Monday, November 30, 2009

BBC: Stratford partisans "arguing by adjective"

Over the past (U.S.) holiday weekend, the BBC ran a superb long-form article on their website about Edward de Vere as "Shakespeare."

It gave Oxfordians (such as your correspondent) ample opportunity to make our case and allowed orthodox scholars such as de Vere biographer Alan Nelson (Monstrous Adversary) and Oxford University English professor Emma Smith ample opportunity to say we're completely nuts.

This is, unfortunately, a microcosm of the state of the authorship debate today. We want to talk evidence, and they want to fling mud. And with the April publication of best-selling author James Shapiro's hatchet-job book Contested Will: Who Wrote Shakespeare?, it's probably only going to get worse.

Thankfully, the BBC correspondent also allowed the heretics ample opportunity to point this very fact out.

Michael Egan, editor of the journal The Oxfordian told the BBC's Dave Gilyeat "One of the most disturbing aspects of the whole debate is the way the anti-Stratfordians are silenced. There isn't any real attempt to confront the arguments. There's just a general mocking and ridiculing strategy -- what I call arguing by adjective... "ridiculous, absurd" and so on."

Smith made one of the most curious anti-Oxfordian arguments in the article, stating, "There seems to be absolutely no evidence that the Earl of Oxford was a literary genius and had the ability to write and that seems a much more important criterion for writing Shakespeare's works."

Wow, the hurdles have changed! Time used to be we were just kooks and booby-heads. Now we must adduce evidence that Edward de Vere was a literary genius.

No matter.

John Shahan, head of the Shakespeare Authorship Coalition responded to Smith with an email which Shahan has kindly given permission to excerpt here.

[Begin Shahan letter]

Four of [de Vere's] contemporaries -- Gabriel Harvey, William Webbe, the anonymous author of The Art of English Poesie (George Puttenham?) and Francis Meres -- all had high praise for Oxford's writing. Long after he died, in The Complete Gentleman (1622), Henry Peacham included Oxford on a list of six poets who had made Elizabeth's reign a "golden age" for poetry, while omitting "Shakespeare" from the list. You may dispute the evidence, but the evidence certainly exists.

Furthermore, modern behavioral science research on the nature of creativity and genius reveals that it is Oxford who has the characteristics typical of a great literary genius, not Stratford's Mr. Shakspere.

I [recently] wrote [a book review] (Shakespeare Oxford Newsletter, Fall 2001) of
Origins of Genius: Darwinian Perspectives on Creativity by Dean Keith Simonton (Oxford University Press, 1999). The review outlines the developmental and character traits that Simonton and others found to be associated with genius, including literary genius. The Earl of Oxford matches the expected profile of a literary genius perfectly, while the Stratford man fits hardly at all. Mr. Shakspere's father did experience some "family reversal of fortune;" but nothing like what Oxford experienced, including being orphaned, which Shakspere was not. It is remarkable how clearly the research on genius points to Oxford, and away from Shakspere. Again, you may dispute the evidence, but the evidence certainly exists.

Simonton is one of the world's leading experts on creativity and genius, and a signer of the Declaration of Reasonable Doubt About the Identity of William Shakespeare ( Perhaps you could tell me, him, and the others above, why you say there is "absolutely no evidence" Oxford was a literary genius.

[End letter]

Last I heard, Smith hasn't replied.

UPDATE (Dec. 1): Dr. Smith did reply to her correspondent with a two sentence email. "Thanks for this. I think we will have to agree to disagree."

Monday, November 16, 2009

A brief tale's best for (almost) winter

It's been a busy couple weeks in the Shakespeare heresy world. I'm still playing catch up after the birth (Oct. 30) of a wonderful little boy in our household. So, free time being at a premium, best to just cut to the chase:

* German media has been awash with coverage of Kurt Kreiler's new book about Edward de Vere as the man behind the "Shakespeare" mask. Both national German radio and print media (Der Spiegel) have weighed in and presented Kreiler's Oxfordian arguments seriously and authoritatively. Keep up the pressure!

* The Shakespeare Authorship Coalition announced earlier today that U.S. Supreme Court Justice John Paul Stevens and Sandra Day O'Connor (ret.) have signed the "Declaration of Reasonable Doubt about the identity of William Shakespeare." Keep up the pressure!

* A new Internet-based Shakespeare authorship studies scholarly journal has also just launched: Brief Chronicles. I haven't yet had a chance to go through the debut issue in detail, but the list of authors, topics and editors is impressive. Check it out -- and if you like, please leave a tip in their tip jar. (Scroll down)