Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Links & tangled webs

Two new and noteworthy web resources came to my attention this past week worth passing along.

First, a new (brief) documentary biography of Edward de Vere has been posted -- for free download, no less. Canadian researcher Nina Green, familiar to many Oxfordians as the moderator of the "Phaeton" email list, recently posted her 44-page Oxford's Biography (PDF) on her Oxford-Shakespeare website.

It's not an Oxfordian biography. (We, ahem, already have a pretty decent one of those.) Rather, it's a strict recitation of all the known facts and documents relating to Edward de Vere's life, from the christening cup granted to baby Edward on April 17, 1550 to the June 18, 1604 custody transfer of the Forest of Essex (six days before de Vere's death).

The PDF biography refrains from theorizing about the Shakespeare authorship issue. The previous documentary biography of de Vere (Alan Nelson's Monstrous Adversary, 2003) wore its hostility toward de Vere on its sleeve -- indeed in its very title. Its errors skewed toward making de Vere look bad and his case for any claim to the "Shakespeare" canon worse.

Kudos to Ms. Green for assembling this fresh and welcome new look into Edward de Vere's life.

Second link is a great new website hosted by the Georgetown University clinical psychiatry professor Richard Waugaman, "The Oxfreudian". It's a fine turn of phrase, with a good (and we hope ever-growing) collection of papers Waugaman has written on Edward de Vere and the authorship issue.

Like the late Bronson Feldman before him (one of the great underappreciated Oxfordian writers and critics), Waugaman brings a career of clinical experience as a psychoanalyst to the authorship issue, with often incisive results. For instance, in one essay for the Scandinavian Psychoanalytic Review (co-written with Roger Stritmatter), Waugaman notes

It may come as a surprise to psychoanalysts to learn just how much current literary theory minimizes the significance of an understanding of the psychology and life experiences of the author. For several years, the predominant view has instead been that studies of the text itself should be paramount, and it is often not considered legitimate or relevant to introduce data, much less psychological speculations, about the influence of the author’s psychology on their literary creations.

Freud touched on this problem when he accepted the Goethe Prize. He interwove his comments on de Vere with his defense of a psychoanalytic study of Goethe. He acknowledged that some would object that such psychoanalytic studies would "degrade" a great man. He met this objection with the claim that only a psychoanalytic study of great writers can "throw any light on the riddle of the miraculous gift that makes an artist" or "help us comprehend any better the value ... of his works" (Freud, 1930, p. 211). We strongly agree with Freud that advances in our understanding of literary genius, and creativity in general, will be promoted by once more legitimizing the study of connections between the artist’s life and work.

Creative Commons photo by Jenny Downing

Friday, December 24, 2010

The pen, the spear... and the temptation - part 2

Earlier this month, I blogged about a tantalizing piece of Oxfordian evidence that was divulged this year in an endnote (!) to a paper on a different subject.

The evidence consisted of a book published in 1604 written by someone who knew Edward de Vere. In his 1604 book, the author made an elegiacal reference to an unnamed individual who "with one hand [holds] a speare... and with the other [holds] a pen."

The year of de Vere's death, in other words, the book might seem to record a contemporary remembering the recent passing of "Shake-speare."

My initial response to this find was -- like discovering an incredible new album or book or movie -- excitement... to the point of growing a bit starry-eyed about the material itself.

It was, in the words of the old journalist's saw, "too good to check."

And here is where a wiser version of me would have sat on it for a time. And spent some time researching it and thinking about it before making any public statement about it one way or the other.

Because once I was able to investigate it, the whole thing rapidly crumbled into nothing.

And so I record the following notes on one that got away as a reminder to myself -- and anyone else who cares to join along -- how important it is for Oxfordians to be their own harshest critics. Certainly, go ahead: Entertain that wild-eyed notion about what so-and-so said about this or that. But then go back and play devil's advocate. Far better to catch yourself in an error -- or, at least, be called on the carpet by one's peers -- than to be dragged through the mud after an opponent discovers the mistake.

Barnaby Riche was a professional soldier, eight years older than Edward de Vere. Riche had fought in Irish military campaigns in 1573 and 1599 and in France and the Low Countries at various times in Queen Mary and Elizabeth's reigns.

In 1581, he wrote a book of stories and satire in which he bid, as the title suggests, Farewell to the Militarie Profession. Shakespeare scholars know it as the book containing a possible source for Twelfth Night: Riche's story "Apolonius and Silla." Trace back the source of Riche's story, though, and one finds the commedia dell'arte performed on Twelfth Night in the Italian town of Siena (Gl'Ingannati). It's a longer and more twisted tale than is worth getting into here. For more detail, The Atlantic magazine from 1902 has an extended discussion of Twelfth Night's possible intermediate sources. (In the final analysis, one really only need know this: De Vere traveled to Siena, and in fact wrote a letter to his father-in-law from Siena just two days before Twelfth Night of 1576. It's a fair bet de Vere saw enacted onstage the original Italian version of Twelfth Night.)

Some Oxfordians might also know Farewell as another source: In his book, Riche goes on at length about an effeminate and Frenchified dandy that he sees on the streets of London. Some Oxfordians have presumed Riche was talking about de Vere here.

In my first draft of "Shakespeare" By Another Name, I presumed that too. However, I cut it out in the final draft. I owe a more careful and sober look at Riche's book to the (now sadly departed) Oxfordian researcher Peter Moore. There is, Moore patiently pointed out, practically nothing in Riche's description of the fop that would specifically identify him as Edward de Vere.

So it also is with Riche's 1604 book A Souldier's Wishe to Britons Welfare. The book is dedicated to King James's son Prince Henry. The original endnote that set this jolly train in motion earlier this month might seem to suggest that the "pen" and "speare" reference was found in the dedication. But it is not.

After an unremarkable dedication to Prince Henry, Riche launches into a long dialogue between two soldiers, Captain Pill and Captain Skill. The former is a greenhorn and the latter a leathery old vet. As military historian Paul Jorgensen summarizes Riche's fictionalized dialogue, "Throughout the book the pattern of discourse scarcely varies. Pill offers his respectful opinion on a military subject; Skill counters it with his more learned judgment."

On page 61, then, we get to Pill and Skill's exchange in question. (I've modernized the spelling and punctuation here.)

Pill wonders, "When shall arts prevail and flourish then?" To which Captain Skill replies, "When kings become philosophers again."

Pill says, "That time is come, and God be thanked... But now if the goodness of a prince may promise a gracious consideration to the well deserving, England is made happy in him whose name is already consecrated to immortality, whose magnificence equalled with virtue, is able with Caesar, with one hand to hold the spear in the rest and with the other to hold the pen, whose imperial seat is no less renowned by Mars than beautified by the Muses." (My emphasis)

Just for starters: Riche's Captain Pill is clearly talking about someone who holds the scepter of power, who sits on an "imperial seat."

In other words, Riche is probably talking about Prince Henry. Perhaps King James himself. (There was by the time of Henry's untimely death in 1612 a full-blown cult that recognized in the Stuart heir to the throne a platonic ideal philosopher-king -- one who if he had lived to inherit the kingdom would have carved out an entirely different trajectory for the English speaking world than that of his foolish brother Charles I, whose controversy-plagued reign played no small role in sparking the English Civil War in 1649.)

In any event, that Riche is not talking about de Vere comes clear in just the phrase preceding the "spear/pen" fragment: De Vere was many things, but a Casear he was not.

So we return good Captains Pill and Skill to the obscurity whence they came. As with Riche's other possible Oxfordian reference, from 1581, a closer examination of the full text reveals a simple and straightforward fact. There's no de Vere here.

(Thanks here also goes to the careful and diligent researcher C.P., who also emailed his own analysis of the 1604 Riche "evidence," drawing the same conclusion that nothing in it pertains to Edward de Vere.)

Creative Commons photo by striatic

Monday, December 20, 2010

Video: Why Was I Never Told This?

This new YouTube video was recently posted by the Shakespeare Authorship Coalition.

Please take a gander -- and if you like it, please tweet, facebook & email it to others!

Sunday, December 12, 2010

The Jacobian Lear - mark your calendars

Sir Derek Jacobi, The Wall Street Journal said in a review Friday, is now treading the boards in London in "the finest performance of Lear we are likely to see for some time."

And it's not just the WSJ who are waxing rhapsodic. Jacobi's King Lear (directed by Michael Grandage) has been widely hailed as one of the great (legendary?) Shakespearean performances of the present day.

The Daily Express calls it, "An evening of greatness" and "one of the most remarkable performances of the past decade," while The Daily Telegraph called this production "A Lear to rank with the greatest."

In a separate article The Telegraph also reminds its readers where Jacobi stands on a related matter: "Sir Derek Jacobi doesn't believe Shakespeare wrote 'King Lear' - but he's still given one of the greatest performances in the role."

That Jacobi is an Oxfordian and patron of the De Vere Society (UK) doesn't appear to merit mention. But the legendary actor's apostasy may indeed not be irrelevant to his clearly penetrating insights into Lear's psyche.

The Evening Standard's critic extols Jacobi's "exaggerated pomp, wounded majesty, paternal indignation and, as his tyranny turns to self-knowledge, a blighted, ordinary humanity." While the Independent says, simply, Jacobi's Lear comes off like a "coward and a poet."

The downward spiral of Edward de Vere's life tracks Lear like a phantom horseman -- from de Vere's disbursement of his ancestral castle amongst his three daughters (from his first marriage) to his bastard and legitimate sons (the latter from his second marriage) that clearly inform the portrayal of the play's Earl of Gloucester.

And if I didn't know any better, the "pomp, indignation, tyranny" and "coward" quotes above might seem to be a slanderous summary of de Vere's life, as portrayed by contemporary libelers (such as Charles Arundel) or current-day ones (such as Alan Nelson).

If you can get thee to London's Donmar Warehouse before Feb. 5 (or to the locations of its UK tour through April 9), then please let readers know what you thought in the comments section here.

For the rest of us, though, there's good news: In February, select cinemas around the world will be screening Jacobi's Lear as part of the National Theatre Live project. (See the link for details on venues and screening dates near you.)

Last month Jacobi, 72, told The Guardian:

"The pressures are much bigger now," Jacobi said. "There was a lovely actress called Dorothy Tutin and she always said that there were three categories of actor. The first one was 'young and talented,' which is a great category to be in. You've got youth on your side, and you're the rank outsider in the race. You've got everything to play for, nothing to lose. Then you become, if you're lucky, 'experienced and successful.' You've got work, you're making a living, and you're also getting wonderful experience. And then there's the last one, which is 'distinguished and acclaimed.' And that's where the pressure is. Now you're the favourite in the race, you have to win or come a good second. Now people are putting money on you to win."

As the Guardian's critic concluded, "I think this Lear may turn out to have been worth the wait."

The pen, the spear... and the temptation! - part 1

Recently, a reader emailed to draw attention to a most curious new piece of literary evidence. If the discoverer was right, it would constitute powerful and fascinating new further proof of Elizabethan writers associating Edward de Vere with "Shakespeare".

For several days, I was persuaded. After doing more digging, however, I made an about-face. I no longer think it relates to Edward de Vere or "Shakespeare."

All the same, I want to share the process of getting from there to here.

It may be useful, in other words, to share a story of a fish that got thrown back in the pond. Not every catch is a keeper. And a lot more get away than are worthy of keeping.

The evidence in this case comes from a book written in 1604 by the courtly soldier and poet Barnabe Riche (c.1540-1617). As pointed out in "Shakespeare" By Another Name, Riche arguably knew about (maybe participated in) the Falstaffian good times at de Vere's pleasure palace Fisher's Folly in the 1580s.

Then sometime during the year de Vere died, 1604, Riche wrote a book dedicated to King James's son Prince Henry. And in that book, Riche appealed to England's king -- or at least to an earthly representative of the ideal philosopher-king -- to pay homage to an unnamed individual who "with one hand [holds] the speare... and the other hand [holds] the pen."

Heady stuff, right?

This seemingly explosive discovery actually appears in a footnote in the latest edition of the online Shakespeare authorship journal Brief Chronicles. Footnote 96 (!) of Robert Prechter's paper "Hundreth Sundrie Flowers Revisited" says the following:

"[I]n A Souldiers Wishe from 1604 Rich wrote a heartfelt commentary requesting
King James to honor a certain unnamed person who was able 'with one
hand to holde the Speare... and with the other to hold the pen.' Barnabe
Rich. A Souldiers Wishe to Britons welfare, (London: T. Creed for Jeffrey
Chorlton, 1604), 61."

Here, then, is temptation by another name.

The year 1604, of course, is the year Edward de Vere shuffled off this mortal coil. And it'd be a curio worth crowing about if a soldier-poet from rival Philip Sidney's circle urged King James to commemorate de Vere's passing using punning references to the "Shakespeare" name.

Not only would another suggestive allusion to de Vere as the Bard be added to the hopper -- but also this one would further solidify the point that "Shakespeare" died in 1604.

What's that line about being especially careful when something seems too good to be true?

Yep. Pretty much.

In the next post, the above lovely edifice of Oxfordian handiwork will be taken apart.

(My one regret here lies not with the investigation of the evidence itself. Research is the steady accumulation of such disappointments -- and, with any luck and lots of hard work, an occasional breakthrough. Instead, I regret stating off-handedly in the latest "Shakespeare" By Another Name email bulletin that I would be blogging about a great new discovery connecting de Vere to "Shakespeare." For that bit of premature celebration I do apologize. Please pass the crow!)

Creative Commons images by sean_hickin and neil conway.

Friday, December 03, 2010

Remembering Richard Paul Roe

This morning I learned of the passing of Richard Paul Roe, a key expert on an important and underappreciated topic in Shakespeare scholarship: Shakespeare's Italy. Roe is pictured here in an interview I did with him in 2002 at (as it was then titled) the Edward de Vere Studies Conference at Concordia University in Portland, Ore.

Practically for as long as I've known about the authorship issue (dating back to 1993) I've heard reports about Roe's treasure chest of new evidence on the Bard's Italian knowledge. Roe, one soon learned, had been gathering this wealth of new research over many years of travel to and research in Italy.

Roe's fundamental point was that, contrary to the ignorant-old-Will Stratfordian dogma, the author of the "Shakespeare" canon knew the Italian and French settings in his works exceptionally well. The "Shakespeare" Italy plays in particular, Roe argues, display a kind of organic and intimate knowledge that only comes from first hand experience.

I've seen Richard give talks, and I've had the great privilege to interview and correspond with him. He was very kind to provide a few important and unpublished findings for "Shakespeare" By Another Name.

I'm very sorry to have to report the news of his death today.

One small solace is that Roe lived to collect, write and supervise the preparation of a tremendous book containing all of his findings. This magnum opus, The Shakespeare Guide to Italy: Then and Now, will be published next year by HarperCollins.

The Oberon Blog today reports a conversation they had with a publicist at HarperCollins, who announced a Nov. 1, 2011 publication date for Roe's book. I have an advance copy of the book and will only reiterate what I said earlier this year: It's a superb piece of work.

As the publication date approaches, I'll be posting a full review.

Meantime, I extend my condolences and sympathy to the loved ones he leaves behind.

Roe's work will be long admired and appreciated. There has been, I think, no greater collection of Shakespearean scholarship in recent years. And that, in the words of the Sonnets' dedication, is surely a fine and fitting kind of "eternity promised by our ever-living poet."

Thursday, November 25, 2010

"Shakespeare" shut down in 1604, ctd.

It has long been a contention of this blogger that one of the stronger pieces of evidence for Edward de Vere's authorship of the "Shakespeare" canon is the fact that he died in 1604.

(The strongest remain the phenomenal connections between his life and the works, the contemporary rumors (cited in "Shakespeare" By Another Name) of his involvement with the Shakespeare enterprise, the manifold ways the annotations in de Vere's Geneva Bible appear as biblical references in the canon, and the astonishing overlap between the settings of Shakespeare's Italian plays and de Vere's documented ports of call during his grand tour of Italy in 1575-'76.)

The reason the "1604" argument is so powerful, I think, is that traditional Shakespeare scholarship stipulates that the plays were written from the period c. 1592-c. 1613. But critical examination of the actual evidence, in fact, provides an independent check that the author of these works stopped authoring in 1604.

Stratfordians still seem to think "1604" is a game-over argument for their case. Their flogging of this horse should only be encouraged.

Case in point: A new book by the UK publisher Parapress, Dating Shakespeare's Plays compiles a play-by-play examination of sources, references and allusions for all of the Bard's works (plus four apocryphal plays often attributed to Shakespeare).

The upshot is that these researchers find the "Shakespeare" canon as a whole has been dated too late -- sometimes by a decade or more. That the author shuffled off this mortal coil in 1604 and not 1616 (when Will of Stratford died) is, at the least, consistent with Dating's findings.

In the interest of fairness, it should be added that the De Vere Society in the UK coordinated the research and put together the book. Of course, anyone objecting to Dating's findings on this ground should then equally demand that authorship-agnostic researchers, not Stratfordians, be the ones who write the papers and books advancing the conventional 1592-1613 chronology.

The notion suggested in the previous sentence is not a joke. But anyone who knows Shakespeare scholarship today also knows it is laughable.

In any event, the book's analysis is in line with recent scholarship on The Tempest (added to the paperback edition of SBAN) that finds 1604 as the latest likely date for the play's composition.

And The Tempest is the strongest case they've got that the author must have lived beyond the year of de Vere's death.

So, now, with "A Critical Review of the Evidence" -- in the words of Dating's subtitle -- we come closer to the day when it can be said definitively: "Shakespeare" stopped writing in  1604. Oxfordians can explain this. What's the Stratforidans' excuse?

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

SBAN documentary fund drive update

Seven days away from the Dec. 1 deadline for the Nothing Is Truer Than Truth documentary fund drive, and I'm pleased to say that as of lunchtime today, 62 contributors have pledged a generous $7675. This puts the project close to its $12,000 goal.

It's important to stress that this campaign is all-or-nothing.

If just over $4000 can be raised in the next week, then filmmaker Cheryl Eagan-Donovan will have secured what she needs to film on location in France and Italy, to edit and mix her film and have it ready for submission to film festivals starting in the fall -- where she'll then be courting distributors both in the U.S. and around the world.

On the other hand, if the $12,000 goal is not reached by the end of the day on Dec. 1, then no money changes hands. And it's back to the drawing board.

I greatly appreciate the generosity and support the project's many supporters have shown. Please keep tweeting, emailing and otherwise notifying those who might be interested in this project. (Another suggested tweet: The #Shakespeare Italy plays precisely trace the Italian travels of this Elizabethan playwright. Follow the Bard: )

And for those considering a contribution, please remember -- especially as close now as it is to the wire -- every bit helps.

Thank you.

Monday, November 01, 2010

Podcast Agonistes

If you've ever listened to the "Shakespeare" By Another Name podcasts, your correspondent would greatly appreciate the favor of a review to add to the iTunes page. The "Shakespeare-upon-iPod" series has a few defenders. But it has quite a large assortment of one-star nay-sayers these days, too.

If even 10 per cent of what the critics on the iTunes page say about the podcast were true, I wouldn't want to download it either. Utter rubbish! Completely deceptive! He makes it all up!

Here's Apple's webpage for "Shakespeare-upon-iPod" a.k.a. the SBAN Podcasts. Click on the blue button that says "View in iTunes" to go to the iTunes page where reviews can be posted. (Requires free registration.)

Thank you!

Saturday, October 23, 2010

The Bard of Venice (VIDEO)

On September 23, 2011, Sony Pictures will be releasing a big-budget popcorn movie called Anonymous. As blogged on this page, the movie tells the tale of Edward de Vere as "Shakespeare" -- parts of which will be highly fictionalized, of course.

And so for the first time in history, a broad cross-section of the moviegoing public will be open to hearing out the factual story of Edward de Vere's epic life. And already primed for the many connections between his life and the Shakespeare plays and poems.

This is the (brief) opportunity that Nothing Is Truer Than Truth is poised to seize.

Filmmaker Cheryl Eagan-Donovan needs to raise $12,000 by December 1 to fund the final phase of her film -- shooting at the many Italian locations immortalized in the Shakespeare canon.

Please post this to your blog or facebook page. Please email your friends and English professors. Please tweet. (One possible suggested tweet is below.) And for those so inclined and enabled, please donate.

Thank you.

#Shakespeare lived in Venice and toured Italy. His Italian plays trace his travels precisely. #PleaseRT

Friday, October 01, 2010

Celluloid Update - London-to-Venice edition

Big and small, Oxfordian-themed movie projects move ahead with an eye toward 2011.

We recently learned (h/t reader DE) that Sony Pictures' Roland Emmerich-directed Oxfordian movie Anonymous will now be on screens nationwide in September 2011. Screenwriter John Orloff tells fan-site that they didn't want to rush to meet their previously announced March release date.

Tantalizingly, Orloff also tells about CGI shots of Elizabethan London that sound pretty amazing.

"When you see a movie like Elizabeth, which is a lovely film, it’s all inside and it’s all interiors because you couldn’t build London," Orloff says. "But, we don’t do that. We literally have helicopter shots, in 1600 London. We have crane shots. You just can’t believe it. Nobody has made a period movie like this, ever before."

And speaking of exteriors, Boston documentary filmmaker Cheryl Eagan-Donovan tells the SBAN blog that her Oxfordian documentary Nothing Is Truer Than Truth -- now aiming for completion in time for submission to the film festival circuit next fall -- has begun fundraising to do springtime on-location photography in Venice, northern Italy and southern France.

"Oxford was an A-list party boy who took this grand tour of Europe," Eagan-Donovan said in a press interview last month. "He was all about collecting experience, art and music and all of that. And he came back with the experiences that were the material for the canon."

Edward de Vere's Italian adventure in 1575-'76 -- whose ports of call happen to coincide almost exactly with the settings for the Shake-speare Italian plays -- is an incredible story unto itself.

It was my favorite part of "Shakespeare" By Another Name to write. And its byways and grand canals have all the potential to be quite a yarn onscreen too.

(Full disclosure: Eagan-Donovan has optioned "Shakespeare" By Another Name and retained your correspondent as an advisor for Nothing Is Truer Than Truth.)

Creative Commons image by Kent Mercurio

Sunday, August 22, 2010

All de Vere's A Stage

During this hectic summer of 2010 -- when your correspondent has been busy moving the SBAN bunker to a new location -- the world of All Things De Vere has been quiet. But it hasn't exactly been totally silent either.

Last week, word leaked that Sony Pictures has set a release date of March 25, 2011 for the Edward de Vere biopic Anonymous. Film & fan blogs have been either slightly aghast or slightly quizzical about the prospect. Looking forward to seeing what Sony's publicity push is going to look like. Watch this space for more as the movie's release date approacheth.

Meanwhile, stages in Edinburgh, Scotland and Santa Monica, California have been spreading the de Vere heresy too.

This is the last week of British thesp George Dillon's one-man show The Man Who Was Hamlet (pictured) at the Edinburgh Festival -- through Aug. 30. After the jump, a review excerpt.

From the Scotsman:

Rising from the grave after Hamlet's death scene, George Dillon draws the audience into an absorbing and thought-provoking one-man show. He takes one of the world's oldest literary mysteries and turns it into an Elizabethan drama. Shakespeare scholars may shake their heads, but the evening's a romp, and a clever one.

The Man Who Was Hamlet will, according to Dillon's website be touring the UK through next spring.

And on shorter timescales, a new de Vere whodunnit will debut at The Santa Monica Playhouse this week.

Abraham Alan Ross's Elizabeth Shakespeare and the Astute Detective stages the authorship controversy as a modern-day romantic comedy, which features an astute gumshoe who, according to the production's website, "[using] his computer conjures up The Bard and The Earl from their four centuries’ demise. His sleuthing brings him into conflict with Elizabeth Shakespeare, sexy Stratfordian who is positive that William Shakespeare was the true author of his plays and sonnets. As Tad tries to coax Elizabeth to his point of view, she fights her physical (and mental) attraction to this romantic iconoclast."

So there you have it. Clever romps and sexy Stratfordians.

And the build-up for next-year's movie that will, at least temporarily, tilt the game board a little more toward those of us who think the Bard is looking more like de Vere all the time.

(Photo credit: George Dillon in 'The Man Who Was Hamlet', Photo by Charlie Baker)

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Smelling Psalts - another de Vere treasure trove

"Shakespeare" By Another Name reader Richard Waugaman of Georgetown University sent a note this week about his new publication in the journal Notes & Queries.

He told the SBAN Blog he's been peeking at Shakespeare's answer key lately and discovering a "jackpot" of new discoveries about the Bard's sources.

N&Q has now published two articles by Waugaman on a newly rediscovered source for the Shakespeare plays and poems: The Whole Booke of Psalme (WBP) from 1565. This popular edition of the biblical book of The Psalms set the sacred text to a steady rhythm, enabling the psalter to be sung more easily during church services. (It's also clunky and dated poetry and so has made an easy target for critics like C.S. Lewis, who said the WBP had practically no value as a literary influence for "cultivated writers.")

But the Folger Shakespeare Library has Edward de Vere's personal copy of the WBP -- one that's hand-annotated and bound with de Vere's copy of the Geneva translation of the Bible. (The latter is the subject of SBAN's Appendix A.)

De Vere's personal copy of the WBP is a treasure trove of material for Shakespeare.

De Vere marked 21 of the 150 psalms in the WBP. Waugaman has examined eight of those marked Psalms (8, 12, 25, 51, 77, 103, 137, 139) to discover dozens of new references to these psalms (sometimes to this edition of the Psalms) throughout Shakespeare's Sonnets as well as Rape of Lucrece; Macbeth; Richard II; Henry VI, Part 1 and the apocryphal Shakespearean history play Edward III.

"Using the psalms de Vere marked has led to what is probably the largest literary source for Shakespeare discovered in many years," Waugaman said in an email.

As with de Vere's biography, his travels in Italy (about which I'll be blogging more soon) and his personal copy of the Bible, de Vere's edition of the WBP once again proves that detailed examination of the particulars of de Vere's life recovers vast new vistas on the "Shakespeare" canon.

And once again it appears that if de Vere wasn't in fact the one who wrote behind the "Shakespeare" mask, then it sure looks like "Shakespeare" spent a lot of time looking through de Vere's eyes.

Richard Waugaman's first (Dec. 2009) article on WBP & Shakespeare
Waugaman's second (June 2010) article

(Creative Commons image by Orin Zebest)

Saturday, June 12, 2010

Shakespeare's Italy - the teaser

As noted in the comment thread to the previous entry, I discovered after posting about Richard Roe's forthcoming book The Shakespeare Guide To Italy ... Then and Now that the commercial edition is still forthcoming -- but not as in a few weeks or months from now. More like later this year or sometime next year. (Hopefully on the sooner end of that scale.)

Still, I don't want to whet appetites without also providing an appetizer until the main course becomes available.

So I'm pleased to report my recent discovery that a one of the classic studies on Shakespeare's Italy is now available for free download. It was among a handful of excellent sources that I used to write the two Italy chapters of "Shakespeare" By Another Name.

The 17-page work, "Shakespeare and the Waterways of North Italy," obliterates two of the most frequently-cited claims of the Bard's "ignorance" about Italy -- and continental Europe.

Case in point, says the scold: Shakespeare set part of The Winter's Tale on the seacoast of Bohemia. That'd be like trying to find some nice oceanfront property in Nebraska.

In fact, says Bart Edward Sullivan, the study's author, Bohemia during its most prosperous years had two seacoasts. (And as SBAN readers may recall, the first patch of foreign coastline Edward de Vere encountered on his 1575 trip down the Adriatic Sea out of Venice was land ruled by the then-King of Bohemia.)

OK, then... another case in point: Shakespeare didn't even know which Italian cities were on the Mediterranean and which were landlocked. Multiple plays feature voyages by ship from inland towns.

Sullivan demolishes that objection, too. Every one of the references to travel by boat via inland Italian towns (in The Tempest, Taming of the Shrew, and Two Gentlemen of Verona) is in fact spot-on for 16th century Italy, when travel across Northern Italy was often more convenient by water than by land routes. The Po and Adige rivers as well as via a network of canals and tributaries that look today like a Renaissance Italian bus map provided the routes for the region's network of ferries and boats.

Sullivan adds, however, that for Two Gentlemen of Verona (which prominently features water travel between Verona and Milan), he couldn't determine whether the entire journey between the two Italian cities could be made by boat.

And that's one hurdle Richard Roe's book clears. He records some pretty impressive gumshoe detective work to determine that an uninterrupted river/canal trip between Verona and Milan was not only possible -- it was also recorded in accurate detail in Two Gentlemen. The Bard's critics are, again, the ones with egg on their face.

The dispiriting thing about Sullivan's work is that it was published in 1908. And Sullivan was a Stratfordian. His work is still widely ignored to this day.

Evidently, a Shakespeare who knew Italy like the back of his hand is a Shakespeare that academic Shakespeareans want nothing to do with. They know that if the Bard can be kept safely holed up in London, leaving no traces of a well-traveled Renaissance life, there's no threat to the happy myth of a commercial writer who spent his career churning out potboilers for the stage.

The fun begins soon, friends. Sullivan is just the starter dish.

Monday, June 07, 2010

Shakespeare in Italy: Game, Set, Match?

When Mark Twain wrote his witty and still-unsurpassed anti-Stratfordian opus Is Shakespeare Dead?, he ultimately boiled the Shakespearean authorship problem down to one question: Was the Bard a lawyer?

His question is still an interesting one -- and certainly highlights just one of many problems the conventional Stratford theory has to overcome.

But as of 2010 -- with the forthcoming publication of a long-awaited book that represents practically a life's worth of research -- I think there's a new BIG question in town: Did "Shakespeare" personally visit the Italian locations of his plays?

Today I received in the mail an advance copy of Richard Paul Roe's beautiful, forthcoming book The Shakespeare Guide to Italy - Then and Now.

A longer review is forthcoming. But let me just say that I've interviewed Mr. Roe before, and over the years I've seen presentations and read papers by him and have had a longstanding respect and admiration for his work. He in fact kindly shared a small but significant number of his research findings for the Italy chapters of "Shakespeare" By Another Name.

And now just a brief perusal of his own opus confirms what I've long suspected: Mr. Roe's lifetime of research in Italian archives, visiting often-obscure Italian locales (nevertheless locales clearly referenced in Shakespeare), building up the case brick-by-brick... has certainly paid off.

The Shakespeare Guide to Italy could be a game-changer, in other words.

Of course, how orthodox scholars react -- no doubt in their time-honored "ignore all serious opposition" strategy -- is another subject altogether.

More on that and the big book itself to come.

Monday, May 17, 2010

More Contested Cant

In recent days, you've probably seen a few reviews of James Shapiro's Contested Will. The man's a best-selling author and clearly doesn't need our help generating clicks.

But thanks go to reader SJW who pointed out the LA Times blog's recent post offering up some new old trout by reviewer Ward Elliott -- the author of a series of computer studies involving Edward de Vere's letters and the youthful poetry (mostly song lyrics) published under de Vere's name.

This may come as a surprise to those not familiar with academia, but Elliott published well-funded studies in the 1980s and '90s using computers to prove, among other things, that letters and song lyrics are very different from Shakespeare plays.

It never ceases to amaze this blogger (and part-time tech journalist) how often computers are enlisted to re-tell us things that are in fact already quite obvious. But Elliott points toward his CT scan of an apple and his CT scan of a glorious orange and says with the assurance of a good professor of number-crunching that never mind those trifling quibbles over the input data: The point is the computer says the apple couldn't ever no never have been an orange! So de Vere weren't Shakespeare, see?

I'm not a professor of number-crunching. But I think I have a fair nose for picking out hornswoggle just from the whiff of it.

I'm also a writer working on a second book and haven't the patience or time right now to deal with taking on Elliott's nonsense point-by-point. Fortunately, that's already been done.

Here [PDF] is a fine study of Elliott -- which it should be fairly noted Elliott replied to which was in turn replied to as well.

So, to those seeking deeper truths than "an apple ain't an orange," please seek above and you shall find!

Meantime, it's also worth noting one Canadian critic who's had enough of Shapiro's "anemic" scholarship.

That plus the skeptical review of Shapiro blogged about earlier has been picked up by the National Book Critics Circle.

Seems cant doesn't go down easily everywhere.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

LA Times: Tit for Tat, Bard for Bard

Contested Will author James Shapiro recently wrote an editorial for the Los Angeles Times bemoaning the filming of the Edward de Vere biopic Anonymous.

Yesterday, Anonymous's screenwriter retorted in the Times that Shapiro wrongly portrayed positions of U.S. Supreme Court justices who held a famous 1987 authorship moot court.

Screenwriter John Orloff said:

[Retiring justice John Paul] Stevens went even further, saying: "I have lingering concerns. . . . You can't help but have these gnawing doubts that this great author may perhaps have been someone else. . . . I would tend to draw the inference that the author of these plays was a nobleman. . . . There is a high probability that it was Edward de Vere [the Earl of Oxford]."

I would hardly characterize these as opinions "unanimously for Shakespeare and against the Earl of Oxford."

This is only the first salvo of the fights that Anonymous will undoubtedly inspire.

Pop some popcorn, please. The previews have apparently already begun.

(Creative Commons photo by Pascal Vuylsteker)

Saturday, April 03, 2010

Contested Wont

James Shapiro (1599) has a new book out. Called Contested Will, it's about the Shakespeare authorship question. Reviews have appeared in a number of (predominantly British) publications you've heard about.

However, the best newspaper or magazine review yet published on this book comes from The Brooklyn Rail, penned by William Niederkorn (a former editor at the New York Times, who in the interest of full disclosure I've known for five or so years). Niederkorn's an independent thinker who remains agnostic on the authorship issue -- a fact that, since Niederkorn wrote a number of Shakespeare authorship-related articles for the Times, Shapiro takes pains to single Niederkorn out for attack in his book.

Well, the riposte is in.

A few excerpts after the jump.

Everything went wrong, Shapiro writes, when scholars started trying to read topical allusions into Shakespeare’s works, and he blames Edmond Malone (1741-1812), the lawyer whose work is generally acknowledged as the cornerstone of modern Shakespeare scholarship. The only way out for Shapiro, it seems, is to ban all topical interpretation: Shakespeare never alluded to anything, or if he did we don’t know enough to be able to say what he was alluding to.


If Shapiro has a bible on the Earl of Oxford it is Alan Nelson’s Monstrous Adversary, a life of de Vere that is one of the most bilious biographies ever written. Riddled with errors, which Oxfordians have pointed out since its publication in 2003, Nelson’s book is an embarrassment to scholarship. Contested Will, whose title is cast in the same syntactical form as Nelson’s and which revels in the same spirit, is almost as bad.

Though both books assemble a great deal of interesting information, they are patently biased and need to be read skeptically. While it is hard to find one page of Nelson’s book that is free of unfair statement, though, Shapiro can occasionally sound seductively considerate. He characterizes Nelson’s book as “harsh,” but also “authoritative,” and recycles Nelson’s opinions.


Perhaps he even contributed to the hatchet job that appeared on the front page of the New York Observer a month later, aimed at silencing my coverage of the authorship issue in the Times. In his bibliographical essay, he recommends it “for a helpful analysis of Niederkorn on Shakespeare.” And he repeats the same derisive remark used in the Observer article, another trademark Stratfordian analogy, saying that my “rhetoric smacked of that employed by Creationists eager to see intelligent design taught in the schools alongside evolution.”

That was for my suggesting that authorship studies be made part of the standard Shakespeare curriculum. If another reason for open-minded discussion of the authorship issue in Shakespeare studies were needed, Contested Will provides it, because it shows just what students are now having to swallow.

Friday, March 05, 2010

Rumblings on the Internets, the Glorious Spanner edition

MTV News today posted an interview with actor Rhys Ifans, cast as Edward de Vere in Roland Emmerich's Oxfordian film Anonymous, which begins shooting soon. The movie, Ifans says, will put a "glorious spanner in the English speaking world of academia."

"I'm going to get those teachers sweating," Ifans said. It's been elsewhere reported that Vanessa Redgrave has been cast as Queen Elizabeth and David Thewlis as William Cecil, Lord Burghley -- de Vere's guardian and later father-in-law. The role of Will Shakespeare/Shakspere/whatever of Stratford has yet to be cast, Ifans said.

To head any queries off at the pass: I am not in any way affiliated with Anonymous. Neither an advisor nor a consultant do I be.

In other news, a tip o' the SBAN chapeau goes to blogger Liam Scheff who gives SBAN some nice props in a recent article on his blog.

Last and certainly not least are two new Oxfordian blogs out there asking good questions and positing good answers: The Shake-speare's Bible and Shakespeare's Tempest blogs. Both come from Shakespeare Fellowship co-founder Roger Stritmatter, author of a superb monograph on Edward de Vere's bible (the one in which de Vere's markings just so happen to match many of the Bard's favorite biblical references) and one of the top experts in the world on the impressive array of evidence that The Tempest (long thought to be the silver bullet that could stop the Oxfordian theory cold) was in fact written before 1604, the year de Vere died.

In all, class, today's lesson is a simple one: Keep on tossing out those glorious spanners!

[EDITED TO ADD: Come to think of it, Glorious Spanner is kind of a cool name for a band. Although perhaps not as good a name as Edward de Vere. (The link's for real; that band name is now officially taken.)]

Friday, January 15, 2010

Hogg calls and New Year's news

2010 looks like it's going to be a big year for Shakespeare authorship news. Kurt Kreiler's new book continues to make waves in Germany (one of the largest newspapers in Germany, the Suddeutsche Zeitung, earlier this month wrote up a big, favorable review of Kreiler's work); James Shapiro's Contested Will: Who Wrote Shakespeare? appears in April; Charles Beauclerk's Shakespeare's Lost Kingdom also appears in April.

And, good or bad or otherwise, it appears that the first big movie about Edward de Vere as Shakespeare is going to be helmed by Hollywood blockbuster director Roland Emmerich.

News arrives today of the first bit of casting for Emmerich's Anonymous -- which is now reportedly working with a $30 million budget and begins shooting in Berlin in March. According to the movie website, Emmerich has cast the young British actor Edward Hogg as one of his marquee talents.

Looking over Hogg's resume he certainly doesn't lack for film/television or stage experience. Hogg is best known on screen for his lead role in last year's White Lightnin'. Hogg has also been in productions of Measure for Measure and The Tempest at Shakespeare's Globe as well as a turn as the fool in King Lear at the RSC.

Expect a raft of Hogg puns (as in this post's title), especially if Hogg is cast as Edward de Vere -- the blue boar himself.