Congratulations on your Oliver Stone-like production of the Shakespearian Mystery in which you laid out the convincing argument that Shakespeare didn't author much more than his house payments. There's nothing quite as effective as having the traditional view of history promoted by a old homophobic emeritus professor against whom a collection of well-spoken wackos wax eloquent and almost true. What a proud tradition you have set for the revision-hungry youth of the nation who not only question authority, but reality as well.
For future shows, you might consider these: Newton
plagiarized the Principia Mathematica from the original
but obscure German work of Leibnitz. The moonwalk was shot
entirely in Houston. Klinghoffer in a fit of pique wheeled
into the open sea, and his wife blamed the Arab highjackers
of the Achille Lauro just to save face and obtain the
I found the program more interesting this second time (perhaps because this time I got to see all of it). The theory that the plays were written by Edward deVere seems plausible, with some information to back it up, but I am put off by the premise from which the Oxfordians start - that the son of a glove-maker from Stratford would not have been sufficiently intelligent enough to have written the plays; that only a nobleman would have sufficient genius to have done so.
The argument that only a nobleman would have had sufficient background experience to understand the politics of the plays (and I assume here they are only speaking of the historical plays) can also be turned back on them. After all, what nobleman would have had sufficient experience with and understanding of the lives of the common people to be able to write the parts of characters like Fluellen and Pistol?
As to Shakespeare being "barely able to write his own name", I presume the gentleman from Georgia was referring to the multiple spelling forms used by Will Shakespeare. This was a common phenomenon of the time, when there were no rigid spelling rules. One of my own Virginia ancestor's names (written in the last half of the 1600s) was spelled variously as Wycliffe, Wickliff, Whitliffe, Whitcliffe, Whitley and Wheatley.
Additionally, understanding intrigue doesn't require that you spend your life in politics. Anyone who has had any experience in theater, whether amateur or professional, knows the cutthroat backstage politics that go on constantly. In writing the historical plays, all one needs is a knowledge of human nature, and to be conversant with the prevailing PC spin (in this case, Tudor/Elizabethan) on the events being portrayed. I think most Englishmen of the time had some idea on what they were to believe about past events relating to the Lancastrian and Tudor histories.
The reading of deVere's youthful poetry was not very convincing as proof that he was the Shakespearean poet. I found his poetry as read to be overly flowery, so extremely full of alliteration as to be almost meaningless, and banal in its expressions. That doesn't mean he didn't improve with time to the point where he could write the poetry, sonnets and plays, but it certainly can't be considered proof that he did. As for the subject matter, it has often been said that poets usually write about two subjects - love and death. deVere would have been no different.
There seemed to be some small evidence that deVere could have been the author of the Shakespeare plays. But that small amount isn't near enough to raise a serious challenge to the traditional attribution to Will. The fact, however, that acquaintances of Shakespeare attributed the plays to Will during deVere's lifetime must count for something. The Oxfordian theory is probably worth pursuing, but a great deal more proof is going to be required before unseating the "Bard of Avon".
Lastly, I don't really think it matters too much
who did write them. I am only thankful that someone did.
Given what we have learned. How can it be that Shakespeare was what the historians call a Psuedonym? All the artwork that is attributed to the Bard himself is not? How can that be. And how very fitting on HIS birthday do you rebroadcast such mysteries.
The greatest poet that ever lived and the greatest playwright. Leave him be. If he wanted to be known, he would of announced it. Or should I say the Earl of Oxford would have announced that he was in reality Mr William Shakespeare himself.
A welcome rerun on Shakespeare's birthday. The internet update was a valuable addition.
J. Sam Moore Jr.
El Paso, Texas
After having viewed your show on Shakespeare, I was intrigued to check out further information concerning the subject at your website. I must say that after reading a few letters by those knowledgable on Shakespeare, I am disappointed in the presentation given in your show. It does indeed seem almost misleading and weighted toward the Oxfordian view. Maybe a "sequel" is in order, me thinks. This time less emotional plea and greater indepth research. On the whole though, I like Frontline and the great work you do
I enjoyed the broadcast on April 23, not sure I had seen it when originally shown. What made it especially intriguing was being able to read more about the "mystery" on the Internet. I am new to the Internet. The letters of Mr. Murphy and Ms. Monaghan added a lot to the viewing of the Frontline program. Thank you.
N.L.C. Dear FRONTLINE,
The only thing I could think as I watched the program on the authorship question was, "Couldn't they find any serious academic scholars who would discuss this issue, if only to put it to rest once and for all?" But then it became obvious that selection of Professor Rowse, whom William Murphy correctly identifies as "abrasive," was the perfect complement to the emotional nature of Ogburn's argument. It is as if the producer of the program wished to generate dislike for the "Stratfordian case" through Rowse.
I saw "The Shakespeare Mystery" when it was first broadcast in 1989. At the time I was working at a college in Cambridge, MA and when I mentioned the issue to a professor in the English department, she passed it all off as bunk. What a surprise a year later when she brought in an Oxfordian to lecture to our Shakespeare class about Edward de Vere!
That day opened up Shakespeare's world for me--as a writer, author biography has always made a difference to me as a reader--all fiction is, at some level, autobiographical, and without a sensible biography to attach to "William Shakespeare," the plays had no real interest to me. Investigating Edward de Vere, however, opened up the world of the plays. Thanks to that fateful day when literature, drama, theatre and history came together to discuss a true genius, I entered the theatre as an actor, director and playwright.
This raises an important point about literature and education: A.L. Rowse's ridiculous comment about people sticking to their specializations and leaving the literary research to literature professors directly highlights the entire Shakespearean authorship problem: because the subject is a literary figure, research has been left in the hands of literature professors INSTEAD of history professors. And, after debating several in and out of classrooms, I can state that all too often, literature professors haven't a clue about history or historical research.
(And historians won't touch the problem with lead-lined gloves.) When put into proper historical, cultural and political perspective, the Stratfordian argument holds water as well as a sieve, but academic specialization, snobbery and willful intellectual ignorance (driven by a very real need to keep their jobs and not negate a lifetime of inconclusive research) has severely handicapped legitimate research. This ignorance in the upper echelons of literary academia (those who control who receives doctorates, fellowships, research grants, access to original documents) further prevents up and coming scholars from pursuing meaningful research (not to mention the academic brainwashing these young scholars receive in their mentors' classrooms). And if a student or scholar from another discipline-- say theatre or history--attempts to tackle the issue, they are discredited as know-nothing amateurs. The study of Shakespeare encompasses all of the humanities--history, languages, classics, literature, poetry, theatre--the law, science, religion--for one discipline to claim sole ownership of the greatest literary achievement in Western civilization is not only selfish, but an outright crime.
One other issue that needs to be addressed: natural genius. One of the Stratfordian arguments concerns natural genius and often they use Mozart as an example and justification for inborn genius. They will cite painters who never attended school. The issue they fail to address is that while any human being may possess the genius for storytelling, writing, like theatre, is more than just an art--it is also a craft, and one cannot write skillfully and well without an education. The author of the plays credited to William Shakespeare was not only an artist possessing a superior genius for storytelling, but also a master craftsman, a wordsmith beyond compare. And a damn well educated one, at that, and well educated at a time in history when the common man did NOT have access to the books, documents and society that the author obviously did. This is perhaps hardest for the 20th century scholar to understand: the author lived in a time when there were no public libraries, no media, and government controlled printing presses. There were no newstands bulging with magazines and newspapers covering every subject under the sun. Books were expensive. And the complete classical education that the author had was not to be gained from the Stratford grammar school.
Thank you, Frontline, for having the courage to explore an important
historical mystery. Any chance of an updated version? Especially in
light of the de Vere Bible discovery...
Lisa "Riz" Risley
Stratford or Oxford? In the end does it really matter? The legacy of Shakespeare is not who the person was but rather the plays and sonnets that make up his body of work. Their abilty to move us, to keep us in suspense, to make us laugh after 400 years is all we need to know. Brian Johnson
Many thanks for airing this most provocative and interesting program! I have long been generally aware that the authorship of Shakespeare's works has been the subject of much controversy and speculation. I have not, however, known of the claims made on behalf of the Earl of Oxford. Great stuff! I really never expected to find the rich resource of background and related material that is collected in your Web site, and have only just begun to explore it.
I enjoyed your program of doubt about the Bard. I agree with Mark Twain, though. It had to be Francis Bacon, not Edward deVere. I understand that Lord Cecil was an arch enemy of Bacon. At any rate, it's great to see a program like you just broadcast. Will you devote another program to the possible authorship question: this time devoted to Bacon? I know a few people involved and I myself wrote a full length play that was produced here in Austin, Texas called "Cosmic Eggs and Quantum Bacon," partly concerning the Bacon-Shakespeare controversy.
Did you know that Bacon's 1609 essay on "Cupid and the Atom" foreshadowed the
quantum of modern physics by 3 centuries?
Also, Bacon's authorship makes a vital connection between the court of Queen
Elizabeth and the founding of America, which to Francis Bacon, was known as the
Excellent show! It brought to life the 'drab old' Shakespearian question too often glossed over in intro classes. Made me want to reread "every word" in a new light. this week I'm Oxfordian; I'll have to keep up with the debate.