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Steven Brake
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Posted: 16 June 2024 at 10:59am | IP Logged | 1  

@Mark: I have no idea. Snobbery? Disbelief that an uneducated  (in their view and by their standards) provincial would presume to write poetry?

Indignation that a man of such undistinguished background would presume to dedicate his work to Southampton?

Doubt is not proof.

(As a side note, Venus and Adonis was printed by Richard Field, a probable contemporary of Will of Stratford - there were only a few years between them, and Shakespeare's father was one of several who helped assess the value of Field's father's property after he died). 
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Mark Haslett
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Posted: 16 June 2024 at 11:49am | IP Logged | 2  

Steven,

Naturally, I expect nothing from you.

But "Doubt" is all the authorship question is about.

"Doubt" is not proof of anything except... Doubt.

You claim to be able to know Shakepeare's famous contemporaries Joseph Hall and John Marsten do not have valid reasons to justify their plainly stated claim that Shakespeare is a pen name.

You ridiculously claim Ben Jonson never doubted the author's identity. You can't possibly know what he may or may not have thought, but what has been passed down by him is bursting with ambiguity about Shakespeare's identity. In POETASTER, he writes a character named Ovid who is a lawyer who writes lines from Shakespeare's Romeo & Juliet. Jonson goes to the mat to defend the Earl of Oxford in his Eastward Ho, then writes the material in the folio which Stratfordians generally agree is filled with strange ambiguities.

All of his apparent ambiguities disappear when one assumes Joseph Hall and John Marsten were not idiots who falsely stated Shakespeare was a pen name for no accountable reason.

As Gullio says in "Return to Parnassus" when he recognizes the words of Shakespeare: "I am one that can judge according to the proverb, bovem ex unguibus."

I wonder... why would Gullio change the Latin proverb here as he does? Instead of stating properly, "recognize a lion by its claws" the Parnassus play has Gullio say the proverb is "recognize an OX by its claws." ...How strange.
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John Byrne
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Posted: 16 June 2024 at 12:23pm | IP Logged | 3  

Assuming validity to the Oxford hypothesis, we find “Honest” Ben Jonson deeply involved in the manufacture and maintenance of the Shakespeare “brand”. He gives us the first “Avon” reference, for instance, tho separate from “Stratford” and seeming to address an audience that would be well aware that the river Avon flows past London, and even borders property owned by Edward DeVere.
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John Byrne
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Posted: 16 June 2024 at 1:04pm | IP Logged | 4  

Doubt is not proof…

And neither is wishful thinking, unfortunately for the Stratford case.

The man from Stratford is quite well documented, but none of that documentation identifies him as a writer of any kind, and none connects him directly to the famous author with a similar—but not identical—name.

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Steven Brake
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Posted: 16 June 2024 at 1:22pm | IP Logged | 5  

Mark Haslett wrote: But "Doubt" is all the authorship question is about. "Doubt" is not proof of anything except... Doubt.

SB replied: Isn't that rather the problem with Oxfordian arguments, and alternative authorship arguments generally? They're pretty much negative, attacking Shakespeare (or Will of Stratford, if you'd prefer) rather than building a positive case for their respective candidates.

As I've conceded before, Stratfordians have largely themselves to blame for much of the Alternative Authorship theories. Having indulged themselves far too much in speculating about Will of Stratford, they've basically set themselves up to be debunked.

Mark Haslett wrote: You claim to be able to know Shakepeare's famous contemporaries Joseph Hall and John Marsten do not have valid reasons to justify their plainly stated claim that Shakespeare is a pen name.

SB replied: I haven't. I've admitted I don't know, and suggested possible motives for their opinions.

Mark Haslett wrote: You ridiculously claim Ben Jonson never doubted the author's identity. You can't possibly know what he may or may not have thought, 

SB replied: In his commendatory verse prefacing the First Folio (1623), Ben Jonson offers qualified praise of Shakespeare, extolling his writing in some lines, then teasing his lack of learning in others.

In private conversation with William Drummond, he criticised Shakespeare more harshly, and claimed that he "wanted art".

In De Shakespeare Nostrat, part of Timber which was published after Jonson's death, he again questioned the quality of Shakespeare's writing, but again affirmed his affection for him. 

However much Jonson varied in his opinion of Shakespeare's writing, he never once questioned his authorship. 

Mark Haslett wrote: As Gullio says in "Return to Parnassus" when he recognizes the words of Shakespeare: "I am one that can judge according to the proverb, bovem ex unguibus."

I wonder... why would Gullio change the Latin proverb here as he does? Instead of stating properly, "recognize a lion by its claws" the Parnassus play has Gullio say the proverb is "recognize an OX by its claws." ...How strange.

SB replied: The Parnassus Plays are mocking Shakespeare (and others of low birth or uneducated status) for presuming to write for the stage. 

I'm not sure what you're insinuating here? Are you suggesting that the supposed mockery of Shakespeare is a clever in-joke, an allusion to, and praise of, Oxford? 
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Steven Brake
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Posted: 16 June 2024 at 1:45pm | IP Logged | 6  

JB wrote: Assuming validity to the Oxford hypothesis, we find “Honest” Ben Jonson deeply involved in the manufacture and maintenance of the Shakespeare “brand”. He gives us the first “Avon” reference, for instance, tho separate from “Stratford” and seeming to address an audience that would be well aware that the river Avon flows past London, and even borders property owned by Edward DeVere.

SB replied: In 1603, William Shakespeare is named in the patent confirming the creation of The King's Men. Also named in the patent are Henry Condell and John Heminges.

In 1616, William Shakespeare (or Shakspeare) dies in Stratford-Upon-Avon. He names Henry Condell and John Heminges among the beneficiaries of his will. It's not much of a bequest - money to buy memorial rings - but, still, they're named.

In 1623, the First Folio is published. Henry Condell and John Heminges explain that they arranged for it to be created to commemorate the memory of William Shakespeare. The man they'd known for years, and who died in Stratford-Upon-Avon, naming them as beneficiaries in his will.

In said Folio, Ben Jonson commends Shakespeare as the Swan of Avon.

As far as I know, the only property owned by De Vere that the River Avon flowed past was Bilton Hall - which he sold in 1580, some 43 years before the First Folio was published.

Is the "William Shakespeare", the "Swan of Avon" in the First Folio, a reference to:

i) The William Shakespeare who Heminges, Condell and Jonson had known for years, and who died in Stratford-Upon-Avon, or

ii) Edward De Vere, the 17th Earl of Oxford, who there is no proof ever used a pseudonym, and who would not have been required to use one, and who had owned a property nearly half a century before that the River Avon flowed past.

I know who my money's on. :)

JB wrote: The man from Stratford is quite well documented, but none of that documentation identifies him as a writer of any kind, and none connects him directly to the famous author with a similar—but not identical—name.

SB replied: The supposed significance of "Shakspere" or "Shaxper" versus "Shakespeare" simply doesn't work. From roughly the early 1590s onwards, plays by William Shakespeare - or "Shakspere" or "Shaxper", or lots of different variants - are being performed onstage by The Lord Chamberlain's Men. There are also "bad" quartos being published.

In 1598, Francis Meres acclaims Shakespeare (I'll just continue to use this spelling) as the author of eight plays, all of which were performed by The Lord Chamberlain's Men.

In around 1598-1602, the authors of The Parnassus Plays mock Shakespeare, amongst others, for presuming to write for the stage, competing against their social betters and more educated contemporaries.

In 1603, a royal patent is issued confirming the creation of The King's Men, including Shakespeare, Richard Burbage, Henry Condell and John Heminges.

Plays written under the name of William Shakespeare are performed at court, at the Globe and are also published. No-one challenges his authorship, or suggests there is anything untoward about it.

In 1616, Shakespeare dies.

In 1619, Burbage dies.

In 1623, the First Folio is published. Condell and Heminges explain that they arranged for it to commemorate the memory of the man they'd known for years. Decades, actually.

Jonson, who'd also known Shakespeare for decades, vacillates in his opinion of Shakespeare's writing but never once states, or even suggests, that he was not the author of the plays that bore his name.

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John Byrne
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Posted: 16 June 2024 at 2:13pm | IP Logged | 7  

Same tired game. Refer to the Stratford man as “Shakespeare”—not the common Warwickshire spelling (or pronunciation)—and all the “evidence” points to him. This allows us to skip past the fact that none of the Stratford references identify a writer.

I’m reminded of those two IMDb entries that listed my artistic contributions to two movies I had never heard of. Oops, they were Tilda Swinton movies, and the contributions were by another artist named John Byrne. (When he died recently some of my art school classmates assumed it was me, despite him being a decade older than me. What’s in a name?)

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Steven Brake
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Posted: 16 June 2024 at 4:06pm | IP Logged | 8  

JB wrote: Same tired game. Refer to the Stratford man as “Shakespeare”—not the common Warwickshire spelling (or pronunciation)—and all the “evidence” points to him. This allows us to skip past the fact that none of the Stratford references identify a writer.

SB replied: So what's the alternative argument? De Vere - let's go with him - adopts the pseudonym "Shakespeare" for no apparent reason, given that he's known as a playwright under his own name and not only suffers no disgrace but is highly praised as one.

Enjoying the extensive education and experiencing the wide travel typical of a member of the nobility, De Vere, as "Shakespeare" writes a series of plays riddled with historical and geographical errors and which almost always violate the dramatic principle of unity of time, place and action. 

The plays are often scoffed at by contemporaries as obviously the product of an unlearned mind, and are similarly derided by critics of the Augustan period (early 18th century) who much prefer Ben Jonson.

By odd coincidence, at the same time there's a man from Stratford-Upon-Avon called Will. Let's call him Will of Stratford. As is common for the time, his surname is spelt in a variety of different ways. He may have received a grammar school education, or a few years of schooling, but definitely didn't attend university.

Will of Stratford is a member of The Lord Chamberlain's Men, then The King's Men, who perform the plays later attributed to William Shakespeare in the First Folio (among other printings).

As would have been common practice, the plays would also have been written in collaboration. None of these collaborators find it odd when the plays they're writing with De Vere are published under another name, which is the same as the man who is a member of the troupe performing said plays. 

In 1596, Hamnet Shakespeare (or Shakspere, or Shaxper, etc), Will's only legitimate son, dies.

A couple of months later, the Shakespeare family are granted a coat-of-arms. Shakespeare has no other legitimate male heir to inherit the coat of arms, and none of his brothers have fathered sons, or not legitimate sons at any rate.

"Hamlet" is written around 1599-1601 - the dates are disputed - but is certainly performed by 1602. A major theme in it is the ultimate undoing of achievement, King Hamlet's triumph over King Fortinbras reversed so that Prince Hamlet dies and Young Fortinbras sits on the Danish throne.

In 1599, Francis Mere separately commends De Vere and Shakespeare for their plays, giving no indication that they are the same man.

Despite dying in 1604, De Vere manages to write Macbeth, which, by common consent, is a reaction to The Gunpowder Plot of 1605. Further plays attributed to Shakespeare (or Shakspere, or any number of variants) continue to appear. None of De Vere's collaborators seem to find it odd that they're working with someone else, but that the plays are still being published under the name of Shakespeare.

Will of Stratford dies in Stratford-Upon-Avon in 1616. His will names Burbage, Heminges and Condell - who, like Will of Stratford, were named in the royal patent confirming the creation of The King's Men, and who'd worked with him as members of The Lord Chamberlain's Men - as beneficiaries, or at least receiving small bequests.

Although Burbage himself dies only a few years later, Heminges and Condell arrange for the publication of the First Folio. The Folio identifies the author of the plays as William Shakespeare, who is also described as the "Swan of Avon". This is apparently a clever reference not only to the pseudonym used by  Edward De Vere, for no apparent reason, but also to a property he'd last owned 43 years ago, not, as common sense would suggest, the William Shakespeare (or Shakespere, or Shaxper, etc) who Heminges, Condell and Jonson had known for years and who'd died in Stratford-Upon-Avon.

After Shakespeare's death, Jonson, who'd ambivalently praised Shakespeare in his commendatory poem in the First Folio, reiterates more harshly his criticism of Shakespeare's writing in private conversation, and repeats it less harshly in the posthumously published Timber. By this time Will of Stratford and Edward De Vere have been dead for decades, along with anyone who would have a vested interest in pretending that the former was the author of the works actually produced by the latter.


Edited by Steven Brake on 16 June 2024 at 7:06pm
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Mark Haslett
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Posted: 18 June 2024 at 1:09am | IP Logged | 9  

Mark Haslett wrote: But "Doubt" is all the authorship question is about.
"Doubt" is not proof of anything except... Doubt.

SB replied: Isn't that rather the problem with Oxfordian arguments, and
alternative authorship arguments generally? They're pretty much negative,
attacking Shakespeare (or Will of Stratford, if you'd prefer) rather than
building a positive case for their respective candidates

**

Yes, Steven, that is the problem: the Stratfordian case has been the
presumed truth because of tradition. The solution is to first acknowledge
there is good reason to believe the Stratfordian case is wrong.

The fact that his professional contemporaries declared the name is a pen
name and were never contradicted by anyone (including Jonson) is one
great reason to doubt Shaksper is Shakespeare. Joseph Hall gives many
hints about who wrote Shakespeare in his popular 1595 work. One thing he
states plainly about the author is that his name is not “Shakespeare”

Once we agree who the author ISN’T, we can begin solving the mystery of
who the author IS.

Edited by Mark Haslett on 18 June 2024 at 6:50am
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Steven Brake
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Posted: 18 June 2024 at 12:31pm | IP Logged | 10  

Mark Haslett wrote: Yes, Steven, that is the problem: the Stratfordian case has been the presumed truth because of tradition.

SB replied: The Stratfordian "case" is recognised as the truth by virtually every serious academic and accepted by the general public.

Mark Haslett: The solution is to first acknowledge there is good reason to believe the Stratfordian case is wrong.

SB replied: To date, no Alternative Authorship theorist has been able to provide compelling evidence or make a convincing case for their alternative candidate, or candidates.  

Mark Haslett: The fact that his professional contemporaries declared the name is a pen name and were never contradicted by anyone...

SB replied: You've provided a handful of contemporaries who seem to have doubts that Will of Stratford wrote Venus & Adonis. 

Mark Haslett wrote (or continued):... (including Jonson) is one great reason to doubt Shaksper is Shakespeare. 

SB replied: Jonson was not simply in as good but in even better a position than pretty much any of Shakespeare's contemporaries to know the supposed truth about his "authorship".  Yet while vacillating over his assessment of Shakespeare's writing, he never once expresses any doubts that he had produced it.

Mark Haslett wrote: Once we agree who the author ISN’T, we can begin solving the mystery of who the author IS.

SB replied: As I've posted above, Alternative Authorship arguments - whether the candidate is De Vere, Marlowe, Bacon, etc - are essentially negative, raising questions about rather than making a case for. Raise doubts about Will if you want, but you'll find it even harder, if not impossible, to raise up another candidate in his place.

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Michael Penn
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Posted: 18 June 2024 at 1:35pm | IP Logged | 11  


 QUOTE:
Mark Haslett: The fact that his professional contemporaries declared the name is a pen name and were never contradicted by anyone...

The argument that "Shakespeare" is a pen name is one of the most murky elements in the alternative author position. In whatever ways the Stratford man and others spelled and pronounced his name, and it certainly was variable in both during his lifetime, all those varieties are still either akin to or very close to or even exactly like "Shakespeare." So, if the author was not Shaksper (just to use that one version of the Stratford man's name), it's utterly obscure how and why the works were published as "Shakespeare." The earliest surviving record of a purchase of the work of "Shakespeare" is in the 1593 diary of Richard Stonley. The poem had only just then been published, and its printed dedication shows "Shakespeare." Yet, Stonley's diary records "Venus and Adhonay pr Shakspere." 

I fully realize this is isolating one bit of evidence to the exclusion of all else, but it could simply be argued that Stratford Shaksper(e) was "Shakespeare," rather than giving up to the mystery* of how in 1593 did Oxford's poem somehow get into huckster Shaksper's hands so that he would have it published under a version his name with an open dedication to the Earl of Southampton. Even being okay with that mystery still means that "Shakespeare" wasn't a pen name except oddly** after-the-fact of Shaksper continually claiming authorship right from the get-go (unless it can be speculated that Oxford was in cahoots with Shaksper, which facially seems silly).


*Oxfordians might well concede this one mystery while countering, and so what about the host of mysteries regarding Shaksper as the author!
  
**I've never found arguments that Gabriel Harvey's 1578 Latin oration to Oxford about his countenance shaking a spear (a shaky translation, that) at all credible as a precursory hint to the "Shakespeare" pen name.

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John Byrne
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Posted: 18 June 2024 at 1:51pm | IP Logged | 12  

Shaky (ahem) it may be, but it provides one more bit of circumstantial evidence linking DeVere to Shakespeare.

My own best guess, tho, is that DeVere himself had nothing to do with the invention of “Shakespeare”. I think it more likely that the name was chosen by others (possibly including Ben Jonson) as a “brand” to protect the very profitable plays from interference from On High—perhaps Burleigh or even Oxford himself.

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