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Dr. Richard M. Waugaman (Chevy Chase, MD USA)
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Shakespeare in Court (Kindle Single)
Shakespeare in Court (Kindle Single)

7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars "A Post-Stratfordian Era Has Dawned", 23 Sep 2014
My title is borrowed from the final words of this superb book. As others have already indicated, it euthanizes what is left of the Stratfordian legend. We've lost a myth, but we've gained a real author, who is far more interesting than the businessman from Stratford.

Spoiler Alert!
It is wrong of a reviewer to give away the ending. But it is also wrong to conceal one of Alexander Waugh's most significant discoveries. Stratfordians sometimes admit their theory would collapse without the alleged "evidence" of the 1623 First Folio of Shakespeare's plays. And Ben Jonson's phrase "Sweet Swan of Avon" in his commendatory poem in the First Folio is assumed to prove the works were written by William Shakspere, the businessman in Stratford-on-Avon.

Not so fast, says Waugh. Through original research, he convincingly demonstrates that "Avon" was the original name for Hampton Court, the royal palace on the Thames where Shakespeare's plays were performed for Queen Elizabeth, and later for King James. Since "avon" simply meant "river" in Celtic, it is not surprising that Britain has at least seven rivers of that name.

Another gem is his quoting the former director of the Folger Shakespeare Library as claiming, "the only proof necessary is that Shakespeare could have written the plays and sonnets, not that he did."

These are only two examples of the evidence that Waugh marshals to dismantle the Stratfordian legend. We are all in his debt.
Comment Comments (3) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Oct 1, 2014 1:30 PM BST


Shakespeare beyond Doubt: Evidence, Argument, Controversy
Shakespeare beyond Doubt: Evidence, Argument, Controversy
by Paul Edmondson
Edition: Paperback
Price: £17.99

10 of 21 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars An Intellectually Bankrupt Theory, 27 Jan 2014
Many reviews of this book (SBD) have already been posted here. I was not planning to write another, since my review of it is about to be published in a psychoanalytic journal (see first "Comment" below for a link to that review).

Last week's mail belatedly brought the summer 2013 issue of The Shakespeare Newsletter, with its review of this book. That review is so astonishingly uninformed that I want to bring it to readers' attention, since it further illustrates the intellectual bankruptcy of the Stratfordian theory.

Tellingly, its one criticism of SBD is that it never presents "the relevant evidence" for the traditional theory. I noticed the same oversight in my review. Yes, you read that correctly--the book that claims there is no doubt whatsoever in this matter failed to present "the relevant evidence." The Newsletter's reviewer tried to correct that oversight, as though cluelessly oblivious that the four "pillars" he cites (Shakspere's will; contemporary references to the name "Shake-speare"; the Stratford monument; and the First Folio) have all been completely refuted as ostensibly unequivocal evidence in this matter.

The review praises SBD in language that evokes the cult-like psychology of the defenders of authorship orthodoxy. The reviewer compares the twenty-two distinguished contributors to this volume with "the assembling of the full feudal array to march all one way in well-beseeming ranks and chase the paynims [OED: an archaic word for non-Christians] from the holy fields once and for all." The only problem is that these Crusaders have forgotten to bring their weapons. And that last phrase, "once and for all," betrays the frustration of the faithful that their message that there is no doubt whatsoever about the authorship question is meeting with growing resistance and rebuttal. No wonder they are "so shaken" and "wan with care," as Shakespeare's King Henry IV said a few lines before the ones the reviewer paraphrased.

It is understandable that the reviewer thinks of "feudal" imagery, when the logic of Stratfordian reasoning about authorship has regressed to medieval deductive reasoning. One begins with an unquestioned assumption, then reasons circularly to "prove" that assumption. Times have changed, since the Renaissance introduced inductive reasoning, where one begins with the relevant evidence.

The reviewer mentions a chapter that argues the author had to know the world of the theater to write Shakespeare's plays, as though this must rule out Edward de Vere. But de Vere sponsored theatrical troupes his whole life, as did his father and grandfather. After all, the 1589 The Art of English Poesy, Critical Edition called Edward de Vere the best author of comedies-- and an author who wrote anonymously.

Shamelessly, the reviewer repeats the implausible assertion that a grammar school education is all the playwright needed. He seems unaware of the last several decades of scholarship on Shakespeare's phenomenal erudition and knowledge of multiple languages. The respected anthropologist Robin Fox recently wrote a book (Shakespeare's Education: Schools, Lawsuits, Theater, and the Tudor Miracle) that demolishes that particular Stratfordian myth.

One of the many dishonest allegations in the review concerns the Shakespeare Authorship Coalition. The reviewer falsely asserts that it "welcomes under its tent anybody who believes anybody wrote Shakespeare--anybody, that is, except the fellow with his name on the title page." To the contrary, the faction that claims their theory is beyond doubt is the one that wrote the book under review. The Coalition is simply asking that the authorship question be considered a legitimate one, deserving of the protection of academic freedom. It calls for an end to the taboo on this question, and the bullying of those who persist in raising it. Its Declaration of Reasonable Doubt explictly says, "there is room for reasonable doubt about the identity of William Shakespeare." It does not claim that it has disproven Shakspere's authorship. If you support academic freedom, please sign the Declaration.
Comment Comments (2) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Jan 27, 2014 3:45 PM GMT


Anonymous [DVD] [2011]
Anonymous [DVD] [2011]
Dvd ~ Rhys Ifans
Offered by ____THE_BEST_ON_DVD____
Price: £3.78

4 of 11 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Finally, The Truth about Shakespeare!, 7 Aug 2012
This review is from: Anonymous [DVD] [2011] (DVD)
Roland Emmerich's new film, Anonymous, is inspired by the same theory that gripped Sigmund Freud during the last dozen years of his life--that "William Shakespeare" was the pseudonym and front man of Edward de Vere, Earl of Oxford (1550-1604). When you see this film and ponder its thesis, I hope you will remind yourself that Freud was passionately intrigued by the likelihood that de Vere was Shakespeare. Before long, I predict Freud will be vindicated. The film has generated much debate, some of it acrimonious. Yet the Anonymous website has a poll showing that only 51% of visitors still believe the traditional author wrote the canon.

When his wife Anne pleads with de Vere to stop writing plays, he replies, "The voices! I can't stop them. They come to me. I would go mad if I didn't write down what the voices say." This is an intriguing surmise about de Vere's creative process, as though his Muse speaks to him aloud. In fact, I suspect that some form of unusual awareness and tolerance of multiple self states plays a crucial role for some literary geniuses such as de Vere.

Psychoanalysts are in a unique position to elucidate the psychology of literary anonymity and pseudonymity. The evidence suggests that keeping one's authorship secret helps promote what Keats called Shakespeare's "negative capability"--keeping his own identity in the background as he created hundreds of utterly convincing characters. In a sense, Edward de Vere's most magical character of all was his pseudonym and front man, "William Shakespeare." With some likely assistance from the man from Stratford, this character lives on for most people more vividly than does de Vere himself. Why did de Vere have to conceal his authorship? For many reasons. Nobility did not write for the common theater. They rarely published poems under their own name during their lifetime. And the plays of Shakespeare spoof many powerful court figures, and comment on various court intrigues.

The film has de Vere tell Ben Jonson, "All art is political." Attributing the plays' authorship to a commoner helped conceal some of their provocative critiques. Even so, the Elizabethan theater audience as depicted in the film recognized the character Richard III as a spoof of de Vere's hunch-backed brother-in-law, Robert Cecil. They also recognized Polonius in Hamlet as a disguised portrayal of de Vere's father-in-law. Some Shakespeare scholars still admit the latter is correct, though others have backed off from this identification, since it strengthens the case for de Vere's authorship.

You may have read some of the vitriolic attacks on Anonymous by Columbia University's James Shapiro and others. This fierce backlash intrigues me. The academic Shakespeare establishment usually treats the authorship question as taboo. In other words, many Shakespeare organizations and publications will not even discuss it. One English professor told me it would be "academic suicide" to research de Vere's possible authorship. A Shakespearean publication invited me to write a book review, then changed their mind once they read it, explaining that they had "blundered," and would never publish anything by an Oxfordian (that is, someone who thinks de Vere, Earl of Oxford, wrote the works of Shakespeare).

Both Emmerich and Orloff admit their film takes poetic license in order to provoke and entertain. But the Stratfordians are not amused. Their over-reaction to the film is Inquisitional in its tone. We instinctively sympathize with the underdog, all things being equal. The Shakespeare establishment may have made things worse for itself by forgetting this is just a film.

Many of the reviews of Anonymous have panned the film because its premise is so controversial. A common theme in these critical reviews is the assumption that the Shakespeare scholars must be correct, and there is "no evidence whatsoever" that Shakespeare did not write Shakespeare. Certain premises are repeatedly asserted to be incontrovertible refutations that de Vere could be the author. You've heard that many plays of Shakespeare are known with certainty to have been written after 1604, the year that de Vere died. But, as some Shakespeare scholars admit, we simply do not know with certainty when any of the plays were written. The conventional dating of the plays is based on Shakespeare of Stratford having died in 1616. So it was assumed he wrote roughly two plays per year, and these assumptions played a crucial if circular role in the conjectural dating of when the plays were written.

If you'd like to read more, my Oxfreudian website has the full text of many of my 50 publications on this topic, along with links to several other relevant websites.

Richard M. Waugaman, M.D.
Clinical Professor of Psychiatry and
Faculty Expert on Shakespeare for Media Contacts,
Georgetown University
Comment Comments (22) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Dec 20, 2013 8:10 PM GMT


Contested Will: Who Wrote Shakespeare?
Contested Will: Who Wrote Shakespeare?
by James Shapiro
Edition: Hardcover
Price: £18.37

5 of 26 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Contesting Shapiro, 5 Aug 2012
Pity the poor reader who trusts Shapiro as a reliable guide to the fascinating world of Shakespeare authorship debate. Despite his efforts to sound objective, Shapiro clearly had his mind made up before he examined the evidence. This might explain why he didn't bother to look into new evidence that contradicts his preconceived beliefs. He completely ignored several excellent books that show the prevalence of pseudonymous authorship in Shakespeare's day (for example, The Anonymous Renaissance: Cultures of Discretion in Tudor-Stuart England; Anonymity: A Secret History of English Literature). He deliberately avoided examining new evidence that marginalia in Edward de Vere's Bible reveals a treasure trove of new literary sources for Shakespeare's plays and poetry. Among other things, the marked Psalms unlock the mysteries of some especially enigmatic Sonnets, that are engaged in a "conversation" with specific Psalms. Shapiro's assumptions have been further discredited by the 2011 book Anonymity in Early Modern England and refuted by David Ellis's The Truth about William Shakespeare: Fact, Fiction, and Modern Biographies. For more details, see [...]

Richard M. Waugaman, M.D.
Reader, Folger Shakespeare Library
Clinical Professor of Psychiatry and
Faculty Expert on Shakespeare for Media Contacts,
Georgetown University
Comment Comments (2) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Dec 9, 2012 9:46 PM GMT


The Anonymous Renaissance: Cultures of Discretion in Tudor-Stuart England
The Anonymous Renaissance: Cultures of Discretion in Tudor-Stuart England
by Marcy L North
Edition: Hardcover
Price: £35.00

1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars We No Longer Know that "Shakespeare Wrote Shakespeare", 2 Aug 2012
Marcy North makes the crucial observation that nature seems to abhor an authorship vacuum. Scholars of the early modern period lose interest in anonymous works. This leads them to correctly attribute, misattribute, or ignore them. "Much anonymous literature from the first two centuries of print has been assigned a conjectural author or forgotten... [A]nonymous texts from the period are [falsely viewed as] far inferior to those of known authors" (10-11).

Most early modern plays were published anonymously. As North puts it, "Anonymity's importance as a Renaissance convention... the frequency of its use, and especially its cultural meanings remain critically undervalued... Few early modern authors avoided anonymity entirely" (3). More than 800 authors from 1475-1640 are known to have published anonymously, in addition to all the pseudonymous and not yet identified works. North observes that even when an author's name is printed in a book, that name may still be "a fiction created by the author, that is subject to interpretation and that is unreliable historically" (19). Our understanding of anonymous authorship will never be the same again, after scholars digest and ponder the far-reaching implications of North's thoroughly documented and carefully reasoned book.

North traces early modern anonymous authorship to the medieval tradition out of which it grew. Intellectual history is riddled with misleading false dichotomies. North shows that there was more continuity from the Middle Ages to the Renaissance than some historians have implied.

Readers will search North's book in vain for a simplistic answer to the question of why authors published anonymously or used pseudonyms. Instead, North offers a wealth of often overlapping motivations. One eventually wonders why in the world intelligent scholars ever jumped to their now crumbling assumption about the authorship of Shakespeare's works. Take, for example, the words of Robert Burton, author of the semi-anonymous 1621 The Anatomy of Melancholy. He said he wrote under the name Democritus "to assume a little more liberty and freedome of speech" (7).

Popular and scholarly support for the traditional Shakespeare unconsciously perpetuates one specific medieval assumption about anonymous authorship: "authors were viewed as instruments of divine truth and as scribes for a divine author" (40). We still deify Shakespeare, which is one of many reasons we have been slow to realize we have been worshipping a false god. The human scribes who wrote the Bible were simply taking divine dictation; on some level, people regard Shakespeare of Stratford as inspired by some divine literary Muse.

Courageous readers who are willing to question their assumptions about the authorship of Shakespeare's works owe it to themselves to read Marcy North, then David Ellis's new book, The Truth About William Shakespeare: Fact, Fiction and Modern Biographies

For more on Shakespeare and the psychology of pseudonymity, see my Oxfreudian website.

Richard M. Waugaman, M.D.
Clinical Professor of Psychiatry and
Faculty Expert on Shakespeare for Media Contacts,
Georgetown University
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Aug 16, 2012 11:37 PM BST


The Truth About William Shakespeare: Fact, Fiction and Modern Biographies
The Truth About William Shakespeare: Fact, Fiction and Modern Biographies
by David Ellis
Edition: Hardcover
Price: £54.96

3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Paradigm Shift is Underway!, 24 July 2012
We all owe a large debt of gratitude to David Ellis, Professor of English Literature, Emeritus, at the University of Kent at Canterbury. He risks the ire of his fellow English professors by daring to tell the truth about Shakespeare biographies. He could have quoted the inimitable Mark Twain, who compared them to reconstructed dinosaur skeletons in museums-- "nine bones and 600 barrels of plaster of Paris." But Ellis is quite witty himself.

Ellis closely examines the lack of evidence underlying recent biographies by Peter Ackroyd, Jonathan Bate, Katherine Duncan-Jones, Stephen Greenblatt, James Shapiro, and René Weis. Ellis points to "the trend whereby biography [of Shakespeare] becomes a prize for those Shakespeareans from the Academy who had become eminent in their profession. Given the limitations of data with which they then had to deal, this was if highly trained athletes were required to qualify at [an] international level so that they could then participate in an annual British sack race" (p. 11).

With a provocative comparison with greedy borrowers' contributions to the recent financial crisis, he observes that readers of speculative (that is, all) Shakespeare biographies "have often exerted a similar pressure to have what is not possible" (p. 177). But Ellis mostly goes after fellow English professors who capitalize on the public hunger to find out more about Shakespeare than we actually know. In the process, he charges, there is "a general lowering of intellectual standards and the degradation of the art of biography" (p. 177). These are serious charges.

Ellis is clever in dissociating himself from the obvious implication of his book-- how can we be so sure we have the right author, since so little is known about him? He does this most obviously on p. 120, when he writes that J.T. Looney, author of "Shakespeare" identified in Edward De Vere, the seventeenth earl of Oxford, "made the extraordinary suggestion that Shakespeare's plays were really written by Edward de Vere, the seventeenth Earl of Oxford, with the actor [?] from Stratford acting as a front." Eager to prove that he has wasted no time on such an "extraordinary" theory, he mistakenly gives the date of Looney's book as 1926, rather than 1920.

Nevertheless, Ellis's new book, in combination with recent scholarship on the ubiquity of early modern anonymity (see, for example, The Anonymous Renaissance: Cultures of Discretion in Tudor-Stuart England) create a powerful brew that is inconsistent with the traditional authorship theory. We can see it start melting away, like the Wicked Witch of the West.

Samuel Schoenbaum, who wrote Shakespeare's Lives (Oxford paperbacks), survives as the only truly respectable Shakespeare biographer in Ellis's book. And that is because Schoenbaum, like Ellis, took fellow biographers to task for making it all up (except for those nine "dinosaur bones," of course-- and they have nothing to do with Shakespere's alleged literary career). Ellis might have pointed out that it is only since Schoenbaum's death that the Shakespeare biography industry has resumed peddling its misleading trifles.

What impact will Ellis's book have on Shakespeare scholars? None, most likely. They have trained themselves to remain oblivious of inconvenient facts. But, in the more significant world of lovers of Shakespeare's works, Ellis has (inadvertently?) helped accelerate the authorship paradigm change.

For those interested, most of my 60 publications on this topic can be read on my Oxfreudian website.

Richard M. Waugaman, M.D.
Clinical Professor of Psychiatry and Faculty Expert on Shakespeare for Media Contacts,
Georgetown University
Comment Comments (3) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Aug 12, 2014 11:33 AM BST


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