Monday, April 03, 2006

Yet Again on the Authorship Question

Some Awkward Questions
Unmet Challenges to the Case for William Shakspere of Stratford as the Author [of Shakespeare's Plays and Poems] Compared to the Answers to the Same Questions Regarding Edward de Vere, Earl of Oxford.

After 250 years of the most intensive research by numerous scholars nothing has been discovered which unambiguously links William of Stratford-on-Avon with the plays that bear his name. All we know of him for certain are business or personal details such as baptism, marriage or death. No manuscripts or other documents of a literary nature by him or about him have emerged.

Q. Apart from six signatures, what other examples of documents are there which demonstrate literate activity? He is thought to have lived in London for some years while conducting a business, and maintaining a family, in Stratford. Apart from one letter addressed to him but apparently never sent, what letters from or to him, or other personal papers, have been discovered?

The Stratford Fellow? One business letter, apparently never sent.

Edward de Vere? Over 50 manuscript letters, covering literary, personal, political and business subjects.

Q. What references to him as the playwright appear in others' correspondence or diaries, or other contemporary documents?

The Stratford Fellow? One - Francis Meres' Palladis Tamia 1598.

Edward de Vere? Francis Meres' Palladis Tamia 1598, Antony a Wood b 1632 in Athenae Oxoniensis 1691-2, Francis Peck in Desiderata Curiosa 1732-35

Q. The playwright was obviously a person of great education. What documentary evidence is there that Shakspere of Stratford had any education at any level?

The Stratford Fellow? None. The records from Stratford Grammar School for the period are lost. He did not attend Oxford or Cambridge or the Inns of Court.

Edward de Vere? We have details of Oxford's very comprehensive education in William Cecil's household. He graduated from St John's College Cambridge.

Q. Many of the plays' sources were not published in English during his lifetime. Do we know that he was able to read them in the original languages?

The Stratford Fellow? There is no evidence that he could.

Edward de Vere? He read and wrote French and Latin, was fluent in Italian and knew Greek and Spanish.

Q. Did he own copies of Ovid, North, Plutarch and the more than 100 other books recognized as sources for his plays?

The Stratford Fellow? There are no records that he had a private library, nor that he had access to anyone else's. He left no books in his will.

Edward de Vere? Had an extensive private library, including a copy of the Geneva Bible, now in the Folger Shakespeare Library, Washington DC, which contains over 1000 annotations and underlinings, about 250 of which have parallels in the plays.

Q. If not, where did he see them? There were no public libraries, and books were very expensive and consequently precious. Even a genius has to acquire knowledge and skills.

The Stratford Fellow? We do not know. There are no records of his living in a wealthy household where books would have been available, or having a personal relationship with anybody who owned a library.

Q. Where did he get the intimate knowledge of, for example, Court life and behaviour, aristocratic sports and pastimes, or Italian geography and customs which are all exhibited in the plays? Is there any record that he was ever at Court, or travelled to Italy, for example?

The Stratford Fellow? No.

Edward de Vere? Was a leading figure at Court until 1592. He travelled in France, Germany and Italy, where he rented a Palazzo in Venice for several months and became entangled with money-lenders.

Q. We usually expect to find parallels between an author's life in his or her works. Where are the personal biographical allusions to Will Shakspere in the plays? How intimate or convincing are they?

The Stratford Fellow? There are very few which can be identified, despite diligent searches by Stratfordian scholars, and many of those could be coincidences.

Edward de Vere? Too numerous to detail, Hamlet and All's Well are particularly rich in what appear to be pesonal allusions to Oxford's life.