Drawing wings on the elephant
Time to get down to business and start jumping to some conclusions. Anti-stratfordians delight in the long distance conclusion leap and their logic-leaping skills are everywhere in evidence in Week 3. Things are looking down. For the learners, anyway
Beginning of course, with the by now ceremonial casting of aspersions on Shakespeare's education. Aspersions and insinuations on Stratford, on Grammar Schools, on Latin teaching all follow hard upon and lead to the utterly inexcusable suggestion, loved by all contrarians, that Will and his daughters were illiterate. Two sections of the MOOC deal with literacy although they contain precisely nothing of relevance to any authorship issues.
Anti-Stratfordians base half their case on the idea that William of Stratford was a poor uneducated, country bumpkin who didn't go to university.
This follows from a lack of knowledge of the Elizabethan educational system.
Shakespeare's plays show much more indication of a grammar-school education than of a university one. There is no factual evidence that Shakespeare attended the Grammar School in Stratford because, as for almost every grammar school of the period, there are no surviving rolls of pupils - but why would he not have done? The schools were open and free to all able pupils from the town. Will's father was an ambitious man, who rose to be Beadle, equivalent of the Mayor of Stratford Corporation, why would he not have taken advantage of the opportunity to give his son a good education?
The Grammar School curriculum was a national one laid down by royal decree and, as shown on the link below, for boys of 10 to 14, heavily based on the Latin classics, such as Plutarch and Ovid, widely used by Shakespeare as sources. The boys also were taught oratory and the Latin dramatists, Seneca and Plautus, on one of whose plays Shakespeare closely based The Comedy of Errors.
One of the striking features of Shakespeare's writing is ambiguity. He learned rhetoric at school and that involved arguing both sides of a case; he made very good use of that skill in the plays. Without getting in discussion of his possible Republicanism, I think Shakespeare was much too clever to write anything with even a hint that his politics 'were enough to make any author fear for his or her life'. That is how he kept out of trouble.
Mythical narratives can arise out of actual history. Shakespeare did a bit of that himself: his Henry V is not the historical figure but an icon. That doesn't mean that some other king won at Agincourt and married Catherine of Valois. Likewise, just because the Romantics made the Stratford boy into a cultural icon does not mean that he didn't write the plays. The evidence stands.
How does an authorship debate work when scholars, historians, theatre professionals and mathematicians all agree that 27 elephants are 27 elephants and not a menagerie of ornamental bipeds? How do you make a case for saying "that elephant isn't grey, four-legged and 12 feet tall, it's actually white, with wings, it used to fly but now it lives in a shoebox"? You have to draw on wings, you have to argue the possibility that 3-ton round objects can once have flown and can now be fitted into a shoebox by some method of collapse that some scholars agree is theoretically possible.
Overlaying doubt on issues where there is none is like drawing wings on elephants to enable them to fly.
Other on point comments about Stratford
This module is a master course in how speculation becomes hardened into fact (as well as displaying a deliberate mischaracterization of copyright laws of the time). According to Ros, George Buck didn't know whether Shakespeare (his spelling) was an actor or a playwright, but apparently thought of him as a "play broker", a profession that did not exist at the time. > But in fact, we have no idea whether Buck knew Shakespeare as an actor or a playwright. What seems much more likely is that he approached Shakespeare for this information because he knew that he bought, and sold plays. "What seems much more likely"? Really? By 1599, the earliest Buck could have asked Shakespeare about the authorship of George a Green though the date of the inscription is probably poat-1610, Shakespeare had been named as a playwright by Meres and his name had appeared on several plays and two best-selling poems. I suppose all those plays with Shakespeare's name on them that Buck licensed for publication never tickled his curiosity.
"Juby was the documented play broker of the Admiral's Men" This seems a stretch beyond what the evidence suggests, leading an unsuspecting beginner to assume that each company had their own "play broker". It seems like more than a stretch to me. It appears to be the product of motivated reasoning. Juby bought plays for his acting company -- he didn't broker them. He also is recorded as having purchased apparel for his company. That didn't make him a broker of clothes. So why is it that Juby has to be called a "broker of plays"? So that Shakespeare may also be identified as a "broker of plays" [by way of a somewhat lacking-in-logic employment of the fact that Buc asked both of them about the authorship of a play -- why couldn't Buc have known that both Juby and Shakespeare were both playwrights and actors?]. And why does Shakespeare have to be identified as a "broker of plays"? The answer is obvious, of course -- so that Shakespeare can be identified as the target of Jonson's poem, On Poet-Ape.
The issue is not whether there was a profession of “play broker.” It’s whether it was a viable role economically. A broker role is economically viable if it fills an economic need. Brokers serve to bring buyers and sellers together. A broker is paid a fee to arrange a transaction; some brokers are principals if they are buying and selling in their own right rather than as an agent of another. But the role of broker is not always economically viable in all markets. In a market with a small number of buyers and a small number of sellers, there may not be any room for a broker middle-man. Why would a buyer pay an extra payment to a broker if he or she had a direct relationship with the seller?.