Can Shakespeare’s true identity be worth all the effort that has been expended on supporting all the different candidates in the authorship debate?
Well, you might as well ask why does anything matter? Does the difference between truth and nonsense actually matter? Or could there be good reasons for not turning history into a parlour game where baseless guesses and wild surmise have the same validity as good, solid, provable, factual evidence.
While flicking through my pictures of the Mid-West, I came across the bright colours you see here on a very dull day. In Mitchell, South Dakota, there is a palace built of corn cobs. A large temple with ornate freizes done in coloured cobs of corn, a sort of Parthenon of the Plains.
It's a perfect analogy for Oxfordian ideas on the chronology of the plays. Their attempts to create a consistent, overall chronology seem like those of architects and builders trying to construct a cathedral out of Weetabix. However magnificent the structure looks on a sunny Oxfordian day, one good shower will turn the whole lot into mush.
When new scholarship activity nears the Shakespearean quayside, the leaky Oxfordian tugboats mass together and bleakly chug out into the tide making as much smoke as they can. A recent article in The Guardian on Florio and his possible editing of the First Folio threatened the Oxfordian fiction that the plays were in the care of William Herbert until they were published. Maximum smoke! Another, in the New York Times, on the similarities between Hand D and additions to Kyd's The Spanish Tragedy triggered yet more frantic smoke generation. Shakespeareans don't insist (yet!)* that the fragment of a lost play, Sir Thomas More, is an original sample of Will's handwriting, but it is absolutely crucial that Oxfordians are able to maintain that it is not.
Here's politicworm, the source of all Oxfordian orthodoxy, laying down the Oxfordian law on the subject of The Spanish Tragedy and its additions.
A key feature of the Oxfordian case lies in the cryptic interpretation of Ben Jonson's phrasing of the Preface to the First Folio. Ben is a master of the sideways, slanting, cryptic insult, so this is not, on the face of it, the usual daft codes and ciphers nonsense.
Oxford as a brilliant writer is a construct, all made up of fantasy and theft. “What he hath left us” is a dismal little heap of slag. So then his cultists must appropriate the words of Shakespeare as a counterfeit. They must excuse their hero’s own sad plodding poetry as juvenilia—while at the same time arguing unparalleled prodigious genius. He translated Ovid in the nursery, they believe—and no one spoke of it. The supernova blazed and vanished. But Oxford’s precocity, like Marina’s whorishness, is all in the beholder’s eye:
Did you go to ’t so young? Were you a gamester at five or at seven?
Earlier too, sir, if now I be one.
If dalliance with muses is unchastity, then Oxford died a virgin, slightly snogged.
Hours, weeks, even months have been spent arguing about Proteus and Portia's route-planning and what its accuracy or inaccuracy reveals. The first thing to say is that above all the geographical explanations, there exists the overarching possibility that Will had only vague ideas of the exact layout and governance of the Veneto and didn't really give a toss whether he was being accurate or not.
Time and distance are both often ruthlessly compressed in Will's work, like an artist's perspective on a broad landscape. To get to Belmont and back for his suit, Bassanio needed Shylock's money for three months. How does this time actually elapse in the play? Not on a journey to Belmont and back, that's for sure. How much more likely is it that Will fiddled with his source material without giving much thought to where Belmont was or how long it would take to get there? The three months were what we would now call 'virtual months' or 'stage months'.
The distance used by Oxfordians, headed by Magri and Roe, to uncover the location of Belmont is twenty miles.
Twenty miles is a virtual distance, which chimes with all the other uses of 'twenty' by Portia and her Belmont chums.
I know a hawk from a handsaw,
If De Vere wrote Hamlet, then the cherished Oxfordian textual analysis of the hawk and the handsaw moment does a disservice to the Earl's subtlety in creating character, narrative and meaning. Although Oxfordians are anxious to claim elite knowledge of falconry on behalf of the Earl, there is no 'riddle' to the hawk and the handsaw. Obviously, the playwright knew, when he chose the word handsaw, that his audience would probably think of, well, a handsaw. When The Globe was closed there would be hawks and handsaws all over the stage. However, Will loves a bit of wordplay and yes, the word ‘heronshaw’ or harnsa’ is there behind it, chiming with hawk. It's an excellent example of the 'doubleness', which pervades the structure, characterisation and imagery of the whole play
An essential task, when planting the shipwreck in the Tempest into the Oxfordian calendar or locating Prospero's island in Italy, is to explain what the 'still-vex'd Bermoothes' might be, while detaching them from the Bermoothes in the Atlantic, where the shipwrecked mariners from the Sea Venture were marooned.ARIEL
Safely in harbour
Is the king's ship; in the deep nook, where once
Thou call'dst me up at midnight to fetch dew
From the still-vex'd Bermoothes, there she's hid:
This proved rather tricky until a reference to an area in London called 'the Bermoothes' crops up. Areas of London can quickly acquire nicknames and lose them just as quickly. I lived in Fulham in West London in the 80's and nearby Earl's Court was known as 'Kangaroo Valley' as it was then very popular with visiting Australians.
Oxfordians claim the sonnets published as SHAKE-SPEARE’S SONNETS fit the life story of the Earl of Oxford better than they fit the life story of William Shakespeare of Stratford. They point out correctly that the poet often refers to himself as old, while Shakespeare was in his thirties when most of the sonnets are thought to have been written. They claim correctly that the poet complains of feeling disgraced and point out, again correctly, that the Earl of Oxford was often disgraced (although it is doubtful that there was any human being who ever lived who did not feel disgraced at one time or another).