilbar said...

Frankly, i never understood the appeal of "Shakespeare"
It seems to me, that his best work, Taming of the Shrew; is just Kiss Me Kate, without the music
And ALL of his works are filled with nothing but cliches

On the other hand, if it weren't for Shakespeare; we wouldn't have had Milhouse saying
"We started out like Romeo and Juliet, but it ended up in tragedy."
This wouldn't have been nearly as funny referring to the Original, West Side Story

matthew49 said...

Elizabeth’s spy chief was Francis Walsingham. One of his agents was Christopher Marlowe.

wildswan said...

Shakespeare was not illiterate or from a poor family or poor himself.

1. Shakespeare went to the "grammar school" at Stratford upon Avon.

"Elizabethan Education - the Grammar Schools for boys aged 7 to 10

Between the ages of 7 and 10 boys would have spent their early childhood being taught by Ushers, a junior master or senior pupil at the Grammar School. The boys first learnt the rudiments of Latin with the assistance of the Tudor text-book known as Lily's Latin Grammar - using the horn-book and the alphabet as a tool and the basis of Elizabethan education. This short introduction to grammar and education, compiled by William Lily, had been authorised by Henry VIII as the sole Latin grammar textbook to be used in education and schools. In 1558 a child's speller was written in England as spelling consistency gradually emerges. This period of Elizabethan education would have followed a set routine

During the first year of Elizabethan education, aged 7, the curriculum would have consisted of learning parts of speech together with verbs and nouns
The second year of Elizabethan education, aged 8, the boys would be taught the rules of grammar and sentence construction
The third year of Elizabethan education, aged 9, would have concentrated on English-Latin and Latin-English translations
Elizabethan Education - the Grammar Schools for boys aged 10 to 14

Between the ages of 10 and 14 boys leave the Ushers to be taught by the Masters in the following lessons.
Latin to English translations
Literature including the works of the great classical authors and dramatists, such as Ovid, Plautus, Horace, Virgil, Cicero and Seneca
...
Religious education continued
Arithmetic

http://www.elizabethan-era.org.uk/elizabethan-education.htm

2. Shakespeare's father was an alderman and Mayor of Stratford which made him a part of the gentry.

3. Shakespeare himself bought a lot of land in Stratford and had a coat of arms.

Char Char Binks said...

Heilein stole my joke. I'll sue!

I Have Misplaced My Pants said...

a wished-for restoration of a repressive feudal regime

But enough about Buwaya.

Just kidding. You know we love you! :)

I Have Misplaced My Pants said...

Oh haha! Just started to read the comments and you got there first, dear sir!

rcocean said...

I think Steven's opinion's after 1994 were written by Ginsberg. How's that for a Conspiracy theory?

rcocean said...

Yeah, Judicial opinions are not good or bad just thinking makes them so.

Said only by dumbshits.

rcocean said...

I think a recent poll showed 65% of Americans couldn't tell you who was on the supreme court. A lot of them of them post here. Many Althouse commentators actually thought the "Hawaiian Judge" who overturned a trump E/O was a judge working for the state of Hawaii. Dumbshits.

Ken B said...

Sylwester goes full Andrew Sullivan on Queen Bess's uterus.

gilbar said...

A lot of them of them post here. Many Althouse commentators actually thought the "Hawaiian Judge" who overturned a trump E/O was a judge working for the state of Hawaii. Dumbshits.

I'm not calling you a liar; i'm just asking for some links?
Should be EASY to find and post, since; according to YOU, there are a LOT!

Churchy LaFemme: said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Churchy LaFemme: said...

Sylwester goes full Andrew Sullivan on Queen Bess's uterus.

From The Pocket Book Of Boners (back when that meant something different):

Elizabeth was known as the Virgin Queen. As a queen, she was a success.

Bay Area Guy said...

You know that great author, George Orwell? Wrote all those great books (Animal Farm, 1984, etc.)?

His real name was Eric Blair.

Great bleeping books! My favorites.

But not sure why he used a pen name at the time, and it's kinda sad that he died so young (age 46.)

M Jordan said...

I was pretty informed on this authorship controversy back about twenty years ago and my conclusion was that DeVere was DaMan. The Stratfordian view always seemed ridiculous to me on a hundred levels ... but one: the conspiracy to give the honor of authorship to Mr. Shaxspeare made it through his life, his immediate post-life, and has held up through the years. The Oxfordians never adequately explained how this managed to be pulled off.

At any rate, I had no idea the Oxfordian view is now discredited. Sounds to me like more partisanship word violence.

Mike Sylwester said...

Shakespeare Oxford Fellowship

A website exploring the evidence that the works of Shakespeare were written by Edward de Vere, 17th Earl of Oxford

Josephbleau said...

Even the great mathematician Georg Cantor, explorer of set theory and infinity, inventor of the diagonal argument and the nested interval argument, believed that Francis Bacon wrote Shakespeare. As he went wacky with age he was invited to a guest lecture before eager students and embarrassed everyone with his Bacon theory rather than his math opus.

M Jordan said...

One deVere “proof” I always found compelling is in his naming of one particular character in Taming of the Shrew: Baptista Minola, the father of the two young women Kate and Bianca. DeVere had in his notes two acquaintances — a Signoir Baptista and a Signoir Minola — he had in Padua, Italy, where ”Shrew” is set. That seemed more than coincidence to me.

Another compelling point to me was the relationship deVere had with one Lord Burleigh. It was very reminiscent of Hamlet to Polonius. In fact, the Hamlet story is almost an autobiography of DeVere.

(I’m writing this from memory. Maybe my details are a little off but that’s the gist of it.)

Bay Area Guy said...

@ M Jordan,

"One deVere “proof” I always found compelling is in his naming of one particular character in Taming of the Shrew: Baptista Minola, the father of the two young women Kate and Bianca. DeVere had in his notes two acquaintances — a Signoir Baptista and a Signoir Minola — he had in Padua, Italy, where ”Shrew” is set. That seemed more than coincidence to me."

Sir, do not disturb us with facts. You are obviously a Shakespeare Denier and a conspiracy theorist.

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Mr. Majestyk said...

I read that, in his will, Shakespeare left not a single book to anyone. If true, that would seem to strongly support the Oxfordians. I tried to find his will on the Folger Library's website but couldn't, although I admit I didn't do an exhaustive search.

Churchy LaFemme: said...

I read that, in his will, Shakespeare left not a single book to anyone.

Wouldn't that just mean that his books would go to whoever the default heir was along with the rest of the estate not specifically bequeathed?

William said...

Someone wrote Shakespeare's plays. Whoever it was, was pretty bright. A Shakespeare by any other name would still be an improbable genius....I've never investigated this, but wouldn't a theatre manager have more knowledge of thwarted ambition and vanity than the average nobleman. There's a lot of imagery about playing roles and strutting and fretting about the stage that would more likely occur to a theatre manager than a nobleman. Prospero is a theatre manager, not a nobleman.

tim in vermont said...

Bill Bryson wrote a book on Shakespeare that pretty much kicks the conspiracy theories to the curb. Also textual analysis using statistics, word frequencies, etc, showed that there was one play where Shakespeare likely had a co-author.

SF said...

"It has on occasion been a source of puzzlement to me that there are a number of otherwise
sensible people, many of them old enough to know better, who maintain, perhaps from some
kind of strange cultural snobbery, that William Shakespeare could not have written the plays that
bear his name, and that these plays must, obviously, have been written by a member of the
British aristocracy, written by some lord or earl, some grandee or other, forced to hide his literary
light under a bushel.
"And this is chiefly a source of puzzlement to me because the British aristocracy, while it has
produced more than its share of hunters, eccentrics, farmers, warriors, diplomats, con men,
heroes, robbers, politicians and monsters, has never been noted in any century or era for the
production of great writers." -- Neil Gaiman

tim in vermont said...

Lord Byron wasn’t too shabby.

tim in vermont said...

Shakespeare had the education to write his plays.

(There is in fact no record of Shakespeare’s name on the register of the King Edward VI Grammar School in Stratford, but his father’s position on the council – by now he was an alderman – brought free education for his sons with it, so it is inconceivable that he would not have been educated there.) These grammar schools were part of the Tudor educational revolution of which the chief beneficiaries were middle-class boys like Will Shakespeare, who were being groomed to be lawyers and clerks, Church of England ministers, secretaries to politicians or indeed politicians themselves, many of whom came from perfectly ordinary middle-class families. They were being trained up, in fact, to be the mainstays of the rapidly expanding Elizabethan state. They didn’t study history, they didn’t study mathematics, they didn’t study geography, they didn’t study science. They studied grammar, from dawn to dusk, six days a week, all the year round. Grammar – Latin grammar. They translated from Latin into English and from English into Latin. At school, ordinary conversation was in Latin; any boy caught speaking English was flogged. ,And they mastered the tropes of rhetoric, from antimetabole (where words are repeated in inverse order) to zeugma (where one verb looks after two nouns). This is the language of power and politics: of the law, of Parliament, of the court, and this is the world of which young Will and his fellow pupils would soon, it was hoped, be part.

...

He had been the proud son of a prosperous and respected fa-ther, who had attained the rank of High Bailiff, mayor in all but name, and had then known what it was like to lose face and respect along with his father. All very psych-forming. In addition, he had had access to the regular theatre performances given by travelling players, because for a while, on his way to the top job, his father was the town’s Chamberlain, with responsibility for arranging performances.. - British Library

David Begley said...

Maybe those plays were written be a monkey on a typewriter.

Mr. Majestyk said...

Okay, I found his will. https://shakespearedocumented.folger.edu/exhibition/document/william-shakespeares-last-will-and-testament-original-copy-including-three

It gives some specific bequests, including, famously, his "second best bed with the furniture" to his wife. But no specific mention of any book. It does have a residual clause, giving everything not specifically mentioned to his daughter and son-in-law. But still, I think people tend to specifically mention their treasures in their wills. So that omission seems odd for someone generally (universally?) regarded the greatest playwright in the English language, perhaps in world history.

stephen cooper said...

I have read many of the opinions of the sad little man whom we call "Justice Stevens."

He was not very intelligent, and had little empathy for his fellow human beings.

He was stupid, proud, and a disgrace to his profession.

And he was wrong about Shakespeare.

Rory said...

The discussions above about education are typical for what's really known. It's a reasonable inference that Shakespeare attended the Stratford school, but it isn't known. It's a reasonable inference that the Stratford school would drill kids more intensively than we'd consider normal, but that isn't known.

Texas Duck said...

the claim by The Folger Library that claims for De Vere are mere speculation with not a shred of evidence is almost comically inaccurate. Aside from sharing a similar name, there is actually not a shred of evidence linking the actor to the plays. When the actor died his great literary contemporaries made no mention of hi. at all, and there was no funeral.when De vere died the same contemporaries claim England had lost its greatest writer, and a marathon of Shakespeare plays were presented at court in his honor. other than that, the fact that "Shakespeare's Bible" is part of the De Vere library, that statements by Polonius are almost direct quotes from private letters to De Vere from his father in law, and literally dozens of other pieces of evidence, there is nothing to recommend De Vere.

Mr. Majestyk said...

Blogger Texas Duck said...
"the claim by The Folger [Shakespeare] Library that claims for De Vere are mere speculation with not a shred of evidence is almost comically inaccurate."

Look, "The Folger de Vere Library" just doesn't have the same ring to it. And they'd have to spend a lot of money changing signs and all their letterhead. Oh, and all the stuff at the gift shop would be worthless. Who knows how many PhD's would have to be reconsidered. Best just to let sleeping dogs lie.

Texas Duck said...

True, Mr Majestyk, there are a lot of revenue streams at risk here :)

traditionalguy said...

The beauty of language used by the Stratford on the Avon boy is a big hint since it is much like the Welch tongue. And Stratford is next door to Wales.

traditionalguy said...

And like the Stratford boy, another boy raised next to Wales gave God an English voice in the KJV Bible. William Tyndale , like William Shakespeare, loved language because he was raised around Welch speakers. Those two writers became the English culture that ruled the world with a little help from the Royal Navy..

Bay Area Guy said...

I'm totally comfortable with Shakespeare as a man and writer; I'm totally comfortable with Shakespeare the myth.

Not comfortable with Stevens, as a jurist - in fact, he was a liberal Republican idiot.

Bill Peschel said...

Extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence.

Consider that the "question" of Shakespeare as author arose more than 200 years after his death. That everyone during Shakespeare's life accepted his authorship of the plays. That not one person, even in their private diary, suggested that De Vere was the true author.

De Vere advocates also have to handwave the fact that a dozen major plays, including King Lear, Macbeth, and the Tempest appeared after De Vere's death in 1604. They have to say that he wrote those plays before his death, and they were finished by other playwrights, which would be quite a feat if there was any textual support for that claim.

Not even after De Vere and Shakespeare were in their tombs did this come out, which is why we have the First Folio, published by his friends seven years after Will's death. A second edition was published nine years later, with praise in it from Ben Jonson (who knew Will) and John Milton. These folios were published to the resounding silence of Henry de Vere, the 30-year-old 18th Earl of Oxford. Is it logical that he wouldn't know that his father wrote 30 plays that were collected and published under another man's name, and not leave one word of objection anywhere?

Finally, while aristos of the time did write poetry for their own amusement (and to shiv their enemies), there is not one recorded case, in the hundreds of years of English history, of an aristo using another person as a stalking horse for their creativity.

Hell, in the thousands of years of literary history, no one has ever used another living person as a mask to hide behind. Anonymity, yes. Pennames, yes. A living person? No.

Extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence. Claimants pumping for any person other than Shakespeare would have us believe that it was a conspiracy so solid that not one word of its existence was breathed by anyone, by word, deed, or even put privately to paper.

Ever.

tim in vermont said...

History is spotty, documents are spotty. I guess people can make up whatever kinds of stories they like to fill in the holes.

Richard Dolan said...

Odd that Stevens would care. But everyone has his quirks. He grew up in the heyday of the 'new criticism' in which the focus was entirely on the text rather than the author or his biography (it was always a 'his' except for Jane Austin and a few others). For the new critics, it made no difference who wrote the plays. That faded out with the deconstructionists, who did not much care about the text or the author -- reading was as creative as writing, making it a real free for all.

Stevens was no originalist, but that would have many steps too far for him.

Saint Croix said...

The Bible of the Oxfordian movement

Snort!

The Supreme Court is dominated by elite twits who spend way too much time in the Ivy League. And all their clerks are Ivy Leaguers, too. Their brains are corrupted by elite thoughts formed at elite institutions. They've got Hapsburg Jaw of the brain. I can't tell you how important it is to get a Supreme Court Justice who was educated in Alabama or some other commoner place.

All you need to know about the Supreme Court is not one of these alleged smart people has ever said an unborn child--or a baby in the middle of birth--is a person with a right to life.

Smart? Yes.

Educated? Yes.

Insular, narrow-minded and parochial? Yes!

Clarence Thomas might hang out in Walmart parking lots but he's still got Yale-on-the-brain.

I say to you, the ivory tower is making them insane.

tim in vermont said...

Next you are going to tell me that Joe Biden didn’t write his own speeches!

tim in vermont said...

Edward De Vere, Earl of Oxford is known to have composed, directed and acted in plays around the same time as Shakespeare. Like Shakespeare he was part of an acting troupe but unlike Shakespeare, Edward managed his acting troupe called "Oxford’s Boys". Furthermore, Edward De Vere was a leaseholder of the Blackfriars Theatre, a rival to The Globe.

So, why again was he keeping it all secret that he was a playwright? Was he embarrassed that people would think he was too good? What are these plays he composed under his own name? Are they ever performed?

A large problem for Edward De Vere authoring Shakespeare’s work is the fact that he died in 1604. This was before roughly 12 plays ascribed to Shakespeare were composed.

Texas Duck said...

there were already allusions to Marlow as the real author and early as the 1590s.

Rory said...

"Extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence."

It doesn't work that way. It's just an argument, and it's weighed by the same sort of evidence that's used everywhere else.

tim in vermont said...

"there were already allusions to Marlow as the real author and early as the 1590s.”

Statistical analysis of word frequencies and relationships suggest that Marlow collaborated with Shakespeare on some of the Henry plays. He is going to get credit. Headline from the Grauniad: "Dramatists to appear jointly on title pages of Henry VI, Parts One, Two and Three in the New Oxford Shakespeare after analysis by team of 23 academics”

Marlow is thought to be the writer of the line “First, kill all lawyers."

tim in vermont said...

The same analysis says the rest of the plays were written by the same guy. Not de vere.

tim in vermont said...

Also, when the sonnets were first published, there was a law that a book had to have a minimum number of pages, so it was padded out with poems not written by Shakespeare.

Sammy Finkelman said...

Well, you know, Shakespeare wasn't the only think Justice Stevens was wrong about.

Amadeus 48 said...

Looney by name and loony by nature.

So Justice Stevens denied Shakespeare’s authorship. It figures.

Snobbery, baby.

Amadeus 48 said...

I strongly recommend Jonathan Bate’s Soul of the Age:a Biography of the Mind of Shakespeare. Brilliant and compelling.

Quaestor said...

I was curious about what led so wise a jurist to embrace a conspiracy theory...

That's where Shapiro went off the rails. Wasn't the Shakespeare wasn't Shakespeare crap enough in itself to disqualify Stevens as one of the wise? Scalia wasn't particularly wise, and he knew it. That's why he didn't go searching for mythical penumbras in the Constitution, he just looked at the text and applied common garden variety meanings to the words therein. Stevens, on the other hand, was always looking for hidden meanings — in the First Folio and in the Constitution of the United States.

Quaestor said...

I don't see why a provincial commoner should be anti-royalist. This is historically quite common, the general norm.

buwaya nails it, as usual. What he describes has been the typical pattern since at least the English Civil War. Parliament's recruitment efforts were more successful in the cities, particularly among the journeymen and apprentices, whilst the King derived most of his support from the peasantry. The same pattern repeats during the French Revolution — Parisians support the Jacobins, the countryside supports the Bourbons. And again in the 1848 revolutions and the Russian Revolution. Only in the American Revolution were rural people more likely than city-dwellers to support the uprising.

London Girl said...

@Saint Croix 9.10
Habsburg jaw of the brain - that is brilliant.

Quaestor said...

I think the doubters want to believe that the plays came from an author with more advanced education than Shakespeare.

Everyone who knew him also knew that Shakespeare hadst small Latin and less Greek. And it's pretty obvious that most of his plays taken from classical sources are inferior to his histories, except for Julius Caesar and Anothony and Cleopatra which were both sourced from the same well-executed English translation of Plutarch's Lives.

I doubt Marlowe can be given any credit as the real playwright since he was dead long before most of Shakespeare's plays were performed. Besides being dead, Marlowe probably lacked the time, busy as he was sniffing out crypto-Catholics for the Walsingham secret service and buggering the occasional tavernkeeper's apprentice.

Kassaar said...

“... the conspiracy to give the honor of authorship to Mr. Shaxspeare made it through his life, his immediate post-life, and has held up through the years. The Oxfordians never adequately explained how this managed to be pulled off.”

For similar reasons we can be certain that 9/11 was not an inside job.

Rory said...

"I doubt Marlowe can be given any credit as the real playwright since he was dead long before most of Shakespeare's plays were performed."

Marlowe's death is an example of a conspiracy that's lasted about 400 years and still not completely broken. He was under subpoena at the time he died, to give evidence as to what he knew about the heresy going about. His colleague Thomas Kydd had, under torture, fingered Marlowe as the author of certain papers found in Marlowe's possession.

For three hundred years, the short story of Marlowe's death was that he was killed in a drunken brawl. The inquest report was found about a hundred years ago. It revealed that the brawl occurred in a private dining room in an inn. Marlowe had spent the day there with three acquaintances - one an actual spy and the other two best described as henchmen. The inquest took the word of those three that Marlowe was the aggressor in some squabble about the bill, and that he ended up stabbed with a knife he had tried to grab off another. Though no one was indicted, a few weeks later the Queen pardoned the accused henchmen, and reserved to herself any reopening of the case. Four hundred years later, it seems very like that Marlowe was murdered to stop him from giving testimony that would incriminate people inside the aristocracy.

The Marlowe-Shakespeare theory arose because (1) Marlowe's body was tossed into a common grave for plague or smalllox deaths, and lost to history; (2) Shakespeare's name as a writer surfaces just a few weeks after Marlowe's, death; and (3) Marlowe and Shakespeare exhibit remarkable similarities even in quantitative analysis of their work.

Christy said...

I love all the stories about who wrote the work of Shakespeare. Great fun and those who dismiss alternatives out of hand are just poopyheads. Now, let us talk of whether "Shakespeare" wrote the KJV Bible.

Rory said...

Above, I meant papers found in Kydd's possession.

tim in vermont said...

"Marlowe and Shakespeare exhibit remarkable similarities even in quantitative analysis of their work.”

Do you have a link to that, because it is bullshit. Just the opposite, in fact.

Rory said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Rory said...

Three studies I'm thinking of are the Mendenhall study from the early 1900s, a Brown University study of ten years or so ago, and the Craig/Kinney book of five or so years ago.

JamesB.BKK said...

It isn't such an extraordinary claim to assert that top-down narratives of history have errors. After all, we hapless US curriculum-approved educated people were indoctrinated to the idea that the brute and tyrant Abraham Lincoln was a great man and that by binding through conscription and mass slaughter the several states to the will of the national government in upside-down fashion to the compact known as the Constitution he did a great deed.