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1.0 out of 5 stars An Intellectually Bankrupt Theory, 27 Jan. 2014
This review is from: Shakespeare beyond Doubt: Evidence, Argument, Controversy (Paperback)
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.
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Showing 1-2 of 2 posts in this discussion
Initial post: 27 Jan 2014 12:48:19 GMT
A lightly edited version of the following review of SBD will be published in the Journal of the American Psychoanalytic Association. One connection between this book and psychoanalysis is that Sigmund Freud was the world's first prominent skeptic as to the traditional Stratfordian authorship theory--

In reply to an earlier post on 27 Jan 2014 15:45:44 GMT
It is ironic that the reviewer you quote was citing lines about Henry IV's delayed "crusade."

As anyone who reads the play will realize, the whole point of those lines is to underscore the dramatic irony that Henry cannot even enforce peace within his own realm. His talk of making crusades is a textbook illustration of dramatic irony. This book is a textbook illustration of the banality of orthodox "Shakesperotics" (to use Gary Taylor's telling word), which seems at least as manifested in this book to have far less self-awareness than the bard's beleaguered king.
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