Saturday, April 18, 2009

WSJ: U.S. Supreme Court tackles Shakespeare question

Today's Wall Street Journal has a great feature story on U.S. Supreme Court justice John Paul Stevens and where he and his colleagues fall on the Shakespeare authorship question.

The chart (right) has the details on each justice's stance. With only two justices casting a ballot for Will of Stratford -- and two casting their lots with Edward de Vere -- the nominal vote (with some noteworthy abstentions) is, astonishingly, a tie!

Justice John Paul Stevens and the late justice Harry Blackmun had both previously gone on the record with their conviction that Edward de Vere was "Shakespeare."

But it's news to this blogger that Justice Antonin Scalia -- leader of the court's conservative wing, as Stevens is leader of the liberal wing -- is also an Oxfordian. Scalia's wife, he said, berates him for his conviction that de Vere wrote "Shakespeare."

"She thinks we Oxfordians are motivated by the fact that we can't believe that a commoner could have done something like this, you know, it's an aristocratic tendency," Scalia told the Journal. But, he adds, "It is probably more likely that the pro-Shakespearean people are affected by a democratic bias than the Oxfordians are affected by an aristocratic bias."

[This post edited to add links to four six seven blogs that discuss the WSJ article: One and a-two and a-three and a-four (HuffPo); five (Volokh) and a-six and a-seven.]

More from the article:

All signs pointed to de Vere. Justice Stevens mentions that Lord Burghley, guardian of the young de Vere, is generally accepted as the model for the courtier Polonius in "Hamlet." "Burghley was the No. 1 adviser to the queen," says the justice. "De Vere married [Burghley's] daughter, which fits in with Hamlet marrying Polonius's daughter, Ophelia."

Shakespeare dedicated two narrative poems to the earl of Southampton, Henry Wriothesley, "who also was a ward of Lord Burghley and grew up in the same household," Justice Stevens says. "The really quite remarkable."


Justice Sandra Day O'Connor, who retired in 2006, cast the court's deciding vote many times. On Shakespeare, she says, "I'm not going to jump into this and be decisive."

According to Justice Stevens, "Sandra is persuaded that it definitely was not Shakespeare" and "it's more likely de Vere than any other candidate." Pressed, Justice O'Connor says, "It might well have been someone other than our Stratford man."

1 comment:

Thomism said...

What's the deal with the W. Bush appointees being all "no comment." Don't they know their commander in chief read at least three Shakespeares???

Interesting news about Scalia, btw.