The Conspiracy Theory

WILLIAM F. BUCKLEY, JR.: But go ahead with your thesis.

GARY TAYLOR: We are being told that we have been misled. [Panel interjects "Right. Right.] We're being told that we've been misled, and the question is to determine the truth, and to determine the truth involves us in an extremely complicated series of questions. For me, the essential difficulty of this whole issue has to do with the nature of conspiracy theories. As you have said, you are assuming the existence of some sort of collaboration between the Earl and the man from Stratford, as well as a large number of other people. It is not at all clear; this particular conspiracy should have been perpetrated. While there is an insistence over and over again from the Oxfordians, for documentary evidence that this man from Stratford who was also clearly an actor in London was the man who wrote the plays as the texts published say he was, there is this overwhelming demand for documentary evidence, but of course, there is no documentary evidence that Oxford wrote them. There is no piece of paper from the period which says these plays were actually written by the Earl of Oxford. Nobody says that. So that in the first place you have to have a conspiracy which involves a very large number of people. There are the actors in the company ...

WILLIAM F. BUCKLEY, JR.: Why did they have to know?

GARY TAYLOR: Why did the actors in the company have to know? That Shakespeare did not actually write the text? I would think it would be fairly obvious in rehearsal, if you've ever been in the rehearsal of a play, there are always things that need to be changed, and to be changed on the spot. If somebody is not a playwright or the caliber of the man who produced these texts, that's going to be obvious in the process. And after all, Heminges and Condell were two of his fellow actors. They introduced the First Folio and said that it's by William Shakespeare. So you have to have a number of actors involved. Maybe not every actor, but a number of actors over a long period of time. You have to have all of these people at the top of Elizabethean society, which allegedly told de Vere that he couldn't publish them under his own name. However many people might be involved, there is more than one or two people involved in this conspiracy. [Buckley: "oh sure, yes."] It's a conspiracy which involves a large number of people, and of course, the difficulty with conspiracies, is that the more people who become involved, the more likely it is that one of them is going to spill the beans. None of them spilled the beans. There is no--

TOM BETHELL: How could they have got it published?

GARY TAYLOR: There were books published in this period without permission. There were many books published in this period without permission. There were manuscripts that circulated in this period. You know, this could be said in a manuscript letter. There is no documentary evidence for your case.

TOM BETHELL:</B> But you're assuming that it's a bigger deal for us know than it was 400 years ago. That's the big difference. They would have known, sure it's the Earl of Oxford, but who cares. You know.

GARY TAYLOR: But again you're making assumptions. You're making assumptions to explain away the fact that you have no documentary evidence.

WARREN HOPE: Based on documentary evidence, the works are anonymous.

GARY TAYLOR: Based on documentary evidence, the works are attributed to William Shakespeare. OK. What you want to do. No, I don't agree that the name is different, but that involves us in all of these technical issues that I raised just one element of, earlier. There are documents that say that these texts were written by somebody called William Shakespeare. There are no documents that say these texts were written by de Vere. That's right. And they were performed [many interjections]. There's a whole series of documents, which say that those plays were performed by the theatrical company to which an actor named William Shakespeare also belonged. The documentary evidence says that there's a link between these texts and somebody named William Shakespeare. It is entirely speculation that William Shakespeare is a pseudonym, or a cover for de Vere. There is no documentary evidence from anyone in the period, anyone in the period, either in print or in manuscript which says that these plays were written by the Earl of Oxford. So that's the first problem with the conspiracy.

WARREN HOPE: But there are Oxford's plays we don't have ...

WILLIAM F. BUCKLEY, JR.: Would it be relevant Professor Taylor to say if somebody presents herself

as Anastasia--

GARY TAYLOR: Yes.

WILLIAM F. BUCKLEY, JR.: ...And has no documentary proof that she was the daughter of Nicholas II. So therefore you start looking for plausibilities.

TOM BETHELL: Circumstantial evidence.

WILLIAM F. BUCKLEY, JR.: Yes, and therefore isn't this a search for plausibilities because we have to postulate that it's implausible, that the man from Stratford left no clue. He was a wordy man.

GARY TAYLOR: No, no, but we can get into that later. But the point is that the actual documents from the periods say these texts are by William Shakespeare, and there are no documents that say they're by de Vere. We may not believe that documentary evidence. We may come forward with reasons for doubting it, but the documentary evidence is initially. [Buckley: - a presumption.] There is a presumption that the documents are in favor of William Shakespeare. And the absence, the silence in the documents saying from anyone who must have known this. And you want to say that of course, lots of people knew it, but there was no reason to write about it. That no one actually comes out and says it. Even though in letters for instance, people talk about Burleigh's private habits. There are all sorts of manuscripts in which matters to do with the court and secret matters about individuals in the aristocracy have come down to us. None of that evidence says that de Vere wrote these plays. So first of all, there's a completely successful conspiracy in the Renaissance. Secondly, you have to assume that there is some kind of conspiracy. And we've just heard some sense of this in later scholarship that the views of anti-Stratfordians have not been properly attended to, [Hope: That's thoroughly documented! Reams!]or that there is a kind of a sort of establishment bias. But there very well may be an establishment bias in the case of the Shakespeare Birthplace Trust. And that's been admitted. I get nothing from Stratford. Most people studying Shakespeare in the world today, get no financial connection with Stratford. The idea that the Shakespeare industry is against &eacutelitism seems to me ridiculous when the major Shakespeare production company in the world is the Royal Shakespeare Company. Shakespeare has been deeply tied in .

WILLIAM F. BUCKLEY, JR.: But that's just a British convention in the world. I mean, they would have "the Royal Garbage Society ..." [laughter]

WARREN HOPE: ...or the Royal Family.

GARY TAYLOR: So that you have to presume that there is some reason why people are not willing to listen to the evidence in the 20th century in large numbers.

WILLIAM F. BUCKLEY, JR.: Isn't that inertia?

GARY TAYLOR: Inertia? Well there's a lot inertia and yet within the Academy, Shakespeareans have been willing to completely revise their views about a play like King Lear in the course of 12 years. Twelve years may seem inertia by comparison with the hard sciences, but we're talking about claims that were first put into print in the middle of the 19th century and that have been vociferously defended since then, and a whole series of books and articles that the man from Stratford did not write these works. And yet despite the impression that you might be given by the distribution of roles in this panel, the overwhelming number of specialists who have devoted their lives to the study of this period, find the argument against Stratford totally unpersuasive. To me, the Mark Twain anecdote works in the office supply. The people who know the river, who know the Mississippi are people who spend their lives studying this period as a profession. The tourists are the outsiders who come in and read a few books, making a particular case which may seem plausible to them, but who simply do not know the details. And the reason this is important is that as somebody [Galsworthy] said in an initial review of Looney's book, "this is the best detective story I ever read. " The genre of the detective story which itself dates from about the same time as this theory that the man from Stratford didn't write the plays, that genre depends on certain understandings about what's normal. The key clues for the detective and the reader are always something that stands out because it's odd, it's abnormal in some way. Know when you read a modern detective novel, about the modern world, you know what's normal in the modern world. You can judge when something is a bit queered. But when you're looking at documents from the late 16th and early 17th century, you don't know what's normal, unless you spend your whole life studying those documents.

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