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John Byrne
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Posted: 28 July 2012 at 6:27pm | IP Logged | 1  

Make sure to examine both sides!

Indeed! And as you examine the "other" side, count the number of direct references to the Stratford man being an author OF ANY KIND. See how far you can get into his biography without encountering phrases like "could have", "might have", "most probably would have", etc.

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John Byrne
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Posted: 28 July 2012 at 6:30pm | IP Logged | 2  

Just wanted to add my 2 cents by the way....Stratford Will as Shakespeare makes no sense to me.

That is the ultimate bottom line. In his surprisingly well documented life, the man from Stratford presents us with no indication of being a poet, a playwright, or a writer of any kind. No letters to or from him survive. No bills to or from him in any context as a writer. No mention of him as a writer in any journals, day books, letters, official document.

"Shakespeare" moved thru London invisibly, but the Stratford man left a big footprint -- NO PART of it in any way connected to the craft of writing.

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Doug Campbell
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Posted: 28 July 2012 at 9:34pm | IP Logged | 3  

JB: That is the ultimate bottom line. In his surprisingly well documented life, the man from Stratford presents us with no indication of being a poet, a playwright, or a writer of any kind.

Horsefeathers.  This argument is akin to proclaiming, "I disqualify any evidence naming Shakespeare as the author because it doesn't specifically say William-Shakespeare-the-guy-from-Stratford-the-glover's-son- no-really-not-de-Vere-or-Marlowe-or-Bacon." and then saying, "And my gosh isn't it suspicious that there's no evidence for Shakespeare as an author!"

All the actual evidence all points to William Shakespeare as the source of the poems and plays.  He is named as the author of those works in more than 80 individual documents dating from his own lifetime.  There has yet to be discovered EVEN ONE document in the past four hundred years linking Edward de Vere's name to the work.






Edited by Doug Campbell on 28 July 2012 at 9:38pm
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Doug Campbell
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Posted: 28 July 2012 at 9:37pm | IP Logged | 4  

JB: So Gilbert & Sullivan DIDN'T write THE MIKADO! Fascinating!

I can only presume that you missed the very next sentence I wrote which read, "None of that stuff is an 'add-on' but rather constitutes the entire play."

None of what I referenced is as simple as jazzing up an old lyric with a reference to a Rubik's Cube. 
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Glen Keith
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Posted: 28 July 2012 at 10:16pm | IP Logged | 5  

The fact that the "controversy" is mentioned at all in the Britannica reminds me of how just about every news story reporting on the 40th anniversary of the Moon landing had to mention the Moon hoax "theory". It's a sickness of our times that fringe theories must be acknowledged in any news article or reference source at all. And despite a movie and other media hypings, the "Oxenford theory" is still just that: a fringe theory.

Most encyclopedias are written with a "bias" towards scholarly consensus, and the vast majority of scholars agree that Shakespeare wrote the plays attributed to him. And baring any smoking gun pointing to another culprit, I doubt we will see a consensus shift towards any other candidate any time soon.




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John Byrne
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Posted: 29 July 2012 at 4:29am | IP Logged | 6  

The fact that the "controversy" is mentioned at all in the Britannica reminds me of how just about every news story reporting on the 40th anniversary of the Moon landing had to mention the Moon hoax "theory". It's a sickness of our times that fringe theories must be acknowledged in any news article or reference source at all. And despite a movie and other media hypings, the "Oxenford theory" is still just that: a fringe theory.

True -- but for entirely different reasons than the Moon landing "hoax".

The Moon landing "hoax", as with most "conspiracy theories" of the 20th Century, spring from a LACK of scholarship. Oxford's candidacy springs from precisely the opposite. And, perhaps even more significantly, requires no "conspiracy" to make it happen. It requires only the society of the time, a very different world from the one we now inhabit.

The Authorship Question demands attention because there really does seem to be something there.

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Doug Campbell
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Posted: 29 July 2012 at 6:52am | IP Logged | 7  

JB: The Moon landing "hoax", as with most "conspiracy theories" of the 20th Century, spring from a LACK of scholarship. Oxford's candidacy springs from precisely the opposite. And, perhaps even more significantly, requires no "conspiracy" to make it happen. It requires only the society of the time, a very different world from the one we now inhabit.

The Authorship Question demands attention because there really does seem to be something there.

But don't you think that all partisans of fringe theories say something like that?  "Those other theories are kooky, but mine is the real deal!". And yet, the Oxfordian theory has not made terribly much progress in the 90 years since it was first proposed.  It remains solely the purview of passionate amateurs.  The vast majority of historians and scholars, the people who know the most about Elizabethan/Jacobean society, don't find the arguments for Oxford convincing.

If nothing else, that almost requires a conspiracy.  How can four generations of the most well informed people on the planet about Shakespeare fail to recognize the supposedly obvious truth that he was a fraud?  If the "authorship question" is based on the accumulation of scholarship, it is most peculiar that almost all professional scholars don't seem to think that there is much of a question at all.

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Michael Penn
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Posted: 29 July 2012 at 6:59am | IP Logged | 8  

"...the Stratford man left a big footprint -- NO PART of it in any way connected to the craft of writing."

...or...

"He is named as the author of those works in more than 80 individual documents dating from his own lifetime."

How can two intelligent, reasonable people disagree that much, the difference between 80 sources and 0...!?

Somebody's fudging facts -- it has to be!

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John Byrne
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Posted: 29 July 2012 at 7:10am | IP Logged | 9  

But don't you think that all partisans of fringe theories say something like that? "Those other theories are kooky, but mine is the real deal!". And yet, the Oxfordian theory has not made terribly much progress in the 90 years since it was first proposed. It remains solely the purview of passionate amateurs. The vast majority of historians and scholars, the people who know the most about Elizabethan/Jacobean society, don't find the arguments for Oxford convincing.

Your comments are extremely disingenuous. The body of scholarship surrounding the Oxford claim is "fringe" only in the sense that it is not the largest body of scholarship. There is hardly to be found a single modern ACCEPTED theory, in any field, that did not begin its existence in the "fringe".

Likewise, referring to the orthodox scholarship as representing the "vast majority" is falling back on tricks of language. We can, indeed, say that most Shakespearean scholars still hew to the orthodox lines, but "most" doesn't have the drama, does it? It doesn't carry with it an automatic implied victory.

+++

If nothing else, that almost requires a conspiracy. How can four generations of the most well informed people on the planet about Shakespeare fail to recognize the supposedly obvious truth that he was a fraud? If the "authorship question" is based on the accumulation of scholarship, it is most peculiar that almost all professional scholars don't seem to think that there is much of a question at all.

Again, you stack your argument with hyperbole. Experts all too often fall into the trap of protecting the area of their expertise. The "most well informed" scholars are precisely the ones who turn out volume after volume of Shakespearean biography that are about everything BUT Shakespeare. Portraits of the theater of the time, of London of the time, of society of the time, peppered with occasional guesswork about where Shakespeare MIGHT have been, and what Shakespeare COULD have been doing. Ah, if only he -- like every other playwright of his day -- had left some kind of paper trail. Yet, no. Shakespearean "scholarship" is all too often a study of everything BUT Shakespeare.

This is why Looney, himself having no horse in the race, approached the Authorship Question from an entirely new angle, asking how we might set about finding "Shakespeare" if the works had come down to us anonymously. His investigations led him to the Earl of Oxford, and from there a veritable cascade of Shakespearean connections. MORE connections, in fact, than can be made for the man from Stratford!

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Doug Campbell
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Posted: 29 July 2012 at 8:34am | IP Logged | 10  


JB: Your comments are extremely disingenuous.

It would be nice to be able to discuss this without being accused of arguing in bad faith.  In this discussion I assume that you and any other partisans of the Earl of Oxford present assertions you believe to be accurate and free of distortion, however much I may disagree with the assertions themselves.  I would appreciate the same courtesy. 

JB: The body of scholarship surrounding the Oxford claim is "fringe" only in the sense that it is not the largest body of scholarship. There is hardly to be found a single modern ACCEPTED theory, in any field, that did not begin its existence in the "fringe".  Likewise, referring to the orthodox scholarship as representing the "vast majority" is falling back on tricks of language. We can, indeed, say that most Shakespearean scholars still hew to the orthodox lines, but "most" doesn't have the drama, does it? It doesn't carry with it an automatic implied victory.

A "majority" could be as small as 50.1% of scholars.  Given that the actual percentage is probably in the high nineties, I fail to see how "vast majority" could be seen as inaccurate.  Looney's thesis has failed to convince a popular majority, and failed even more spectacularly to convince a scholarly majority.  It's been 92 years since he published his work.  While what you say about the number of fringe theories which have become mainstream consensuses is true, an intellectual paradigm shift doesn't take that long.  By way of comparison, 92 years after Copernicus published De revolutionibus orbium coelestium, most educated people accepted that the Earth revolved around the sun rather than vice versa.  92 years after the introduction of the Documentary Hypothesis by Graf and Wellhausen, a majority of scholars agreed that the Pentateuch had been written by several authors rather than just Moses.  And that was with the opposition of dogmatic religious authorities.

92 years after the publication of Shakespeare Identified, the Oxfordian thesis remains a fringe theory, despite only having to convince a bunch of people in tweed jackets without the power to burn anyone at the stake. 

JB: This is why Looney, himself having no horse in the race, approached the Authorship Question from an entirely new angle, asking how we might set about finding "Shakespeare" if the works had come down to us anonymously. His investigations led him to the Earl of Oxford, and from there a veritable cascade of Shakespearean connections. MORE connections, in fact, than can be made for the man from Stratford!

Of course Looney had a horse in the race.  As an alienated conservative nostalgist, he had formulated an idealized picture of the sort of man he wanted Shakespeare to be.  Shakespeare did not match that template, so he went in search of the sort of the sort of flamboyant aristocrat who matched the portrait he had formed in his mind.

The main weakness of the thesis of course is the absolute lack of evidence for it.  Not so much as a single document has been found explicitly linking Oxford to the works of Shakespeare.  Contrast this with the enormous contemporary paper trail tying Shakespeare to the plays and poems and you have the reason why scholars have been unimpressed with Looney and his successors.
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Doug Campbell
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Posted: 29 July 2012 at 8:43am | IP Logged | 11  

Michael:  How can two intelligent, reasonable people disagree that much, the difference between 80 sources and 0...!?

Somebody's fudging facts -- it has to be!

Nah, we just have a different interpretation about what really counts as a legitimate source linking the historical Shakespeare to the literary works.  I recognize that.  Who knows, maybe some more common ground can emerge from discussing this.

Stranger things have happened on the internet.
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Mark Haslett
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Posted: 29 July 2012 at 1:17pm | IP Logged | 12  

If Oxford could not have written MacBeth -- case closed, Q.E.D.

If it's that simple, then why discuss fringe vs. orthodox or any other issues?

I think the pro-Stratford case would be clearer if it would stick to "Stratford Shakespeare wrote the plays and that is very clear because of such-and-such". But that does not appear to be the pro-Stratford debate strategy.

The simple fact that Shakespeare's name appears as author in his life time is pretty good evidence.

But the question has to be, is it conclusive?

And if it's not conclusive then there is an authorship question, isn't there?

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