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Scipio Who?

August 29, 2017

Mainstream scholars are pretty much all crackpots.

What’s weird and a little scary is this: calling mainstream scholars crackpots is an understatement. Actually, most mainstream scholars in all fields are insane.

Consider. Scholars are people who devote their lives to truth-seeking. They are often brilliant and usually well-informed. And they work hard. But, at best, they are good at making incremental progress and that’s it. They cannot seek truth because anything the least bit out of the ordinary is summarily rejected no matter what the evidence says.

I am of course far from the first person to recognize this. Thomas Kuhn, in his famous book, “The Structure of Scientific Revolutions,” described this phenomenon in rather turgid detail. And he wasn’t the first person either: Kuhn had plenty of people to quote who had, before he got around to it, noticed that scholars were, generally speaking, insane.

In my field, physics, the book, “Faster Than the Speed of Light,” written by an accomplished practicing physicist, tells the story of a recent battle of the sane minority vs the insane majority. At the end of the twentieth century, some physicists realized that the speed of light probably isn’t constant over astronomical time scales. Billions of years ago, just after the big bang, the speed of light was (probably) much higher than it is now. This explains the uniformity we observe today with telescopes and other instruments.

Of course, there is absolutely nothing in physics that says physical constants like the speed of light are constant forever. Anyone with even a small amount of training in physics can see that a faster speed of light in the early universe offers a tremendous simplification to models of the big bang.

Since there is no evidence whatsoever to indicate that physical constants are absolutely constant forever, there is every reason to entertain theories which postulate evolving physical constants. In fact, if you are a physicist, it is literally your job to consider such theories. Otherwise, you might as well be a politician supporting a particular platform that caters to the interest of some narrow group of constituents.

Amazingly, when professional physicists tried to develop and publish theoretical work describing a non-constant speed of light and the connection of this idea to the currenly observed universe, they were summarily rejected. Publication was denied repeatedly for many years. The mainstream made every effort to strangle the new idea in its crib.

It was just luck that (this time) the exponent of the new idea was Hercules. The hero of the story was exceptionally persistent (the first exponent had already been successfully strangled years before). So sanity won out — that time. We can be certain of one thing: right now, today, brilliant ideas in physics that are slightly out of step with preconceived notions are being rejected out of hand as crackpot nonsense again and again and again without anything even approaching a good reason.

Of course, there is plenty of actual crackpot nonsense out there. But that’s no excuse. It is easy as pie to distinguish crackpot nonsense from an interesting idea — I can do it in about thirty seconds usually, though I’d spend more time if I were a journal editor just to make sure.

In the example above, the theory called VSL (variable speed of light) was, from the beginning, obviously a perfectly sensible, well-constructed theory. It should have been accepted for publication after weeks of peer-review, not years. Instead, insane physicists labeled the theory “very silly” (get it? VSL, very silly, ha-ha) and told the few people interested in pursuing it to drop it.

It’s a good thing VSL had its Hercules because if it is ever verified, it could be the biggest physics breakthrough of the 21st century. Many people are working on it now.

Now let’s talk Shakespeare. That’s what we’re here to do, so let’s do it. Shakespeare has to be the biggest example of insanity in all fields of inquiry, or at least the most extraordinary example.

According to a truly deranged mainstream, an illiterate businessman whose name was William Shakspere and who was not identified as the author of anything (not even a letter) until seven years after he died was the famous person who wrote under the name “William Shakespeare.” But no one knew it until the worms had fully digested him.

Right.

The mainstream has decided, in a stunning display of insanity, that the theory that “Shakespeare” was actually a pseudonym and the man named Shakspere was actually exactly what he seemed to be is not worth considering.

The mainstream’s own research and the mainstream’s “biographies” of Shakespeare are the most convincing arguments that Shakespeare was probably a pseudonym. No code breaking is necessary.

Elizabethan authors such as Ben Jonson all existed not just as names on a title page but as writers who interacted, as writers, with other people. Jonson complained about his publisher, wrote flirtatious poetry and included it with a gift to a female patron, was paid for specific works, exchanged letters about writing with friends, wrote manuscripts which survive to the present day, owned books which survive to the present day, and collaborated with fellow writers.

There are documents that constitute the evidence for the above and the above is only a tiny fraction of Jonson’s biography. Handwritten and printed material tell the story of years of Jonson’s interactions with patrons, publishers, friends, and fellow writers.

For Jonson, it goes on and on. We know who his favorite teacher was and we know which of his writings were the most controversial because he was questioned and jailed by legal authorities over his writing. Again, records exist for all of this activity.

For Shakespeare, we have a name on fifty thousand title pages and that’s it.

There’s nothing for a biographer to look at besides the plays and poems themselves. There are no letters, no manuscripts, no payments, no gifts, and no books. There’s not even third-party commentary written by anyone who describes Shakespeare as a writer they knew personally. Shakespeare is the only Elizabethan writer who wasn’t called a writer while he lived.

I know that sounds strange. But there is no disagreement about the evidence itself. In fact, the surest way to be convinced that there’s a problem with the traditional authorship assumptions is to read a Jonson biography and a Shakespeare biography together. The difference is not small.

Let’s begin the Shakespeare biography, such as it is. We have a writer of unprecedented popularity and unprecedented carelessness. No one claiming to be the author made any effort to get Shakespeare’s plays published. According to mainstream biographers, he just didn’t care.

Shakespeare plays published in the 1590’s and early 1600’s are widely considered to have been essentially bootleg publications, totally unauthorized — ALL of them. Shakespeare was the most popular playwright in London, but when it came to actually publishing his plays or talking about them or being paid for them or collaborating, he was invisible.

Nevertheless, Shakespeare set a record. His fifty-thousand books in print is about one book per literate Londoner of the time. Four hundred years later, J. K. Rowling’s British publication number is twenty-five million which is impressive but it’s still “only” one book for every two literate Britons. Rowling is truly amazing, but we have to say Shakespeare’s record still stands. Probably Rowling is happy enough with her accomplishment.

Shakespeare may have been invisible but he did have a patron or at least a close ally — the Earl of Southampton. The only Shakespeare publications that appear to have had the cooperation of an author are the two epic poems — both dedicated by the author to Southampton.

And there are the Sonnets too. Shakespeare’s Sonnets appear to have been written as personal letters to his “lovely boy,” Southampton, whom he also called his “tender churl.” The Sonnets discussed private matters and were kept private for many years.

When he wasn’t telling the boy how much he loved him, he was warning about the perils of aging. Shakespeare wrote, “thou are thy mother’s glass, and she in thee calls back the lovely April of her prime,” and “my glass shall not persuade me I am old, so long as youth and thou are of one date.”

So we know Shakespeare was a real person with at least one real friend. He was close to Southampton, loved him, knew his mother, and was a generation removed from the young earl. At least that’s a reasonable conclusion if we read the sonnets as written.

But there’s a problem. If Shakespeare was like Ben Jonson, we would next find letters, gifts, and payments exchanged between Shakespeare and Southampton.

We find nothng.

Except for the dedications in the epic poems and the Sonnets there’s no author-patron connection at all: there is no indication that an author called “Shakespeare” and the Earl of Southampton ever even met.

Don’t think no one has looked for a connection. Scholars have been searching for centuries for the tiniest Shakespeare-Southampton connection outside the published dedications in the epic poems. As is always the case when one looks for Shakespeare biographical material (and no, title pages are not biographical material, sorry), nothing is found.

If a Shakespeare scholar ever finds one percent of what we have for Jonson, it will be front-page news. Even a book in Southampton’s estate signed by Shakespeare would be massive.

But all we have is title pages and sonnets and two dedications. It’s a lot but there’s still no Shakespeare. No patron, no friend, no fellow writer, no teacher, no publisher, no legal authority ever said one word about knowing the great author Shakespeare.

A name on printed works and nothing else practically screams PSEUDONYM.

Mainstream biographers know all about the documentary record. They know all about Ben Jonson. They know all about the other Elizabethan writers all of whom were known to their friends as writers. They simply ignore the results of their own research.

Here’s Bloom.

“There is an inverse ratio, a little beyond our analytical skills, between Shakespeare’s virtual colorlessness and his preternatural dramatic powers.”

The term “virtual” is a perfect choice. Shakespeare was indeed virtual — virtual as in he didn’t exist except as a name on a title page.

Here’s Honan.

“Shakespeare seemed to fluorish with a certain annihilation of the sense of himself.”

Talk about virtual! He annihilated himself! That’s a pretty good trick! Shakespeare was indeed a Cheshire Cat. Even though he was the most famous writer in England, he had the abiilty to make himself invisible and disappear at will. But he wasn’t using a pseudonym — perish the thought.

In fact, we do know who Shakespeare was because of what he wrote to Southampton. The sonnets are fourteen lines each except for the final sonnet and there are 126 of them. The express love, guidance, admonishment, advice, and unconditional support for Southampton. They are written in the first person, concern private matters, and were only published sixteen years after their inception because a pirate/publisher named Thorpe got his hands on them.

Southampton was the most controversial earl in England and the author of the sonnets was an older peer, a fellow member of the nobility who was his strongest supporter. We don’t know who it was, exactly, but the sonnets are as a good a reason as any to hide behind a pseudonym. Saying Southampton was controversial is actually a gigantic understatement. Suffice to say, for now, that the controversy level was life-and-death extreme.

The sonnets, read as personal letters (in other words read as written) tell us that Shakespeare was a member of the nobility born in the early 1550’s who was a close ally of Southampton. One of the most convincing pieces of evidence indicating that there is a legitimate authorship question is the reaction of the mainstream to the sonnets: they actually say, most of the time, that the sonnets are not personal writings!

The sonnets are probably the most personal poetry ever written. No code-breaking is necessary. You just have to read them.

Still, the mainstream, though insane, isn’t necessarily wrong. It’s ridiculous to say the sonnets aren’t personal, but maybe they were commissioned by a relative of Southampton. It’s possible.

It’s not so much that the mainstream is definitely wrong, it is simply that they are certain of a wildly unlikely scenario — this is what I mean by insanity. We’ll get back to what made Southampton the most contorversial earl in England, if not the most controversial in English history, later, but for now we’ll delve into the mainstream’s candidate for the Cheshire Cat of seventeenth-century London.

There was a man named William Shakspere who was a well-documented wealthy businessman in a town called Stratford-upon-Avon about three days’ journey from London. He’s got the right name, more or less. He never called himself Shakespeare (he was born Shakspere, had Shakspere children, died Shakspere, and his grandson born posthumously was called Shaksper as a first name). Still, when he bought a house, he was called Shakespeare and his name was spelled Shakespeare on other occasions.

Given the fluid nature of Elizabethan spelling, Shakspere is a perfectly good candidate just based on the name. And he’s got more than the name. He was a businessman who sold commercial quantities of malt and grain and loaned money. He was cited for hoarding grain during a famine and was often in court to collect debts. He was also a real estate mogul. When he died and laid out his estate in his will, he described a sword, a bed, some silverware, a lot of cash, some land, and five houses.

So far he’s not a writer, but be patient.

Shakspere was written about by his neighbors when the subject was road improvements, pasture enclosures, and moneylending. No one described him as a writer. Shakspere wrote no letters. Shakspere received no letters. There are extant Shakspere signatures, but the first four all look different from one another even though literate men of Elizabethan England always had consistent, impressive, smooth signatures (there are hundreds of examples). One of Shakspere’s daughters signed her name with a mark; the other could write her name but could not recognize her husband’s handwriting and is also assumed by mainstream biographers to have been illiterate.

So far, Shakspere doesn’t appear to be a good candidate for Shakespeare. In fact, he is, so far, a terrible candidate. And it gets worse. He never met Southampton and was too young to know Southampton’s mother in the lovely April of her prime or at any other time. He could not have called an earl a “tender churl.”

He could not have written the sonnets, even if he were literate.

The author Shakespeare was one of the most erudite men in England. The books referenced in his plays would fill a library and libraries of five-hundred books or more were common at the time. Shakspere was rich but he owned more houses than books. In fact, he didn’t own any books.

(The only book ever found in his house was discovered more than two decades after his death: it was a medical log written by his son-in-law, a doctor. That book is in a museum.)

You are probably wondering why on earth anyone who wasn’t certifiably insane would think Shakspere was Shakespeare. Well, there is a reason. You see, he went to London. Not only that, he became a shareholder in the Lord Chamberlain’s Men, an acting company. Thus, the rich man from Stratford owned a piece of a London acting company and a piece of the Globe theater. He also invested in some real estate next to the Blackfriar’s theater.

Also, some of the printed versions of Shakespeare’s plays had the names of actors in the acting company in place of characters in the play. This indicates that the printed version of the plays came from manuscripts used by the Lord Chamberlain’s Men.

So, if Shakspere was literate and if the sonnets aren’t what they appear to be, then maybe Shakspere was Shakespeare. Remember, we are not claiming here that the mainstream is definitely wrong.

Keep this in mind: Warren Buffet owns billions in Apple shares. But he couldn’t write an app to save his life. Most investors in the London theater scene were not writers.

Still, Shakspere has pretty much the right name and theater was part of his investment portfolio. Here’s Schoenbaum, the great biographer.

“What did fellow townsmen make of the distinguished playwright of the Chamberlain’s company and admired poet of love’s languishment who sojourned each year in their midst? They probably troubled their heads little enough about the plays and poems. Business was another matter; they saw Shakespeare as a man shrewd in practical affairs.”

Schoenbaum knows none of Shakspere’s friends seemed to know he was the greatest writer in England. It doesn’t seem to bother him. We also see that Schoenbaum ASSUMES Shakspere was not merely an investor in the Lord Chamberlain’s Men but was in fact “the distinguished playwright of the Chamberlain’s company.”

Here, Schoenbaum is creating a plausible story. But it is a story. Suppose Schoenbaum had been a little more careful. Here’s brutally honest Schoenbaum.

“What did fellow townsmen make of the rich man who owned shares in an acting company along with all of his other investments? Unlike us, they had no idea he was anything but a businessman.”

It wouldn’t have gone over as well.

All we really know is someone named Shakspere who didn’t own books, didn’t write letters, didn’t receive letters, didn’t teach his daughters to read, and couldn’t write his own name invested in the London theater as part of a wide-ranging investment portfolio.

Does that make him Shakespeare?

Maybe. The mainstream says the wildly inconsistent signatures (they are reproduced below) are “curious” but might be a result of Shakespeare’s “teeming imagination.” They say his books and letters were all lost (even though books and letters exist not only for Jonson but for many other Elizabethan writers) and they say he neglected his daughters’ education because they were country girls who didn’t need to read. As for the sonnets which pretty much disqualify the young commoner businessman, the mainstream either says the sonnets are not personal (insane), are not about Southampton (borderline insane), or were commissioned (possible).

The mainstream is pretty much stuck with the theory so they have to do whatever they can short of outright lying to make is sound plausible. I don’t blame them, really. In fact, I do the same thing. I say, “Shakspere didn’t own books.” But that’s actually not strictly true.

Based on the documentary record, it appears that Shakspere didn’t own books because he was wealthy and his residence remained in his family for many years after his death and he left a detailed will, so one would assume, especially if he were a great writer, that some of his books would survive or at least be mentioned as was the case with many other Elizabethan writers.

But that’s a little clunky, so I just say he didn’t own books and note that the mainstream says they’ve been lost. Hopefully, I’m being more honest than the insane mainstream. It’s easy for me, because I don’t mind if you ultimately take the mainstream’s side as I’m just a blogger kidding around.

Getting back to the story, there are other reasons to believe Shakspere might have been Shakespeare, so the mainstream can claim they have “a lot” of evidence that Shakspere wrote Shakespeare. But that’s only true if you view the evidence selectively. If you consider all the evidence and if you are a betting person, you wouldn’t put your money on Shakspere without very long odds in your favor because the evidence that he wasn’t a writer of anything outweighs by a huge margin the evidence that he was the greatest writer in England.

No publisher, patron, friend, fellow writer, or legal authority claimed to know, meet, or conduct business with the famous writer “Shakespeare.” That’s my claim. However, writers Robert Greene, Ben Jonson, and John Davies did mention Shakespeare in a way that indicated they had (or may have had) personal knowledge of the man.

The problem is, Greene, Davies, and Jonson do not describe a writer. The mainstream disagrees, but I don’t think this is a close call. I think they are out of their tiny little minds.

Robert Greene wrote of a “Usurer” and an “Ape” called “Shakescene” who had a “Tiger’s heart wrapped in a Player’s hide.” This last is a clear reference to a Shakespeare play that was undoubtedly highly regarded as Shakespeare was basically an overnight success in the early 1590’s and that’s when Greene wrote his diatribe.

But Greene was not complimenting Shakespeare’s writing. He wasn’t saying anything about a writer at all. The arrogant scum Shakescene is a bombastic fool who spews Latin phrases without knowing what they mean. He is a rich “gentleman” with fine clothes and a “player” (an actor) who steals others’ works. He is an imitator, nothing more. Greene warns his fellow writers to steer clear of this thief who will do nothing but steal from them.

Greene’s famous “upstart Crow” rant is discussed in more detail below and a link to the complete document is included. I think the mainstream interpretation (professional jealousy of an upstart young writer who is outdoing the old hands) is virutally impossible to justify, but you’ll have to decide for yourself ultimately.

One reason we can dismiss the mainstream’s interpretation is Jonson. Jonson was there and he strongly corroborates Greene’s accusations of thievery.

Jonson wrote a sonnet in the Shakespearean style called “On Poet-Ape” in which he complains of a “thief” who “would be thought our chief.” Unlike Greene, he did not name Shakspere/Shakespeare. According to Jonson, someone, we don’t know who, is a phony who purchases the work of others and then passes it off as his. He’s not a playwright; he’s a play broker. Who could he be talking about? Who does Jonson think of as his “chief”?

Next to Shakespeare, Jonson was the most famous writer in England. I can’t think of anyone else Jonson would be referring to, other than Shakespeare, in his fourteen line sonnet with abab-cdcd-efef-gg rhyme scheme. But who knows? Jonson’s full sonnet is reproduced below.

Unless I’m crazy, it almost sounds like Shakspere was going around pretending to be Shakespeare. In fact, that’s exactly what John Davies says. Now we have a third person corroborating the story of the thieving play broker with a convenient name. For the mainstream, I’d say it’s three strikes and you’re out, but then I’m a silly crackpot.

Davies called Shakespeare, “our English Terence” and also identified him as an actor. Terence, in those days, had been documented by Montaigne (tranlated by Florio) and Ascham as being a front-man for two members of the Roman aristocracy (Scipio and Laelius).

Davies is fatal for the mainstream case. Below, I discuss what I consider the crucial testimony of Davies in some detail.

Everything is subject to interpretation. The mainstream says Davies wasn’t referring to the part of the Terence biography in which he serves as a front-man when he called Shakespeare “our English Terence.” The mainstream also says that Jonson wasn’t talking about Shakespeare. Or, says the mainstream maybe Jonson was criticizing his rival for borrowing from others.

The tone of Greene and Jonson seems pretty vitriolic and pretty targeted at the “thief” idea. And Davies pretty much ends any question I might have had. However, anything is possible.

I wouldn’t say the mainstream is on thin ice here. I’d say they are trying to skate on a melted pond in the middle of the summer in a temperate zone.

If proof is ever discovered about who really wrote Shakespeare, eating their hats won’t be enough — many of us won’t be satisfied unless they eat a whole suit, including the shoes. If I turn out to be wrong, I think I can just say I interpreted the data as best I could.

I think, deep down, many mainstreamers know there is a problem just like a lot of catholic priests know that some of their brethren aren’t very priestly.

In one final act of desperation, the mainstream points to a series of humorous plays put on by Elizabethan students. In the plays (also discussed in detail below), Shakespeare is presented as a “fellow” of an actor in the Lord Chamberlain’s Men who writes better than the university playwrights. On the surface, it seems like the students are saying the member of the acting company is also the writer Shakespeare.

But that interpretation only works if you don’t get the joke. The person saying Shakespeare is better than the university playwrights is complaining because the university playwrights “smell too much of that writer Ovid.” But Shakespeare’s epic poems are Ovidian poetry, so Shakespeare is actually a classic Ovidian poet and the audience knows this well.

The character in the student satire saying Shakespeare is so great obviously has no idea what he’s talking about or who he’s talking about. Then, in case you are really thick and still don’t get the joke, the person speaking also talks about “that writer Metamorphosis.” Shakespeare is better than “that writer Metamorphosis,” he says. Of course, Metamorphosis is a poem, not a writer and the person saying “our fellow Shakespeare” is the greatest writer ever is being presented as a bumbling fool who could have ten Ovidian poets fall on him and still not be able to tell a writer from a poem from Ovid from Shakespeare from his left elbow.

One can argue endlessly about what the students may have meant and the mainstream, for all we know, might be correct in their interpretation of Greene, Jonson, Davies, the students, and even the sonnets.

However, given the story so far, when I say, “Houston, we have a problem,” it would be nice to get an answer.

“Houston?”

“HOUSTON?”

Remember, the point here isn’t whether there might be a one-in-ten-thousand chance that Shakspere was Shakespeare; the point here is whether the mainstream has any right to be absolutely certain that an illiterate moneylending thief who never met Southampton or his mother was Shakespeare.

But the mainstream isn’t done with us yet. They have one more trick up their sleeves which I already alluded to above. Mostly, biographies are about the life of the writer. Posthumous evidence is necessarily not on the same level as life evidence. Still, something happened seven years after Shakspere died that is absolutely huge.

In fact, if this hadn’t happened, I don’t think anyone would believe Shakspere ever wrote anything. We’d all be looking for the nobleman Southampton ally. But it did happen and we can’t ignore it.

What follows is the mainstream’s strongest evidence.

The only problem is, when you look closely at the mainstream’s best evidence, it confirms, more strongly than ever, that Shakespeare was a pseudonym. So far we have a great writer who owned more houses than books, a famous man who annihilated himself, a man whose friends didn’t know he was the greatest writer in England, and a supposedly great writer who was never called that by anyone who knew him until he had been dead for seven years. So far, the mainstream has a very weak case.

But the mainstream’s last gasp is a good one. It doesn’t happen until seven years after the businessman left five houses to his two illiterate daughters, but it does happen.

The Shakespeare publication history is checkered to say the least. First, out come two epic poems with author’s dedications to the Earl of Southampton. Then plays start coming out, but there are no bylines or dedications and the plays are a mess as if they were pirated. They are full of misprints and are sometimes total disasters.

Eventually, the Shakespeare byline appears on published plays, but there are still no dedications and the misprints and the manglings continue. One version of “Hamlet” said, “to be or not to be, aye, there’s the point.” The other version was okay. A published version of “Taming of the Shrew” bore almost no resemblance to the play we know and love.

The publication history soon goes completely off the rails. Suddenly, the sonnets appear in 1609. They are dedicated by the publisher to “our ever-living poet.”

Obviously, Shakespeare, whoever he was, was dead. Jonson, after he died, was also called the “immortal poet.” But Shakspere was busy taking his neighbors to court over a pound or two. In 1616, the grain-hoarder died unnoticed. A month before, Beaumont is buried in Westminster Abbey next to Spenser and Chaucer, where Jonson will eventually be buried. But for Shakspere, there’s nothing at death, not even eulogies.

I know what you’re thinking. “Is this really the strongest piece of evidence for the mainstream? It sure doesn’t sound that way.” The answer is yes, this is the strongest evidence the mainstream has. Because after seven years, in 1623, the publication history takes a dramatic turn.

Suddenly the number of Shakespeare plays increases from twelve to thirty-six. This includes five plays that were previously published in mangled versions. So the Shakespeare canon suddenly doubles or triples depending on how you count the plays.

At this point, we see that the publication history confirms Shakespeare as a pseudonym. He was dead in 1609 and the real author was hiding to such an extent he didn’t even see to it (again unlike Jonson for whom publication was quite important) that the majority of his work was published.

For rebels like Dr. Roger Stritmatter whose Ph.D. at the University of Massachusetts at Amherst is the first authorship doctorate, the sudden appearance of dozens of unpublished plays is extremely suspicious. The mainstream says the acting company owned the plays and didn’t want to publish them sooner because then other companies could put them on stage.

The mainstream’s theory isn’t crazy, but there’s no evidence that the acting company had any legal claim on any play. All we know is the greatest writer in England didn’t make sure his work was published during his lifetime even though the pirated versions sold extremely well.

But the mainstream must be right because the preface to the book of plays — called by scholars the “First Folio” — clearly said Shakspere was the author!

This is HUGE for the mainstream. For the first time, Shakspere is identified as an author. He’s been dead for seven years, but the identification is crystal clear.

In the First Folio, finally, Shakspere is not a businessman making theater investments. In the First Folio, finally, Shakspere is not a “thief” who “would be thought our chief.” In the First Folio, finally, Shakspere is not “our English Terence.” In the First Folio, finally, Shakespeare is not better than “that writer Metamorphosis.” And he’s not a “Usurer” either. And he’s not hoarding grain. And he’s not having trouble writing his name. Now, finally, no twisted interpretation is necessary to turn Shakspere into Shakespeare.

In the First Folio preface, fourteen years after the not-personal sonnets written to a powerful earl were dedicated to “our ever-living poet” which does not mean a dead poet, Shakspere is finally, once and for all, William Shakespeare, the great author.

The First Folio evidence cannot be discounted. It is quite real and quite clear.

Two of the people writing letters in the famous preface definitely knew Shakspere because they were fellow shareholders in the acting company. They were among those businessmen left small cash bequests in Shakspere’s will. They call Shakespeare their “Friend & Fellow” clearly implying (almost stating outright) that Shakspere and Shakespeare are the same person.

In another part of the preface, Shakespeare is called the “sweet swan of Avon.” That’s a reference to his hometown of Stratford-upon-Avon. In another part of the preface, his “Stratford moniment” is mentioned. There are two Stratford monuments, both in the church were the businessman who might be Shakespeare is buried. One has some ridiculous doggerel on it which is about as un-Shakespearean as you can get. The other bizarrely compares “Shakspeare” to Socrates, Nestor, and Virgil. The Socrates monument implies Shakspere was some kind of intellectual though it is too cryptic even for experts to translate perfectly. Still, it’s a “Stratford moniment” and it says the illiterate businsessman was wise, practical, and artful.

Now we have a real conundrum. Do we believe the preface in the great compilation? Do we believe that a businessman who couldn’t write his name and who owned no books and who wrote no letters and whose friends didn’t know he was a writer and who “annihilated” himself into “virtual colorlessness” and who didn’t see to it that his daughters could read his works was the great William Shakespeare, perhaps the most erudite man in England? Do we ignore the fact that he was alive in 1609 and do we ignore the fact that he didn’t know Southampton?

Maybe the books, letters, and manuscripts were lost? Maybe his “townsmen” had other things to “trouble their heads” about. Maybe “ever-living poet” doesn’t mean what it says. Maybe he signed his name four different ways as a lark or maybe there was some other explanation for the “curious” signatures. Maybe Shakspere was having sex with the young earl and that’s why he compared him to a summer’s day.

Anything is possible.

I think is is much simpler to believe that the man who dedicated his two epic poems to Southampton and who wrote 126 heartfelt sonnets to the most controversial earl in England was hiding behind a pseudonym and that that pseudonym eventually created William Shakespeare, “our English Terence.”

I might bet on the businessman, but only if you give me ten-thousand-to-one odds.

Maybe you don’t like conspiracy theories, so you feel you have to go with the mainstream’s illiterate businessman theory as unlikely as it sounds. But consider this. There are conspiracies now and there were conspiracies in Elizabethan England and the Earl of Southampton was up to his eyeballs in enough conspiracy to make a conspiracy theorist have a public orgasm.

Southampton tried to control the royal succession in 1601 and was arrested with his co-conspirators and sentenced to death. His co-conspirators, including the Earl of Essex, were executed, but Southampton was not (no reason was given, his sentence was simply commuted to indefinite imprisonment at the last minute and Southampton remained in the Tower about as lucky as lucky gets).

When Elizabeth finally died in 1603 and King James ascended, the new King released the convicted traitor Southampton, restored his Earldom, and made him a Knight of the Garter. No one has the slightest idea why Southampton was so special, but there’s no question about the history.

One thing we do know is Shakespeare’s one and only dedicatee was swimming in conspiracy for almost his whole life. He had been offered the hand of the great Lord Burghley’s grand-daughter but stupidly refused. Burghley then spent years planning to hand the throne to King James and these plans were eventually carried out by his son. Not that it was a conspiracy or anything.

Rebels regard the preface to the First Folio as obvious nonsense that is not supported in any way by the documentary record. For rebels, the publication of the formerly private Sonnets is practically a smoking gun. At the very least, they say, the connection between Shakespeare and the traitorous but untouchable earl should raise a few questions.

 

Also, statistically speaking, Shakspere could not have written Shakespeare. Under normal conditions (that is, under the conditions that apply to every other Elizabethan writer) half of the documents left behind by an Elizabethan writer are letters about writing, books, payments for writing, references to you by your friends as a writer, etc. The probability of leaving behind seventy documents as Shakspere did upon his death in 1616, none of which say you are a writer when you are actually the greatest writer in England, is ZERO.

It really is impossible to flip seventy tails in a row. If you had been flipping since the first multicelled creature appeared on Earth and if you flipped so long you knew why our ancestors stood up six million years ago, you would still have almost no chance of having flipped seventy tails in a row.

You’d need thirty-seven trillion years to have a good shot at it and the universe has only been around for 13.7 billion years. So forget about it. Statistically speaking, Shakspere did not write Shakespeare.

Given the weight of evidence on the other side, it is one thing for the mainstream to consider Shakspere as the leading candidate, but quite insane to ignore other possibilities.

Diana Price (the Elaine Morgan of the authorship question) makes it clear that there is a valid authorship question. Her book, “Shakespeare’s Unorthodox Biography,” was accepted by a respected peer-reviewed publisher. When read next to the shaky scholarship of desperate “Shakespeareans,” Price’s book looks like the Theory of General Relativity put up next to a paper I wrote in fourth grade.

I have no idea why academia is irrational. Ask Thomas Kuhn.

One of their most irrational arguments goes like this: “Shakespeare wrote Shakespeare, just look at the title pages.” The title pages are “overwhelming evidence” according to ivy-league scholars because they say “Shakespeare” on them. This is nonsense. Title pages are not and have never been biography. Using them to argue that a name is not a pseudonym is just plain stupid.

They also say Shakespeare had a patron, Southampton, and this proves Shakspere was Shakespeare. This is gibberish, actually, but Shapiro really said this. I quote him at length below. It’s kind of shocking because Shapiro is obviously a smart guy.

They also say the Sonnets don’t tell us who Shakespeare was. They have to say this becasuse the Sonnets disqualify their man. Of all the things the mainstream says, this is the most ridiculous. The Sonnets were written as and were treated as personal letters. They appear to closely follow the life of the Earl of Southampton. They tell us vitually everything we know about Shakespeare. No code-breaking is necessary. “Your name from hence immortal life shall have, though I (once gone) to all the world must die,” needs no interpretation.

In 2001, Roger Stritmatter questioned the conventional wisdom (actually, he was questioning the sanity of conventional thinkers even if he didn’t state it in such stark terms).

The “Shakespeareans” were not happy to see a respected institution backing heresy. Mention the “authorship question” and you will be immediately tarred and feathered by a mob of self-proclaimed Shakespeareans sniffing so strenuously they impact the local weather.

But Stritmatter wrote his rebellious document, got his doctorate, and is teaching college. However, he’s the only one. There may never be another authorship doctorate. Or the next one may be written four hundred years from now.

If the automatic rejection of anything that sounds the least bit odd by those who supposedly devote their lives to truth-seeking seems baffling to you, get thee to a library and read Thomas Kuhn’s book — The Structure of Scientific Revolutions — and do it quickly too. Kuhn’s work is the classic treatise on scholarly stupor. On the other hand, it is not easy reading, so perhaps you would rather journey with me to one of the great islands in the sea of Kuhnian irrationality — the Shakespeare authorship question.

It will be fun trip, I assure you.

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Here is where the lawless bloody book of forg’d rebellion was sealed.

A Kuhnian World

It’s a simple question really: How do you know a person was a writer as opposed to someone whose name (or a close approximation thereof) appeared on title pages? We know the man born “Benjamin Johnson” was also the author “Ben Jonson” because he wrote letters about writing, received letters about writing, gave inscribed books as gifts, went to jail for writing, was paid for writing, visited patrons who were supporting his writing, left behind dozens of pages of handwritten manuscripts, et cetera, et cetera, et cetera. When he died, he was buried in Westminster Abbey next to Beaumont, Spenser, and Chaucer.

Jonson also owned books.

Ben Jonson’s Library

In 1974, David McPherson — a heroic figure in the annals of famous private libraries — published the still-definitive “Ben Jonson’s Library.” Some interesting excerpts follow:

Although the books once owned and annotated by Ben Jonson are scattered all over Western Europe and America, his habit of inscribing his name and motto has enabled scholars to reconstruct his library. 

In 1614, Jonson’s library was called “well-furnisht” by the great scholar John Selden, who would not use the term lightly. Because only 206 extant books can be safely placed on the genuine list at present, it seems likely that many of his books were destroyed in the fire of 1623 which he immortalized in the poem “Execration Upon Vulcan.”

Jonson’s habit of selling his books explains why they are so widely scattered today.

He owned so many anthologies that it has been impractical to insert cross references to individual authors contained therein. It is safe to assume, however, that Jonson owned works of every single Greek and Latin Poet of any importance whatsoever.  

Personal libraries of about five hundred books seem to have been fairly common in the first half of the seventeenth century. 

We suspect the man born William Shakspere was NOT the author William Shakespeare because Shakspere was a businessman, not a writer. Shakspere was deeply involved with the theater — as an investor.

If Shakspere was really the most famous writer in England, it is more than a little odd to find document after document concerning the business transactions of Shakspere of Stratford, whilst simultaneously finding nothing at all about writing activities, about the process of writing, and about living as a writer except for the end results: printed books, performances, and public reactions to books and performances.

Yes, the results are overwhelmingly evident. But where is the writer?

It took generations for a major university to countenance a discussion. Stritmatter, now Dr. Stritmatter, can thank Samuel Clemens, Walt Whitman, Henry James, Nobel laureate John Galsworthy, Sir John Gielgud, Sir Derek Jacobi, Mark Rylance, Jeremy Irons, Louis Powell, Harry Blackmun, Antonin Scalia, John Paul Stevens, and Sandra Day O’Connor — a diverse group of not-exactly-crackpots.

Famous heretics aided and abeted by ungrateful students have been slapping the mainstream’s face for at least one hundred years. Clemens (aka Mark Twain) called the mainstream’s certainty a “fetish.” Justice Blackmun, author of Roe v. Wade, called the doubters’ case “almost fully convincing.” Dr. Stritmatter scolds his colleagues: “Ignoring something won’t make it go away.”

Clemens, Blackmun, and Stritmatter were and are aware that the man who died rich in Stratford in 1616 had a version of his name on the title pages of what eventually became the Shakespeare canon. They also knew and know all about what happened seven years after the businessman left his extensive cash and real estate holdings to his two daughters: he was identified, for the first time, NOT as a grain dealer, moneylender, landowner, and theater investor, but as the author William Shakespeare!

They knew and know, but weren’t and aren’t buying it. Yes, the successful investor from Stratford-upon-Avon owned part of two London theaters and was a shareholder in a London acting company. His name was even sometimes spelled “Shakespeare.” But he wrote nothing at all, not even letters.

He certified a number of legal documents using a signature, but only just barely. His signature is so different from those of known Elizabethan writers, that he might as well have signed with a mark. Mainstream biographers have no idea what it was that caused Shakspere’s signatures to come out so badly and so inconsistently, but they are well aware of the problem and have posited many theories whose level of desperation you can judge for yourself.

If the signatures were the only problem with Shakspere’s biography, Stritmatter would have had to find another topic for his dissertation. But the signatures are not the real problem: mainstream biographers themselves have repeatedly identified the real problem. Every mainstream biographer faces same question: how do you write a three-hundred-page biography of Shakspere as a writer when there isn’t a single event from his lifetime that identifies him as a writer?

Commonplace evidence for Jonson . . .

When his “Poetaster” was published, he sent Camden a gift copy with the inscription: “Alumnus offin, acternum amicus” — “a pupil once, now a friend forever.” Another copy went to an equally important recipient in another way, his patron the Countess of Bedford. For this copy, Jonson had a special dedication printed and bound in with the text: “Go little book, go little fable unto the bright and amiable Lucy of Bedford; she that bounty appropriates still unto that County . . . But with a kiss (if thou canst dare it) of her white hand; or she can spare it.” — Rosalind Miles

. . . would give a Shakespeare biographer heart palpitations.

One erudite mainstreamer, Park Honan, late of Brown University and University of Leeds, author of Shakspeare: A Life, found Shakspere’s literary record so barren he invented a new psychopathology:  “Shakespeare seems to have fluorished with a certain annihilation of the sense of himself.

That’s one way to tackle the problem.

Now you know why why so many people live their whole lives assuming Shakespeare wrote Shakespeare, but change their minds after reading a mainstream biography of a man whose life was utterly disconnected from the writing, poetry, art, and music, not to mention falconry and Italy, that would have to have been of overwhelming importance to whoever the real writer was.

But no matter what the documentary record says, Shakspere must have been the author anyway because the posthumous evidence tells us so. The posthumous evidence is the magical seed. From it, scholars have grown their Jack-and-the-Beanstalk biography.

The beanstalk regularly winds its way into the surreal — annihilating one’s sense of oneself is just the beginning. We soon find out that the greatest writer in English history outright plagiarized from an inferior hack because he must have. Not only that, he was the Cheshire Cat of writers: The people closest to him had no idea he was a writer at all. Now you see him, now you don’t!

Let’s have a look at what the mainstream says.

William turned sixteen in 1580 and everyone agrees the young man did not produce some of his more mature works during this particular decade. Unfortunately, biographers found a lot of Shakespeare that appears to date from the 1580’s.

A 1588 novel called Pandosto and Shakespeare’s The Winter’s Tale are exactly the same story. Literary echoes of Love’s Labours Lost appear in 1590. Thomas Nashe quipped about “whole Hamlets of tragical speeches” in 1589. Is there a problem here?

Not at all.

Frank Kermode, late of Cambridge University, editor of The Arden Shakesepeare, analyzed The Winter’s Tale and Pandosto. Obviously, 1585 was way too early for the 21-year-old Shakspere to write this mature play. Therefore, “the picture is inescapable of a Shakespeare [who was a plagiarist.]

Kermode theorizes that sometime after 1600, Shakespeare copied The Winter’s Tale, “sometimes almost verbatim,” from a man who just happened to be a well-known plagiarist himself.

Other biographers explain that what might be echoes in 1590 of Love’s Labours Lost are actually sources for Love’s Labours Lost.

Nashe is likewise disposed of and logic be damned: Nashe must have been writing about the “ur-Hamlet,” a repeatedly surmised, entirely hypothetical play from the 1580’s, now lost. It is true that many Elizabethan plays were written, performed, and lost. The “ur-Hamlet” theory is not at all absurd. If Shakspere wrote Shakespeare, there must have been an ur-Hamlet.

Question: Would anything in the documentary record cause a mainstream scholar to question the premise?

Let’s ask Samuel Schoenbaum, the late, great, classic Shakespeare biographer.

“What did fellow townsmen make of the distinguished playwright of the Chamberlain’s company and admired poet of love’s languishment who sojourned each year in their midst? They probably troubled their heads little enough about the plays and poems. Business was another matter; they saw Shakespeare as a man shrewd in practical affairs.”

Answer: No, nothing in the documentary record, not even the fact that his neighbors apparently didn’t know who he was, would cause a mainstream scholar to question the premise.

One can read and re-read Kuhn and still be amazed.

It’s as if sap from the magical beanstalk flowed into every nook and cranny of mainstream thought and hardened to amber, utterly permanent, dogma. Shakespeare annihilated himself, plagiarized plagiarists, and was the greatest writer in England without anyone knowing it.

We’re 100% sure of this.

Once upon a time, a hard-nosed businessman hoarded grain during a famine; he made a fortune and eventually died. Four hundred years later, history repeats itself. Publication opportunities and grant funding are hoarded by the mainstream.

The Shakespeare story, now elevated to Truth, is safer than Shakspere’s grain ever was.

But you can escape the tyranny of certainty. I offer you the belly of a sheep and a waiting ship. The occasional rock may splash off the gunwale; pay it no mind.

We are brave enough to defy the mainstream and yet we shall not ourselves fall into the trap of dogmatism.

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Will Shakespeare, aka Will to boot and Will in over-plus (Sonnet 135), may have been the grain-hoarding poet of love’s languishment.

The genius dramatist and the greedy money-man might, for all we know, be all one ever the same (Sonnet 76) despite lingering questions.

What are the odds that Shakspere wrote Shakespeare?

The present account admittedly favors single digit percentages. But the ten thousand words that follow shall provide you with the means to disagree. All of the crucial facts are here. Yes, they are tarnished by author’s bias. But this is of no concern. Polished with a moment’s thought, each fact will gleam for you like gold — raw material for your keen insight.

If you don’t trust me (and you should not), you can explore on your own by reading the two finest modern authors on the topic — Diana Price, mistress of rationality, and James Shapiro, master of plutonic rock.

Regular Person Diana Price’s book is packed with information, scholarship, analysis, and discussion pertaining to Shakspere’s shaky biography. Columbia Professor James Shapiro’s book is a brilliant, erudite-but-never-dull, must-read overview of the whole history of a seemingly compelling question that, he argues with power and grace, is ultimately silly.

A shameless plug for “Contested Will” by James Shapiro

It is your privilege to read and censure. Do so. But buy it first. Indulge your six-pence-worth and your wisdom. But, whatever you do, buy.

Shapiro’s delicious takedown of Mark Twain, his spirited attack on Roger Stritmatter’s dissertation, and his stinging dismissal of Diana Price and “her followers” are not to be missed.

James Shapiro’s great work, a fortress of certainty built in the swamp of reality, is a monument to Thomas Kuhn, our ever-living philosopher.

Read it sooner rather than later.

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We are the reasoning race, and when we find a vague file of chipmunk tracks stringing through the dust of Stratford village, we know by our reasoning powers that Hercules has been along there. I feel our fetish is safe for three centuries yet. — Samuel Clemens aka Mark Twain 1909

The Mythical Writer

Shakspere — that’s his family name, the name he was baptized with, the name of his seven siblings, the name of his three children, the name on his burial record, and the (first) name of his grandchild — couldn’t write his own name.

Of six extant alleged signatures, one is a blotted scrawl. Shakspere’s next two “signatures” appear on two copies of a real estate document, but they don’t match one another — not even distantly (!) — and neither matches any of his other signatures!! Shakspere’s final attempts to write his name, on his will, are deeply unconvincing. See for yourself below.

Of course, none of the signatures is spelled “Shakespeare.”

Eminent Shakespeareans brush off the signature question: the four wildly different extant versions of his signature either look fine, are indicators of failing health, or are proof of his irrepressible creativity.

And Shakspere really was “Shakespeare,” after all. There are London documents in which his name was spelled “Shakespeare” or even “Shakespeare of Stratford.” Spelling in general was fluid in those days: when Shakspere got married, his name was spelled Shagspere and Shaxpere on two documents. So anything goes, including “Shakespeare.”

Besides, most of the title pages spell his name “Shakespeare.”

The posthumous evidence clearly identifies the Stratford businessman as the great author. No one denies that title pages from the period overflow with printed Shakespeares. These title pages therefore constitute “overwhelming evidence” (Shapiro, page 225; yes, really) that his name was Shakespeare, that he could write his name, that he could write complete sentences, and that he was the greatest author in England.

WARNING: You are entering a place of imagination, a dimension of mind where logic and reason are bit part actors in a universe where Euclid never existed. It is a place we call the “Title Pages Zone.”

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Enter the Title Pages Zone.

In the Title Pages Zone, the businessman from Stratford must have been a writer. He went to London around 1592 where his name was spelled Shakespeare and where he became a shareholder in the Lord Chamberlain’s Men. This acting company, later called the King’s Men, put on Shakespeare plays (among others). The businessman must have been writing for this company.

It is March 1616. The writer Francis Beaumont has died. He is buried in Westminster Abbey. March passes. April comes. William Shakspere dies in Stratford. The astute businessman’s illiterate wife and two illiterate daughters and their husbands hear the will. Shakspere’s eldest daughter (Susanna) and her husband are named executors. The great investor has left his heirs all that they could wish for: boatloads of cash; five houses; zero books.

Even in the Title Pages Zone, professional writers didn’t own more houses than books. Could this be a problem?

Shakspere’s bookless mansion must be explained. We know the plays and poems come from a place of unparalleled learning and extraordinary understanding. Scholars say so many books “echo through” Shakespeare’s works that even the Queen’s own library would not have been sufficient to satisfy the needs of the great author.

But don’t worry.

The money-man was far richer than Ben Jonson, richer, in fact, than any ten Elizabethan writers put together.

Stay calm now!

The famous writer, the greatest England had ever seen, must have had a magnificent library (a thousand books?) in his twelve-thousand-square-foot house. He simply didn’t mention it in his will.

Whew! That was close.

Of course, no McPherson will heroically catalog Shakespeare’s books as they have all, unfortunately, been lost.

But his signatures are still with us. Also still with us are the signatures of Ben Jonson, Edmund Spenser, George Peele, and Christopher Marlowe. Fortunately, we have signature examples from virtually all Elizabethan writers. They have one thing in common: they are impressive.

Actually, signatures of Elizabethan writers have two things in common: they are impressive and consistent.

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Blotted scrawl, court document.

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This is a decent signature on a document certifying a real estate transaction.

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This is a second decent signature on another document certifying the same real estate transaction. The second document is a transcribed copy of the first, but the second signature was obviously written by a different person.

These are the signatures of the other two people involved in the real estate deal. Unlike in the case of Shakspere, two actual signatures written by the same person each time appear on the document. The signatures on Shakspere’s will (below) clearly show that he did not write the “signatures” on the real estate transaction. Yes, evidence like this can mislead. But no reasonable person would conclude that Shakspere was a professional writer.

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The signature on the first page of Shakspere’s will has deteriorated. It looks something like the scrawl above which appears on the second page of his will.

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This assisted signature appears on the third and final page of Shakspere’s will. The last name is consistent with the last name on the previous pages but not with any of the three previous signatures.

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Shakspere obviously did not write this part of the signature on the last page of his will. These three words were written by someone who had some skill with the quill.

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As far as the mainstream is concerned, this was the last thing the greatest writer in England ever wrote. He could have spelled his name K-U-H-N, but that would not have altered the scholarly consensus at all.

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Ben Jonson. Consistent.

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Edmund Spenser. Flowing.

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George Peele. Clear.

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Chrisopher Marlowe. Skillful.

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Thomas Nashe. Beautiful. However, this is an inscription and not technically a signature.

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There was a book in Shakspere’s house after all! In 1642, the divine William had been dead for 26 years and James Cooke walked into the grand residence now occupied by the great man’s eldest daughter and son-in-law. Cooke was pleased to acquire a handwritten manuscript from the hands of Susanna Shakspere Hall herself. Unfortunately, Susanna didn’t recognize her late husband’s handwriting, but that didn’t matter. Cooke knew what he had found. He translated and published Dr. John Hall’s medical records. The original manuscript detailing Dr. Hall’s practice eventually found its way from Shakspere’s enormous house to the British Museum where it resides today in its priceless splendor.

Scipio Who?

The signatures can be explained. The will, with its plethora of bookless detail — cash, real estate, a sword, a bowl, and a bed — might read the way it reads and detail what it details by happenstance: other book owners left bookless wills. The daughters’ illiteracy may be ascribed to any number of versions of fatherly neglect. The lost library was, well, lost.

But what of the letters? Regarding the missing letters, the mainstream offers its usual incisive analysis: “So what?”

Yes, really. Andrew Hadfield of the University of Sussex, writing for the collection of essays called Shakespeare Beyond Doubt, tells us that “Personal letters did not survive in an age when paper was scarce and expensive, and so was invariably re-used for a host of purposes.”

We humbly ask how many Elizabethan writers besides Jonson can be proven to have written letters: Nashe, Daniel, Spenser, Massinger, Peele, Harvey, Drayton, Chapman, Drummond, Marston, . . . STOP! I think that’s enough. We don’t want to hold things up too much.

The mainstream will object at this point that not every Elizabethan writer wrote letters that survived. Sustained.

Scott McCrae is a professor at SUNY Purchase and wrote a book called “The Case for Shakespeare: The End of the Authorship Question” in which he argues for the businessman passionately and well.

Either he didn’t sign his name very often and thus his autograph never developed a consistent pattern, or he was a man so creative he never let it become static, or both. The autographs are curious, and it’s easy to see how one might question them. But they don’t prove the man who signed them wasn’t a writer. Their oddness might just as easily reveal their maker’s teeming imagination.

. . . other factors — like unsharpened quills, arthritis, ill health, or writer’s cramp — may have contributed to the imperfect state of his autograph . . . none of the extant signatures was penned before 1612; they may all post-date his writing career. 

If he were the only writer of the time with few biographical traces, then we would have cause to be suspicious . . . we know less about Marlowe, Kyd, Dekker, Heywood, Fletcher, or Webster — to name just a few. 

In the interests of completeness we must include the following: Three weeks after Marlowe’s death, George Peele wrote a tribute to him praising his verse. Kyd wrote a letter noting his experience writing with Marlowe. A letter written by Dekker to Edward Alleyn survives as do numerous records of payments to Dekker for writing. Heywood’s “The Escapes of Jupiter” still exists in its original manuscript. Fletcher and Webster were repeatedly paid for writing and the payments were documented.

If we assume Shakspere was writing for the King’s Men, then, as a shareholder, his writing would have benefitted him financially. Professor Shapiro speculates that Shakspere’s share would have been “a disproportionate one.” 

No doubt he spent the money on books.

The mainstream readily agrees Shakespeare’s literary biography is rather thin. Our betters remind us that the current absence of books, of letters, of manuscripts, of inscriptions, and of anything approaching the signature of a professional writer, is NOT, logically speaking, evidence of absence of these items then.

We bow to the mainstream’s experience, knowledge, and impeccable logic and concede this point. But there’s a problem. People living, working, and writing in Elizabethan England knew the theater big shot wasn’t the author of similar name.

And they said so.

The mainstream has gone to fantastic lengths — twisting itself into complex rhetorical knots and even gouging its own eyes out when necessary — in its battle to force the contemporary references to conform to tradition. The brave Shakespeareans may take their place amongst the fiercest fighters in all fields in the neverending battle against dangerous heresy.

The bloodiest battlefield in the Shakespeare authorship world is called, ironically, The Scourge of Folly, by John Davies.

John Davies of Hereford was a teacher, specifically a writing master — he wrote The Writing Schoole-Master, a popular manual that saw its 16th edition in 1636. In 1611, he published a series of 292 epigrams about various timely topics and numerous real people, including Shakespeare whom he called “Shake-speare.”

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The List of Davies’s Friends

Fifty-five of the 292 epigrams in The Scourge of Folly addressed by name or by initials individuals that Davies either knew or knew of. The addressees were earls, knights, fellow writers, friends, students, and the author’s wife.

Thirty-six salutations included one of the following words: “friend,” “deere,” “beloved,” “loving,” “wife,” and “pupill.” These thirty-six people were named by Davies as follows: Alexander, Ashfield, Boughton, Brooke, Butler, Cheyny, Daniell, Mistress M.D. (Davies’s wife), Gough, Gwin, Mr. H.H., Hackwell, Holcroft, Johnson, Jones, Locky, Lucy, Marbery, Maynwarring, Murray, Murray (brother of the first Murray), Norton, Panton, Parrham, Poynes, Sanderson, Seager, Sharpe, Sherley, Simonds, Smith, Speed, Towne, Tracy, Twiddy, and Welsh.

Davies also addressed nineteen epigrams without including anything personal in the salutation. Nineteen people were named as follows: Bond, Carre, Chapperline, Coningesby, Constable, Dun, Fletcher, Hayes, Hall, Harrington, Herbert, Marston, Marten, Mountgomerie, Northumberland, Ormond, Percy, S.I.H., and Smith.

That’s almost all of the named addressees. If we include the three epigrams addressed to Shake-speare, No-body (all on one line in the original publication), and Some-body, then Davies wrote a total of fifty-eight epigrams to various individuals, known and un-known, named and un-named.

The mainstream frequently mentions Epigram 159: “To our English Terence Mr. Will: Shake-speare.” Epigram 159 most certainly solidifies the traditional authorship attribution. Terence was an ancient Roman comic playwright, well-known and popular throughout the renaissance; the investor from Stratford was a shareholder in the King’s Men; the second line of Epigram 159 reads “Had’st thou not played some Kingly parts in sport.”

There you are! The tables have been turned.

Davies is obviously saying Shake-speare the actor and Shake-speare the author are the same person. Shake-speare was a “Terence” AND he “played some Kingly parts.” Only one person fits this author-actor description and that is Shakspere-Shakespeare, the investor, the acting company member, AND, we now know with reasonable certainty, the great writer.

So all the worry about who wrote Shake-speare is, finally, Much Ado About Nothing. Biographers are simply unlucky the names don’t match perfectly and they are unlucky none of his early (beautiful!) signatures survive and they are unlucky all of his correspondence was lost and they are unlucky he didn’t mention his library in his will and it is most unfortunate that all of his books were lost along with all the manuscripts we know he must have had in his house.

So we are well and truly done. Davies was a contemporary observer in a position to know. There is no reason whatsoever to doubt his testimony. The content of Epigram 159 is somewhat cryptic, but the salutation tells all: Shake-speare was a “Terence.”

Thus, Samuel Clemens, the Supreme Court Justices, the other writers besides Clemens (even the Nobel Prize winner) and the Shakespearean actors (even the knighted ones) are all wrong and they will or would, if they have or had any semblance of rationality, admit as much once confronted with Davies.

All of the doubters, and especially reputable magazine editors who insist on covering this silly topic in their magazines — Harper’s fell for it in 1999 — should read about Davies. The whole Shakespeare didn’t write Shakespeare thing was getting really, really old anyway, so it’s nice to have it finally over.

Whew!

Except for one thing.

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ACADEMICS! SKIP THE NEXT SEVEN PARAGRAPHS.

A book by Roger Ascham has extremely bad news about Terence. Ascham, like Davies, was a highly regarded teacher — he was one of Queen Elizabeth’s tutors. Ascham’s book, The Scholemaster, was published in three editions in 1570, 1579, and 1589.

It is well known by good record of learning, and that by Cicero’s own witness, that some Comedies bearing Terence’s name were written by wise Scipio and worthy Laelius. — Roger Ascham, in “The Scholemaster.”

Uh-oh.

If you are still reading, dear mainstreamer, please, you must STOP now for the news goes from extremely bad to even worse. Montaigne’s Essays, published in French in the 1580’s and translated in 1603 into English by John Florio also tells the story of Terence, Scipio, and Laelius.

For, to prove this labor [the Comedies with the Terence byline] to be theirs, the exquisite eloquence and excellent invention thereof doth sufficiently declare it: and Terence himself doth avouch it. — Montaigne, in “Essays” (John Florio translation).

Montaigne provided a detailed explanation: Scipio and Laelius were “great personages” for whom “the perfection of well-speaking” would not bring them appropriate “glory.” Thus, they “resigned the honor of their Comedies” to Terence.

So calling Shakespeare “our English Terence” is a synecdoche, like saying Warren Buffet is “our American Croesus.” Croesus was a specific fabulously rich man from history who now stands, in general, for all rich men. Terence was a rare (!) instance from history of a front-man, rather than a simple pseudonym, serving to protect the identity of a writer.

The academy may now open its eyes.

Scipio is so refreshing after the theater n’est-ce pas?

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Who is Scipio? No one. Scipio is refreshing after the theater.

The Upstart Crow

It is not altogether surprising that Shakspere didn’t write the plays and poems. He was a shareholder in the King’s Men, part-owner of the Globe Theater, part-owner of the Blackfriars Theater, and a major Stratford real-estate and agricultural investor with over 100 acres, multiple buildings, and an interest in corn, grain, hay, and wool as well as a seller of commercial quantities of malt and grain.

Shakspere, we may infer, tended to do especially well during famines — he was cited for hoarding grain when many people, law-abiding citizens for example, would not hoard anything.

Suffice it to say he was a busy man. Ernst Honigmann, late of the University of Newcastle-upon-Tyne, a mainstream biographer who discussed Shakspere’s business activities in detail in William Shakespeare: Businessman, wrote, “If one lists all of these various activities in chronological order . . . one wonders how the dramatist found time to go on writing plays.

There is a simple answer to Honigmann’s question: Professor Honigmann, Shakspere was a businessman and only a businessman and not a writer at all just as your research and the research of every other mainstream biographer has convincingly shown.

Not surprisingly, when Shakspere’s Stratford-area acquaintances, Abraham Sturley, Thomas Greene, and Richard Quiney, wrote letters about him, they wrote exclusively about pasture enclosures, road improvements, and moneylending. They would have been rather surprised indeed to learn that Shakspere was a great writer. And they might well have laughed in your face if you suggested such a thing to them.

Writers and students in London knew Shakspere-Shakespeare as a theater magnate who purchased the works of others, but most certainly did not write his own. He had the name, the money, and a big mouth, but no talent and no ability.

Davies’s synecdochical salutation says Shake-speare was a Terence — a front-man. Epigram 159 and the No-body and Some-body repartee that follow don’t provide details, but they are clear enough. Others (notably Robert Greene and Ben Jonson) provided detailed and often fervid accounts of Shakspere-Shakespeare the literary thief.

The mainstream story is that Shakespeare actually was a thief — an “accomplished parasite” and even a plagiarist — and that we should interpret Greene’s and Jonson’s commentary as applying to a brilliant dramatist who was not above borrowing.

Judge for yourself.

Robert Greene wrote a deathbed story about an impoverished writer called “Roberto” who meets a rich “gentleman.” The gentleman is a “player” (i.e., an actor). The gentleman player owns clothes worth 200 pounds, spouts doggerel, and offers to buy “Roberto’s” work. Next, Robert/Roberto warns his writer friends about a dangerous man called “Shake-scene.” Shake-scene is a “player.” Shake-scene has been “beautified with our feathers.” Shake-scene takes advantage of writers. Shake-scene must not be trusted.

Greene’s Groatsworth of Wit is the first personal reference to Shakespeare. Even mainstream biographers do not fail to make the connection between Shake-scene and the idiotic gentleman player.

Robert Greene’s Dying Words

Greene famously called the theater owner an “upstart Crow” who was “in his own conceit the only Shake-scene in a country.” He’s also a “Usurer” and an “Ape” who can do nothing but “speak from our mouths.”

Greene’s friends (usually identified as Peele, Marlowe, and Nashe) should “seek better Masters.” They must not allow their “admired inventions” to fall into the hands of this Ape who by rights should be left with nothing but the ability to “imitate your past excellence.”

“Base-minded men all three of you, if by my misery you be not warned.”

Greene’s moneyed monster had a “Tiger’s heart wrapped in a Player’s hide.” Shakespeare’s remorseless Queen Margaret had a “Tiger’s heart wrapped in a woman’s hide.”

Aesop’s crow dressed in the feathers of colorful birds. This wealthy play broker appropriates the words of needy scholars.

On the other hand, one could claim that Greene, the notorious plagiarist who wrote “Pandosto,” was complaining about an up-and-coming writer who was himself a plagiarist.

Ben Jonson’s epigram, “On Poet-Ape,” assuming it refers to Shakspere-Shakespeare, is clearer than Greene’s complaint. Poet-Ape is an egregious phony who, Jonson says, “would be thought our chief.” This man is “so bold a thief” that he “makes each man’s wit his own.”

Jonson describes the history of the wealthy play broker in some detail: “Having grown to a little wealth and credit in the scene,” this hack can now commit his “crimes” with impunity. Jonson points out that no one has been fooled except maybe the criminal himself if he thinks anyone living actually believes his nonsense. Presciently, Jonson worries in the epigram that posterity might indeed be fooled.

On Poet-Ape uses the Shakespearean sonnet abab-cdcd-efef-gg rhyme scheme.

Here is Jonson’s description of a brazen thief who can’t write his way out of a paper bag. Here is an interpretation by a crazy rebel. Note: Frippery is from the French freperie, discarded clothing.

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London students wrote and performed a trilogy known as the Parnassus plays. In one of them, an actor (Kempe), portrayed by a student, gives the audience a rip-roaring speech in which he explains idiotically how his “fellow Shakespeare” is a wonderful writer, better than “that writer Ovid” and better than “that writer Metamorphosis.” Ha-ha, Metamorphosis is not a writer.

A Whiff of Ovid

The deeply misinformed Kempe character falls all over himself with appreciation for his “fellow Shakespeare” who doesn’t “smell too much” of Ovid.

Of course, the audience knows Shakespeare as a poet oozing Ovid from every pore of his body and every stroke of his pen — Venus and Adonis, the epic poem that made the name “Shakespeare” famous virtually overnight in 1593, is a rewrite of an Ovidian story.

Kempe, after complaining about the “smell” of Ovid: “Why here’s our fellow Shakespeare puts them all down.” ROFL.

Calvin and Hobbes ROFL

Elizabethan audiences appreciated the classical roots of Shakespeare’s work. Meanwhile, actors were commonly regarded as lower forms of life.

Scholarly Schizophrenia

Schoenbaum understood the problem: “Perhaps we should despair of ever bridging the vertiginous expanse between the sublimity of the subject and the mundane inconsequence of the documentary record.” But he couldn’t answer his own question.

Harold Bloom, 87, the MacArthur fellow now at Yale, author of Shakespeare: The Invention of the Human, says, “There is an inverse ratio, a little beyond our analytical skills, between Shakespeare’s virtual colorlessness and his preternatural dramatic powers.”

Amazingly, this is a man who believes the authorship question is arrant nonsense.

Modern scholars such as Shapiro, David Kathman (a linguistics Ph.D.), and Scott McCrae (a professor at SUNY Purchase) follow in the footsteps of Schoenbaum, Bloom, and Honan.

Scholarly Schizophrenia

Davies’s identification of Shake-speare as “our English Terence” is an obvious reference to one of the few people in history thought to have been a front-man for an aristocratic writer. However, it’s best if Scipio doesn’t exist.

Terence was an ancient Roman playwright who came from humble origins, just like Shakespeare. Kathman.

Although this epigram is cryptic, two things are certain: Davies thinks Shakespeare is a poet and a player and thinks he’s still alive. McCrae.

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Greene’s Ape-Usurer-upstart Crow called Shake-scene and his gentleman player who spouts doggerel, owns clothes worth 200 pounds, and buys the works of writers are obviously the same person. However, one can willfully misinterpret if one must.

[Shakespeare] doesn’t need Greene, in other words, because he can do the writing himself. McCrae.

A lot is packed into the attack, a good deal more than we can understand four hundred years later. But we are left with the impression of a veteran writer shrewdly taking the measure of an upstart he doesn’t much like. Shapiro.

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Jonson’s Poet-Ape sonnet quite clearly speaks of a phony “who would be thought our chief.” There is only one person Ben Jonson could possibly have regarded as his chief and that is Shakespeare. But we must misread the epigram.

This mocking sonnet’s subject is being accused of plagiarizing from Jonson and from other writers, not of concealing someone else. Many scholars think that Jonson’s Poet-Ape is Shakespeare, who indeed stole lines and ideas from Marlowe and from old plays like “The Famous Victories of Henry V.” McCrae.

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We’ve seen the Kempe character and his wildly idiotic speech in the third Parnassus play. In order to have the character calling his acting company “fellow” a great writer, you have to willfully not get the joke.

Kempe: “Few of the university pen plays well, they smell too much of that writer Ovid, and that writer Metamorphosis, and talk too much of Proserpina and Jupiter. Why, here’s our fellow Shakespeare puts them all down, aye and Ben Jonson too. O that Ben Jonson is a pestilent fellow, he brought up Horace giving the poets a pill, but our fellow Shakespeare hath given him a purge that made him bewray his credit.”

This passage establishes that the playwright Shakespeare was a fellow actor of Kempe. Kathman.

Kempe is made to seem ignorant here, like his stage characters, which is why he thinks “Metamorphosis” is a poet instead of a poem. Since the Author’s plays are also redolent of Ovid and speak of Porserpina and Jupiter, the joke may be that Kempe doesn’t realize his “fellow” writes like the scholarly graduates. But Shakespeare and Jonson are clearly contrasted with the university men. McCrae.

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A moron called Gullio (a gull is an idiot in Elizabethan slang) was a character in the second Parnassus play who liked to quote Shakespeare and who, like Greene’s gentleman player, purchased the words of scholars and wore clothes that cost 200 pounds.

Gullio: “We shall have nothing but pure Shakespeare . . . I’ll have his picture in my study at the court . . . Let this duncified world esteem Spenser and Chaucer, I’ll worship sweet Mr. Shakespeare.”

For these Cambridge undergraduates, Shakespeare was a living, breathing presence, one whose poetry they knew by heart and a copy of whose portrait they could imagine displaying in their rooms. Shapiro.

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He’s a better writer than Metamorphosis!

A Euclidean Debacle

Another problem for the businessman-who-was-obviously-not-a-writer is that he apparently never met the Earl of Southampton, the beloved dedicatee of Shakespeare’s two epic poems. The first 126 sonnets also address a young nobleman with deep affection and familiarity.

The young nobleman in the sonnets is obviously Southampton.

The subject of the sonnets — whom Shakespeare referred to as his “lovely boy” — was first identified as Southampton in 1817 by Nathan Drake. Even modern scholars, despite their terror of the authorship question, will admit Southampton is the most likely candidate. That’s assuming they are willing to admit the sonnets exist at all.

Shakespeare, whoever he was, clearly loved (and was close to) the young earl.

“The love I dedicate to your Lordship is without end . . .” (Lucrece, dedication);
“From fairest creatures we desire increase,
That thereby beauty’s Rose might never die” (Sonnet 1);
“Make thee another self for love of me” (Sonnet 10);
“thou art all the better part of me” (Sonnet 39);
“Your name from hence immortal life shall have” (Sonnet 81);
“O thou my lovely boy . . .” (Sonnet 126).

Of course, no link between the businessman and the earl has ever been found despite centuries of searching. Unless we really are living in the “Title Pages Zone,” it is overwhelmingly likely no link will ever be found.

But we must not exclude the real-estate tycoon “on semantic grounds.” So says the ivy-league professor, scolding us. Yes, he says, it is true that there is no independent evidence of a connection between the businessman from Stratford and a teenaged earl. But Shakespeare “directly addressed a patron, the Earl of Southampton” when he wrote his epic poems.

Therefore, the businessman is the author.

Yes, an ivy league professor really wrote a wonderful book containing this “argument” that is supposedly in favor of Shakspere being the author but ends up doing nothing more than accentuating the desperation of the mainstream. It’s almost as if Shapiro knows Shakspere didn’t write Shakespeare but is required to argue the opposite like a defense attorney who knows his client is guilty.

Here is (the very smart) Shapiro’s “reasoning” in all its glory.

Shapiro’s Words of Kuhnian Beauty

Price and her followers define authorship in such a way that Shakespeare is always narrowly excluded, if need be on semantic grounds. According to [them], there’s no evidence of Shakespeare having had a “direct relationship” with a patron, though he wore the livery of the Lord Chamberlain, served King James both as a King’s Man and as a Groom of the Chamber, and directly addressed a patron, the Earl of Southampton, in the letters prefacing both [epic poems] “Venus and Adonis” and “The Rape of Lucrece.” 

Shapiro says the actor wore livery and was a Groomsman (TRUE) and “directly addressed a patron” (FALSE). The author addressed a patron. For this Columbia University Professor, the conclusion (actor = author) supports the conclusion.

Two thousand years ago, Euclid built what is still the outstanding example of a complete deductive structure and changed the world forever. Today, no matter what field you’re in, if you don’t use Euclidean logic, you go nowhere.

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If professors abandon Euclid, the ivy will wither and die.

Conspiracy Theory

So far the mainstream looks shockingly stupid. Thank goodness they make one valid point. It’s just the one piece of evidence, but it is the mainstream’s “ace in the hole” and it is a powerful card.

In fact, the mainstream’s longstanding assumption, now dogma, might be correct. It is possible to be stubborn, bullheaded, willfully blind, embarrassingly illogical, and right.

In 1623, seven years after the wealthy businessman from Stratford died, twelve plays that had been published accurately during his lifetime and twenty-four plays that had either not been published at all or that had been hacked and mangled were rescued and published properly in the monumental “First Folio” which contains prefatory material saying that the businessman had, in fact, been the great author.

The prefatory material includes letters signed by two members of the King’s Men whom Shakspere certainly knew — Heminge and Condell — specifically identifying the author of the works in the First Folio as their acting company “fellow” Shakespeare.

The First Folio is bolstered by a stone monument erected at the gravesite of “Shakspeare” which (oddly) calls him a combination of Nestor, Virgil, and Socrates while making no reference to anything Shakespearean. Still, the monument implies he was more than a businessman. The construction date and the name of the builder of the monument are unknown. The monument is referred to in the First Folio, so it was certainly extant by 1623.

Shakspere’s Will in a New Light

Shakspere’s will, at first sight, is not especially helpful to the mainstream as it does not mention books, manuscripts, poetry, plays, literature, art, music, education, desks, papers, or even incidental items like inkhorns.

Here’s the deeply disappointing will in a nutshell: The potential “issue” of Shakspere’s daughters’ “bodies” are mentioned TWENTY times evidently to prevent future misunderstandings amongst yet-to-be-born heirs.

There are also cash bequests to people Shakspere knew: Russell, Collins, Sadler, Raynoldes, Walker, Nashe, Nashe, Hemynge, Burbage, and Cundell.

It’s a businessman’s will.

The First Folio changes everything: Heminge and Condell reappear and identify their fellow shareholder as the great writer Shakespeare.

Suddenly, the mainstream claim that Shakspere wrote the plays for “his” acting company doesn’t look quite so silly. Maybe Shakespeare was a stage name. Maybe he actually could write his name. Maybe his books, manuscripts, and letters really were all lost. Maybe his daughters’ illiteracy was an oversight.

The mainstream’s absurdly forced interpretations of “our English Terence,” the “Poor Poet-Ape,” the “gentleman player,” the “upstart Crow,” and “that writer” who doesn’t “smell too much of Ovid” are, suddenly, not quite so nonsensical.

Do we re-interpret the documentary record so that it fits the prefatory material in the First Folio? Or do we accept the documentary record for what it appears to be and regard the prefatory material in the First Folio and the monument in Stratford as a hoax/conspiracy?

Conspiracy theories are justifiably looked down upon. That said, there was a very real Elizabethan conspiracy relevant to the present discussion. It is called the Essex Rebellion and was aimed at the crown itself. To say Shakespeare’s dedicatee, his beloved Earl of Southampton, the probable “lovely boy” of the sonnets, was neck-deep in it would be something of an understatement.

One conspiracy doesn’t necessarily lead to another. However, you should know about the Essex Rebellion before you make your final decision. (You can also read Shapiro, McCrae, and Kathman, but the most important points in favor of the mainstream theory have all been made here already.)

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The Earl of Southampton

Note: We do not wish to impose too much upon the reader’s credulity, but we shall assume in what follows that the dedicatee of Shakespeare’s epic poetry was indeed also the “lovely boy” of the sonnets.

Outrageous Fortune

In 1601, the Earl of Southampton, the Earl of Essex, and four extraordinarily unfortunate knights were arrested and charged with high treason. Southampton, Essex, and the four commoners were swiftly convicted on all charges and sentenced to gruesome deaths. At the same time, scattered sympathizers among the nobility got away with fines.

Queen Elizabeth had been ailing and the succession was in doubt: no one except Lord Burghley and perhaps Elizabeth herself knew who would be the next monarch. Essex and Southampton evidently had ideas of their own. They planned an assault on the palace. They didn’t get far.

The first Lord Burghley, William Cecil, had created a vast network of spies still in operation in 1601. Burghley’s son, Robert Cecil, having taken over from his father as the right-hand man of the monarch, easily outwitted the Southampton-Essex amateur hour. The two earls and their knighted friends got dates with the axeman, the hangman, a knife, and four horses — not the most fun kind of date.

In mulling the fate of the popular Earl of Essex, the ailing Queen, the last of the Tudor Rose monarchs, Cynthia the Moon Goddess herself, chose mercy. Elizabeth could not bear to see Essex hung by the neck, his intestines torn out, his arms and legs ripped from his body thence to be beheaded. He had, after all, been one of her favorites in better days.

One. Two. Three. And it was over. Three strokes of the axe severed Essex’s fool head from his body. He died (mostly) painlessly. The four knights, unfortunately, hadn’t had a close relationship with the Queen.

With his five friends worm food, Southampton languished in the Tower perhaps contemplating the “long life still lengthened with all happiness” wished for him by Shakespeare. The great writer’s wish was looking more and more forlorn. With luck and with mercy and by the grace of God, Southampton could hope it would be over quickly.

But then something happened that no one understands. The Moon Goddess chose a totally different kind of mercy for Southampton. The clouds parted to reveal a light shining in the young fool’s darkness.

Guilty of a crime worse than murder, having threatened the God-sanctioned Crown, the young nobleman would live on, and not just in Shakespeare’s poetry. Southampton’s sentence was set aside. He would remain in the Tower indefinitely.

No one knows why Southampton was not torn limb from limb.

Two years passed as Southampton languished in the Tower. Then the Queen died. King James of Scotland packed his bags. He would succeed Elizabeth just as Burghley and his son had planned for years. Not that it was a conspiracy.

Now Shakespeare wrote his ebullient Sonnet 107. The mortall Moone had endured her inevitable eclipse. The country, having feared civil war, was relieved as peace proclaimed Olives of endlesse age. Southampton’s life, no longer forfeit to a confin’d doome, glowed anew.

King James ordered Southampton released. 

By the grace of no-one-knows-what, the Earl stepped into the sunshine with his intestines comfortably curled in his body and his head firmly attached to his shoulders. But that’s not all. His Earldom was restored along with all of his privileges and all of his lands. And even that’s not the end of it.

For his next trick, Southampton accepted two promotions that summer. The new King made him Captain of the Isle of Wights and a Knight of the Garter, this last a singular honor throughout history including the present day.

History does not record so much as a hint as to why Southampton would be treated so.

But Shakespeare was an insider. He apparently knew why. He dared to write (repeatedly) of Southampton’s “worth.” He even wrote (in Sonnet 106) of wights and Knights! And yet he lacked the “tongue” to risk “singing” every verse.

Sonnets 106 and 107, interpreted as describing Southampton’s pardon and ensuing royal favors, are startling. If indeed they truly are history cautiously recorded, then Shakespeare was no commoner.

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Twenty years after Southampton’s stunning deliverance, the First Folio compiled all thirty-six Shakespeare plays in one magnificent volume. But something was missing — namely, all things Southampton. Two-thirds of Shakespeare’s plays were rescued from oblivion, but the two epic poems and the 154 sonnets were left to fend for themselves — they would survive Time’s scythe, or not.

In 1623, the epic poems, overtly dedicated to Southampton, had been published in several editions each and were still popular; they were relatively safe from Shakespeare’s dreaded scythe. The sonnets, however, had seen just a single edition.

In 1609, Thomas Thorpe got his hands on the sonnets and made a little book out of them. There was no author’s dedication. Thorpe wrote his own calling Shakespeare “our ever-living poet.” The great author’s most personal writings, his “sugared sonnets,” previously circulated only amongst his “private friends,” were now public.

By this time, Shakespeare was already the dominant figure in English literary history. His books were out in dozens of editions with tens of thousands of copies blanketing a city of two hundred thousand. The first Christmas of the Jacobean era had seen eleven plays performed at court, seven of them Shakespeare’s. Shakespeare’s acclaim throughout England, during his lifetime, was “staggering and unprecedented.”

But no one wanted to read the sonnets.

The first 126 sonnets, written to Shakespeare’s “lovely boy,” were an everlasting “monument” to him — such virtue hath my pen. There followed a particularly intense series of twenty-six missives addressed to a “mistress” whose eyes are raven black. Shakespeare dramatically warns her to be wise as thou art cruel.

Finally, two sonnets about a little Love-god lying once asleep as the author watches over the boy bring tears to the eye. The author’s anguish has a “cure” dependent upon his mistress’ eyes.

But readers in the England of King James were apparently above it all, hence the single edition. Really, who would want to read Shakespeare’s personal poetry? The Sonnets’ unpopularity was obviously the result of shifting literary fashion.

Let us summarize: Shakespeare dedicated the first works published under his name to Southampton; Shakespeare wrote a series of heartfelt sonnets to a “lovely boy” who was probably the young earl; Southampton committed treason; Southampton’s comrades were butchered; Queen Elizabeth died; King James ascended the throne; Southampton was released into a shower of royal favors; Shakespeare’s sonnets about Southampton and his epic poems dedicated to Southampton were excluded from the First Folio; the prefatory material in the First Folio pointed to a businessman named Shakspere and identified him as Shakespeare.

Nothing is proven. However, the sudden identification of this man — an investor who apparently neither wrote nor received letters, who died rich in 1616 with a detailed will in an apparently bookless house surrounded by two illiterate daughters, who could barely write his own name, and who was openly called “our English Terence” — as Shakespeare is not merely suspicious. It’s funny.

The Sonnets

Speaking of funny, Sonnet 87 contains the following line: “So thy great gift upon misprision growing, comes home again on better judgement making.” What could it mean?

Misprision is a legal term referring to a failure to carry out one’s duty; Shakespeare used it once in the sonnets and five times in his plays. Misprision of treason is a non-capital offense in which one does not report treasonous activity.

The mainstream hates any attempt to connect the sonnets to the Essex Rebellion or to any real-life event or to any real person. To hear the mainstream tell it, even wondering who is the subject of the sonnets is a silly “parlor game.” Don’t even mention “misprision” unless you want to witness an apoplectic fit.

A line from a sonnet can be clear as day. Still, it will be ignored: “My glass shall not persuade me I am old, so long as youth and thou are of one date” (Sonnet 22) doesn’t identify the sonnets as personal writings! Professor Shapiro suggests we “steer clear of reading these remarkable poems as autobiography.”

Rational Speculation

Shakespeare loved the Earl of Southampton to whom he dedicated his first two published works.

Shakespeare wrote 126 heartfelt sonnets to a boy whom he loved beyond measure: Henry Wriothesley, Earl of Southampton.

Ten sonnets speak of the unkillable earl’s “worth.”

Southampton’s “worth” is “wide as the ocean is” (Sonnet 80).

Once upon a time — “thy own worth then not knowing” — Southampton himself was in the dark about this worth (Sonnet 87).

Southampton’s worth is a secret. We don’t have “skill enough your worth to sing” says the intrepid author. We bear witness to “these present days,” but we “lack toungs to praise” (Sonnet 106).

One sonnet later, the traitor strolls out of the Tower.

What was Southampton’s “worth”? Did he have a claim to the throne?

The Sonnets are not stamped TOP SECRET, but 126 personal poems, published by Thorpe in one edition, were hotter than Hell, just like the earl they immortalized.

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Words Fail

An astute businessman from Stratford in his late twenties dedicated two epic poems to a teenaged earl.

The businessman from Stratford addressed a “lovely boy” in 126 sonnets. He called him “my love,” “my all-the-world,” “my Rose,” and “all the better part of me.” But it wasn’t personal.

The lovely boy was a “tender churl” and a “self-willed” young man and “thy mother’s glass.” To look at him was to see his mother’s youth: “she in thee calls back the lovely April of her prime.” But it wasn’t personal.

The lovely boy received, over the course of 126 sonnets, the author’s love, guidance, admonishment, and unconditional support. But it wasn’t personal.

It was the author’s fondest wish that his lovely boy be celebrated forever in his “monument” of “gentle verse.” But the sonnets are primarily fictional (Shapiro) or they are personal but were commissioned (Kathman) or they are a mix of the personal and the fictional and no clear interpretation is possible (McCrae).

Shakespeare was called “Our ever-living poet.” All mainstreamers agree that this does NOT mean he was dead.

Houston, Houston, Do You Copy?

Today, almost 400 years after the First Folio buried the troublesome sonnets and elevated the shrewd businessman, Lord Burghley’s heir, Michael William Cecil, the 18th Baron Burghley, is a signatory on the “Declaration of Reasonable Doubt.

The “Declaration of Reasonable Doubt” is a rational document that basically says to mainstream scholars, “Houston, we have a problem.”

James Shapiro answered by writing Contested Will, his beautiful book glorifying the mainstream viewpoint. The book is of course a Scipio-free zone. We trust the good professor did not use brooches.

Diana Price is NOT a professor. Her book, Shakespeare’s Unorthodox Biography, explains the rational viewpoint with extensive references to primary sources and to mainstream scholarship. She is NOT ten thousand times smarter than Professor Shapiro; it only seems that way.

Price is rational. That’s all.

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Lord Burghley’s descendant, Michael William Cecil, discussing Shakespeare’s apparent intimate knowledge of his ancestor.

P.S. For a fuller general discussion with details about the documentary records of Shakespeare and his contemporaries, click here. For the full story of Southampton, the sonnets, and the Essex Rebellion, click here.

P.P.S. I offer one last appeal to the 99.99 percenters.

Let us assume you are a mountain climber and that you have scrambled past the ten rocky possibilities below and have the Shakspere wrote Shakespeare peak in your sights.

It is possible six signatures were six mis-haps.
It is possible dozens of letters were lost.
It is possible Shakespeare’s magnificent library was lost.
It is possible Shakespeare’s two daughters grew up illiterate.
It is possible Davies did NOT mean Shake-speare was a front-man.
It is possible Greene did NOT mean Shake-scene was a rich idiot.
It is possible Jonson did NOT mean Chief-thief was a phony Shakespeare.
It is possible Parnassus really means Shakespeare is better than Ovid.
It is possible a man referred to as “our ever-living poet” was still alive.
It is possible a country businessman loved a powerful earl.

Congratulations. You’re almost there. After all, any life, like the deal of a random hand of playing cards, is a series of unlikely events. Shakspere must have written Shakespeare, so any sequence of possibilities upon which this depends, no matter how unlikely, must be true.

Hold on tight to that 99.99% certainty as we climb the last few meters.

What if the man who was wildly famous virtually overnight in 1593, the most successful writer in history up to that point, the man whose influence during his lifetime reset every standard ever written, the man whose popularity with Queens, Kings, Princes, and commoners alike was beyond overwhelming, the man who was a great among greats, the magical William Shakespeare — what if he wrote in his private sonnets, “I am writing under a pseudonym”?

What if he said it three times?

Would you believe it then?

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furuiue = survive

Hold on tight. It’s a long way down.

cliffface

P.P.P.S. It is hard to imagine a worse fate than being Professor Shapiro. Here’s hoping that definitive proof is NOT discovered during his lifetime. I would not want to bear witness to anyone’s fall from such a dizzying height.

Truth does not triumph by convincing its opponents and making them see the light, but rather because its opponents eventually die, and a new generation grows up that is familiar with it. — Max Planck, quoted by Thomas Kuhn in “The Structure of Scientific Revolutions.”

 

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5 Comments
  1. Could you send me the (web)source where you found the signature of George Peele you illustrated in your contribution.- I suppose it’s from the last page of the anonymous play of Edward I, (attributed to Peele) written at exactly the same time 1593 in the same city (London) when Marlowe’s Edward II was written.-

  2. [Yesterday I wrote a comment that unfortunately has disappeared today – for whatever reason … I’ll try again].
    I recently became aware of your profound blog. Congratulations! Although I am deeply impressed by your immense knowledge and your conclusions, at the same time I am a little sad , since Marlowe does not seem to play any significant role …What a pity!
    According to my research, without the Marlowe Thesis you will not be able to ever solve the unspeakable authorship problem..

    but the problem (of a multiple pseudonymity) is more complex and complicated. Before I stretch out here for a long time, you may want to check out a recent youtube post

  3. Sorry the second link was falsely the same than the first

    • I’ll check out your link soon. Thanks for the input. Nothing wrong with multiple candidates in my view. The mainstream uses the number of alternative candidates proposed as an indication that the authorship question is not worth discussing. On the contrary, it is natural to have multiple candidates given the incredibly weak case for Shakspere of Stratford.

      Thanks for reading. I don’t have much of an audience yet I’m afraid. Someday.

  4. Sorry, I am not sure , you understood me correctly, I represent exactly the opposite thesis. There were no multiple candidates of literary geniuses around in Shakespeares time … only one, but an unimaginable outstanding and exeptional one, with a multiplicity of pseudonyms or pennames ,,,,and there was not such an inflation of “teamwork and cooperation” between Shakespeare and others…

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