102 Reasons

There's better evidence for fairies at the bottom of your garden than for De Vere's authorship of Will's plays.

Their manifesto

Hh-education

Rutland

“I swear by God’s body, I’d rather that my son should hang than study letters. For it becomes the sons of gentlemen to blow the horn nicely, to hunt skillfully and elegantly, carry and train a hawk. But the study of letters should be left to the sons of rustics.”

Largesse

In August 1564, the Queen ascended to Cambridge—for even she must be said to go up—with a train of courtiers. In honor of the great occasion, seventeen1 of that party, privy councillors and gilded youth, were granted degrees. Among those in the company so honored were Sir William Cecil and two of his royal wards: the hatchling earls Edward de Vere, the 17th of Oxford and Edward Manners, the 3rd of Rutland. They were then 14 and 15.

Reason 101

Some ideas on the current state of SAQ affairs


In our first post-100 reason, we reflect on how important are reason and logic to the Oxfordian conjecture.


Oxfordians claim to have assembled their contentions into a theory built from first principles by using a mass of circumstantial evidence. But are their claims reasonable or do Oxfordians arrive at their conclusions having swallowed a few faith-based, whale-sized red herrings?

We're going to look at a survey taken in Madison in 2014,1 testing the relative strength of what most Oxfordians believe but first, we'll look at what lies behind areas of weakness that must be obvious to any newcomer. The mechanism of belief is what we're interested in. After checking out the evidence quotient in what are keystone arguments, we can then use the survey to see where they rate in the Oxfordian standings of credibility.

Count von Count

This page is brought to you by the Number 17. And 16. And 18 and 19. And with the kind help of our friends at The Folger Library.
count

 

Seventeen is magic to Oxfordians. They see it everywhere in Shakespeare’s work, enwoven in the very fabric of his poetry. Septimodecimists find 17s in the praises of Ben Jonson, in Francis Meres’s catalog of poets, underlying and denying what they plainly wrote.

That language, to initiates, is but a screen, devised to hide a deeper truth, encoded in, occulted by these writers' “arithmetical arrangements.” "Read the puzzle, not the poem," they urge us.1 Words lie; but numbers? Never, if properly manipulated. By divination with 17s, the tribe of Ned can find him stamped on every page. This belief is more than talismanic—it is Trinitarian, the central mystery of their faith. Their Lord has hidden patterns of himself—his “authorial watermark”—in his creation.

Behold, the priesthood speaks: “Can this pattern of deviations from symmetry, in itself balanced, be ascribed to mere chance? ... Here de Vere is concealed and at the same time, by a fugue-like textural procedure, revealed as Shakespeare.”2

The Great Dictator

Faced with Sir Thomas More, a patchwork production by a rabble of commoners, which “like the toad … wears yet a precious jewel in his head”—a scene of Shakespeare’s—the Oxfordians have had to re-invent his lordship yet again.  None of the six hands in the manuscript is his.  Hand D, by consensus, is the Stratford fellow’s.  Is not. The spelling is nothing like De Vere’s.  The stylometry— Can’t hear you.  La-la-la.  But hey, Hand C, now:  that’s Anthony Munday’s.  Wasn’t he once Oxford’s secretary?  Out goes the high romantic image of the midnight study:  Rhys Ifans in fabulous shirtsleeves, alone with his ghosts.  In comes the Great Dictator and his secretary—no, his team of secretaries.  None of whom ever once blabbed.

“We now have to visualize Oxford at work, speaking lines aloud for a scribe to record—then, as he heard them recited back to him, pondering further changes, a method that guaranteed that the lines would sound as sweetly in a listener’s ear as in a reader’s mind.” 1

There’s a problem with that.  There are several; but consider two.

Hand of Damocles

In the face of such methodological shortcomings, conflicting opinions, and duelling analyses, what is one to think? An obvious explanation is that to- day’s orthodox scholars, including all the stylometricians here mentioned, are groping blindly in the wrong paradigm, and are handicapped by the confines of the conventional Shakespearean dating system. (Craig and Kinney are familiar with the Oxfordian argument, and mention it several times, once even citing an article in The Oxfordian.) In addition, very few scholars of any period have given any consideration to the idea of a substantial corpus of Shakespearean juvenilia. We can be sure that Shakespeare did not always write like Shakespeare.
Ramon Jiménez: Shakespeare Oxford Newsletter January 2011


Stylometry takes a step forward

In 2009, Hugh Craig and Arthur F Kinney published a book called Shakespeare, Computers and the Mystery of Authorship, revised in 2012, which has received surprisingly little attention in the SAQ debate, given its title. Craig is Professor of English at the University of Newcastle, Australia and a contributor to the Early Modern Literary Studies site and is the author of a very good study on Jonson which looks at the problems thrown up by lexical analysis of his work.

Arthur F Kinney is the Thomas W, Copeland Professor of Literary History at the University of Massachusetts at Amherst. He is a founding editor of English Literary Renaissance and he has also written on SAQ-relevant issues in Shakespeare's Web (2004) and Shakespeare and Cognition (2006). This book drew in the work of two doctoral students at Amherst; Philip Palmer and Timothy Irish Watt.

All sorts of bells should be ringing by now. However, the only reviews I can find in the field comprise a solitary Amazon review and a very positive notice from Linda Theil. I doubt she read it or even looked inside. There is also a mystifying article on the book in the Shakespeare Oxford Newsletter in which Ramon Jiménez proves he has definitely read some of its contents but, concluding from the above conclusion, he has either understood nothing or is presenting his summary of an entirely different book.

Tempests again

“I freeze and burn, love is bitter and sweet,
my sighs are tempests and my tears are floods,
I am in ecstasy and agony,
I am possessed by memories of her and
I am in exile from myself.” 

Francesco Petrarca*

Tempest metaphors are a favourite amongst poets and always have been. It's so easy to associate Olympian raging storms with chthonic emotional turmoil. Shakespeare's storm on the heath in King Lear is possibly the closest confrontation between elemental nature and primordial humanity. Storms on heaths, however barren, are different from storms at sea.

Money Money Money

“By Shakespeare's time the possibilities for a politically critical drama had been transformed by the emergence of professional repertory companies which despite their residual status as royal servants derived their economic strength from a far wider public. Shakespeare's career reflects not just individual genius but the excitement of a whole collective institution at the possibilities of what amounted to a cultural revolution: the emergence of a literary public sphere which prepared the way for the formation of a political public sphere."

David Norbrook, "What Cares These Roarers for the Name of the King?: Language and Utopia in The Tempest"

 

One of the more irritating sights in Oxfordland is the blundering pursuit of an improbable idea through fantasy thickets concocted from what they regard as evidence. These junkets always lead either to a damning assessment of Shakespeare or a conclusive addition to their so-called case for De Vere's authorship. Fox-hunting with the rear half of a pantomime horse.

The unspeakable in pursuit of the unarguable. 

Their constant efforts to drown the evidence of Will's career in acid are intended to generate a cloud of noxious smoke to hide the crucifyingly embarrassing fact that no real evidence—of any sort—lends credence to their own case. Recently we have seen imaginary acts of usury and criminal behaviour pile up into a mountain of disreputable sharp practice and then lead to the conclusion that Shakespeare earned his cash from pimping, strong-arming, moneylending and generally impersonating Don Corleone in Elizabethan Southwark.

Contemptible, predictable nonsense.

Synonymity

In the race to complete a list of 100 reasons why Oxford did or did not write Shakespeare's plays, Hank Whittemore's site has taken a strong lead in the final straight and now looks certain to beat us to the magic figure. We are becalmed on #95. In his Reason #95 Hank's attention falls on the relationship between the Earl and Christopher Marlowe as he advances his theory of how a young, up and coming playwright like Kit would have got his start in the cauldron of Elizabethan theatre. 

Weever's tangled web

 

The Oxfordian pick has struck gold again, an occurrence that seems to happen with astounding regularity, yet for some reason the nuggets found never seem to get past the assay office.

This time the treasure lode is an article by the new leading light of Oxfordian research, Alexander Waugh, grandson of Evelyn Waugh and an established author in his own right. The last few years he seems to have directed his not inconsiderable intellect to the Oxford Authorship Question, the almost century-long effort to find evidence that Edward de Vere, the 17th Earl of Oxford, was the True Author of the works universally attributed to the usurer, grain dealer, and play broker, William Shakespeare (if that was indeed his real name; Shicklespurt is the more likely moniker) of Stratford-upon-Avon, gentleman.

Mr. Waugh's latest effort, ‘John Weever - Another Anti-Stratfordian,’ is published in The De Vere Society Newsletter, 21: 2 (May 2014), pp. 12-15.

Pages


102/102

80 Fusina
64 Not Ed
38 Verona
14 Tin Ear