16th century “doubt” about authorship

Unable to point to credible sources of doubt in modern times, the doubters are now reaching back to insinuate that doubt concerning the authorship of Shakespeare's plays has been around since they were being produced.

Like arguing for a candidate who died in 1604, ten years before Shakespeare stopped writing, this is going to involve turning the whole world of Bankside theatre upside down and shoving it roughly through the Looking Glass. Not only will Dr Barber not allow anyone to assert that something is true, she and her colleagues are now going into full Looking Glass Mode where everything means exactly what they say it means. Doubters, especially Oxfordian doubters, do not blanch at the task of proving everyone wrong. Even if it means every one who has ever written anything about Shakespeare.

none of the stuff about grain dealing, play brokering and making money has any objective relevance to the authorship question. Will of Stratford was a good business man - he also was an excellent playwright.


Joan GreenleafOxfraud

The fact that I don't think Shakespeare is the only hand in the Works doesn't mean that I see his contribution to them as in any way inferior to or more dubious than those of other contributors.


Toni PrinceCourse participant

But if you can't provide any examples of people engaged in this activity from the period in question (and you can't), then you can't defend yourself from the charge of having invented the activity to suit your argument.



Comparing apples with submarines

Under McCarthyism in 1950's Hollywood, writers found to be communist sympathizers were blacklisted, meaning they could no longer work as screenwriters for the big studios. In order to get around the prohibitions, certain blacklisted writers secretly engaged people prepared to represent screenplays they had not written as their own.

It is, I suppose, possible that Barber cannot spot the difference between her analogy and the reality of Bankside theatre. Firstly, none of Shakespeare's plays ever caused problems with the censor. A bit of civil strife over the name 'Oldcastle' was easily resolved. And Will may have contributed to the unproduced play Sir Thomas More but there are no records of any other trouble with "those flights upon the banks of Thames, That so did take Eliza and our James." So a comparison with Dalton Trumbo is completely inappropriate. If Will had been a Spanish Catholic he may have had a more difficult time but he was the favourite dramatist of both his monarchs.

That's not the worst of it. As soon as McCarthyism collapsed, there was no coverup, None of the writers continued to remain anonymous. Trumbo was credited with The Exodus and Spartacus before the blacklist expired, having been publicly acknowledged by directors and actors, appalled at the injustice. Everyone knew who wrote what, everyone was credited with their rightful work as soon as the conditions changed and McCarthyism was seen as evil paranoia rather than self-protection. Barber has clearly forgotten her dire warnings in Week 1 about the inefficacy of parallelism. She's now run out of everything else.

And her parallels are not going to win any prizes for geometry in the real world. They just get more ridiculous.

The problem is not that she can't spot an enlightening parallel which supports her case, there just aren't any to be had. And as the MOOC progresses, things are going to get much worse,

In her quest for doubt Barber not only trots out Baconian and Oxfordian catechism on Willobie, Labeo, Batillus and John Davies of Hereford. She even retails the humiliating SAQ fiction that hyphens indicate pseudonyms.

However, the hyphenated form of a name was not exclusively used to indicate a pseudonym.

Not a whole-hearted endorsement, you might say but by putting even the feeblest contrarian ideas in her shop window, Barber is leading her sheep into a mist in the hope that it will stop them seeing straight. The module continues the character assassination of the man from Stratford by trying to make believe that every derogatory or pejorative reference to a Bankside playwright is a reference to Shakespeare. The name of the game is finding references that justify the idea that "Shakspeare", Barber's second Will, is only a pseudonym. Mark Johnson takes careful aim and puts a crossbow bolt through one of Barber's favourites.


Mark JohnsonWeek 2 · a month ago

The other Labeo family... Quintus Antistius Labeo was a prominent Roman lawyer during the reign of Caesar Augustus. His son, Marcus Antistius Labeo, followed his father into the legal profession and achieved wide success himself.

John Marston, the father of the poet John Marston, “was an eminent lawyer of the Middle Temple who first argued in London and then became the counsel to Coventry and ultimately its steward.” [Wikipedia] In 1592 the elder Marston “had his son specially admitted to that institution (Middle Temple) in an ultimately vain attempt to bring him into the family business...In his will, proved in 1599, Marston Senior left his law books and business furnishings to his son, with the regret that the latter had not been willing to follow in his profession.” [Ian Steere]

John Marston entered Brasenose College, Oxford, in 1592 and received his BA in 1594. By 1595, he was in London, living in the Middle Temple, where he had been admitted a member three years previously. Marston eventually rejected his father's wish that he would give up his pursuit of a writing career and join him in the legal profession. There is a real-world correspondence here, and, by referring to Marston as Labeo, Hall is targeting Marston for flouting his own father's desires – and also intimating that he maybe should have stuck with his day job.

Is there any other similar allusion to Marston in the literature of the day which would tend to support this interpretation? Why, yes, it seems there is. During the Poetomachia, where Ben Jonson was pitted against Marston and Dekker, Jonson satirized writers who had participated in the Ovidian movement that had been so popular earlier in the 1590's. In Jonson's play, Poetaster, he writes of a battle between Ovid and Virgil, with Horace [probably representing Jonson himself] overseeing the competition being judged by Emperor Augustus. Ovid is portrayed as a writer who has pursued poetry against his father's fondest wish that he pursue a career in the law. Ovid and his followers are eventually banished from court. An outcome Jonson certainly would have favored as to Marston and Dekker.

Labeo is Marston himself.

Ian Steere has written a very good analysis of this interpretation. If interested, the link is at: Link…

Other on point comments about “early doubt”

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