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18 April 2007

"Shakespeare" in Taiwan

It has long been an unspoken assumption that if Shakespeare is an extraordinarily popular author around the world (as he most certainly is), then ultimately the Shakespeare authorship problem—and the Oxfordian solution to it—will also command a global reach.

The most populous nation on the planet is certainly no exception to this rule. China has a rich tradition of their own stagings, interpretations, and criticism of the Bard.

And yet China also has, to my knowledge at least, been largely silent on the authorship issue.

So it was with great excitement that I recently accepted an invitation to deliver three talks at Tamkang University, outside of Taipei, about Edward de Vere and "Shakespeare" By Another Name.* (Details about the speaking engagements here.)

As it is in the Americas and Europe, in Asia we are only scratching the surface right now of the interest in the authorship question. But scratching is a start!

I'll post feedback and thoughts about the Tamkang lectures—and any sense I can gauge of larger interest in the authorship issue in Taiwan and perhaps mainland China too—after returning to the States, May 14. Photos too.

Gan bei!

*P.S.: Mentioning China and Taiwan in the same post naturally brings up the sensitive and longstanding issue of Cross-Strait Relations between these two entities. Setting aside the very real and very pressing contemporary issues for the moment, my point here is that the supposedly long-ago story Oxfordians bring to the table, that of a savagely political writer exposing secrets of state on the public stage, whose losing battles with state censorship meant he needed refuge behind a shell-game of pseudonyms and diversions, whose portrayal and sometimes mockery of powerful figures could, if exposed, have upset the delicate balance of internal and international power, whose ever-shifting courtly alliances amongst the power elite of his day carried repurcussions far beyond what even a brilliant literary mind could imagine... I'm saying this story may convey extra contemporary resonances for fellow Shakespeare fans within the sphere of influence of the world's largest nation. In other words, in reading the Bard, context is all. Not just getting the Elizabethan and Jacobenan context right. But getting the pith and marrow of life in today's world—that can matter too.

17 March 2007

"Who's There?"

Tomorrow's Washington Post "Outlook" section will be featuring an editorial by one of "Shakespeare" By Another Name's primary sources/influences/founts of inspiration/etc., Roger Stritmatter—an Oxfordian professor of English at Coppin State College in Baltimore. The link [registration required] for the article at the WaPo site will go dead in a few days. But a more permanent copy of the article is online at the Shakespeare Fellowship site here.

The authorship question is the elephant in the living room of modern Shakespearean criticism. According to today's Shakespeare scholars, the greatest poet of the English language was a possibly Catholic businessman and sometime actor from Stratford-upon-Avon who did well by writing. Unlike every other writer in history, he didn't put himself or his experience into his work. If he had a motive for writing, it was to earn six pounds per play. Or perhaps, after his son Hamnet died at 11, he memorialized him in "Hamlet."

These are the views promoted in a seemingly endless procession of books that roll off the presses every year -- all grounded in little tangible fact. Mark Twain quipped that every relevant fact known about the Stratford author would fit on a postcard, and another century of literary biography hasn't changed that. Shakespearean professionals begin by noting that there is a Shakespeare monument in Holy Trinity Church at Stratford and go on from there to imagine almost everything else. They have to. They have a monument without a man.

18 February 2007

Shakespeare in "Venice" or "Shakespeare" in Venice—your call

Looking ahead to next month, it is interesting that the Globe Theatre in London will be hosting two very different visions of what Venice and environs meant to the author of, say, The Merchant of Venice.

The first vision is familiar to anyone who's scratched their head over traditional Shakespeare biographies: The Bard never left England but somehow knew northern Italy and Venice, in particular, like the back of his hand.

For those not allergic to the contortions of "perhaps"es that go hand-in-glove with Stratfordian biography, the Globe will be hosting talks on "Venice in the Time of Shakespeare" on March 21 (7 p.m.) and "Shakespeare's Cosmopolitan Venice" on March 27 (7 p.m.). Both in the Inigo Jones Studio. See the links here for more information.

Both talks cost (£15 for the first, £5 for the second) and, be forewarned, may require invoking the only Venice the traditional Shakespeare appears to have visited: an imaginary Venice. (Miraculously, as it happens, this "Venice" was indistinguishable from the real thing.)

Alternately, if the "Shakespeare" of this site and book are more to your liking, the Globe Theatre will also next month be hosting the spring meeting of the De Vere Society on March 31. It will be an all-day event, costing £30 and will include a talk on "Shakespeare's Illyria and Lord Oxford's journey in the Adriatic" by the Italian scholar Noemi Magri.

As noted in SBAN (pp. 86-88 & 462-63) solid, albeit obscure, Croatian scholarship has already established a good case that Twelfth Night's setting was the coastal city of Ragusa, now Dubrovnik. (Just another awful funny coincidence that Ragusa was also a likely port of call for de Vere's journey down the Adriatic in the summer of 1575.) Whether the diligent Dr. Magri agrees with the Ragusa thesis or draws a new one about de Vere's travels in Illyria, one can be sure that the Globe will next month be hosting some of the most enlightening talks in the world about Shakespeare and his Adriatic destinations—just so long as one knows where and when to look.

5 February 2007

"If you don't like Shakespeare, miss, then go 'ome!"

These kind words were uttered by your correspondent yesterday afternoon, in character as a gentle-spirited Stratfordian attendee at the Globe Theatre—in an accent that was either Cockney, Australian, or Cockney Australian. (Forget what was said below about the "research angel" part. Gratefully that role, which involved several more lines, including one of the most important lines in the play, was given to someone with actual acting capabilities.)

And so Chasing Shakespeares, the staged-reading-in-search-of-a-theatrical-debut, weighed in at about two hours, two acts, one kick-ass pair of lime green go-go boots, three major characters, six or so lesser characters—and a full house of some 50 audience members.

I reiterate my appeal to anyone interested in staging a spirited, funny, moving, and provocative night of theater: Chasing Shakespeares is one of the best and most skillfully executed meditations we have in any medium about the implications and consequences of entertaining seriously the Shakespeare-Earl of Oxford debate. And this play leaves no room for doubt on that score, at least: The authorship debate matters a great deal, it says, even to those who say they want nothing to do with it.

Here is the place to go for more.

Below are four somewhat grainy snaps captured in the available light of MIT Room 2-150. (Thanks, P.L. for Photoshopping these unto the very limits of publishability!) May many more nights and many more photos become available of Chasing Shakespeares' bright and brave future.


24 January 2007

(Research) Angels in America

Back in 2003 and '04, when "Shakespeare" By Another Name (then known under various titles) was stacks upon stacks of 3x5 cards and an array of ever-changing sample chapters, a novelist and Elizabethan scholar named Sarah Smith served as what in venture capital circles is called an "angel investor."

No money changed hands on this transaction. Rather, Sarah donated two other extremely valuable commodities: her time and expertise. Sarah ultimately proof-read the entire SBAN manuscript and provided many helpful edits and editorial suggestions that made the book all the stronger for her input.

And now the whirligig of time brings in his... well, whatever the hell whirligigs bring in.

Sarah's 2004 mystery novel Chasing Shakespeares—cleverly encapsulating the authorship controversy into the adventures of two modern-day graduate students who search for the true Bard—is now being developed into a stage production.

And in this play, "Shakespeare" By Another Name takes center stage briefly as a book that, with its "150 pages of footnotes," encapsulates the life of Edward de Vere as "Shakespeare" as best it can be appreciated today—and acknowledges just how wide open the field of Oxfordian research remains and how much more we have to learn about de Vere, about the Elizabethan age and about the true nature of the Shakespeare enterprise.

On Sunday, Feb. 4 (the day of some sporting event or another, I believe), Chasing Shakespeares, The Play will be presented onstage for the first time in a staged reading at MIT. Yours truly will be playing a cameo role in the production as a "research angel." I have no idea what this entails but am assured that my non-existent acting talents will thankfully not be foisted upon the unsuspecting audience for long.

While this particular workshopped production is an invitation-only event, one hopes it will be playing in actual theaters before long. And if the success enjoyed by Amy Freed's brilliant 2001 farce The Beard of Avon is any barometer, Chasing Shakespeares has a promising future ahead for repertory companies, school and church productions and other community theater stagings for years to come.

If you know someone who might be interested in bringing Chasing Shakespeares to their local stage, please contact Sarah Smith via her play's website.

[n.b. This post was modified on February 5 to reflect the nature of Chasing Shakespeares' plot, now that I've actually seen the play.]

30 December 2006

The Underwhelmingness of It All

Holiday cheers to all. And a special Hey-nonny-nonny to a bibliophile in Oregon who writes, in the Daily Astorian of Astoria, Ore.

I visited Stratford-on-Avon years ago in England. I was disappointed. No inspiration or mark of a genius there. No wonder. Shakespeare was but another name for Edward de Vere, Earl of Oxford from 1550 to 1604. Read ["Shakespeare" By Another Name], and you, too, will be convinced who he was.

The observation recalls that great scene in the 1996 documentary Looking for Richard in which Al Pacino and a friend visit the "Shakespeare birthplace" in Stratford hoping to discover some modicum of inspiration only to bump their heads on low beams and puzzle over the utter lack of anything of relevance to the plays and poems.

Washington Irving's two-centuries' old advice for visitors to Stratford-upon-Avon seems still all too pertinent today:

I am always of easy faith in such matters, and am ever willing to be deceived where the deceit is pleasant and costs nothing. I am therefore a ready believer in relics, legends, and local anecdotes of goblins and great men, and would advise all travellers who travel for their gratification to be the same. What is it to us whether these stories be true or false, so long as we can persuade ourselves into the belief of them and enjoy all the charm of the reality? There is nothing like resolute good-humored credulity in these matters, and on this occasion I went even so far as willingly to believe the claims of mine hostess to a lineal descent from the poet, when, unluckily for my faith, she put into my hands a play of her own composition, which set all belief in her own consanguinity at defiance.

5 November 2006

Radioropa, Radioropa

Per the previous post, below, we can now offer details on the European radio debut of “Shakespeare” By Another Name. The ten programs—the first nine of which will be the nine installments of the SBAN audio series—will all be aired across Europe between December 9 and February 11. The final broadcast, on the weekend on February 10-11, will carry a 30-minute excerpt from the SBAN Highbridge Audiobook.

Each episode will be aired three times

Saturdays at 3pm Central European Time (14.00 UTC/GMT)
Sundays at 3am Central European Time (02.00 UTC/GMT)
Sundays at 6pm Central European Time (17.00 UTC/GMT) �

The network carrying these audios is the third of three satellite radio stations devoted to audiobooks, a German network called Radioropa Hörbuch. It's a subscription-only service, costing 199 Euros per year (20 Euros per month) for all three channels. They also offer lower-priced subscriptions to individual channels. (Radioropa 1 broadcasts classics and contemporary fiction; Radioropa 2 thriller, mystery and suspense novels; and Radioropa 3 non-fiction, biography, history, etc.)

For European readers considering subscribing to Radioropa, details are available here. [MS-Word document]

27 September 2006

Radio, Radio

There have been or are about to be three SBAN-related radio appearances:

1) Radio Parallax, KDVS, Sacramento. September 21, archived online here

2) Conner Calling, WUFT, Gainesville, Fla. Friday, Sept. 29, 1 p.m. EDT. Listen to this show live here.

3) Radioropa Hörbuch, Germany. For nine weeks beginning in late November or early December, this European satellite radio network will be carrying all nine installments of the SBAN audio series. Details on SBAN's European radio debut are still being hammered out. Watch this space for more details... or subscribe to the SBAN Bulletin to receive the update, when it comes in, via email.

6 September 2006

Freedom [To Be]n't Free

Today's slashdot uncovers a recent application by Microsoft to patent verb conjugation!

[To let]'s all [to talk] in infinitives, just for the [to giggle].

Fortunately, even if it did go through, “To be or not to be” would still be duty-free.

P.S. Was just reminded of this article from a 1998 issue of The Onion: “Microsoft Patents Ones, Zeroes.”

Hm. How far beyond superfluous can satire become? Somebody's having a grand old time pushing those limits.

30 August 2006

Cripes, one Shakespeare is tough enough

This just in, the Leader of the Free World (LOTFW) has pronounced that he has read "three Shakespeares." One shudders to imagine the authorship controversies that will surround the two newly discovered Bards.

Moral of the story: Kids, beware of ek-a-lec-ticism. Or, for that matter, any word with too many syllabifications.

27 August 2006

One by One

First of all, thank you to all who participated in the Gather.com "Ask the Author" event on Wednesday (8/23). Here is the link to the transcript of the chat. Some great questions were asked, and I tried my best to rattle off quick and coherent answers addressing various topics from de Vere's Bible to Christopher Marlowe to the 1580s literary genre known as "Euphuism."

In other news, the September issue of Smithsonian magazine has a feature article on the authorship controversy, using the exhibit "Searching for Shakespeare," on display at the Yale Center for British Art through Sept. 17, as its news hook.

Two Oxfordians are quoted in the piece, myself and author Richard Whalen (Shakespeare: Who Was He?).

The article plays a relatively fair game of he-said-she-said through at least the first half. It sets out some decent—although hardly the best—arguments for de Vere as "Shakespeare." (See the Gather.com transcript for my own "Top Five" list.)

You can probably guess where this is going.

See that handsome scarecrow that's just been hoisted? Well, then. We all know what to do with straw men. Quoting from the Smithsonian article:

"One by one, mainstream scholars knock down the Oxfordians' debating points. No, Stratford wasn't an uncultured backwater; a lord mayor of London and an archbishop of Canterbury had both come from there. No, a Stratford grammar-school graduate wasn't akin to a seventh-grade dropout of today. The Greek and Latin classics echoed in the plays were a standard part of the grammar-school curriculum. Shakespeare may never have visited Italy, but neither he nor anyone else during the Renaissance ever set foot in ancient Greece or Rome either, and that did not rule out the Classical world as a popular setting for poetry and drama. And no, you didn't have to be a nobleman to write about kings and queens. Writers of every stripe did so—it's what the Elizabethan public demanded."

I recall the interviewer's questions that lead to these, er, refutations. Looking back on the interview, it makes me think of a stock scene from countless cop-and-lawyer TV shows: The greenhorn prosecutor, already committed to the case for convicting suspect A, asks distracting and irrelevant questions to a witness for the defense, afraid that the case will fall apart for A if the witness talks too much about the even stronger case for suspect B.

I probably could have used a frenetic defense lawyer (played, let's say, by Al Pacino), who jumps in at every opportunity to interject, "Objection, your honor! My esteemed colleague is leading the witness again!"

So let's be clear: The quality or lack of quality of the Stratford-upon-Avon school system is, in fact, immaterial to the Oxfordian case. Stephen friggin' Hawking could have been the schoolmaster, and there would still be at least three major problems that Stratfordians simply cannot surmount:

1) The erudition on display in the Shake-speare canon far, far, far surpasses the education that the best grammar school in the world could have imparted to even its brightest student. Top-notch lawyers, theologians, physicians, astronomers, military tacticians, botanists, classicists, linguists, historians, mariners, philosophers, musicians and literary scholars have all studied the referencees to their respective professions in the Shake-speare canon. They all have concluded that the author was anywhere from qualified to expert in these various fields. (The books and articles that bolster this point can be found in the relevant endnote on pp. 423-24 of “Shakespeare” By Another Name.)

The conclusion this encyclopedic grasp of human knowledge points to is that The man who wrote Shake-speare studied under some of the most broadly educated scholars of their day: Renaissance men, in de Vere's case, such as Sir Thomas Smith, Laurence Nowell and Johanes Sturmius.

2) Shake-speare knew 16th century Italy (especially northern Italy) better than most Italian scholars do today. For the citations on this, see chapters 4 and 5 of SBAN and related endnotes as well as podcasts 3 and 4.

No grammar school in the history of the world—indeed, no teacher or educational institution—could produce a student who had this kind of first-hand familiarity with a far-away place. Shake-speare had to have seen Italy at first hand.

3) There is, in fact, no evidence that Will Shakspere of Stratford ever attended a day of school in his life. It is only assumed that Shakspere attended the Stratford Grammar School because people assume he was the author in question—and something, however meager, is desperately needed to bolster his credibility as a candidate for the authorship of these supremely erudite poems and plays.

But 1) and 2) render 3) practically pointless. Let's say that tomorrow, someone found a record that establishes that Shakspere did indeed attend the fabled grammar school in his hometown.

Whoop-de-dee. It wouldn't mean a thing to the larger argument that 1) and 2) advance. Namely, the Bard was one of the most broadly educated authors in western literary history.

And the supreme irony is that Shakespeare scholars today have become so specialized and Balkanized that they cannot see this simple fact with their own blinkered eyes.

To paraphrase a 20th century bard,

Oh, it makes me wanna holler,
Throw up both my hands...
No, no, baby.
This ain't thinking.
This ain't thinking.

21 August 2006

Just uploaded a new feature to the website—a link to an interactive Google Earth atlas of Edward de Vere's life. If Google is indeed taking over the world, you gotta figure, then we better make sure that SBAN is compatible with the newest new world order.

16 August 2006

The Gathering Gale

First off, “Shakespeare” By Another Name is now available in paperback. The list price is $17.50, although many online retailers, of course, offer better deals still.

The paperback also contains an expanded discussion of the chronology of the plays (pp. 403-404), featuring new evidence (as mentioned in the SBAN email Bulletin Issue 3) that kills the strongest counter-argument ever raised against the Oxfordian theory—that de Vere could not have written the Shake-speare canon because he died five years before a real-life shipwreck that The Tempest allegedly refers to. Game over for the c. 1609 Tempest theory.

In other news, the social networking website Gather.com has now posted three essays by yours truly (one, two, three) that provide a brief overview of the authorship controversy and a few of the arguments for Edward de Vere as Shake-speare.

These essays are building up to the online Q&A forum discussed below, Ask The Author, on Wednesday, August 23 from 1-3 p.m. eastern time. Please stop by.

26 July 2006

Gather 'round

Pleased to announce that “Shakespeare” By Another Name is the featured book for August at the social networking website Gather.com. Will be doing an “Ask The Author” online chat on August 23 from 1-3 p.m. EDT

In the meantime, I'll be posting articles every week to Gather's Ask The Author page. First piece was posted just this morning. (“The Enigma and the Shake-speare Code”) It's about an astonishing puzzle from 1612 whose solution is “Edward de Vere was Shake-speare.”

Spears were shaken. Perhaps a few readers will be too.

28 June 2006

Ran across this lovely quote today from someone I'd never heard of before: J.B.S. Haldane.

The four stages of acceptance:

1. This is worthless nonsense.
2. This is an interesting, but perverse, point of view.
3. This is true, but quite unimportant.
4. I always said so.
Nuff said.

25 June 2006

Big wheel keep on turning...

Today's Boston Globe discusses the latest developments with Cheryl Eagan-Donovan's documentary adaptation of SBAN (also mentioned in the previous blog entry). An interview with Cheryl discussing her vision for the SBAN-inspired documentary will be featured in the next issue of the Bulletin. Notes the newspaper:

Boston director Cheryl Eagan-Donovan is knee-deep in the Bard this summer, having optioned the rights to “Shakespeare” By Another Name. The divisive 2005 book, by Northampton writer Mark Anderson, argues that Elizabethan playwright Edward de Vere is the real Shakespeare.

“The Oxfordians, as they're called, believe that de Vere wrote the works,” says Eagan-Donovan. “A lot of them are neuroscientists, people with advanced degrees in fields other than literature. That part alone is a good story.”

The emphasis in the film, she says, will be de Vere's life story, but Nothing Is Truer than Truth will also address, she says, “the relationships between truth and history, personality and genius, and writing and experience. All of these issues are part of the controversy that surrounds the authorship question.”

The film is being sponsored by IFP (Independent Feature Project) New York. In May, Eagan-Donovan traveled to England with her son Liam to visit Castle Hedingham in Essex, the ancestral home of the de Vere family. Closer to home, Eagan-Donovan will be at Boston's Publick Theatre on Thursday interviewing the cast and audience at the opening night of The Beard of Avon. The play, by Amy Freed, looks specifically at the de Vere authorship question. Eagan-Donovan will also be filming this week at the Kidstock Creative Theater Education Center in Winchester, where students will be performing a musical version of Hamlet for friends and family.

All good. A divisive book. And it's true. There's Stratford-world, and there's everyone else. Factionalism reigns. But there's a strange similarity between the Stratfordian and anti-Stratfordian divisions as well. In a culture that's losing sight of the big picture, we all say, in our own ways, that Shakespeare matters. (The other people just happen to be wrong about who the guy was...) (Ahem.)

Here's Troilus, waxing along similar lines in his typically courtly, roundabout way:

“Within my soul there doth conduce a fight
Of this strange nature, that a thing inseparate
Divides more wider than the sky and earth,
And yet the spacious breadth of this division
Admits no orifex for a point as subtle
As Ariachne's broken woof to enter.”

19 May 2006

SBAN: The Documentary

Pleased to announce in this space that we recently inked a deal with Boston-based filmmaker Cheryl Eagan-Donovan, who has optioned the rights to make a documentary based on “Shakespeare” By Another Name. The official press release is here.

Controversy Films producer Cheryl Eagan-Donovan signed a book option deal today with author Mark Anderson for the right to develop his biography SHAKESPEARE BY ANOTHER NAME: The Life of Edward de Vere, Earl of Oxford, The Man Who Was Shakespeare for a new documentary feature, NOTHING IS TRUER THAN TRUTH. Based on the De Vere family motto, Vero Nihil Verius, the film seeks to illuminate truth through the life and words of Edward de Vere. ...

IFP New York sponsors the film. Founded in 1979, the Independent Feature Project helped bring recent indie doc hits like Mad Hot Ballroom to audiences around the world. Tax deductible donations to support NOTHING IS TRUER THAN TRUTH may be sent to IFP at 104 West 29th Street, 12th Floor, New York, NY, 10001

14 May 2006

We Get Scripts

Shout-out to an early SBAN booster, Anthony Westcott, whose 10th grade English class at the Eagle Hill School in Hardwick, Mass. recently staged a skit on the Shakespeare authorship debate. Excerpt from the whole skit below:

T: [Voice rises in pitch] What about The Tempest, which refers to an event from 1609, five years after De Vere died?

J: [Takes a swig of water] A-ha! [Accidentally sprays M]

[M runs around the back of the table to go flick J's ear]

E: [Voice grows louder] Speculation! Pure conjecture! There were plenty of other shipwrecks prior to that that it could've been based on.

[M & J begin girlyslapping each other, then proceed to enter into a wrestling match throughout]

Pretty accurate summary of the whole authorship dispute right there. A true reportory indeed.

26 April 2006

Great news from over the pond: Attended the tenth annual Shakespeare Authorship Studies Conference in Portland, Ore. this past weekend and spoke with Dr. William Leahy, Head of English at Brunel University in London. It seems Brunel will soon claim the distinction of being the first university in the world to have a masters degree programme [as it's spelled by the originators of the language] in Shakespeare Authorship Studies. Another beachhead in academia.

In somewhat related news, Shakespeare By Another Name and its author were singled out for the annual Authorship Studies Conference's Vero Nihil Verius Award for Scholarly Excellence. Felicitations also to Hank Whittemore, who was the co-recipient of the award for his new book on The Sonnets, titled The Monument.

10 April 2006

Seems only proper that, given the Hurricane Katrina links below, this blog should now link to the latest story. The Katrina's Piano Fund, referenced in the story, is here.

30 March 2006

Cheers to Max G., designer of the catchy “de Vere. da Bard.” logo, who just cranked out a fine little poster for the upcoming talk on The Sonnets on April 12. Sedition for the whole family.

5 March 2006

Some late night funning around over here at a website that lets you write out your own equations on Einstein's chalkboard.

To quote Fenwick (Kevin Bacon) in Barry Levinson's classic coming-of-age comedy Diner, “It's a smile.”

4 March 2006

First My Shout-Outs, Then My Speech

A couple notes of thank-you-thank-yous to start this entry: Wednesday, March 1 represented the last day on the job for Gotham Books' publicist Hector DeJean. Thanks go to him for his work garnering media attention during SBAN's first seven months in this world—and best wishes to Hector in his new career in the freelance biz. It's a tough but a fun line of work, as this scribbler can testify from first-hand experience.

Second, thanks also go to Profs. Brandon Judell and Harold Vesser at City College of New York and to independent organizer Gerit Quealy for organizing and hosting a night of Oxfordian perspectives on Shakespeare Wednesday night (“Evidence, Controversy and Logic: An evening of biographical and dramatic exploration of the works of Shakespeare”). It is a credit to the College and to these organizers in particular that both organizers and the crowd were decidedly of mixed beliefs on the Shakespeare question. Some were wholly convinced one way, others the other, and plenty were in between. But the questions and discourse, I thought, always remained respectful of all points of view.....

Well, OK. Except for the first five minutes. The opening segment featured an adaptation of Romeo and Juliet for the present occasion: The words “Stratfordian” and “Oxfordian” were substituted for “Montague” and “Capulet.” Unsheath thy swords!

The other bit of news concerns a letter we received over the transom in response to The Nation's recent SBAN review (see Feb. 25 entry). The letter distills quite well, I think, the basic quarrel at the core of the authorship dispute: not who wrote these works but why. Were the plays and poems purely an exercise of the author's imagination, or was he exorcizing readily identifiable personal, political and psychological demons too?

The correspondent, R. Thomas Hunter, has kindly consented to our excerpting it here:

Columbia University Ph.D. candidate Daniel Swift needs to reread his Shakespeare.� He also needs to understand the difference between biography and experience. Shakespeare's plays and poems may have had biographical elements in them, a commonplace for any writer. But it is the experience, that great warehouse from which the raw materials of fiction are taken, which, with his craftsmanship, sets Shakespeare apart and identifies him for us.

� There is no question that Shakespeare wrote Shakespeare, just as there is no question that Mark Twain wrote Mark Twain.� Hopefully Mr. Swift's reading will take him to Mr. Twain's Is Shakespeare Dead? for a discussion of the process that turns experience into literature.

Swift can search the archives with the rest of the world and come up empty as to the literary Shakespeare, but it is precisely in the texts where he will find him, and Mark Anderson's candidate in Shakespeare by Another Name, which Swift dismisses “with blinkers on,” comes closest.

� Swift can work over the well trodden Shakespearean fields in search of some obscure new angle for his dissertation, or he can bring to the discussion a really critical spirit and perhaps discover the more profound, exciting, expansive, challenging, and satisfying Shakespeare which awaits him.� By removing the blinkers, Swift can discover a Shakespeare radically different from the reductive Stratfordian whose genius traditional literary critics must reduce to copying or plagiarizing because they can't otherwise account for his access to source material or information with which the true Shakespeare had direct experience.

There is no mismatch between Shakespeare's life and works. There is no need to “clear a space for wonder” to explain it. The wonder is there in the work itself.� My modest proposal to Mr. Swift is that he acquaint himself with the true issues of authorship and not simply follow the bleak, reductive path of traditional Shakespeare scholars who in more than 400 years, and for very good reason, have yet to connect the man with the work.

25 February 2006

Imagine That

Two reviews of SBAN have posted to the web in as many days—both of which trumpet the same theme. Both accuse the Oxfordians in general and this book in particular, in the words of the Detroit News review, of “neglect[ing] to take into account the nature and power of human imagination.”

In these reviewers' black-and-white worldview, evidently, either an author is composing an autobiographical (and therefore unimaginative) work, or the author pays no heed to his/her personal experience when writing.

That's imaginative? It sounds, rather, more like some really bad writing advice: “Write what you don't know”!

These critics set up a false dichotomy between autobiography and imagination. In fact, autobiography and imagination not only can coexist in a literary work—sometimes it's impossible to separate the two.

Consider just a few examples: David Copperfield, A Farewell to Arms, Long Day's Journey Into Night, and The Great Gatsby. (To name just a few of the countless classics of world literature that were drawn directly from the author's own life experiences.)

If that's unimaginative, then perhaps “unimaginative” is the ultimate praise for a work of fiction.

Detroit News / San Antonio Express-News review here. To submit a letter to the editor, click on the “Comment on this” link at the upper-right.
The Nation review here. Letters to the editor here.

[Feb. 26] P.S.

Make that three new SBAN reviews that attempt to clobber the Oxfordian theory by appealing to a dearth of imagination. The New Criterion uses this now familiar criterion in its Feb. 2006 issue. Here is where their review may be found, unfortunately all but the first nine paragraphs of which are behind a subscription-only wall. The rub, though, (in the review's concluding paragraph) is just as outlined above:

“To allow our own ideas about Shakespeare to color our interpretation of the works is to limit what they actually do mean, to mistake a higher truth for a lesser one. That Hamlet may call to mind Oxford's loss of his ancestral birthright, or the displacement of Catholics from their proper place in English culture, or any number of parallels in the lives of those yet to be born, are not indicators of autobiographical truths about the author. They are simply another indicator of the works' great artistic, almost mythic, truth. The lives in Shakespeare are not his, but everyone else's.”
Once again, the Bard becomes pure transcendence—a deity who seems never to have lived life but only to have chronicled it. Conventional biographies are unsuccessful in getting to know the author, one is assured, and so the author must therefore have simply been unknowable.

What a load of navel-gazing nonsense. Sometimes it's a wonder that any progress is ever made in the authorship dispute.

17 February 2006

The Universal Solvent

I was looking through an edition of The Tempest from 1892 this morning (the Variorum, edited by H.H. Furness) and came across a lovely turn of phrase that exemplifies, I think, the comparative degree of scholarly honesty then that is so lacking today. Furness is writing about a pamphlet writer named William Strachey who in 1612 lived in London at the Blackfriars:

“To these facts we can apply the universal solvent which subdues everything connected with Shakespeare biography, and say, it is not improbable that Shakespeare and Strachey were intimate friends, and it is not improbable that of all men it was Strachey whom, full of adventures, of shipwrecks, of tempests, of travelers' stories, Shakespeare 'got quietly in the corner and milked.'” [Emphases in original]
This Strachey business will be discussed and dismissed more fully in the paperback edition of SBAN (to be published in August). But thank you, Mr. Furness, for your candor about the cornucopia of presumptions that must be made to make the Shakspere story work at all.

12 February 2006

We Be “Hip”!

So I've known my fellow (virulently anti-Oxfordian) de Vere biographer Alan H. Nelson since 1995, and I've been wondering when he would be chiming in with a review of “Shakespeare” By Another Name. Well the wait is over. A diligent reader (thanx, Peter S.!) alerted me last week to Nelson's love letter in the Jan. 27 edition of the (London) Times Literary Supplement.

Unfortunately, I've been unable so far to find a copy of the review online, so no links can be had here.

I will, though, reprint an apposite quote I recently came across:
Science alone of all the subjects contains within itself the lesson of the danger of belief in the infallibility of the greatest teachers in the preceding generation ... Learn from science that you must doubt the experts. As a matter of fact, I can also define science another way: Science is the belief in the ignorance of experts.

      —Richard Feynman, Nobel laureate in physics
So true, Dr. Feynman, even in fields of study well outside the sciences. So very true.

Anyway, the TLS review is titled, “Variations on Looney tunes.” This is funny, um, because there was once a guy who thought de Vere was Shakespeare, and that guy's name was Looney. Sophistication, the reader may reasonably glean, is clearly on tap.

The first paragraph of Nelson's review contains the one quibble of his for which I say mea culpa: I forgot to list Nelson's name in the Acknowledgments section of “Shakespeare” By Another Name. His book Monstrous Adversary is of course endnoted scores of times in SBAN. (Curious, though. There's not a peep about SBAN's extensive scholarly citations—2000 endnotes occupying 160 pp.—in a review that attempts to portray the book as “interminable maundering” and a collection of “invention[s] of biographical fact.”) When I noticed this oversight last summer, I added Nelson's name to my list of addendums to the Acknowledgments section of the paperback edition, an edition that will be published next August.

Now to the “Looney tunes.” We are informed in paragraph two, after Nelson establishes his expertise on de Vere in paragraph one, that “The Shakespeare canon succeeds as documentary evidence for Oxford's life, however, only as biographical facts are retrospectively altered or manufactured. Oxford of course must be Hamlet. But his father, the 16th earl, died a natural death, his mother did not marry his father's brother, nor did Oxford drive his prospective bride to suicide (he married her)...” And so on.

By the same token, since no documentary evidence establishes that Dante ever actually visited Hell, we needn't trouble ourselves looking for any other possible biographical connections to The Inferno either.

Citing examples of non-connections between de Vere's life and Hamlet, of course, proves nothing—other than, perhaps, that a game of obfuscation is afoot. (Dozens of actual substantive connections are found throughout the book, and several are discussed at length in Audio Episode 5.) Indeed, if non-connections are what Dr. Nelson seeks, it's little wonder that he's now working on a documentary biography of Shakspere of Stratford.

“To record every manipulation or invention of biographical fact in 'Shakespeare' By Another Name,'” Nelson continues, “would be tedious, so I limit myself to Oxford's reluctance to acknowledge paternity of his wife Anne Cecil's first daughter.“

More non-connections ensue. And it's a good, fine, very good thing {Othello!} that this particular line of inquiry {The Winter's Tale!} has been dismissed {Cymbeline!} as thoroughly as Nelson {Much Ado About Nothing!} has manifestly dismissed it.

Nelson further beats out the familiar argument that The Tempest unquestionably dates to circa 1609 and therefore, because this was five years after de Vere's death, it disqualifies de Vere from being a contender. Readers of the Shakespeare By Another Name Bulletin have seen early glimpses of some incredible new research on The Tempest's sources that blows this anti-Oxfordian argument out of the water. Here's the Bulletin interview that explains why Nelson and his colleagues should drop The Tempest and just move on. (Not that they ever would, of course.)

“Anderson's reductionist principle, that an author knows only himself and can tell only his own tale, explains the monomania of the enterprise,” Nelson continues. “For the minute it is conceded that one human being can imagine the internal life of another, the principle loses its explanatory power.” [Emphasis mine]

This, fortunately, still leaves us 59 seconds before we lose the explanatory power of the book's non-stated, non-implied, non-existent, nonsensical “principle.” Ahem. Let's to it quickly, then.

A lovely little salvo comes next: “Why should a hip American, of all people, side with ancient lineage and sneer at self-made men like William Cecil and William Shakespeare?”

I struggled for a while on this one. Nelson's would-be objection is on its face so utterly beside the point that I just didn't know how to respond. So let's try the straightforward, unambiguous route: The Shakespeare authorship debate has nothing to do with picking your preferred team and then cheering them on. Think trial-by-jury, Herr Doctor Professor, not pep rally. So can we just get back to the actual historical evidence and literary texts, please?

Nelson closes in hide-bound style: A syllogism based on an assertion made by the book's Foreword writer Derek Jacobi, that the author of the canon was an actor. “Oxford was not an actor; ergo [argal?], Oxford was not Shakespeare. Shakespeare, alone among authorship candidates, was an actor; ergo, Shakespeare was Shakespeare.”

Shall I compare thee to a Holofernes quote?

Thou disputest like an infant. Go, whip thy gig.

      —Love's Labor's Lost 5.1.69

20 January 2006

Special greetings are in order to the school teachers who are taking the recently-launched Shakespeare By Another Name webcourse taught on the Blackboard Learning System.

Please make yourself at home here at SBAN's virtual home... and be sure to sign up for the free email Bulletin to keep up with the latest developments in the authorship debate in the months and years to come.

19 January 2006

[Pokes head out of warren. Looks for shadow.]

Just added a New York City-area gig to the list of forthcoming events.

[Notices no shadow... Hm. What to do?...]

25 December 2005

Xmas Still Life

The library has added a new wing of late. (Thanks in that quest to J.E. and M.E., J.A. and S.J., C.E.D., and G.R.A.)

To young and old, Democrat and Republican, Oxfordian and Stratfordian (and otherwise!), here's to a festive and rewarding Holiday season. May your days be merry and bright. Hope to see you in '06!

22 December 2005

OK. Couldn't not post a note when I saw this one. Today, USA Today did a very nice little writeup of the audiobook version of “Shakespeare” By Another Name:

'Shakespeare' by Another Name: The Life of Edward de Vere, Earl of Oxford, the Man Who Was Shakespeare. Written by Mark Anderson, performed by Simon Prebble

Was the Bard of Stratford actually the greatest literary genius in history?

Probably not, says journalist Anderson. He makes a convincing argument that the brilliant, rather tormented Edward de Vere, the Earl of Oxford—not Shakespeare—was the dramatist who wrote so brilliantly about the world, history, Italy, and men and women of power. Anderson draws powerful connections between Shakespeare's plays and the life of de Vere.

The reader, British actor Prebble, does justice to the playwright.

For: Anyone who likes mysteries, even the Bard-resistant.

4 December 2005

(Semi-)off topic: One of the most important unresolved issues in the publishing industry today concerns the making and open-searching of digital libraries. Google has begun to digitize the collections of the New York Public Library and the libraries of Harvard, Stanford, Oxford, and the University of Michigan—with the intent of making millions of books full-text searchable. But there are now lawsuits pending against Google for its scanning of copyrighted materials.

A fascinating debate on this subject took place at the New York Public Library on November 17. Now free downloadable audio and video of this debate has been made available. Well worth checking out.

1 December 2005

Sent out the third SBAN Bulletin last night—including the revelation of a very interesting piece of oral history from an American descendant of a family close to the de Vere family. Wow. Hope to have more on that front in future issues of the Bulletin.

Also, today's issue of the Compass, a Connecticut-based arts and living supplement in a number of newspapers in the Nutmeg State, features a cover story on SBAN. Great stuff. e.g.:

In academic circles, and occasionally in the public eye, a battle is being waged over the identity of the author we know as William Shakespeare. Though numerous theories have been put forward, the action is mainly between “Stratfordians” and “Oxfordians.” The prevailing view: Shakespeare is himself—an actor and impressario of that name who was known to have lived in London and died in Stratford-on-Avon, where a monument of his likeness was erected in his honor.

Dissenting, “Oxfordians” claim that Shakespeare was none other than the 17th Earl of Oxford, Edward de Vere, a swashbuckling, cantankerous nobleman and frequent confidante of Queen Elizabeth.

After reading “Shakespeare” by Another Name: The Life of Edward de Vere, Earl of Oxford, the Man Who Was Shakespeare, by Northampton, MA, resident Mark Anderson, I think all that's left is to bury the Stratfordians.

The battle is won.

In page after page, Anderson shows how characters and story lines in virtually every Shakespeare play reflect people, places, and incidents in de Vere's life; how courtly entertainments, though now lost, were likely created by de Vere and performed for the Queen—and were prototypes for Shakespeare's plays; how numerous writings by and about both de Vere and Shakespeare hint at their common identity.

21 November 2005

Sinking low beneath the weight of a few deadlines presently. But the links page has needed a little sprucing of late. Consider it (lightly) spruced. Plus, for you SBAN Bulletin subcribers (now topping 500), the next Bulletin will be sent out by week's end. Promise. Which, in the U.S. of A., effectively means Wednesday. [P.S. D'ohh! Read my lips: ETA now Sunday or early next week.]

Happy Holidays, one and all. Please consider “Shakespeare” By Another Name as the season approacheth. It actually does make a great gift. (This too.) Would these good people deceive?

11 November 2005

The Amazon.com page for SBAN now has a very cool feature—full text search of the entire book. (Endnotes and all!) You can access Amazon's SBAN search engine via this site's home page or by simply clicking here.

Note that Google is also trying to get into the full-text book-search game. (See their beta Google Print site for more.) But at the moment, there are lawsuits from both publishers and authors' organizations pending. Stanford's code warrior Lawrence Lessig, as ever, has a thought-provoking article on the subject.

Till the Google Print fooferaw is settled, then, Amazon's "Search Inside The Book" feature will be the index we'll link to here.

6 November 2005

Pixels 'n' ink: Good Sunday, this. Two very nice notices about SBAN in both the old media and the new. The books page of today's Sunday Republican in Springfield, Mass. features an article about the book and its onward progress. One Shakespeare class at the University of Minnesota has already adopted SBAN as its textbook. The instructor, Prof. James Norwood, tells The Republican

There is no other book in print that provides as persuasive an alternative to the orthodox biography of Shakespeare as Mark Anderson's,” he said.

Norwood added that he believes the book “offers myriad examples from the plays and poems of Shakespeare that reflect the Elizabethan world and culture that spawned them. What is reflected in Shakespeare's plays and poems is the world of the Elizabethan court, not the public life in London that would have been the primary experience of the actor William 'Shakspeare' of Stratford.”

Also, a tip of the hat is due to New York Times Bestselling author Michael Prescott, who today posted an entry about SBAN on his blog. Prescott writes

Brick by brick, over the course of 380 pages, not to mention 30 pages of appendices and 145 pages of endnotes, Anderson builds an overwhelming circumstantial case for the Oxfordian position. As he admits, there is no smoking gun, no single piece of evidence that provides absolute proof—but the sum total of the evidence he submits ought to be dispositive to any open-minded reader.

I don't expect the walls of academe to come tumbling down just because Mark Anderson has blown his trumpet. The Stratfordians, stubborn defenders of orthodoxy, will resist the inescapable conclusions prompted by this book, just as they have resisted, dismissed, and laughed off the arguments of Looney, Ogburn, and others. But I now think that theirs is a rearguard action and a losing cause. The case has been made, and eventually it will carry the day.

Edward de Vere was Shakespeare. And sooner or later, everyone will know it.

4 November 2005

“He was a genius, asshole.

Reading through some old personal journals recently and ran across this overheard verbal reaction shot that seemed to capture something of the cornered Stratfordian mentality in its more pronounced forms. The setting was a public debate on the authorship question that was, to be frank, a trainwreck. One Oxfordian advocate in particular at this event was engaging in a pet peeve of mine: Piling on all the derogatory and defamatory statements that could be conjured about William of Stratford. Illiterate this, incapable that, dunghill on his father's doorstep. Lordy, the list goes on, if one cares to ennumerate.

But why? Whose purpose does it serve to so personally denigrate the man who, for a vast majority of the audience (if the organizers of the debate have done a good job promoting the event), is also synonymous with the greatest author in the English language? Abstract truth or falsehood of the charges aside, and I do think some Oxfordians really overplay the Shakspere-was-a-dumbkopf hand, this line of argument is simply bad strategy. Unless, that is, one's strategy is to alienate and anger fence-sitters. And if the Oxfordian advocates in said debate have done a decent job presenting a compelling case, there should be a fair number of fence-sitters in the crowd before the night is through.

So in the debate I attended, after Stratford Will had received one too many tongue-lashings from Oxfordian X, a young woman sitting next to me muttered under her breath the statement that now is the title to this blog entry. Her point, though perhaps misdirected, is still well taken.

To me, Will Shakspere of Stratford is a fascinating figure in this debate, even if he wasn't the author. Illiterate? Certainly the evidence (the only samples of his penmanship are six wobbly signatures; his children were illiterate or close to it) is hardly impressive for the dispassionate historical observer. On the other hand, he was an actor, and actors did have to read scripts at some point or another.

In Love's Labour's Lost, the character Costard—who looks a lot like Stratford Will (cf. SBAN pp. 262-4)—emcees a skit written by one of the play's authorial characters (Don Armado, ibid.). The skit is called “The Nine Worthies,” about which Costard says,

For mine own part, I know not the degree of the worthy. But I am prepared to stand for him.

Now here is where an enterprising researcher would be well advised to turn to discover more about the life of Will in the World. Set aside who was “Shakespeare” for the moment... but Costard was Shakspere!

Pop kulture korner: Heard through the grapevine this week that an episode of the Fox-TV program Malcolm in the Middle featured a classroom scene during which Shakespeare was discussed, and in which one of the students pointed out that everybody knows that “Shakespeare” was a pen-name for Edward de Vere, Earl of Oxford. Not surprising that word of de Vere continues to seep out into the popular culture. But still... this latest incident is news to us. If anyone has seen or even taped that particular episode (MitM episode guide here), please drop us a line at feedback at shakespearebyanothername dot com.

It joins a curious assortment of other recent nods to de Vere in some unlikely places: the 1997 Showtime docudrama Elvis Meets Nixon (in which Dick Cavett informs us that Edward de Vere, writing under the pen-name “Shakespeare,” wrote Richard III) and a 1995 episode of the cult TV favorite Mystery Science Theater 3000 (in which a de Vere-as-Shakespeare action figure is displayed as part of the show's quirky “invention exchange” segment).

29 October 2005

Looking at Shakespeare, in 3 Different Ways

This is the headline on an article by Charles McGrath in the Arts section of today's New York Times. And the headline is certainly true... if, that is, one uses the word “Different” as another way of saying “Extremely Similar.”

The opening sentence sets the tone for the rest of the piece:

If we actually discovered something new about Shakespeare, it might put an end to an entire publishing industry.

Evidently, for some, words don't really have to mean anything. A writer can just say stuff! Who cares if it makes any sense? For the rest of us, however, this bizarre statement is followed up by a glad-handling of three (3) recent orthodox Shakespeare biographies—two out of the three of which were capably covered by the Times' William Niederkorn in the Aug. 30 edition of the paper (“The Shakespeare Code, and Other Fanciful Ideas From the Traditional Camp”).

Niederkorn's article also suggested that conventional Shakespeare biographies being cranked out of the Stratford mill these days seem to be built upon so much faerie dust. The word “fantasy” was even bandied about. (See the blog entry for Aug. 29, below.)

It may also bear consideration that The Times suggesting that something was rotten in the state of Stratford inspired the weekly New York Observer to run a front-page story in September accusing The Times of promoting outlandish conspiracy theories.

Interesting, then, that today's Times story contains one and only one sentence on the authorship question:

A lot of Shakespeare commentary... emanates from the grassy knoll where the conspiracy theorists—who belive that William Shakespeare was merely a front for the 'real author'—point knowingly to people like Francis Bacon, Christopher Marlowe, the Earl of Oxford and the latest to be unmasked, Sir Henry Neville, a courtier who was actually a distant relative of Shakespeare.

So, then. Back to the “conspiracy” pigeonhole to all you Shakespeare-wasn't-Shakespeare people!

If Mr. McGrath's words, words, words inspire any reaction, reaction, reaction... please consider letting The Times know. Information on sending letters to the editor at The Times is here.

24 October 2005

So the Tour, she ees fully complete. Held the final reading/booksigning in Northampton, Mass. last Wednesday and, bright and early Thursday, took off for Camden, Maine for a long weekend covering the PopTech conference for Wired News (the online daily edition of Wired magazine). Article here.

Also, spoke to a high school English class in Deerfield, Mass. this morning about some of the many layers of autobiographical meaning in Hamlet. One reference made that, in case any of the students are reading this, should be followed up on: The book that Hamlet appears to be holding in his hand as he recites his most famous soliloquy is Cardanus Comforte, a book that de Vere had published and wrote prefatory materials for in 1573. The case for Cardanus as Hamlet's book is made quite persuasively right here.

14 October 2005

The Tour, She Ees Complete! (Almost) Let us, then, hang the logo from the rafters, like the jersey of an all-star athlete:

So much to say about one intense month of readings, interviews, signings, talks, book sales, reviews, and countless conversations with readers from coast to coast. Thank you to all who came to, who broadcast or wrote about, who otherwise helped to publicize these book events and make them happen.

Highlights 'n' curios (in no particular order): Doing a radio interview for an alt.rock/pop music show that sandwiched a 10-minute discussion about Edward de Vere and Elizabethan England between songs by the Dead Kennedys and Fountains of Wayne; doing a couple signings in the wake of a famous author, who, via the good graces of kindly employees at a bookstore down the line, was handed his own copy of SBAN; flyering cafes, libraries, record stores, and bookstores in Seattle and Portland like an underground rock'n'roll band publicizing a club gig; garnering the “Oxfordian of the Year” award from the Ashland Authorship Conference (thank you, fellow heretics!)—and serving as a contestant on an up-and-coming new game show called “Oxfordian Jeopardy.”

Good question...: “I just bought a copy of Scott McCrea's [anti-Oxfordian] book The Case for Shakespeare. What should I know before I read it?”; “Sidney, Wyatt, and Surrey were all Tudor-era poets of high social station who published works under their own name. How do you reconcile that?” “What is the deal with Greenblatt's Will In The World anyway?” “Could you write another book, only this time arguing that Francis Bacon was the author?”

Audiobook of choice for the long car trips: The Egyptologist by Arthur Phillips, narrated by Gianfranco Negroponte, Simon Prebble, Gerard Doyle, and Bianca Mato.

Emblematic journal excerpt: “Sept. 10, 2:20 a.m. BOOK TOUR EVENT #1. BIG SUCCESS. Could not ask for better. Did a radio interview in the morning. Very cool station—but” [Entry ends abruptly. Fatigue won.]

Unsolicited endorsement time: Amy's Organics frozen foods plus a microwave. What touring scribbler could ask for more?

And you seriously believe that?: “You see, education spoils an author. Look at Sir Philip Sidney. He was an extremely learned man—but his poetry was stilted and artificial. Now Shakespeare on the other hand...”; “Ben Jonson wouldn't deceive us.”; “The nice thing about the Shakespeare story we have is that he had working-class roots.”; “Shakespeare was a magpie. He probably just heard about this de Vere fellow and wrote about him in his plays.”

Finally, many thanks to SBAN Tour hosts, handlers, and helpers across the country: Isabel Holden; Stephanie von Hirschberg; Adam Welsch; Joe Eskola; George Anderson & Catherine Wengler; Louise Anderson; Jon Alberts & Sara Jackson; Malcolm Hooper & Lara Whitley-Bender; Earl Showerman; Mary Daugherty; Randall Sherman; and Rima, Malcolm, and Maya Greenhill.

11 October 2005

Jet-lagged author. Photos now; text tomorrow. [Oct. 13 postscript: No, really... tomorrow.]

Thanks to the photographers who so obliged: Seattle/Malcolm Hooper; San Francisco/Malcolm Greenhill; Chicago/George Anderson

6 October 2005

A few other talks and signings have moved from the future to the past tense: A sowing-sedition-amongst-the-youth event at a Nevada City, Calif. high school... and a Sacramento reading and signing at a Border's bookstore that came just after the completion of the latest battle in the War of The Soxes.

What War of the Soxes, you say? Well, as ever, it's the House of the White versus the House of the Red. Lancastrians/Yorkists; Bostonians/Chicagoans. Really, what's the difference?

This author holds divided sympathies on the latest White v. Red conflict: My grandfather lived and died a disappointed White Sox man. (“The Slops” was his term of art for his team.) But I've been a Massachusetts resident for the past 15 years... and what's not to love about the boys o' Fenway?

Idle chit-chat, really. Especially when the Shakespeare mystery has, at last, been
solved once and for all. (Oxfordians and Stratfordians—as well as Marlovians and Baconians—are herewith instructed to turn off the lights when they're done.)

A hearty welcome to the Sir-Henry-Nevillians, who I see already have their own entry on Wikipedia's “Shakespeare Authorship” page. Good show, folks. See you all in the trenches.

2 October 2005

It's been a tremendously successful joint Shakespeare Oxford Society / Shakespeare Fellowship conference in Ashland, Oregon this past weekend—uncovering new frontiers in research on de Vere and “Shakespeare” as well as making some important inroads at the world-renowned Oregon Shakespeare Festival.

Tomorrow (Monday) at 1:30 p.m. PDT, the Nevada City, California radio station KVMR will be featuring a live interview about “Shakespeare” By Another Name on its weekly “BookTown” program. Listen to the live webcast here.

30 September 2005

Reporting in from the road—Ashland, Oregon, in particular... home of the world-famous Oregon Shakespeare Festival. Two nights in a row have seen two readings/signings (Wednesday night in Portland, last night in Ashland) drawing crowds in the 90-100 range. By popular demand, we've added a second book signing in Ashland for Sunday. Details here.

24 September 2005

From the why-wasn't-this-thought-of-before department: Tip of the hat to one of my hosts in Seattle, Jonathan Alberts, who suggested yesterday, “Have you tried posting notice of your book signing events on Craigslist?” (For those not familiar, Craigslist.org is a website that is to bulletin boards what ebay is to auctions.)

Well, then. Brilliant idea.

Seattle/Elliott Bay event tonight: check.
Portland/Powell's Books event Wednesday night: check.
Sacramento/Borders event on Oct. 5: check.
San Francisco/Cody's & Stanford Bookstore events on Oct. 7: check.
FYI, the links for these listings will be taken offline after the day of the event.

21 September 2005

Pleased to note that the American Program Bureau is testing the waters for some “Shakespeare” By Another Name speaking engagements later this year. If your library, town hall, college or other organization is looking for an entertaining and engaging speaker to talk about the “Shakespeare” mystery, please contact Trinity Ray at the APB.

Addendum: The letters column of this week's New York Observer features yours truly's response to Ron Rosenbaum's recent column taking the New York Times to task for daring to consider the authorship controversy. Since the letter-writer could not make the definitive argument for de Vere in 250 words or less (the NYO's word limit on letters), Mr. Rosenbaum sniffs a hearty I-told-you-so, takes a cheap shot or two, and closes with the note, "Sad."

Poor dear. If just 250 words can bring on the blues, he'd probably be best kept far, far away from, say, something as long as a sample chapter.

19 September 2005

Say, the book tour. Hooray, the book tour. Today...and tomorrow, the book tour. Good turn-out and engaged and enthused crowds to report so far in Minneapolis; Northfield, Minnesota; Chicago; and Madison, Wisconsin.

A few highlights of the journey to date include incorporating excerpts from the podcasts in the readings/book signings where the audio setup can accomodate it, hearing out so many great questions (whether people have been pro- or con- on this issue, the Q&A sessions have always been lively and never lacked for material to discuss), and meeting and chatting with readers who not infrequently have their own curious tales to share on where their interest lies re de Vere and the “Shakespeare” question.

Take, for instance, the actress who plays Mary de Vere (Edward's sister) in a Milwaukee/Chicago area Renaissance fair. Came to the reading and book signing in Madison Saturday. She reports that when the fair is in season (July through Labor Day), she performs a running gag with the actor who plays the role of Will Shakespeare in which her character regularly gets on Will's case for pilfering so many of her brother's plays. “Hey... Edward wrote that!”

12 September 2005

Tomorrow (Tuesday) morning at 10 a.m. CDT, Wisconsin Public Radio will be featuring an hourlong call-in radio program on SBAN on its Conversations With Kathleen Dunn show. Link to listen to the show live is here. It seems this program also puts streaming audio of its archives online. Once a link becomes available, will update the media page accordingly.

P.S. [September 13] Great program this morning. Much fun and many good questions—with two out of the five callers boosting the case for Kit Marlowe as Shakespeare! Glad to see the Marlovian contingent out there and fighting the good fight... Here is the link to the audio archive of the SBAN show. (Requires RealPlayer installed on your computer. RealPlayer can be downloaded for free here.)

10 September 2005

The first night o' the tour is now complete. Standing-room-only crowd at the suburban Minneapolis Barnes & Noble: With a few celebrity exceptions, this was, we were told, about as big a crowd as they've ever drawn for a non-political, non-fiction author. (Except for the fact that Shakespeare is all about politics... politics of the Elizabethan variety, granted. But politics all the same.)

A hearty thank you to all who filled the B&N space to capacity and then some. And to the Gods who determine book tour turnouts—no doubt a lower order in the menagerie of deities, probably in the same company as the demigods who handle pregame sports team prayers—we say... Keep 'em coming!

P.S. Just added a third (or fourth, if one counts Northfield, Minnesota) Twin Cities area booksigning at the Bookcase of Wayzata on Monday, Sept. 19 at noon. Information here.

9 September 2005

Probably an exercise in futility at this point (3:45 CDT)... but at 4:50 CDT Mary Lucia will be featuring an interview and short feature on SBAN on the Minnesota Public Radio station The Current. Here's the link to the live stream. The interview is to advance tonight's reading and booksigning at the Galleria Barnes & Noble in Edina, Minnesota.

8 September 2005

Book tour begins in earnest this week with events in the Twin Cities area tomorrow and Sunday. A couple tips of the hat in regional and national press to note. Dara Moskowitz of the City Pages writes

Anderson sets out to prove that the Shakespeare canon was in fact written by Edward de Vere, Earl of Oxford, one of the best educated men of his day, who also happens to have experienced about 60 bazillion biographical bits and pieces that explain various lines and plots in the famous plays. Like what? Like having his ship overtaken by pirates, after which he was discarded naked, on the beach, just like Hamlet. Like knowing dudes named Rosenkrantz and Guldenstern. Like how the shrew that got tamed bears a frightening resemblance to de Vere's fireball sister Mary. And on and on and on.

Also, the October issue of Macworld magazine discusses columnist Jason Snell's favorite podcasts... one about baseball, one about news, one about science, and one that he dubs a “fascinating deconstruction of the Bard.”

That deconstruction zone can be found here.

2 September 2005

OK. Work continues.

Maura Lerner of the Minneapolis Star-Tribune wrote a fine feature story about SBAN for the Sunday Arts section of the paper. (i.e. Sept. 4) Check out the article here. For those so inclined, letters to the editor can be addressed here.

1 September 2005

One more off-topic entry on New Orleans, the (still dry) downtown area of which one blogger inside the city now compares to Mogadishu: “It's the wild kingdom. It's Lord of the Flies. That doesn't mean there's murder on every street corner. But what it does mean is that the rule of law has collapsed, that there is no order, and that property rights cannot and are not being enforced. ... The Iberville Housing Projects got pissed off because the police started to 'shop' after they kicked out looters. Then they started shooting at cops. When the cops left, the looters looted everything. There's probably not a grocery left in this city.” See for yourself.

31 August 2005

Must call a momentary time-out from a 400-year-old controversy when the images of devastation from one of America's grandest and most unique cities simply overwhelm the senses. Parts of New Orleans, it seems, will be flooded for many weeks to come—and then the Crescent City's cleanup effort begins. Lordy. Please be generous.

(The present entry had previously linked to this donation page for the Southeastern Louisiana chapter of the Red Cross. But the page linked to below is a more comprehensive clearinghouse for the various relief organizations, including the Red Cross, working in the disaster area.)

29 August 2005

Tomorrow's New York Times will be carrying an article by the venerable William S. Niederkorn, reviewing the oft-outlandish suppositions and speculations that Stratfordian biographers (such as Stephen Greenblatt, James Shapiro, and Claire Asquith) must make and the “myriad” connections that “Shakespeare” By Another Name establishes between Edward de Vere and the Bard's works. Niederkorn writes

“The controversy over who wrote Shakespeare's works has reached a turning point of sorts. A new biography of the Earl of Oxford improves on the unorthodox argument that he was Shakespeare, while fantasy has now been firmly established as a primary tool of other, more traditional Shakespeare studies. ...

As Mr. Anderson shows, there are myriad Shakespeare authorship connections for de Vere. For example, the youngest of de Vere's three daughters, Susan, whom Mr. Anderson finds to be associated in a contemporary epigram with King Lear's youngest daughter, Cordelia, married Philip Herbert, the Earl of Montgomery, after an effort to marry William Herbert, the Earl of Pembroke, failed. The compilers of the First Folio, the original source of many Shakespeare plays, dedicated it to these two earls.”

For the record, as SBAN points out (e.g. p. 314), it was Susan de Vere's sister Bridget who suffered the failed attempt at being married off to William Herbert, later Earl of Pembroke. This, of course, is small beer. But an email was sent off to the journalist this evening, and hopefully the Times will be correcting the minor error. In any event, it's wonderful to see the Paper of Record acknowledging the often fantastic leaps-of-faith that conventional Shakespeare biographers must make. Kudos to Mr. Niederkorn.

And, while we're at it, a recent trip to Toronto netted a couple press interviews, one of which was posted today here.

UPDATE (11:50 p.m.): New York Times story has been corrected; the Times's web version of the article has the correct info... which makes it fair game for the acclaim page!

22 August 2005

First my curtsy, then my speech: Cheers to the playwright, artist, and San Diego Opera Artist-in-Residence ML Hart and to the arts writer and Assistant Business Editor at the Palm Beach Post Greg Stepanich, both of whom give prominent mention of “Shakespeare” By Another Name. (Indeed, Hart's fulsome and generous praise left us here at the SBAN bunker with a mild—and much appreciated!—case of the vapors.)

Actually, there's no speech to follow up on that. Just a link to a review from yesterday's Minneapolis Star-Tribune that... well... the critic paraphrases Hamlet as his closing salvo. Let us parry with another line from the Great Dane: “Let it work; For 'tis the sport to have the enginer hoist with his own petar.” (a.k.a. Give 'em enough rope...)

12 August 2005

Couldn't have asked for a better first stop on the book tour. The “Shakespeare” By Another Name tour bus (er... well... if by “bus” one means a late-'90s model Ford station wagon) pulled into Boston for two days of interviews and a well-attended book signing at the Brookline Booksmith. (Photo from the event below-left)

One TV interview ran live on Wednesday night—“Nitebeat” with Barry Nolan on the regional New England cable network CN8. Barry presented a spirited defense of the conventional Stratfordian theory, making for an enjoyable exchange. (Screenshot from the show below-right.) No Novak moments to report—just seven minutes of lively verbal sparring that, I'm told, made for some good television.

Other Boston-area television and radio programs that will soon be airing features about “Shakespeare” By Another Name include

  • “The Literati Scene” with Smoki Bacon and Dick Concannon
  • “Books and Authors” with Diane Goshgarian on BATV
  • “Pages to People” with Rob Mitchell on WBNW 1120 AM. This half-hour interview is slated to air Sat., Aug. 13 sometime during the 6-7 p.m. EDT timeslot. Listen here (using RealPlayer).


8 August 2005

Book's out. (BOOK'S OUT!!!) Today. Should now be in your local bookstores. (IN YOUR LOCAL BOOKSTORES!!!) Wow.

Kind of funny non-review here, plus a positive review in yesterday's Atlanta Journal-Constitution.

28 July 2005

The release date approacheth... and the staff at SBAN HQ are now gearing up for the beginning of The Big Push. Finalizing the first issue of the Shakespeare By Another Name Bulletin—which we hope to have out by early next week. So we'll save the announcements and to-do for the copy therein.

This one couldn't wait, though. Highbridge Audio, who will be releasing the audiobook version of “Shakespeare” By Another Name, devoted the cover of their fall releases catalog to SBAN. It's a great close-up of the cover montage, one that I'll probably be taking on tour when a simple and straightforward visual is needed that makes the case for de Vere as the Bard. On the left is the Bard. On the right is de Vere. Same guy. That, in one plain phrase, is the story of the book.

3 July 2005

Apple's iTunes Music Store has begun carrying podcasts -- and the Shakespeare By Another Name audio series (a.k.a. "Shakespeare-upon-iPod") is already loaded up. If your computer has iTunes, click the icon below for a link to the iTunes page with the Shakespeare By Another Name audios. If you'd like a free copy of iTunes, click here.

24 June 2005

Posting a few photos from the Second Annual Dutch Shakespeare Authorship Conference in Utrecht, The Netherlands. The conference, held on June 15-16, was a great success, and many thanks are due to the organizers Jan Scheffer and Sandra Schruijer.



Upper left: Schruijer presents her paper, “Street Wisdom on the Man 'Shakespeare'”
Upper right: The conference venue, Leeuwenbergh, on the Stadsbuitengracht (the “canal outside town”)
Lower left: Scheffer and Schruijer enjoying Friday afternoon's Utrecht canal tour
Lower right: Conference participant Dr. Charles Berney (Watertown, Mass.) and yours truly toasting to the promising future of Shakespeare authorship studies in Holland.

23 June 2005

This fall's Shakespeare By Another Name book tour is now in the offing. Please check the listings for an event near you!

10 June 2005

New confirmed book tour dates are on the book tour page -- and new audios keep on moving down the assembly line. The Shakespeare By Another Name audio series will, by the end of the summer, be available on CD. Details forthcoming.

27 May 2005

Pleased to note that Michael York just sent in an endorsement of the book. In other news, Shakespeare's not the only paradigm in need of a little shifting these days...

25 May 2005

Big week in webland. This past seven days has seen the launch of Episode 3 of the SBAN Audio Series (“France! Italia! Commedia!”)—the best episode yet! Do check it out. Other thing is: Excitement, thrills and audio 'n' video to boot all await in the form of a little semi-regular email news magazine I'll be rolling out this summer titled the Shakespeare By Another Name Bulletin. Please join us. (It's a free subscription.)

9 May 2005

The first book tour dates have now been posted on the author page. Many more engagements yet to announce!

3 May 2005

Made some updates to the audio page this week: A retooling of the Podcasts to provide overviews of and discussion about the book, not readings from it. Will still be featuring the spirited Shakespearean readings recorded in the sessions pictured below... these outputs of the Workaround Sound Mobile Unit will be featured in episodes 2-9, which will be posted to the audio page beginning May 7.

25 Apr. 2005

Today's edition of PodcastingNews.com features a story on the Shakespeare By Another Name Podcasts.

22-24 Apr. 2005 (one long weekend)

Both the "Shakespeare" By Another Name mp3 audio excerpt/Podcast series and the full-on SBAN website have now launched! Kudos to web designers Robert Kempe and Penny Leveritt and to Chris Collingwood, Stephen Eldredge, Timothy Holcomb, Christine Stevens, and Brad Thayer — who made the Podcasts possible. Thank you thank you thank you, all.

On Friday, April 22 at the Harvard University Faculty Club, Mark did a live reading of two book excerpts, as part of an evening titled "The Real Will in the Real World: A Response." This mini-symposium offered up a reply to Harvard Prof. Stephen Greenblatt's recent biography Will in the World: How Shakespeare Became Shakespeare. Also speaking at the Faculty Club on Friday evening were author Hank Whittemore (The Monument) and Prof. Daniel Wright (director of the Shakespeare Authorship Studies Conference).

16 Apr. 2005

Been doing lots of recording for the audio excerpts lately. Also some freelance writing. Below are three snaps from both Workaround Sound (a.k.a. the home studio of musician and SBAN Podcast engineer Chris Collingwood) and from the Workaround Sound Mobile Unit™ on location in Amherst, Mass.

Top-left: Engineer and author ponder the subtleties of proper microphone placement.
Top-right: Workaround Sound Mobile Unit™ wranglers Brad Thayer and Chris Collingwood monitor the feed while actor Stephen Eldredge gives his all.
Bottom: Actors Timothy Holcomb and Christine Stevens go tete-a-tete, and the Mobile Unit is there to capture the moment.

25 Mar. 2005

Posted a new endorsement from Prof. Kristin Linklater. Working presently on mp3 audio excerpts of the book that will be appearing in this site in a little under a month. [24 Apr. UPDATE: Here they are.] Also... took another turn as in the photo below proof-reading another draft of the book — this time, it was the laid-out pages as they'll actually be appearing in the book. A friend noted that the font looks authoritative. I think this is a good thing.

29 Dec. 2004

Oh, the copy-edits. 513 pages of mainbody text (in the latest far-from-final layout format) plus 1700 endnotes have made for a fun November and December. I was fortunate to have a very thorough copy editor working on this book — which has effectively meant a lot of sitting at the nearby easy chair with colored pencil in hand doing this.




As for the "excitement" promised in the Nov. 22 entry, I am pleased to announce that beginning in April, ShakespeareByAnotherName.com will be hosting audio excerpts of the forthcoming book in downloadable mp3 format. New downloads will be posted on a regular basis to the site and offered for free—distribute these mp3s widely, please! Drop them on your iPod or other mp3 player, burn the recordings onto CD or just listen at the computer.

Also, in January, the website begins its extreme makeover (web edition) to transform this virtual ramshackle shanty into the dream home the owners have long imagined it to be.

Much, much to come in 2005, even before the August release date... keep the dial set.

22 Nov. 2004

Yes, the release date is now April 2005 August 2005. The production schedules (copy-editing, type-setting, proof-reading, and other hyphenated things that need to be done before a book comes to market) on a book of this size have all taken longer than first anticipated. We figured best not to cut corners. This past week has been an intense one, involving filing four green pencils down to nibs as I went through each line-edit on the manuscript. Surprising how, in 2004, so much of the production process is still done the old fashioned way: with (somewhat) carefully arranged piles of paper, pencil sharpener at the ready, and an almost parental amount of solicitude about this hulking stack of pages that represents the culmination of so many months of hard work.

More excitement is yet to come by year's end... watch this space for more snapshots and more developments...

22 Oct. 2004

For a little more on the back-story to the cover art, see the related entry in the book design blog Foreword.

13 Oct. 2004

OK. Book cover now officially unveiled. Plus the addition of a most gracious blurb about the book by Sarah Smith.

9 Oct. 2004

Here begins a blog of sorts...This site still has yet to officially launch, but there was a fine little milestone passed today that I wanted to recognize on the website: The book now actually exists in a form that can be measured the old-fashioned way: pages of manuscript, not megabytes on a computer. These days, the eleven chapters plus introduction plus epilogue add up to 590 pp. — followed by lots of endnotes. (They're the clipped sheaf of papers to the right of the actual manuscript.) Still some tweaking remains to be done, both of the jacket and of those stacks of paper to the left of it.