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The Shakespeare Authorship Question:  A Crackpot's View by [Cutler, Keir]
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The Shakespeare Authorship Question: A Crackpot's View Kindle Edition

3.5 out of 5 stars 2 customer reviews

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About the Author

Keir Cutler has a PhD in theater from Wayne State University in Detroit, and a playwriting diploma from the National Theater School of Canada. He is a signatory of and videospokesman for the "Declaration of Reasonable Doubt About the Identity of William Shakespeare." Playwright/performer of eight solo theater plays, including the multiple-award-winning, "Teaching Shakespeare: A Parody," and an adaptation of Mark Twain's "Is Shakespeare Dead?" Keir has performed his works across Canada, in New York City and other American cities. Four of his solo shows are on video and have been broadcasted by BRAVO!/CANADA. Keir Cutler has been called "a masterful entertainer," (Winnipeg Free Press) "a marvel to watch," (Toronto Sun) "formidably delightful," (Off-Off Broadway Review, New York) "blisteringly funny," (Hour, Montreal) "a real theatrical gift," (Ottawa Citizen) "a phenomenal performer," (winnipegonstage.com) "supremely witty," (Edmonton Journal) "a penetrating presence," (Backstage, New York) "consistently intelligent," (CBC, Edmonton) "one of solo theatre's superstars." (Montreal Gazette)

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  • Format: Kindle Edition
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  • Print Length: 45 pages
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  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B00BV7DVVG
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  • Average Customer Review: 3.5 out of 5 stars 2 customer reviews
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I give Keir Cutler two stars, one for writing a book at all and one for including footnotes.

It's short enough be called a pamphlet rather than a book, but he still has space for an anecdote about how he put his young nephew up to a bit of mischief. He was to go through all the traditional biographies collecting examples of those qualifying phrases used by scholars in discussing Shakespeare's schooldays, like "almost certainly", "most likely", "it is safe to believe", and the good old double-negative "we have no reason not to assume", and present them to his English teacher as an illustration of how much fiction there is in the great author's biography.

The records of pupils passing through the Stratford grammar school are "lost", according to Cutler, though others might say they never existed in the first place and went on not existing until the nineteenth century. They are also lost, or never existed in the first place, at Westminster School, but we think Ben Jonson went there because he said so himself. Shakespeare neglected to do the same, and so Cutler turns absence of evidence into evidence of absence (as one does), and emerges with a fact: "Shaksper" never went to school and was illiterate. QED.

What I was hoping was that the boy's teacher would say, "Good work, Bill/Tim/Mike, but you've only done half a job. We cannot know if Shakespeare was an exception unless we know the norm. Playwrights who went to Oxford or Cambridge have evidence of education, because they kept records. But many didn't go to university, and you must compare like with like.
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KC arraigns the Shakespeare academia for misleading undergrads and schoolkids with its bigotry (denying all heretical scholarship). He also reveals the mendacity and hypocrisy of the Stratford Council and its Birthplace Trust. Very refreshing in its honesty.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)

Amazon.com: 4.6 out of 5 stars 8 reviews
14 of 16 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars beside the book's great merits, both of style and content 17 April 2016
By Roger A. Stritmatter - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback
After Steve Steinburg's hard-hitting I Come To Bury Shaksper: A Deconstruction of the Fable of the Stratfordian Shake-speare and the Supporting Scholarship, Cutler's volume is perhaps the strongest application of uncompromising post-Stratfordian logic to expose the contradictory and inconclusive arguments set forth to support the traditional bardography as promulgated by the Shakespearean establishment and its online shock troops, which are of course always well represented on Amazon reviews.

As a PhD in theatre studies, as well as a gifted lecturer and humorist, Cutler has for several years now added a significant dimension and a relatively new but influential voice to the unfolding saga of the authorship question.

In this book he is not afraid to tangle with some of the biggest names in the Shakespeare industry: Wells, Prosser, Bryson, Greenblatt, McCrea and Shapiro are all given some free publicity in the book before Cutler's incisive and often witty logic deconstructs their arguments and exposes the dishonest and sometimes fraudulent character of their posturing.

A self published book of about 50 pages, there are a few places where Cutler's volume might have benefited from stronger editorial review, and in at least one instance the book contains a statement of historical fact that has changed since Cutler originally wrote the book. These minor imperfections of form pale, however, beside the book's great merits, both of style and content. Cutler is an engaging, highly intelligent, and very well-informed scholar of the authorship question, who especially knows how to use humor for educational purposes.

One of the chief merits of the book is Cutler's skill in revealing the habit of Stratfordian biographers to endorse mutually contradictory positions whose only common element is that both positions conveniently "affirm that there is absolutely no authorship question."

Several impressive examples of this kind of specious reasoning, which is more and more earning orthodox Shakespeareans a reputation for theoretical inventiveness as special pleaders for a failing cause, are brilliantly essayed in Cutler's chapter, "Shakespeare as Religion."

Here we read, for example, of Warwick University Professor Dr. Carol Rutter's proclamation that the subject of Shakespearean authorship is a "question that shouldn't interest anybody." What a person is supposed to do who is interested in the question, Dr. Rutter does not venture to explain. She just wishes you would stop.

According to Holger Syme, professor at the University of Toronto, the authorship question is all about how smart Shakespeare was, and he's eager to tell us that he really wasn't that smart: "The notion that Shakespeare was extraordinarily erudite is a 20th century fiction, an effect of historical distance."

To Jay Halio at the University of Delaware, on the other hand, "Shakespeare's imagination carried him everywhere, through time as well as place, and has never been surpassed."

Comments Cutler:

"So, according to these two 'experts,' the plays and poems are either so average that anyone from the period could have written them, or they are an achievement of such consummate genius that only one uniquely imaginative individual could be their creator. These two positions seem to contradict each other, but they share the same purpose, to affirm there is absolutely no authorship question."

Cutler's book contains 50 pages of similar deconstruction.

He begins by listing and discussing ten points against the Stratford attribution, and moves on from that to discuss and effectively dismantle several of the major canards on which orthodoxy depends, ending with three brilliant, rip-roaring book reviews of three recent books by prominent Stratfordians: Shakespeare: The World as Stage (Eminent Lives), Will in the World: How Shakespeare Became Shakespeare, and Contested Will: Who Wrote Shakespeare?

Along the way, Cutler recounts his own transition from a true-believing Stratfordian to a doubting Keir. Starting from the intent to produce a one-man comic monologue of the sort he has since become famous for, one he intended to base on the "laughability" of the anti-Stratfordian position, Cutler's research turned him the opposite direction: "I discovered that the case against Shakespeare's authorship is considerably stronger than any case that can be made for him....my one man show went entirely in the opposite direction from ridiculing the doubters, and instead, mocked the 'troglodytes' who content there is not question, and still believe the traditional story of Shakespeare."

The book will be useful for both the neophyte in authorship studies -- it makes a very useful introduction to the topic for newbies -- or the more experienced student or scholar in the field -- it contains a wealth of original and telling exchanges with orthodox proponents of the teflon author from Stratford. The arguments of these scholars are always presented fairly and respectfully before being dismantled, a habit which orthodox scholars and true-believers might wish to learn from Dr. Cutler.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Clear introduction and summation of evidence of the Authorship Question 5 May 2016
By Booklover in AZ - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
A good quick introduction to the Authorship Question with a sensible and far-from-crackpot evidence of why so many of us doubt the status quo. Excellent as a first step. Next step - other deeper explorations and (for some of us) the answer on who was Shakespeare and why the hidden identity due to noble birth.
11 of 16 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Thank You Keir! 19 Oct. 2014
By Richard Allan Wagner - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
Keir's book lays the groundwork for more advanced inquiry into the Shakespeare Authorship question. In the spirit of Mark Twain he has done much to expose the glaring problems and inconsistencies of the Shakespeare issue.

Thank you Keir for your remarkable body of work!

Richard Allan Wagner
13 of 20 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent short summary of key points 23 April 2013
By Amazon Customer - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
This is a great book to start getting an education in the Shakespeare Authorship non-orthodox viewpoint. The author covers what he thinks are the most important arguments against the standard view that the Stratford man was the real author. His reviews of three mainstream orthodox arguments are succinct yet thorough enough to provide strong logical counterpoints with common sense. He also takes to task the academic institutions themselves for their anti-scholarly attitudes and actions that seem to put preservation of the status quo above a fair examination of all the evidence.
14 of 22 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Brush up your Shaksper 6 April 2016
By Terpsichore - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Kindle Edition
I give Keir Cutler two stars, one for writing a book at all and one for including footnotes.

It's short enough be called a pamphlet rather than a book, but he still has space for an anecdote about how he put his young nephew up to a bit of mischief. He was to go through all the traditional biographies collecting examples of those qualifying phrases used by scholars in discussing Shakespeare's schooldays, like "almost certainly", "most likely", "it is safe to believe", and the good old double-negative "we have no reason not to assume", and present them to his English teacher as an illustration of how much fiction there is in the great author's biography.

The records of pupils passing through the Stratford grammar school are "lost", according to Cutler, though others might say they never existed in the first place and went on not existing until the nineteenth century. They are also lost, or never existed in the first place, at Westminster School, but we think Ben Jonson went there because he said so himself. Shakespeare neglected to do the same, and so Cutler turns absence of evidence into evidence of absence (as one does), and emerges with a fact: "Shaksper" never went to school and was illiterate. QED.

What I was hoping was that the boy's teacher would say, "Good work, Bill/Tim/Mike, but you've only done half a job. We cannot know if Shakespeare was an exception unless we know the norm. Playwrights who went to Oxford or Cambridge have evidence of education, because they kept records. But many didn't go to university, and you must compare like with like. So look into Chettle, Munday, Dekker, Heywood, Drayton, and the rest of the playwrighting crew, and see what evidence there is that they ever went to school. Then we'd know whether Shakespeare's case was an unusual one or not. It could be a long task, so why don't you give half of it to your uncle, since it was his idea?"

Sadly, that didn't happen. But Cutler is nothing if not consistent. Having given his nephew half a task, he gives the same to himself. This book is half a book, not in the sense of being (in Kindle) only 47 pages long - in that sense it's a lot less than half a book - but in the sense of doing half the job that would be required.

"There are no surviving writings in William Shaksper's own hand. No plays, no poems, no diaries, and most significantly, no letters."

How normal is that? He doesn't say, and I've no idea whether he has even looked into it. But that would be the other half of the job.

"There is not a single specific reference from William Shaksper's lifetime, 1564-1616, that identifies the man from Stratford as the writer of either plays or poems."

Off the top of my head, I can think of only one writer who could pass that test. Thomas Nashe's Have With You to Saffron Walden tells me where Gabriel Harvey comes from. The title leads us straight to his parish. But I don't know of any others who could pass, not even Nashe himself. Does Cutler know any? Could he list them?

"Shaksper of Stratford's relatives and neighbors never mentioned Shaksper was famous or a writer, nor are there any indications his heirs demanded or received payments for his supposed investments in the theater or for any works unpublished at the time of his death."

This seems to cast doubt on his reality, not just as a writer, but as a businessman. I suppose the next step is to say he never existed at all. But, again, no contrasting examples to set against Shakespeare. No cases offered of other playwrights' families doing what he describes. There is only one instance where he shows even a glimmer of an idea that a comparison of Shakespeare with his contemporaries is an essential part of any investigation into his credibility:

"Nobody came down from London; there were no lamenting poems or eulogies, no national tears - there was merely silence. A striking contrast with what happened when Ben Jonson, and Francis Bacon, and Spenser, and Raleigh, and the other distinguished literary folk of Shakespeare's time passed from life"

Well, good (or good, apart from his ignoring Basse's elegy and John Taylor's passing tribute). A striking contrast is exactly what we should be looking for. But you have to compare like with like. Three of the four names mentioned are courtiers, fringe aristocracy, the kind of people most likely to attract flattering eulogies. And only one of the four is a playwright. I would be more interested in the unnamed "other distinguished literary folk", men of the theatre, such as Marlowe, Greene, Kyd, Peele, Chettle, Munday, Dekker, Heywood, Middleton, Lyly, Webster, Drayton, Beaumont, Fletcher, Massingham. I'd like to see their eulogies, if he can find them.

Still, the notion of comparison with others is at least lurking somewhere in that quote. But I neglected to say that it's a quote he's lifted from Mark Twain, so it wasn't his notion in the first place. Twain - who also does half a job - is evidently the model for Cutler, who seems to have taken everything from him except his satirical skill. Cutler is a stand-up comedian by his own account, but it looks like he wrote this sitting down.

Some passages only leave you shaking your head:

"Many plays, not credited to William Shakespeare today, appeared under the nom-de-plume "Shake-spear" back then, including Sir John Oldcastle, A Yorkshire Tragedy, The London Prodigal, The Second Maiden's Tragedy, Fair Em - The Miller's Daughter of Manchester, Mucedorus, The Merry Devil of Edmonton, and The Puritan Widow."

It's a rare statement that contains eight misses and no hits. Not one of those plays ever appeared under the name "Shake-spear".

And some passages are so obscure you can't even guess what he means:

"There are also many poems misattributed to William Shakespeare such as The Passionate Pilgrim, published in 1599 with the title page attributing it to Shakespeare. Since these plays and poems are not believed to have been written by the mythical William Shakespeare, clearly at least one other writer was using the pen-name 'Shake-spear'."

Clearly, you say? How does an unauthorised collection of poems with "Shakespeare" on the title page point to the existence of a different writer calling himself "Shake-spear"? Are they doppelgängers?

Seven of Cutler's forty-seven precious pages describe how the Stratford corporation has exploited Shakespeare's fame, and no less than three of those are devoted to the mulberry tree he supposedly planted, as if that pestiferous tree might be bagged and tagged as evidence. But how any of this bears on the question whether the citizen of that town did or didn't write his plays is a mystery to me. Still, with only forty pages left, it might explain why there isn't room in his book for even a single Shakespeare quote. Is this a record?

Cutler thinks the authorship debate should be introduced in schools, and I think it should too - eventually. My own position is that there is enough vacant space in the Stratford man's record to invite discussion at least. But how are we going to do it? Should we put the sort of case to a class that he puts to us? Question time could be awkward, because there's always that kid at the back...

"You say there are only six signatures, and he never spelt his name 'Shakespeare'?"
"Right"
"How many are there for Marlowe?"
"One."
"And how did he spell it?"
"'Marley'"

Silence. Some other kid joins in.

"Any manuscripts for Marlowe, or Marley?"
"Yes! There's a fragment of The Massacre at Paris. It might be in his hand... or it might not. Can't tell."
"You could compare it with the writing in his letters."
"Uh...he didn't leave any."
"Diary? Notebook? Anything in his hand?"
"'Fraid not"

A third kid-

"You sure Marlowe wrote his plays? Maybe he was Marley's front-man"

Snorts of laughter. A fourth kid-

"What about that Jonson dude? He was the main man after Shakespeare. Are there any manuscripts for him?"
"Sure. The Masque of Queens."
"What's that?"
"A court play."
"Cool. Any for the public stage?"
"Not as such."
"What about Beaumont?"
"Not as such."
"Fletcher?"
"Nothing has turned up."
"Middleton? Webster? Chettle? Kyd? Dekker? Munday?"
"None has been found. There is one for Massingham, though."
"Just one? Great."

More snorts of laughter. The first kid again -

"Hey, man, how do you know any of these guys wrote their plays? Why are you picking on Shakespeare?"
"Because, almost certainly, most likely, it is safe to believe, we have no reason not to assume, they wrote their plays. But Shaksper didn't. See, he was illiterate. He held the horses."

Finally another kid, silent until now ( I hope it isn't Keir Cutler's nephew)-

"Is there such a thing as grown-up anti-Stratfordianism? I mean, like, we're over twelve."
"Look, sonny, are you trying to yank my wizzle? Cos if you are..."

No, I think we should wait a while before putting it on the curriculum. The professors have only had 150 years to get their story straight.
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