The Shakespeare authorship (non) controversy

There isn’t a Shakespeare authorship controversy.  No such controversy exists.  Shakespeare’s plays were written by William Shakespeare, glover’s son from Stratford-on-Avon and shareholder in the Lord Chamberlain’s men.  They were not written by the Earl of Oxford or Francis Bacon or Queen Elizabeth, or Christopher Marlowe, or anyone else. There does not exist any evidence whatsoever to support any other conclusion. Shakespeare wrote Shakespeare.  Period.

I hate doing this.  First, I hate just stating something dogmatically like that; it goes against my deepest instincts. I’m not that guy.  And I hate debunking conspiracy theories.  It doesn’t do any good. People who believe that the CIA/Cubans/Mafiosi killed Kennedy, or that Obama was born in Kenya, or that George W. Bush blew up the Twin Towers, will NOT be persuaded otherwise; they are, in my experience, completely impervious to evidence.

And the Shakespeare authorship conspiracists are, in my experience, an agreeable bunch of people.  First one I ever met was many years ago, when I was acting in a summer stock company in southern Indiana.  One of my co-actors was a committed Oxfordian, and he challenged me to read The Mysterious William Shakespeare: the Man and the Myth, by Charlton Ogburn Jr.  I thought, why not?  I read it, and had two reactions–a violent dislike for the writing style of Charlton Ogburn Jr., and an utter conviction that Shakespeare of Stratford wrote the plays. But I stayed friends with my co-actor. He was a nice guy, and a good actor.

Jim Bennett is a Facebook friend of mine, and another agreeable guy.  Also an Oxfordian.  He recently published an an article in the Deseret News, arguing that the plays attributed to William Shakespeare were actually written by Edward de Vere, seventeenth Earl of Oxford.

Now, I think there are lots of very good reasons to summarily reject this theory.  First, there exists absolutely no evidence to support it.  We know Oxford wrote and published poems, and he was praised for his plays, though none have survived.  And he liked the theatre, sponsoring a boy’s company.  But none of that constitutes evidence.

Jim Bennett’s article says that a guy in Oxford’s position couldn’t write plays openly, and so used a pen name.  But that’s silly.  Oxford wrote plays publicly, was known to do so, and was praised for it.  His plays haven’t survived, but that’s not remotely unusual; most plays that were produced in the Elizabethan/Jacobean period, at least 90%, weren’t published.  Plays were owned by acting companies, in the sense that the manuscripts were physically owned and controlled by someone, in that pre-copyright era. Publishing them worked to the company’s disadvantage.  You might sell a play that wasn’t in your performance repertoire anymore to a publisher for a little extra cash, and publishers were known to steal manuscripts, or hire folks to sit in the theater and write down as many lines as they could and publish that–it was an unscrupulous and deeply competitive publishing environment.  But mostly plays weren’t published.

There were two kinds of publications in the Elizabethan/Jacobean period; quartos and folios.  Think of them as ‘paperbacks’ and ‘hardbacks.’  Quartos were smaller and cheaper, folios larger and more expensive.  The reason we have the Shakespeare canon today is because after his death, two actor friends, John Heminges and Henry Condell, published them in the First Folio.  Only one other playwright from that period had his plays published in a Folio edition–Ben Jonson, who self-published a Folio, basically a vanity project. Anyway, the First Folio has thirty-six plays, and is the only reliable source for twenty of them.  It’s missing two: Pericles, and Two Noble Kinsmen: we have those plays in quarto form.  But without the Folio, well, our world would be terribly impoverished.  We owe Heminges and Condell a great debt.

So, okay, Heminges and Condell had profited their entire lives from those plays. Literally profited–they were shareholders in the most popular theatre company in England, their popularity derived mostly from the plays for which they held more or less exclusive performance access. They published the plays, partly, because they weren’t as popular anymore, but also, as an act of friendship, as their preface makes clear.  They wanted to correct old errors: previous publications were, in their words, “maimed and deformed by the frauds and stealthes of injurious imposters.”  The First Folio came out in 1623, seven years after Shakespeare’s death, and nearly twenty after Oxford’s death.  If Shakespeare, the actor, didn’t write them, wouldn’t his claimed authorship be a perfect example of a ‘fraud’ by an ‘injurious imposter?’  Perfect opportunity for two guys in the know to set the record straight.  If in fact Oxford used Shakespeare as a pen name because it was politically dangerous of him to claim authorship while he lived, well what possible harm could come from coming clean twenty years after his death?

But Heminges and Condell continued to assert that their old actor friend, William Shakespeare, had written them.  Why would they do that?  Well, best answer is because he did write them.

Now, you can say that ‘William Shakespeare’ was simply a pen name for a different author, who for reasons of his/her own chose to remain Anonymous.  So who was the real author?  Well, presumably a female writer might have wanted to use a pseudonym. We don’t know how many ladies-in-waiting Elizabeth had–we have names for twelve.  Could have been any of them.  What about Elizabeth’s Privy Council?  Cecil, Bacon, Walsingham, Raleigh, Dudley, Essex, Devereaux?  Coulda been any of them too.  I mean, Oxford’s not a terrible choice, but he’s by no means the only possible choice.  His girlfriend, Anne Vavasour–also a lady-in-waiting, and boy did Oxford get in trouble when he knocked her up–is every bit as likely.  In the sense that there’s no evidence for her either.

Jim makes a big deal of the Sonnets, arguing that they have a biographical component that works for Oxford and doesn’t work for Shakespeare.  Sorry to say, but parsing the Sonnets for biographical info is a pretty fruitless exercise; there’s just nothing in the Sonnets that rises to the level of evidence for authorship.  It can be legitimately ‘proved’ that whoever wrote the Sonnets was straight, gay, male, female, old, young, ugly and gorgeous.  They’re poems.  They’re works of fiction.  They’re also really good.  A few of Oxford’s poems have survived, and they’re not half bad. They’re also not Shakespeare.

And there is a biographical problem that eliminates Oxford entirely. We know when he died, in 1604.  Macbeth was first performed in 1606, and makes specific repeated reference to the Gunpowder plot of 1605.  Shakespeare wrote Macbeth, and Oxford couldn’t have.  So there’s that.

You’ll hear stuff like “the plays are full of politics–they had to have been written by a politician.” Piffle. The Inns of Court was where government types hung out, and it was across the river from Southwark. How much could an enterprising playwright learn just hanging out in pubs?  Plus, most of the politics he just got from Holinshed’s Chronicles.  The first big book of British history, and a huge bestseller–it was Shakespeare’s favorite source.

Ultimately, though, I find the notion that Oxford had to have written the plays because a half-educated hick from Stratford couldn’t have repugnant.  There’s a class thing going on there, an assumption that of course the author of those magnificent plays had to have been an aristocrat.  To me, though, if we read the plays and have to conclude any single thing about their authorship, it would have to be this: they were written by an actor.  They were, first and foremost, written by a man who spent his life working professionally in the theatre.  They were not the product of an amateur, a dabbler, a dilettante playboy like our pal Eddie de Vere.  They were constructed by a master craftsman, a man who knew how to build a character and sustain dramatic action, how to keep a story moving on-stage.  They were written, in short, by William Shakespeare, professional actor, and also a glover’s son from Stratford.

Conspiracy theorists are ultimately unpersuadable. If you’re on the fence, though, remember this.  Nobody, absolutely nobody has been studied more thoroughly than Shakespeare.  The numbers of scholars who earned tenure by writing about Shakespeare has to number in the thousands. And the percentage of people who have spent their life studying Shakespeare and who believe Oxford wrote the plays is effectively zero.  This isn’t just professional jealousy and prejudice. They believe the Stratford Shakespeare wrote the plays  because that’s what all the evidence says.  All of it.


26 thoughts on “The Shakespeare authorship (non) controversy

  1. Kathy Tyner

    This is a subject that even the great Science Fiction writer Issac Asimov weighed in on. He wrote an article on Shakespeare’s authorship for of all things, the TV guide. I read it when I was a kid. There was likely a mini-series or movie either about Elizabethian times, Elizabeth I, or a genuine movie of a Shakespearean play going to be shown that week on TV, and TV guide would have someone do a background article. Asimov was certain Shakespeare was the genuine author of his works. Asimov picked out several small error of of time, place and events to point out that such errors would have been made by someone who was definitely not an aristocrat, but someone of Shakespeare’s more humble background. In other words, he turned the class argument right back on its ear. I thought he made a great case. You have too. I believe you both. Shakespeare’s works were written by Shakespeare.

  2. Julie Saunders

    I’ve never understood the constant search for another author. Is it a class thing, like you’ve argued here? A desire to be the one person who’s got it right out of millions of dupes (as I suspect to be the motivation behind many conspiracy theories)? Jealousy? A genuine refusal to believe in genius?

    When it’s something like Shakespeare’s authorship, where nobody gains anything by proving it otherwise (except for a personal ego boost) and there is, as you say, absolutely no compelling evidence that anybody else did write his plays, I have to think there’s some knee-jerk cynicism at work here.

    I rarely think better of a person with a more-than-casual interest in disproving Shakespeare’s authorship, because I can’t think of a good reason to be so interested in it at this point.

    I do think there’s a reasonable argument for Shakespeare’s work having been embellished or expanded upon by the members of his company either before or during the publishing process. That kind of a multiple-authorship theory has potential to augment the way we look at Shakespeare and/or playwriting. But a pipe-dream theory in which it’s just some other guy who wrote it (who happens to have a nicer-sounding pedigree)? Without evidence, what’s the point? It’s not even all that interesting.

  3. Howard Schumann

    You read the 800 page book of Charlton Ogburn and all you can say is that you disliked the author’s style and found no evidence for any position other than your own. Why do I find that mind boggling?

    I think if you keep saying – there is no authorship controversy – there is no authorship controversy, no such controversy exists, and repeat it 100 times, maybe it will go away. Then you won’t have to deal with those pesky Oxfordians who will point out to you the obvious, that Oxford’s life is written all over the plays and poems. I’d sooner believe the Psalms of David were written as a literary exercise than the plays and poems of Shakespeare, especially the Sonnets, written in the first person and filled with the deepest personal expressions of joy, pain, loss, love and longing,

    You can also ignore all those annoying doubters like Henry James, William James, Mark Twain, Justice John Paul Stevens, Ralph Waldo Emerson, Walt Whitman, Actors Derek Jacobi and Mark Rylance who tell you that there isn’t a single contemporary reference connecting the author William Shakespeare with the man from Stratford; that no one during his lifetime ever claimed to have met the man; that the actor from Stratford left no letters or other writing in his own name, except for six crude signatures that are barely legible. There is only one known letter addressed to him — it was about 30 pounds and it was never delivered.

    They might even tell you that in twenty years of supposedly living in London, not a single letter exists from or to William Shakespeare, or that no evidence exists that William of Stratford could have acquired the vast educational, linguistic or cultural background necessary to write the masterpieces of English literature ascribed to Shakespeare, whose plays reveal knowledge of languages, the law, Latin and Greek classics, medicine, falconry, the sea, music, and nature that is so deep it could have only been learned through personal experience.

    No you can keep repeating that there is no authorship controversy until hell freezes over, but guess what? It will not go away until the truth is told and accepted.

    1. admin Post author

      No, it’s true. There’s not a single extant letter from Shakespeare to anyone. Nor is there a single extant letter from Marlowe, or from Ben Jonson, or from anyone else. There is much more evidence linking William Shakespeare, the actor from Stratford to William Shakespeare, the author of the plays than there linking the plays of Marlowe to Christopher Marlowe or the plays of Ben Jonson to Ben Jonson. It was a long time ago, and evidence mostly has gone missing.
      I know Oxfordians argue that Oxford’s life is written all over the plays. What can I say? I’ve read, as you point out, 800 pages of Charlton Ogburn arguing for precisely that, and found it completely unconvincing. It’s all special pleading. This must mean this and that must mean that. And yes, I’m fully aware that Mark Rylance is an Oxfordian, and Derek Jacobi is. Fine actors both. But they’re not scholars, and this is a point where scholars agree.

      What we have is a ton of evidence that the plays were written by someone named William Shakespeare. What we also have is a great deal of evidence for the existence of an actor from Stratford named William Shakespeare. What we don’t have is any evidence whatsoever even hinting that they weren’t the same guy. And don’t tell me ‘Stratford Shakespeare couldn’t have done this or couldn’t have done that.’ Again, that’s just special pleading. We don’t know enough about the period to definitively say that the Stratford actor ‘couldn’t’ have, for example, sent Sonnets to a nobleman. That’s a bit like saying, for example, that the Kennedy family are American royalty, and there’s no way a Kennedy could have married an Austrian body-builder turned actor.

      Point me to a single shred of evidence suggesting that the William Shakespeare, glover’s son and professional actor is not the William Shakespeare who wrote the plays, and I’ll rethink my position. And by evidence, I mean evidence, not conjecture and badly reasoned syllogisms. But you can’t because none exists.

  4. Howard Schumann

    It’s all circumstantial evidence. We have no manuscripts and no smoking gun. If there were, there would be no authorship debate. The only reason there is one is that so little is known about arguably the greatest writer in the English language.

    You say, well it was 400 years ago. Yes, documents from 400 years ago could be lost, yet we have letters from Thomas Nashe, Philip Massinger, Gabriel Harvey, Samuel Daniel, George Peele, Edmund Spenser, Michael Drayton, George Chapman, Ben Jonson, and William Drummond, Anthony Mundy, John Lyly, Thomas Kyd, Robert Greene, Christopher Marlowe and others, many of them lesser writers.

    There is a paper trail that connects Marlowe and Ben Jonson to their works, yet we have none for Shakespeare. All we have are questions:

    He left no books or manuscripts in his will, though, at the time of his death, 20 of his famous plays remained unpublished. Indeed, his will gives no indication that the deceased was engaged in literary activities of any sort.

    He took no legal action against the pirating of the Shakespeare plays or the apparently unauthorized publication of Shake-speare’s Sonnets in 1609, even though he was known to frequently initiate lawsuits to recover petty sums of money owed to him.

    His parents, siblings, and daughters were all illiterate except that one daughter could sign her own name. Would the greatest writer in English history have allowed this?

    Shake-speare’s Sonnets, published in 1609, paint a portrait of the artist as a much older man. The scholarly consensus today holds that most of the Sonnets were written in the 1590s, when Shakspere of Stratford was in his late 20s to late 30s, a relatively youthful age even in Elizabethan times. Yet, the author of the Sonnets at times is clearly much older and anticipating his own imminent death. Inexplicably, the publisher’s dedication in the 1609 volume of Sonnets refers to Shakespeare as our ever-living poet, a term that implies the poet is already dead, but Shakspere of Stratford was still very much alive until 1616.

    At his death, there were no eulogies, no testimonials, or tributes, not even from fellow actors, playwrights, or his esteemed friend, Ben Jonson. His only alleged connection to the plays came seven years after his death in the tribute by Ben Jonson in the First Folio. Why was no notice taken of Shakspere of Stratford’s death if he was such a literary luminary?

    The Sonnets also suggest strongly that Shakespeare was a pen name and that the author’s real identity was destined to remain unknown. In Sonnet 72 Shakespeare asks that “My name be buried where my body is”. Sonnet 81: “Though I, once gone, to all the world must die”. If Shakspere of Stratford truly was the famous author of the Sonnets, why would he think his name would be buried with his body? The name Shakespeare which appears on the title page of the Sonnets themselves — certainly wasn’t buried with the body of the poet, whoever he was.
    Shakespeare is not known to have traveled outside of England, yet the plays reveal an extensive knowledge of Italy and France thoroughly documented in Richard Paul Roe’s “Shaksepeare’s Guide to italy.”

    Shakespeare’s point of view in the plays and poems is always that of an aristocrat. He has created commoners, but they are mostly buffoons who mangle the language. He portrays the nobility as individuals, but the lower classes as types, even stereotypes.

    Many books that were used as source material for the plays were not translated into English in Shakespeare’s time. For example:

    Francois de Belleforest Histories tragiques
    Ser Giovanni Fioranetino’s Il Pecorone
    Epitia and Hecatommithi
    Luigi da Porto’s Romeus and Juliet (Italian)
    Jorge de Montemayor’s Diana (Spanish)

    And there are literally dozens of coincidences. Among them: Ovid’s Metamorphoses , Shakespeare’s favourite source, was first translated into English by Oxford’s uncle, Arthur Golding, and published while he was living in the same household;

    Oxford visited in 1575-76 all the places in Italy used in the plays except Rome;

    Oxford’s son-in-law the Earl of Montgomery and his brother, the Earl of Pembroke were responsible for the publishing of the First Folio; Author Katherine Chiljan in her book “Shakespeare Suppressed”, asserts that in the Sonnets, Southampton is revealed through imagery as the child of Queen Elizabeth and Oxford/Shakespeare and that he was a potential threat to King James and the Stuart line.

    As a precaution, Pembroke employed Ben Jonson to control public awareness of the identity of the great author by publishing his collected plays in the First Folio as a “deceit bred by necessity (Henry IV-Part 3). According to Chiljan, “Writers in the know were silenced because it was politically dangerous to laud a nobleman who evidently wanted Southampton on the throne instead of James, advertised in his long circulating Sonnets and in the poem ‘Love’s Martyr.’

    The Earl of Pembroke suppressed the great author’s identity to preserve the Stuart family on the royal throne, which in turn preserved his own wealth and political power.”

    To me it all adds up at minimum to a reasonable case of doubt and a legitimate subject of academic study .

    1. admin Post author

      No, it doesn’t. It’s doesn’t add up at all.
      Look, everyone agrees that the plays were published, either in quarto or folio form, under the name William Shakespeare.
      Everyone also agrees that the plays were initially performed by the Chamberlain’s Men/King’s Men.
      Everyone agrees that there was an actor in the Chamberlain’s Men/King’s Men named William Shakespeare.
      And absolutely, whoever wrote the plays was a man of the theatre.
      Case closed. Occam’s Razor. They were the same guy.
      What books did he own or read? We don’t know. Languages? We don’t know. Could he have read the sources from which he wrote his plays? Well, obviously yes. We know nothing of Shakespeare’s young life after leaving Stratford. We don’t know where he went or what languages he learned. Latin, yes, and some Greek. One theory is that he was a sailor. Another, that he was a tutor. In any event, you haven’t proved your point.

      The Oxford case requires that we believe that for some reason Oxford paid this actor to use his name so that the plays could be performed, that the plays were all published under a pseudonym, and that secret was still being maintained twenty years after Oxford’s death. This is, I’ll grant you, sort of barely plausible. It’s likewise barely plausible that Elvis did not die, but was a space alien who returned to his home planet. The two propositions are identically likely. No evidence exists for either.
      You like the Sonnet evidence. But the Sonnets do not have to have been written by an older man, anymore than Dracula had to have been written by a vampire who went by the name of Bram Stoker. They were works of fiction. I’ve read the Sonnets, many times. They’re lovely. They provide evidence that Shakespeare wrote beautiful poetry. But they can be read many different ways. You read them through an Oxfordian lens–that’s your privilege, but it warps your reading. I read them as works by a cheeky young poet who takes on various personae as a literary exercise.
      What you have is an idiosyncratic reading of the works themselves. What Oxfordians lack is evidence. You have none.
      It’s a conspiracy theory. And that’s all it is. I repeat; there is no authorship controversy.

  5. Howard Schumann

    Yes, it is agreed that the name on the title page of some plays is William Shakespeare. No doubt about it. The name Mark Twain also appeared on the title pages of his work. The question here is not whose name was on the title page but was Shakespeare the actor from Stratford or a pseudonym.

    All contemporary references to Shakespeare are literary references and not personal references. No one during his lifetime ever claimed to have met him. Can you name a single person during his’s lifetime who identified the author Shakespeare with the man form Stratford?

    If you had indeed read Ogburn’s book, you would also know that de Vere was a man of the theater who owned two acting troupes.

    It is true that we don’t know what books Mr. Stratford man read, nor what languages he spoke, even if he ever went to school. What we do know is that Oxford was fluent in five languages, had access to the huge library of William Cecil and was tutored by Sir Thomas Smith whose attributes have been listed as follows by important persons of the time:

    According to them, Smith was:

    commonly regarded as the greatest legal mind of his day;
    regarded as a superb teacher;
    a master of oratory and rhetoric;
    a writer who frequently used dialogue as a device in his treatises;
    one for whom hunting and hawking were favorite pastimes
    one who “read widely in the poets and had a tendency to break into . . . verse himself”;
    secular; though a committed Protestant, in practise more inclined to turn to philosophy than to religion for answers;
    a great Platonist;
    a dedicated gardener with a love of roses;
    fascinated with making medicines by means of distilling the juices of plants;
    interested in all medical techniques;
    one who had a professional’s knowledge of astrology;
    author of the first English document promoting the colonization of “undeveloped” lands;
    fluent in Greek, Latin, French, Italian and Hebrew;
    owner of a personal library of 400 plus books
    a “master of style and grace of language”;
    “a brilliant and facile” writer; a “voluminous” writer;
    one who wrote anonymously, to shape policy, not for personal fame.
    one whose name became separated from his works.

    All attributes of the life of Edward de Vere and the works of William Shakespeare.

    There are many scenarios which would have allowed for Oxford’s name to be buried where his body is (as in the Sonnets). A deal to save Southampton from being executed for his part in the Essex Rebellion in exchange for de Vere giving up his name being attached to his work. It might have included paying a front man but this is not necessary.

    A connection, however, was recognized by Ben Jonson and other writers who lampooned Shaksper as a buffoon who tries to pass himself off as a gentleman in plays such as Every Man Out of His Humor. Bbecause of the similarity between his name and that of Shakespeare, Shaksper was able to sell versions of the plays to printers as his own work, thus taking advantage of the demand for printed copies of the plays. That activity ceased by early 1601 at the time of Oxford’s deal with Cecil although it might have stopped even earlier when Oxford expressed his anger toward Shaksper in several plays, including As You Like It.

    When you bring the discussion down to the level of talking about Elvis and space aliens, however, I get the impression that you are not serious about having a discussion of the issues. You are so sure that you’re right that you won’t even consider any evidence to the contrary. If you want to continue on the level of Elvis and space aliens, I’m afraid you will have to do have a dialogue with yourself.

    1. admin Post author

      You are right about two things: first, yes, I’ve been dismissive and a bit rude, for which I do apologize. Also, no I don’t take any of the evidence you’ve cited seriously. Because it’s not evidence.
      I have read Ogburn. Read the whole book. Looked at his evidence. Found it completely unconvincing.
      The bottom line is this: Oxfordians basically don’t believe that a guy like Shakespeare could have written the plays. He wasn’t an aristocrat, he didn’t study with someone like Sir Thomas Smith, he was what we would call middle-class. All the so-called evidence is of that calibre: he was only educated at Stratford, he couldn’t have spoken all those languages, he couldn’t have read all those books. He couldn’t have done this, that or the other thing. All that, I just completely discount. It’s just class bias, utterly meaningless, elitism.
      The bottom line is this: there was an actor named William Shakespeare with the Chamberlain’s men. Someone named William Shakespeare wrote the plays. There exists NO evidence to even suggest they weren’t the same guy. If you read the plays (and I have, many times), and if you read the sonnets (which I have, many times), the one thing that’s clear is theatrical expertise. Oxford sponsored a couple of companies–lots of nobles did that–but that doesn’t confer on him the kind of deep-in-the-bone utter mastery that a lifetime as an actor confers.
      Plus, William Shakespeare wrote Macbeth, which was clearly written after the Gunpowder plot. Oxford was inconveniently dead by then. So he’s out.
      Absolute consensus of every major Shakespearean scholar, ever. There is not Shakespeare authorship controversy. You say the guy from Stratford couldn’t have written the plays, or the sonnets. But he could. Because he did.

  6. Howard Schumann

    The issue is not who could have written the plays or who could have spoken five languages or who could have had a superior education. The only question is who did?

    The attribution of Macbeth to 1605 is based on the fact that the play mentions the “Law of Equivocation.” It has now been verified that the doctrine of equivocation was mentioned as early as 1583 and 1584. In 1584, a Spanish prelate named Martin Azpilcueta first formally laid out the Doctrine of Equivocation, which was disseminated across the continent and into England.

    You keep saying that “There exists NO evidence to even suggest they weren’t the same guy.” and yet when I ask you to show contemporary evidence (while Shakespeare was alive) that they WERE the same guy, you ignore the question. I’ll ask again, name one person who, during the lifetime of William Shakespeare, identified the great author with being the man from Stratford-on-Avon.

    You keep telling me that there is no Shakespeare authorship controversy. Are you trying to convince me or yourself?

  7. admin Post author

    Well, you say nobody identified the author with the actor. But it happened repeatedly whenever a play was published with the actor’s name on it.
    And yes, equivocation was mentioned earlier. But it was The Center of the prosecution in the Gunpowder plot trials. It became a household word in the wake of the Gunpowder plot. I mean, you had a situation where essentially terrorists tried to blow up the entire government. 9/11 on steroids. The question isn’t ‘did someone mention equivocation earlier.’ The question is ‘what use did a popular commercial playwright make of the key phrase in the key trial on everyone’s mind.’
    And the narrative you guys construct for Shakespeare the actor doesn’t make sense. He was a shareholder in the Chamberlain’s/King’s Men, one of the half dozen most successful actors in the realm. Hundreds of actors worked in London as hired men, as actors for hire on a show-by-show basis. But those few openings, to be a shareholder for that company, those were extremely rare and uniquely valuable. That was where the big bucks were. We also know the roles Shakespeare played–not all of them, but some. They were minor roles, the kinds of parts for which a hired man could have served. So why would a sharp businessman like Richard Burbage, an entrepreneur/artist if there ever was one, why would we give a cherished and highly lucrative spot on the board of directors to a actor who mostly played small parts? Shakespeare, the actor, had to make some other irreplaceable contribution to the company, a contribution so important that they kept him on as shareholder for nearly thirty years. And really the only role that makes sense, the only role that would have made him that uniquely important to their fortunes, was playwright.
    Am I trying to convince myself? No. There’s no controversy. Oxford was an interesting guy, a minor figure in the period’s history, but not without some value. He didn’t write the plays though. Shakespeare did. The actor. From Stratford.

  8. Howard Schumann

    Again, name me a single person who said that he knows the writer Shakespeare and that he is the man from Stratford-on-Avon. There is nothing in the records to indicate anyone identified the great author as William of Stratford.

    Of course, the following is speculation but all of this we are discussing is speculation.

    In my view, the Lord Chamberlain’s men were dependent on keeping the source of their plays (The Earl of Oxford) hidden so that their author would not meet the same fate as Marlowe. Sixteenth-century businessmen were experts at legal fictions. To protect the source of their plays, they had to maintain the fiction of Shakespeare as a shareholder and an actor.

    It’s unlikely that William was a sharer in anything but name. More likely he was recompensed with a stipend delivered once or twice a year, probably by the company manager John Hemmings who had to pass through William’s home town on his way to visit his family in Droitwich, 25 miles northeast of Stratford.

    It’s also most unlikely that William was ever an actor in anything but name. His inclusion on Jonson’s play lists is easily seen as a ruse by the Company to maintain the cover story.

  9. admin Post author

    Oh, I get it. So all those play manuscripts listing William Shakespeare as author, they don’t count. And see, this is where the Oxford conspiracy theory falls apart. It’s the blatant cherry-picking of evidence. You have no evidence at all that Oxford wrote the plays, and we know he couldn’t possibly have written Macbeth (one of the best of the lot). But none of that matters. A priori: Oxford wrote the plays. Period.
    And Shakespeare, the guy who’s name is listed as having written them, he didn’t write them. Again, because you’ve decided. Amazing.
    You also don’t think Shakespeare was a shareholder. So where did he make his money? Because Shakespeare clearly got loads of money from somewhere: he bought up half of Warwickshire. He bought the nicest home in town. He bought a family coat of arms. But that can’t all be from (again) the obvious source, the source for which loads of evidence exists, his income as a shareholder. Because Oxfordians have decided. So there’s another stack of evidence you’re just going to discount.
    I’m sorry, again, I’m being a bit rude. But again, special pleading for a single specific interpretation of texts, plus arbitrarily discarding the most relevant evidence, none of that constitutes support for a theory.

  10. Juliathepoet

    I did an independent study class, reading plays and poetry, as well as seeing Shakespeare’s plays as produced by several theaters in Portland, and at the Shakespeare Festival in Ashland Oregon. It was one of my favorite classes. I am glad it didn’t include 800 page books about conspiracy theories.

    In the end, I think most students learning to enjoy, and even love, Shakespeare do so because the writing is beautiful, sassy, and there is a lot of things going on. There is a brilliance that stull touches people hundreds of years later.

    Honestly, I haven’t read many debates about authorship. This is the 5th, maybe 6th, and none of them seem to acknowledge that whoever wrote them was not a prodigy of writing as much as a prodigy of understanding human nature. He looks at how and why people do things, and then takes that knowledge and applies it in ways that critique the history and society of that time. I have always assumed that coming from a “lower class” (really the servant class knew more what happened in the “upper classes,” as the silent witnesses to what happens in the homes they served in) background, Shakespeare would have been steeped in that gossip about everything going on in the “high class” homes.

    I don’t expect anyone to be convinced by me, but I think the debate back and forth here, is why a lot of people who simply love Shakespeare’s work, end up wondering why these debates get so heated? It isn’t like there is a lawsuit, or much evidence that clearly says that*this person* should not have their name on *this work.*

    Whoever wrote the work with the name William Shakespeare on it, I find wonderful insights every time I re-read, or see another performance of, the materials that *he* wrote. Full stop.

  11. Howard Schumann

    Julia, though many disagree as to the true author, we are all agreed on the magnificence of the works. I think, however, that our understanding and appreciation of the works will be greatly enhanced when we can match the life of a living, breathing human being to the plays and poems. This is something the academic establishment, for all their so-called “expertise,” have failed to do for 200 years.

    1. Juliathepoet

      With all due respect, I don’t think it matters all that much to most people who enjoy, even love, reading and watching Shakespeare. If we were talking about plays that needed to be translated from another language, with meanings of certain words or phrases lost to time.

      Honestly, I think it has been the PhD material for so many professors that academics make up more “reasons” to continue the debate. Unless the argument is that Shakespeare got something completely wrong in one of the plays, who “got it right” is not that important to a group of actors putting on the plays, or the audience watching them do it.

    1. admin Post author

      I do agree, Howard, that it matters who wrote them. And that, obviously, is a point about which we will never agree. And on that note, what say we end our debate?

  12. Harry Horton

    There was man called Ismet Houdoni who was highly spiritually powerful, living in England in the 1500s and 1600s. He would be known as the Eck Master in Eckankar terms or known as the paraclete in Christian terms. He could have influenced the poems & plays with another author, most likley William of Stratford. Ismet Houdoni according to Eckankar’s principles would have an inner spiritual nature that was connected to the highest plane of God. For example in the sonnets dedication there is a section that goes as follows: all happiness and eternity promised by our everliving poet. THe word everliving means the essence of God. So the poet is something of a Jesus Christ figure or son of God figure. In that he possesses the highest essence of God in his nature and because of that reason has the ability to promise the heights of heaven or as the dedication states: happines and eternity, to the only begetter (receiver) of the sonnets. Hence ever living means the nature of God, immortal and all powerful.Thus our ever living poet is more of a high powered spiritual leader than poet. And in England at that time there was a Maister EK as the poet Spenser referred to as his collaborator friend Maister EK, and Maister Ek could mean Eck Master. And such an Eck Master was present in England and heavily influencing Shakespeare and Spenser as well as other writers most likely.

  13. Harry Horton

    Further elaboration on the June 12, 2013 harry Horton entry. The fact that an EcK master was present in England and influencing the works of Shakespeare and Spenser, at least probably others for that matter, the following facts indicate this. The preface for Spenser’s shepherds Calendar was written by a man called EK, a man that scholars have never clarified the identity of, with any satisfaction. Most significantly, Ek also wrote the lost commentary of a work of Spensers that has been lost to the earlier ages, such work called Dreames. If one visited the Eckankar web site and looked through its literature and spiritual exercises, one finds the prominence of dream life as a window to the spiritual worlds. So the strong Eckankar content & principle of the significance of dreams and dream life show up with SPenser and the mysterious mentor or teacher, EK. EK having wrote the lost commentary of Dreames. Dreames thus is a work that most likely represents the strong ECkankar influence present in England among its poets and creative artists, especially SPenser and later Shakespeare. And the Elizabethan English Eck Master living in England at that time of the late 1500s and early 1600s most likely is the primary person responsible for introducing such strong Eckankar themes within the works of at least the two poets Spenser and Shakespeare.

    Most interesting, with SPenser, EK also goes by another name, IMmerito which means unknown. THus Ek’s identity is designated in mystery and secretivenes and simply unknowness. Because Ek carries the additional name Immerito. In Eckankar literature the Eck Master is well known as the highest advanced spiritual person in the world that also is unknown to the rest of humanity. THe ECk Master is known as Immerito as such. ANd here with Spenser he is known as an advanced spiritually powerful person, Ek or also known as Immerito essentially collaborating and influencing the creativity of Spenser. And thus this same man was collaborating and influencing the creativity of Shakespeare most likely. Evidence of that on a strong sound basis once again comes from the sonnets dedication, with the person: “Our ever living poet” the man who possesses the powerful essence of God within his nature, the Eck master that is. Ever living means simply God. And Poet is a mna. A man that possesses the essence of God, thus.The our living poet, is then the Eck Master. And like a highly spiritual person of religious dimensions he then is qualified to offer happiness and eternity to the receiver (begetter) of the sonnets. Happiness and eternity (essentially heaven) being important spiritual and religious areas of the human soul’s interest, and a highly spiritual person such as the eck Master is qualified to offer that.

    Even more interesting there was an eck master working with Jesus and developing Jesus’ spiritual nature in Judea during those earlier days in the Roman province lands of the middle east. John 14-17 relate the appearance of the Eck master as the paraclete. The gem of a statement made by Jesus illustrating the secretive essence of the paraclete (EcK Master) in this passage: “THe WOrld receiveth him not because he knoweth him not” such a designation of the Paraclete relates the unknown quality of the paraclete. That is simply a man that might as well be called: “Immerito’. A man like the Immerito the man found in Spenser’s time. Thus Spensers Immerito (Also known as EK) is the same as the Paraclete that Jesus states that has the facets of —-“the world receiveth him not because he knoweth him not.” So an Eck Master most likely was involved in the development of Jesus’ acquiring of a very high degree of the essence of the Holy SPirit in his nature. One highly notable feature of this is Jesus and Shakespeare are strikingly similar in one regard. Both had lost years in their lives that scholars cannot account for. And the time period of absence from the community of men, that comprised periods of time with Jesus and Shakespeare, could easily indicate a period of time of training with the Eck master for the development of the high essence of God within their natures and soulful being. Jesus disappears with his adolescence and young adulthood only to reappear with a highly developed spiritual nature and his beginning to relate the essence of God to the followers and denizens of the middle eastern lands at that time in his later adult years. Shakespeare likewise makes a mysterious venture to Houghton Towers in Lancashire where a secret religious society forms at that time,involving the Catholic preist Edmund Campion and others. Edmund Campion was connected to the French Catholic theological learning enterprise Douai. And then Shakespeare disappears from the community scene for years mysteriously. Shakespeare like Jesus could have gone into spiritual training with the EcK master in order to learn the essence of God, such attributes of such essence: mystic and real, with the highly developed holy spirit in his nature. Thus there was two different Eck masters in consideration of Jesus and Shakespeare. One Eck master working with Jesus who was known to go by the name of Zadok. And with Shakespeare, the later worlds Eck Master Ismet Houdni who worked with Shakespeare at that time in England in the 1500sa and 1600s. They can be found on the internet evidently.

  14. Harry Horton

    Some further continuance on the previous September 9, 2014 Harry Horton post. There is on the EcKankar web site within their spiritual exercises section a particular spiritual exercise called: “Discussing Inner Experiences”. “Discussing Inner Experiences” relates the EcKankar principle, that when a person or follower establishes a genuine relationship with the EcK master, the EcK master will then convey important personal spiritual information to the follower. But one important principle generally must be in force with such EcK master conveyance of spiritual knowledge and information concerning and about the follower. THe spiritual information must be kept secret. If the person lets the information out supposedly the receiver of the information feels shallow and deserted by the EcK master for a time, until lastly the Eck master again reiterates to the follower to keep such personal spiritual information secret. Secondly the Eckankar web site also relates the journey to God is—–an adventure——of a lifetime. That is an important statement that the following paragraph delves into more precisely. Especially concerning the word: adventure.

    With the above paragraph in mind and its content and principles from Eckankar inconsideration, the sonnets dedication fits very well into these above EcKankar principles of the first paragraph. The following starts out: “To the only begetter of these ensuing sonnets”—–these lines simply could mean, the follower of the EcK master, the only begetter(only receiver that is) of the personal spiritual content of these sonnets—that is —these ensuing sonnets—being the spiritual content contained within the sonnets in consideration. Mr. W.H. being the sole receiver of the ensuing sonnets and by that fact the only one to view the contents of the sonnets. THus this means the sonnets content should be kept secret. Like the eckankar principle from’ the “Discussing Inner Experiences’ Spiritual exercise’, as related in the first paragraph. Then the presence of the Eck master occurs in the sonnets dedication with the lines: “All happiness and eternity promised by our everliving poet”> This means the EcK master as the Our Ever living poet is present in the sonnets dedication. And such Eck Master (Everliving poet that the EcK master is) promises heaven and its glories embodied in the lines: all happiness and eternity promised. And promised to the mysterious MR. W.H.

    Finally the sonnets dedication lines wrap up as: “To the adventurer setting forth’. THese lines most likely means, the journey to God is an adventure of a lifetime, as such a line and thought found on the opening page of the Eckankar web site. Since the EcK master (Our everliving poet) in the previous sonnets lines promised all happiness and eternity to Mr. W.H.. That would mean heaven the quintessence of God, heaven is, is being promised by the EcK master and with such promise the follower Mr. W.H. simply becomes the spiritual adventurer setting forth towards the glories of heaven —-that is the lands of promised happiness and eternity, all of this adventurous movement forward by the assisting Eck master.

    So essentially the sonnets dedication is another form of the EcKankar spiritual exercise: “Discussing Inner experiences”. And viewing the sonnets dedication thus as such relates the presence of the EcK master in shaping the works of Shakespeare, whether it be the sonnets or the plays or other Shakepseiran works most likely. Our Everliving poet is most likely the EK of Spensers association who is verified as a mentor and instructor,’ man of influence’, of Spenser’s creations. In Eckankar the holy spirit known as ECk is also desigated in alternate form as EK. And Ek Master is another term for Eck master, as the Eckankar web site relates. Ek definitely existed as an extroidinary learned man in philosophy. literature and other disciplines in the 1500s and most likely into the 1600s. And Ek had hand definitely in developing the works of Spenser.

  15. Harry Horton

    THe Eck Master influenced the creation of Shakespeare works, that is his plays, poems ect. THe Eckankar principle that relates that religion is too limited to be truly useful in fufilling the spiritual needs of people is found in the Eckankar literature and web site. Most interestingly the fact this Eckankar principle is present in the plays and creations of Shakespeare. And this fact thus validates to a wide degree that Shakespeare’s creations were created with the guidance and influence of the ENglish EcK master of that time. Such Eck master was Ismet Houdoni.THe following web site carries a quote from the literary critic, Santayana, that states this absence of religion in Shakespeare. And that facet most likely being an Eckankar principle too in Shakespeare’ plays. And principle influenced by the Eck master in England at that time, Ismet houdoni.

    THe web site: “” the quote: “Shakespeare is remarkable among the poets,” Santayana claimed, “for being without a philosophy and without a religion,” adding that “the absence of religion in Shakespeare was a sign of his good sense.” ENd quote. Most likely the inadequacy of religion in connecting to God, an Eckankar principle, well stated in Eckankar literature, —such principle is conveyed in the above Santayana quote. And thus the EcK master was present in association with Shakespeare in the bard’s creation of his plays.SInce the absence of religion was indigenous to Shakespeare’s writings and absence of religion too was a significant Eckankar belief and principle. And a principle the English Eck master influenced Shakespeare’s thinking upon.

    Even more interesting the anti religion principle is found also with Jesus too. In Matthew 5:17-18, this Eckankar principle is related by Christ. THe quote: “THink not that I am come to destroy the law, or the prophets: I am come not to destroy, but to fufill. For verily, I say unto you, Till heaven and earth pass, one jot or one tittle shall in no wise pass from the law, till all be fufilled.” THe laws of the prophets, their religion that is, Jesus is stating inadequate, and here the Eckankar influence in Jesus’ spiritual development, is conveyed. THis same line of thinking of Jesus is thus found in Shakespeare, and embodied within the above Santayana quote. Secondly, Another major Eckankar principle is related in the above Matthew 5:17-18 quote. THe phenomena of karma is presented. WHen Jesus states that not one jot or tittle shall no wise pass—that is when that occurs, the spiritual follower will be ready to enter into the GOd planes, that is heaven. All of the evil in one’s nature, even down to the last little drops and specks of evil—that is every jot and tittle, has to be converted to divine essence and love. And when that occurs one can liberate out of the evil infested lower worlds into the heights of heaven, or God planes where purity of God’s love resides. THis is a fundamental and significant Eckankar rpinciple that is also tied into the nedd for reincarnation of a humna soul. THis spiritual principle was also recognized by Nietzche when he stated, all evil is nothing more than energy in need of conversion. THus the jot and tittle quote, containing and being a major Eckankar principle designating karma in the world. And the first part of the Matthew quote that states one’s—personal evil—can only be eliminated by a saviour, and religion texts, whether they are from the prophets or elsewhere, as such, are not adequate to activate this elimination of karma in one’s nature. Only a saviour can accomplish that, and the paraclete/Eck Master is the only one capable of such purification of one’s personal karma inwardly in ones spiritual being. THough Jesus tries to fufill that role in the Matthew section. So the same Eck Master presence and mentoring with Jesus is present also with Shakespeare. Our everliving poet, to use the sonnets dedication designation of the Eck Master. The Eck master was definite force it the creation of Shakespeare’ creativity and plays as the above content of this post indicates.

    Additionally, in the early 1800s, the West Yorkshire novelist and poet Emily Bronte wrote a poem called “No COward Soul is mine.” The Eckankar anti religion principle is found in the lines of that poem also.

  16. Harry Horton

    Some further evidence from the sonnets and plays of Shakespeare, that an Eck master in England in the 1500s -1600s influenced the content and subject matter of Shakespeare’s work. This area of evidence concerns the Eckankar subject of the tisra til. The tisra til is the spiritual eye found in the middle of the forehead.
    The following web site off the internet relates the phenomena and function of the spiritual eye, the tisra til. The web site: “Worship Service: Stepping more consciously into the Heavenly World” Eckankar spiritual center of San Antonio”.—- WIthin the opening page of this Eckankar sponsered page gives more information on the tisra til. THis information is similar to the tisra til found in Shakespeare’s works. Two works of Shakepseare sufficiently relate the existence of the tisra til in the bard’s works. And thus this fact further enhances the presence and influence of the English Eck master’s impact and shaping of Shakespeare’s plays and sonnets. The two works are Loves labor lost and the sonnet 20. That is lines from these two areas relate Eckankar’s tisra til phenomena.

    THe first lines relating the presence and functions of the tisra til from” Loves labours Lost”. THe lines proceed as follows:

    “light seeking light doth light of light beguile:
    So, ere, you find where light in darkness lies,
    Your light grows dark by losing your eyes
    Study me how to please the eye indeed
    By fixing it upon a fairer eye,
    Who dazzling so, that eye shall be his heed
    And give him light that it was blinded by.

    THe above lines relate the tisra til most thoroughly, with the reference to, study me how to please the eye indeed by fixing it upon a fairer eye, who dazzling so, that eye shall be his heed…..the reference to a single eye, one eye that is, pretty much accords that Shakespeare is relating the tisra til in these above lines. The tisra til is found in the middle of the forehead. And is a single eye. Not the two usual eyes that a human has in his head.

    THe next lines come from the sonnet 20. The lines are:

    “An eye more bright than theirs, less false in rolling,
    Gilding the object whereupon it gazeth;
    A man in hue all hues in his controlling,
    Much steals men’s eyes and women’s souls amazeth.

    THe tisra til is definitely conveyed in the above lines. The spiritual eye, the tisra til is more bright than women’s eyes. And furthermore when the tisra til is within action it can gild an object in the world by the viewer gazing upon such object. That is the gilded and golden colorful essence of divine light and energy immerse the object withinthe gazer’s mind and psyche, when such object that is gazed upon with the presence of the tisra til in operation thus gives the gilded and divine quality of hue and color to the object. But sonnet 20s lines goes further in that the EcK master, the man in hue, is also introduced and present in the sonnet 20’s lines. THose lines flow as follows: “A man in hue, all hues in his controlling.” The radiance of the Eck master and his spiritual presence appears within the dazzling colors of hue of the tisra til —that is what these previous lines means. And with that, the following wraps up the tisra til spiritual experience with the EcK master, that is the man in hues who then—-“much steals men’s eye and womens’s souls amazeth”. So these above sonnet 20 lines fairly well relate aspects of the tisra Til’s presence in Shakespeare’s work and the presence of the Eck master in such lines. THus the above Loves labor lost and sonnet 20 lines indicate a strong presence of the English Eck master Ismet Houdoni influencing the subject and thematic content of Shakespeare’s work with Ecknakar spiritual phenomena such as the tisra til, as well as other related Eckankar areas of thought and spiritual principles. As previous Harry Horton September 2014 posts have conveyed.

  17. Harry Horton

    Continuing further along the lines of the EcK master being present with Shakespeare, aiding the bard in the creativity of his works can be simply found in sonnet 53. Inthis sonnet the poet ponders the high developed essence of God within the EcK Master’ being. And where did the Eck Master get this high amount of the inner nature of God (substance). This high amount of God in the EcK master’ s nature is known as the Mahanta. THe sonnet 53 opening lines goes as follows:

    Sonnet 53

    What is your substance, whereof are you made,
    That millions of strange shadows on you tend?
    Since everyone hath, every one, one shade.


Leave a Reply