Posted By Roger Stritmatter on September 18, 2011
Stanley Wells was interviewed last week by the Hindu Independent. There’s something deliciously and historically ironic about this being the venue for this particular interview, which represents Wells, pointing genially at the Cobb faux Shakespeare portrait that has landed his picture in newspapers across the globe, at his most strident and rigidly denialist stance:
“I think it is a lot of nonsense,” says Wells of the authorship question.
The evidence that Shakespeare wrote the plays attributed to him (which include a few collaborations with other dramatists) is irrefutable. Articles and books are written and films are made spending thousands of pounds in support of the conspiracy theory which has no basis whatsoever.
This crap came about in the middle of 19th century when Shakespeare’s genius flourished worldwide. It all started in the 1850s when the American teacher and writer, Delia Bacon (no relation to Francis Bacon), started to suggest that the plays had been written by a committee of people, led by Sir Francis Bacon. They also think the original author was the Earl of Oxford who had borrowed Shakespeare’s name for his plays. They contend Shakespeare had only humble origins and could not have had exposure to royalty and royal atmosphere and did not possess the aristocratic sensibility of which most of his plays describe.
Now, there is a little of truth to this if only our dog could hunt. They do think that the original author was the Earl of Oxford who had borrowed Shakespeare’s name for his plays.
That’s exactly, perfectly correct, Dr. Wells.
What is more, I think the vast majority of Oxfordians could only agree that however commercially successful he may have been, a commoner could not have had exposure to royalty and royal atmosphere and is hardly likely to have possess[d] the aristocratic sensibility of which most of his plays describe.
What we don’t get is why this is “crap” and “nonsense” arguing against an orthodox position that is “irrefutable.”
If it is so “irrefutable,” why is it that so many thousands of quite well-informed people seem competent to refute it, or, at the very least, observe some of its many points of implausibility and draw attention to a mass of suppressed evidence on the other side?
Wells goes on to lament that “articles and books are written and films are made spending thousands of pounds in support of the conspiracy theory which has no basis whatsoever.”
I guess Wells would be happier if people were spending millions of pounds on that other “conspiracy theory which has no basis whatsoever” — namely the notion that someone who apparently never owned a book, raised illiterate daughters, and “when asked to write said he ‘was in pain'” — could have created Touchstone, Olivia, and Benedick.
What professor Wells apparently does not understand is that there’s a reason all these people are interested in the Oxford story.
It delivers. It helps us to understand the works in new and deeper ways. That’s why the market — starting with the internet — is playing a surprising role in shaping the history of the controversy.