WHY SHAKESPEARE WASN’T BEHEADED

In my novel, The Cottage, the hero, Jack Duncan, discovers, at the risk of his neck, that there is nothing the Stratfordian scholars won’t do to preserve the lies about William Shakespeare.  They have staked their careers and reputations on, in effect, a dwarf winning the high jump and they’ll toss him over the bar if they have to.  But none of their tricks are sleazier, or, alas, more effective, than their claims that as long as we have the plays and poems, it doesn’t really matter who wrote them.  “Who cares?”  You’re supposed to not care that these de facto censors are denying the greates author who ever lived his place in immortality.  Never mind that they’re cheating everyone who is taught distorted and incomplete meanings of the works in order to prop up their discredited myth.

If you buy their ignorance-is-bliss argument, here is a book that should change your mind…and give you a lot of pleasure in the process:  The Secret Love Story in Shakespeare’s Sonnets, by Helen Heightsman Gordon.

The reader dsicovers in crystal clear commentary and historical support that the sonnets are not just hypothetical, fanciful, semi-understandable little love poems to no one in particular.  They are the real thing about real people, two of whom are “Shakespeare” himself and the most intriguing monarch in England’s history– tales of a very sexual, and evidently productive, love affair between Shakespeare and the “virgin queen,” told with all the lust and angst of a Bronte’ novel, with the added benefit of their being real.

In Sonnet 57 Shakespeare seemingly has the gall to gently scold the queen for her fickleness and promiscuity.

Here it is, followed by Ms. Gordon’s paraphrase:

Being your slave, what should I do but tend upon the hours and times of your desire?     I have no precious time at all to spend; nor services to do, till you require.

Nor dare I chide the world-without-end hour, whilst I, my sovereign, watch the clock for you, nor think the bitterness of absence sour when you have bid your servant once adieu;

Nor dare I question with my jealous thought, where you may be, or your affairs suppose, but, like a sad slave, stay and think of nought save where you are, how happy would make those.

So true a fool is love, that in your will, though you do anything; he thinks no ill.

The paraphrase:

“Being your slave, I must wait for your command to wait upon you.  My time has no value except when serving you, so I have nothing to do but wait patiently until you require my services.  Nor can I become bitter at your absence, once you have told me to leave you.  Nor dare I feel jealousy, wondering where you are, or with whom, but like a sad slave, wait, and think of nothing except how happy you make those who are where you are, enjoying your company.  My true love and loyalty make a fool of me, because I cannot think ill of you no matter what you do.”

Even among those scholars who believe that Edward DeVere, seventeenth Earl of Oxford, was the real Shakespeare, their decoding of the Sonnets vary. Hank Whittemore’s Monument, notably, argues brilliantly that most of them are a chronicle of Oxford’s efforts to save his (and the Queen’s) son, the Earl of Southhampton, from execution over Southhampton’s part is the Essex Rebellion.  (Whittemore’s book is discussed in a separate blog).  Those differences only prove that there is still a great deal of mystery about all of these people and lots of fun to be had trying to unravel it all.  Important fun. The scholars who have vested interests in the Stratford Man’s case do not want you to have that fun; they would like you not to worry about hidden meanings in the Sonnets, because however the differences in the decoding are resolved they will show that Shakespeare was writing about the Queen of England–the “VIRGIN Queen”– in such intimate terms that if he were a bumpkin from the sticks he would have had to write the last hundred-and-forty or so minus his head.

Ignore the “experts’” efforts to steer you away from Ms. Gordon’s fine book.  Have some fun.  Read that puppy!

 

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HOW SHAKSPERE BECAME SHAKESPEARE

First of all, there was no conspiracy.  The poet/playwright needed a pseudonym; he couldn’t very well use his real name because noblemen simply didn’t write plays.  And these plays had juicy secrets about Queen Elizabeth hidden in them.  He chose the pseudonym “Shakespeare,” maybe because a friend had toasted his writing as being so good it “shakes a spear.”  The plays were popular, but not recognized as masterpieces at first, so there wasn’t a lot of curiosity about who “Shakespeare” really was.  It was a long time before it began to dawn on folks that the plays and poems were REALLY good and, finally, that they were the best ever. But when biographers and historians dug back to find out this paragon and write him up, there was nothing to be found, except for the jokey bust of a man named “Shakspere” in the Stratford church and records of that man going to London (where no one ever reported actually seeing him), and records of his having two illiterate daughters and of his bequeathing his second best bed to his widow.  No books or scripts or anything like that.  So what to do?  How do you write a biography about someone who left so few traces of himself, and those few scraps pointing to a very boring man?  No problem.  The biographers and historians just made stuff up.  And as the years went by, new generations of biographers and teachers not only passed those surmises and supposes along to successive generations of students and readers, they kept adding new made-up “facts.” Then when skeptics smelled something rotten and began to uncover actual facts revealing “Shakespeare” to be somebody else, the self-appointed experts, the “Stratfordians,” were stuck with their fabrications.  And rather than admitting they’d invented their biographies, thereby losing their royalties, tenures and ill-gotten reputations, they doubled down and the real conspiracy began.  They cooked up a motley stew of curses on the new findings: ridicule, for example – the man who had discovered the most likely actual Shakespeare was named Looney; his very name disqualified him.  But the Stratfordians’ best tactic was, and still is, “The play’s the thing.” In other words, never mind who the true author was.  Think about that: scholars arguing in favor of ignorance.  And so now we continue to have literature students fed bilge by their deluded teachers.  So…I wrote a book, “The Cottage,” which is labeled a novel, fiction, but has more truth in it than those biographies and textbooks claiming to be factual.  It’s a mystery within a mystery that unmasks what the Shakespeare industry is doing and what may happen next.  It’s also full of laughs.

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The Bull-wark

Ever wonder why academia is so dead set on squelching the truth about William Shakespeare?  No?  Maybe you didn’t know that’s what they were doing.

Neither did I until, more than twenty years ago, I was assigned by PBS’s Frontline to co-produce and narrate a documentary about the controversy over Shakespeare’s identity.  It was entitled The Shakespeare Mystery.  It was a lot of fun, a plum of an assignment, six months spent mostly in England.  But “mystery” wasn’t the right word.  The investigation, the literature on the subject, conversations with people involved in all sides of the issue soon made it obvious — and increasingly so the more I learned – that the evidence on behalf of the Stratford guy (“Shakspere” was his actual spelling) was laughably flimsy, a farce, while that which supported Edward DeVere, the seventeenth Earl of Oxford, was overwhelming.  There was, in effect, too much evidence on DeVere’s side.  I wanted to say, “All right already! Enough!”

The documentary didn’t look that way, of course.  It steadfastly hove to the mission of giving the two candidates and equal shot.  Even so, viewers must have found the Stratfordians’ case very thin, indeed.

And yet that documentary and scores of articles, books, scholarly papers and films since then — stuff filled with wonderfully persuasive new evidence, some of it amounting to, in effect, proof that the Stratford Man could not possibly have been the author — have failed to raise a public hew and cry for an admission of the truth from “Shakespearean experts.”  Folks still pile into Stratford and buy little figurines of Anne Hathaway’s cottage with reverent looks in their eyes.

There was something important that my documentary failed to do, something that has not been done effectively elsewhere, either.  It didn’t answer the question: “Why?”  Or even ask it.  Why have so many scholars, teachers, biographers and critics mounted such a staunch effort to suppress the evidence against the Stratford man and for DeVere (a far more fascinating character, by the way)?  Smart men and women, many of them, people who you’d think would welcome, even promote, inquiry into all nooks and crannies of literary information, but who instead use mockery, ridicule, scorn, obfuscation and non-sequitors to shoo away any search for the truth about this greatest of all writers.  They avoid even examining the evidence themselves with anything like an open mind.  And the stacks of books and papers full of that evidence barely pose the question:  Why? My documentary didn’t even try.  It was, after all, a document-ary, with no place in it for supposition or speculation, even though documents may lie and supposition might lead to the truth.

In the years since, I have thought a lot about all of this, turned every motive I could think of over and over in my mind, until all the answers but one had turned to dust.  Until I knew the answer.  But even knowing doesn’t fit into a documentary, or, I imagine, a treatise or scholarly theory.  How to tell what I know to be true?

Well, how did Hugo do it?  And Dickens and Upton Sinclair?  And Garry Trudeau?  Heck, how did Shakespeare report the truth?  With the “abstract and brief chronicles of the time.”  With plays.  With fiction!

So I wrote a little novel about the fooks who hide the truth and why they do it.  And…what they might do next.  And I threw in a bit of mystery and maybe a murder and assorted lesser crimes for the fun of it (Shakespeare liked a bit of mystery, I think) hoping the tale might whet your appetites for the more serious writing that will someday give our greatest writer his due.  The novel’s called The Cottage.

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A Snake Strikes Out

Why in the world would anyone rip into friends and colleagues over their position on an issue without knowing anything about that issue?  Why risk losing the friends and making a fool of oneself over something one cares so little about that she hasn’t bothered to look into it?

That is what actress Janet Suzman has just done in a book and apparently in subsequent interviews.  She blasted Mark Rylance and Derek Jacobi for having appeared in the movie “Anonymous” and for being doubters that William Shakspere of Stratford was William Shakespeare, the poet.  “I suddenly got mad as a snake about it,” she said, and, “…you just have to be a snob if you just hate it that the greatest poet the world has produced [came from humble beginnings].”  Suzman said there is “absolutely no evidence” that Oxford (Edward DeVere) was the real Shakespeare.  To believe that, “you have to be a conspiracy theorist,” she declared.

No, you don’t, of course.  No conspiracy was necessary, only sixteenth century customs that frowned on nobility writing plays and a censorship-happy queen and her advisers.  And if you have to be a snob to vote against the semi-literate Stratford guy then that means Mark Twain was a snob, and Walt Whitman and Sigmund Freud and several Supreme Court justices and on and on. As for “absolutely no evidence,” Ms. Suzman really betrays herself with that turkey.  The evidence against the Stratford man and for Oxford runs into long tonnes; anyone who reads any pound of it would have to say, “Oops.”  Ms. Suzman obviously didn’t read so much asf an ounce of it.

Which prompts the question:  Why would someone so completely ignorant of the controversy go so far as to insult her fellow actors — and not just actors but two of the most towering figures on the world’s stages, men who have clearly studied the evidence and thought deeply about it?  And not just disagree with them but impugn their motives.  Knowing so very little about the issue, what could drive her to get “mad as a snake” about it?

Of course it isn’t just Ms. Suzman.  Many of her fans wrote in equally fervent support of her denunciations.  And they most likely represent countless others who seem to consider any question of the identity of Shakespeare a slur against Shakespeare himself and are similarly unwilling to look at the evidence.  I’m not talking about the “orthodox” biographers and teachers of Shakespeare or the owners of Stratford curio shops, people who’ve invested reputations, careers and money in Mr. Shakspere and so don’t care to hear the bad news and don’t want others to hear it, either.  It’s everybody else, people who you’d think would enjoy the controversy; and if it turns out that the real Shakespeare was someone other than the Stratford lad so that history is altered a bit and somke of the meanings of the plays and poems are changed, enriched, well then, shouldn’t that make Shakespeare all the more fun?  So why get bent all out of shape over it?

The only answer I can think of is a kind of reverse “snobbery” on the part of folks who never cared much for education or research, who want knowledge and success to just sort of fall into their laps.  And Shakespeare was an example of that happening, a guy who got through eight years of school (maybe), never seemed to meet anybody or read anything, and yet first thing you inow he’s produced the greatest literature ever.  What a guy!  Their hero.

And yet that explanation doesn’t seem to fit Janet Suzman.  She evidently is a highly esteemed actress and would have to have worked hard at her craft and dug deeply into the characters she played to reach that level.  But there she is, passing judgment on this issue, condemning two great men, without bothering to examine the evidence at all.  It’s as if she decided to go on stage opening night without having read the script first.

Can anyone shed some light on this?

For those of you NOT afraid to look at the evidence, here is a partial list of scholar/authors I recommend.  (Their books and blogs will supply a more complete list):

Charlton Ogburn The Shakespeare Mystery; Hank Whittemore The Monument; Richard Whalen Shakespeare: Who Was He?; Joseph Sobran Alias Shakespeare; Helen Gordon The Secret Love Story in Shakespeare’s Sonnets; Richard Roe The Shakespeare Guide to Italy; J. Thomas Looney Shakeespeare Discovered; Roger Stritmatter Oxford’s Bible; Mark Twain Is Shakespeare Dead?; Michael Delahoyde; Mark Anderson; Charles Beauclerk Shakespeare’s Lost Kingdom.

For the defense:  A. L. Rowse Shakespeare The Man; Samuel Schoenbaum William Shakespeare; Harold Bloom Shakespeare The Invention of the Human; James Shapiro.

And…for those who would like to imagine the fun that might be had searching for the truth about Shakespeare I recommend The Cottage by, uh, me.

 

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Poems And Secrets

As I get it, history is for warning us about now…and what’s to come. Fiction is for warning us about ourselves…and others. And poems are for making out. A man using the name Shakespeare managed to do all those things at the same time, and do all of them better than anybody else. Some Rove-Cheney type characters in the queen’s government—folks with connections to the headsman—weren’t keen on letting the non-fiction part out. It was explosive stuff. So “Shakespeare” hid the true story amongst the wooing words hoping we’d decode it later. It took a lot of smart people several hundred years to do that. And most of the rest of us still don’t know what was discovered. The trouble is that most of the historians, biographers and teachers keep teaching us the wrong stuff about the wrong guy. They fell for the hoax and now to keep from looking like chumps they’ve developed a bag of tricks to ward us off from the truth, to convince us that we’re better off not wondering what really happened. But when we do finally open this Pandora’s box, what flutters out is a swarm of the most fascinating stuff imaginable. New heroes and villains. A new history with new warnings. So much fun and fascination, in fact, that it almost makes a person want to keep it to himself. Almost.

 

Lucky for the rest of us, Hank Whittemore decided to share what he found in years of digging and it will give you plenty of happy, sleepless nights reading it.  He subjected Shakespeare’s sonnets to the most rigorous investigation and discovered a riveting and (it seems to me) solid story of what those puzzling poems actually say. Whittemore’s book is called The Monument, which is how Shakespeare himself referred to his sonnets: a “monument…which eyes not yet created shall o’er read…”

     Whittemore has
nailed down not just who wrote the poems (Edward deVere) and to whom (Henry Wriothesley), but the
very day many were written and why, what was happening at the time and what  resulted—the re-jiggering of a kingdom to save one person’s life.

One  caution:  the book is so big and heavy as  to be dangerous if read in bed.  Whittemore  has written an abridged version—an appetizer–entitled Shakespeare’s Son and his sonnets, which is safer.

      So…Hank  Whittemore is your man for a journey into the heart of the Shakespeare
“mystery.”

     My little novel, The Cottage, is less ambitious and  brings the story into the present. A very unlikely sleuth, Jack Duncan,  ventures into the midst of the protectors of the Stratford myth and discovers  how lethal their bag of tricks can be…and what new ones they may be cooking up.  It’s fiction…sort of.

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DON’T BUY BALONEY

     Mark Twain exposed the Stratford man’s claim to being Shakespeare as a sham a hundred years ago.  By now the evidence is so  overwhelming as to amount to proof. Yet teachers, biographers, historians, and literary “scholars” go right on teaching the old discredited malarkey. If you are a college student whose prof is one of them, know that he/she is either very lazy or a liar intent on protecting a reputation.  Either way, you’re being swindled out of tuition money.  Don’t let this teacher get away with it.  This web site lists some of the books that will arm you for the confrontation.  (My own, The Cottage, is the only fictional one, an adventure tale which is true at its core and explains what the “Stratford Industry” has been up to and what it’s liable to do next).

Or….Here are some questions to put to your prof if he champions the Stratford man:

  1. Why is there no record of anyone actually seeing William Shakespeare, the writer?
  2. Why did his (the Stratford man’s) death go unnoticed?
  3. Why did he write nothing upon Elizabeth 1’s death?
  4. Why did he own no books?
  5. How did he know about so many places in Italy described in such detail in the ten Italian plays when he never set foot in Italy?  (If the teacher claims those mentions were often inaccurate, cite the book The Shakespeare Guide to Italy by Richard Roe which proves that claim untrue.)
  6. How was he able to strew technical legal terms throughout the plays when he never studied the law?
  7. How was he able to translate Greek writings when he never studied Greek?
  8. How could he, a commoner, write with intimacy to and about the queen and an earl?
  9. How did he know so much about tennis, falconry, horticulture, jousting, fencing, music, court intrigue, seamanship?
  10. How is it that the creator of Portia, Cordelia, Rosalind and other wise and unforgettable women came to have two illiterate daughters of his own?

     Watch out for this Stratford-champion teacher’s attempt to shrug off the whole matter as of being of no importance—“The play’s the thing.”  It sure as hell does matter.  A lot. It changes the meanings of countless lines in the plays, changes Othello from a tragedy to a “savage comedy,” re-writes the history of the Elizabethan period.  This effort to downplay the importance of Shakespeare’s identity has been one of the most successful ploys of the mendacious experts and one of the ways that most identifies their users as frauds.

     If your Stratfordian prof can’t answer the above (and there aren’t any who can, honestly) demand that the case for Edward deVere, seventeenth earl of Oxford, be taught alongside or instead of the Stratford man’s; that the authors of one or more of the books or scholarly papers be invited to come talk to the class; that you be transferred to a more enlightened teacher’s class; or that you get your tuition money back.  You aren’t paying to be taught the flat-earth theory or creationism, are you?

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Where is Shakespeare?

A great castle-fortress looms over the town of Hedingham, England. Edward deVere, the Earl of Oxford, lived there until he was twelve. That was four hundred fifty years go.

Looking through an archer’s window in the topmost floor of the castle…

…you can sometimes see, in the woods far off, the old gamekeeper’s cottage, a place full of legends—one, that Shakespeare went there to write his plays.

No one knows where Edward deVere is buried. Some think it is here, secretly, in  Westminster Abbey.

next to the tomb of deVere’s (and Hamlet’s) favorite cousin, Horation.

 

An inscription in the floor reads, “Stone coffin underneath.”

 

 

The guy was so dangerous even dead they keep him hidden.

 

 Read about it in “The Cottage.”

The Cottage

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Hey, literature teachers!

If you are a teacher who relies on the sycophants of the Stratford industry to inform your lessons on Shakespeare (people like James Shapiro and Harold Bloom or their predecessors A. L. Rouse and Samuel Schoenbaum) you are teaching lies and
are guilty of laziness or worse.  It’s like reciting Genesis to teach evolution. You should at least read some  of the growing mountain of evidence that Edward deVere — Oxford — was  Shakespeare.  You will discover how the  truth utterly changes and enriches the plays and poems, changes your  understanding of England’s renaissance as well.

A good way to start is with Richard Roe’s new book, The Shakespeare Guide to Italy. Or read Richard Whalen’s introduction  to the Oxford edition of Othello, revealing
that Othello is not a tragedy after  all, but something entirely different and fascinating.  Ditto Macbeth. For a more adventurous plunge into the Shakespeare “mystery” you might also  try the novel, The Cottage.

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A scary speech

Jack Duncan, the hero of my book, The Cottage, is prone to misadventures. He hates lies and reacts to them rashly, digging himself deeper and deeper into trouble and gathering scars to show for it. I know this guy. In The Cottage, his fiancé disappears and his pell-mell efforts to find her put the police hot on his heels. He is hired to film a documentary about the Shakespeare Authorship mystery — a lucky break. England should offer him some relief, some sanctuary. Instead, he wades into the middle of the Stratfordians — the Keepers of the Myth — and discovers that they will do anything to preserve the lie in order to protect their own reputations and careers. And they are very smart people who have long proven that they can do it. At this point my novel, The Cottage, makes the leap from fiction to reality, to the truth about these people and their lies.

And that is what won the novel an award for “outstanding achievement in the arts” from Concordia University in Portland, Oregon, home of the Shakespeare Authorship Study Centre. And got me an invite to speak at their annual conference last week.
This was terrifying. Not because I was going to be calling some big-time Shakespearean “experts,” like James Shapiro, “liars.” But because I knew that my audience was going to be made up of people with clusters of titles and degrees before their names. Professors and doctors and scholars who conversed in Shakespearean quotes, for Pete’s sake. One of their number had spent thirty years prowling places in Italy alluded to in the plays and proved beyond any reasonable doubt that no one could have written those plays without going there, which the Stratford man never had (See Richard Roe’s The Shakespeare Guide To Italy). And here I was, a relative novice, giving them a speech about Shakespeare and calling their fellow (though competing) experts liars and frauds and worse. They would be sure to rake me over the coals for my ignorance and misinterpretations or unqualifiedness or at least my impertinence…something. Instead there was…applause. Not a word of disapproval or correction. I had told them what they knew to be the truth but have been too polite to say it bluntly. They know bigger and more proper words to use in implying it. I had explained the controversy and Stratfordian tactic of ridicule and disinformation about Shakespeare in words that I and others like me could understand. And, in The Cottage, I was alerting people who might otherwise yawn at talk of Shakespeare’s identity to the importance of the answer; knowing who really wrote the plays changes their meanings, changes tragedies to brilliant, savage satires — changes England’s history! And I had wrapped it all up in an exciting adventure story (he said, modestly).

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What I Ran into in “The Shakespeare Mystery”

Note: This is an excerpt (to be continued) from my talk at Concordia University’s Shakespeare Authorship Studies Conference, April 12, 2012.

Samuel Schoenbaum tried to explain all that away by saying, “There’s an incomprehensibility about genius.”  He must have been asked questions like that before. No one could ad lib the word “incomprehensibility.”  Maybe I could buy a certain amount of “incomprehensibility” about genius.  But I have a lot of trouble putting “genius” and “second best bed” together.

Anyway, by the time our documentary aired, more than twenty years ago, I had become convinced that there wasn’t any mystery about Shakespeare’s identity. And any lingering doubts have been swept away since by the work of Roger Stritmatter and Richard Whalen and Joseph Sobran and Dan Wright and Charles Beauclerk and now Richard Roe’s overwhelming evidence that the Italian plays could only have been written by someone who had been to Italy.

And also, through those years, and with Shakespeare’s identity solved, for me, there remained the smell of something else —something rotten.

When I began to write this novel, The Cottage, I had in mind making the quest for Shakespeare’s identity not much more than the sub-plot of an adventure story.  The protagonist is a filmmaker whose fiancé has gone missing and the police think he done her in.  He’s working on the story about Shakespeare’s identity and the two mysteries — one new, one very old — get tangled up.  Well, at some point in a novel, you need to do some thinking.  What do all the scenes you’ve written, all the words, add up to?  What’s the story about?  The protagonist ought to think about that, too, in a sense. Why is he going through all this stuff?   And, before I knew it, both of us had gotten a whiff of that old rotten stench and that took over the novel.

Part of the smell stemmed from things not making sense.  For example, why is the public, including, even, lovers of Shakespeare, so dismissive of the whole issue — so seemingly reluctant, even to care about it?

Toward the end of our work on the documentary, we were shooting a meeting of Oxfordians, a grand banquet, and something was said that has stuck in my craw all this time, something I’ve heard over and over since then, said as a kind of “wise” summation to the whole question of Shakespeare’s identity.  Sam Wanamaker, the actor, gave a welcoming speech at that banquet.  He seemed to be sympathetic to the doubts about the Stratford man’s claim to being Shakespeare.  But then, he concluded his talk with this, from Hamlet:  “The play’s the thing.”  It was said as though Shakespeare himself were declaring that it doesn’t matter who the author was.  Of course that isn’t what the quotation is meant to say at all.  It’s “The play’s the thing to catch the conscience of a king.”  But the “orthodox” Shakespearean “experts,” who should know better, keep saying it, anyway, even today, as if the whole matter should be brushed aside.  Well, I keep wondering, if it doesn’t matter who the creators of anything are why bother to write biographies of them?

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