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The Wells Effect
, 22 Feb. 2014
This review is from: Why Shakespeare WAS Shakespeare (Kindle Singles) (Kindle Edition)
Interesting to note that the great British Actor, John Hurt, has declared himself to be an anti-Stratfordian in interviews this month, while a rising star among the younger Shakespearean actors, Tom Hiddleston, when asked whom he would like to meet if he could travel back in time replied 'Shakespeare or who ever wrote those plays.' American Film Director Jim Jarmusch has also declared in interviews this month that he is anti-Stratfordian. I hope they all sign the online 'Declaration of Reasonable Doubt about the Identity of William Shakespeare.'
This kindle book may have been the cause of their conversions. I was myself driven to doubt the Stratford story by orthodox biographies and I know people who have rejected Stratfordfordianism after reading Professor Wells's last goofy effort entitled 'Shakespeare Beyond Doubt' (2013). This one reproduces many of the same faults and fallacies of the last and given that it has already been criticised at length on this site, I shall confine myself to only one of its many grave mistakes. The author asserts, with what appears to be unshakeable confidence, that nobody ever suspected 'William Shakespeare' to be a pseudonym until 1848. May I suggest he looks into all the 'Labeo' references by Joseph Hall of 1597 & 8, and by John Marston in 'Pigmalion's Image' (1598); also that he asks himself why John Weever called the author of Venus and Adonis 'Spurious' in 1598 when, as we all know, 'spurious' means 'not proceeding from its reputed author'; and why Ben Jonson's friend and servant, Richard Brome, called Shakespeare 'that English Earle that loved a play and player' in 1638; and why John Warren accused the Stratford man of being re-born in a new guise, able to take all the glory despite the fact that the work - the labour - was some else's (see 'Of Mr William Shakespeare', 1640); and why William Davenant appeared to view the Stratford shrine as a mockery (1637); and why the Stratford monument was held in derision by Thomas Vincent (1626) and by the anonymous author of 'Modern Jests, Witty Jeeres and Pleasant Taunts' (1630); and why Ben Jonson, told his readers not to look at the joke picture of 'Shakespeare' in the First Folio of 1623; and why an anonymous poet invited his readers to laugh and weep at that same picture in 1632; and why that absurd picture was subtly mocked again in the 1640 edition of Shakespeare's Poems, and again in Brome's 'Five New Playes (1653). Wells has to ask himself why Ben Jonson began his eulogy to 'THE AUTHOR Mr William Shakespeare' with warnings against 'silliest ignorance', 'blind affection' and 'craftiest malice' in regard to Shakespeare's name, and ask himself if, in his ungrounded defence of Stratford Shakspere, he is not proving himself guilty of exactly those faults which Ben Jonson warned against. He must ask himself also why Ben Jonson appeared to be calling the Stratford man a 'poet ape' in his epigrams (published 1640) and why William Dugdale drew ludicrous apes faces on the Stratford monument in 1634.
If Professor Wells had been taking his task remotely seriously he would have looked carefully at all of this evidence and much more that piles up to show that Shakespeare's contemporaries knew a pseudonym when they saw one. But what does the professor do? He simply ignores the whole lot and starts his story nearly two hundred years later, in 1848. Picking out anti-Stratfordians that he feels he can safely ridicule. Goodness if we fished out all rubbish written over the years by Stratfordians we would have a ball!
If this counts as scholarship it is really substandard - Back to the drawing-board Professor!
as ever, Alexander Waugh
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