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Looney Tunes

In his famous thesis, Roger Stritmatter joins Thomas J Looney in the First Article of the Oxfordian Credo which detects similarity between the work of the Bard and that of the Earl, trying for a twofer by aligning the plot of Hamlet with the life of De Vere.

Indeed Looney notes that the "central fact of Hamlet's working out

a secret purpose under a mask of eccentricity amounting almost to feigned madness" (398) forms

an analogue to the real-life circumstances of Edward de Vere as the greatest of the "concealed

poets" 4

In an attempt to further ennoble Looney's conclusion that they are the same person, Stritmatter cites the following passage from the great man.

All the quickness of the senses which marks alike the work of De Vere and Shakespeare

manifests itself in the person of Hamlet.  He misses nothing; and every thing he sees or hears

opens some new avenue to the "inmost parts" of those about him.  A man like this is almost

foredoomed to a tragic loneliness; for even such love as he shows towards Ophelia and she

towards him cannot blind him to her want of honesty in her dealings.  He sees much of which

he may not speak.  In the play he can express himself in soliloquy or cunningly reveal to the

audience what is hidden from the other personages in the drama; but in real life he would

become a man of large mental reserves and an enforced secretiveness.  (395)

And then, clearly touched by Looney's eloquence, Stritmatter poses the question:

Has any Shakespeare critic, ideology aside, written two hundred more eloquent words about

the essential nature of the character Hamlet?  I cannot name any.

A simple challenge that Stritmatter himself could surely rise to. 

Given the number of top drawer poets like Coleridge and Byron or the number of consummate prose stylists like Johnson and Hazlitt who have written about Hamlet, it's a two minute task for anyone who can Google. Stritmatter is attempting a conjuring trick (he's quite good at them). This trick is intended to acclimatise the reader to the unacceptable ideas of Mr Looney by creating a debating space manufactured from his uncontentious statements.

Weight is added by stepping back from time to time, like here, to admire Looney's insight, expression and all round superiority as a Shakespearean guru.

We can see the trick just by taking a few steps back and reminding ourselves that the object praised here once struggled to separate De Vere's poetry from Churchyard's (much less Shakespeare's). Looney's critical skill allowed to him link De Vere's ambulant prose to Will based on its 'terse genius' (entirely imaginary) and its 'wealth of figurative language' (also entirely imaginary).

Here by contrast, is T S Eliot in his collection of literary essays, The Sacred Wood, also musing on Hamlet's internal struggles

"The levity of Hamlet, his repetition of phrase, his puns, are not part of a deliberate plan of dissimulation, but a form of emotional relief. In the character Hamlet it is the buffoonery of an emotion which can find no outlet in action; in the dramatist it is the buffoonery of an emotion which he cannot express in art. The intense feeling, ecstatic or terrible, without an object or exceeding its object, is something which every person of sensibility has known; it is doubtless a study to pathologists. It often occurs in adolescence: the ordinary person puts these feelings to sleep, or trims down his feeling to fit the business world; the artist keeps it alive by his ability to intensify the world to his emotions. "

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