Posted By William Ray on October 27, 2011
William J. Ray has previously appeared on this website only through quotation. I am pleased to feature his writing at greater length in this series of missives, some of which were censored in other contexts. -Ed.
Since studying the question of who wrote the Shakespeare canon, I have found in current letters a good deal of ignorance about it, a great deal of emotion, and thus almost universal inability to discuss this volatile belief area of our cultural heritage.
The professors in the guild, our informal priesthood of knowledge, are perhaps the worst afflicted.
They were never encouraged to question tradition. In fact if they did they would stand out as non-conformist and suspect as prospective members of a harmonious English department.
Such is the unconscious ideological grounding for thinking about the core artist in English literature. Skeptics and avocational scholars are faced with having to educate their interlocutors in sound-byte fashion, in rather brief verbal and written exchanges.
The new information violates the affectionately held, authority-driven, bias toward the sympathetic mental image of Everyman striding to London with a vision of mankind and the human predicament in his soul. While this is a powerful archetype, it is fiction regarding the origins of the Shakespeare canon.
There is no substitute for actual historical study and literary investigation based on an historical context, if we expect to rouse ourselves from a confused dependence on legend for our understanding of Shakespeare studies.
What follows is my telegram-like attempt to communicate my present state of knowledge in the midst of misinformation.
October 16, 2011
To the [NY Times] Editor:
Re: Shapiro op-ed, October 16, 2011
James Shapiro’s ad hominem attacks upon Roland Emmerich, writer and director of Anonymous, upon J. Thomas Looney, the English schoolmaster who wrote Shakespeare Identified, which both Sigmund Freud and John Galsworthy admired, and upon a host of other perceptive thinkers, are not going to keep our culture, or save his embarrassing ignorance, from an honest examination of the Stratford Shakespeare legendary narrative. His accusation that this growing inquiry is all an attempt to turn the great plays into propaganda is fearful paranoia.
The testimony he considers definitive for the illiterate money-lender of Stratford was ambiguous praise to shift the aristocratic works onto a non-political cipher and thus stabilize the threatened monarchy of the time.
Bamboozlements didn’t start yesterday. There should be no fear to seek and actually find the truth of the past, especially among professional scholars, our symbols of honest inquiry.
October 23, 2011
To the [NYTimes] Editor:
Re: Stephen Marche op-ed, October 22, 2011
I should like to take exception to the Oxfordian scholarship-bashing indulged in by both English Professors Marche and Shapiro. They are wrong on the historical facts, which seems to nevertheless comfort them that the enemy is all wrong and they are virtuous and right.
This is not a professional attitude toward knowledge, and one gets the message that entrenched interests are in jeopardy. It is extremely unwise to assert as Dr. Marche does that “some deserve to be marginalized and excluded.”
Just the opposite: if you are making sense against the status quo position, mostly unexamined chestnuts of who wrote Shakespeare, I’ll lend you my ears.
Willits CA 95490
October 26, 2011
To the [NY Times] Editor:
Re: Taping Over the Shakespeare Signs at Stratford
Has the Shakespeare establishment taken to holding its breath and covering its eyes to protest investigation into the flimsy basis for the Stratford Shakspere being the man behind the literary pseudonym “Shakespeare”?
It is shameful and irresponsible that James Shapiro (Contested Will) has played point man for this flight from inquiry. Contrary to hysterical charges, there is extensive and edifying backing from the historical record that the powers-that-were diverted the identity of a high noble’s pseudonym Shakespeare onto an allonymous money-lender Shakspere, in order to neutralize the political impact of the Shakespeare canon.
But is it not time to uncover the eyes, Gentles? Nothing lost but a mistaken belief and much gained for our cultural history.
October 24, 2011
To Holger Syme [German-born professor of English Literature who finds no credibility in the Oxfordian scholarship but felt that respectable professionals must respond]
You can’t ignore your responsibility to inquire into the history behind the Stratford narrative, which has always been full of contradiction and a distorted concept of creativity. It has always been just so!–that someone whose signature and entire biography suggest disinterest in art, was the consummate philosopher and artist, Shakespeare.
That isn’t good enough for honest scholarship.
You appear to base your distaste for that inquiry on the failure of Oxfordians to use recognizable methods of determining evidence. Therefore please explain away the following co-incidences.
Edward de Vere wrote Romeus and Juliet at age twelve. Not only did it later became Romeo and Juliet, but lines of it reappeared in Two Gentlemen of Verona.
Hamlet replicates the early biography of someone whose father was poisoned and supplanted by a rival, his mother quickly married the poisoner’s adjutant,who was put in the custody of an official who married him off to his own daughter. Is it starting to look like Edward de Vere’s father, his father’s poisoner Leicester, his mother Margery Vere, his warder William Cecil, and Cecil’s daughter Anne?
Two Noble Kinsmen is referenced above as a collaboration of Fletcher and “Shakespeare.” But it had a precedent: Palomon and Arcite by Edward de Vere, performed before the Queen in 1566. The subplot was added after Oxford died and the altered play published in 1634. Some of the same phrases written by the adolescent de Vere remained in the final version.
Setting aside the over-educated claptrap, the truth is you have made a serious status-quo-favoring error of ignoring factual and literary realities. I could go on for hours about the de Vere related precedents for Macbeth (The Tragedie of the Kinge of Scottes 1567), Merchant of Venice (Portio or The Jew 1578), Taming of the Shrew (A Pleasant Conceit 1577), A Comedy of Errors (A History of Error 1577), and many more.
But that may do for recognizable methods of evidence–the near identity of plays by Edward de Vere to plays attributed to Shakespeare.
Either “Shakespeare” was the most outrageous plagiarist in history, or de Vere used Shakespeare as a pseudonym subscribing his revised plays, now familiar to us as part of the Shakespeare canon.
I think you are riding a three-legged horse and complaining that that the rival is just not playing fair on a quadruped. It isn’t my fault I honor the truth and wish to see it vindicated. You and your colleagues should do the same.
October 25, 2011
Re: negative and dismissive Village Voice film review of Anonymous
In terms of your film review, I have no criticism. You did what you are supposed to do. In terms of your premises about what is true and not, you haven’t got a leg to stand on. You assume Shakspere of Stratford (that’s different from the pseudonym Shakespeare/Shake-speare) is being favored by “the troublesome existence of evidence.”
There isn’t a speck of credible evidence anywhere in the extant record confirming that Shakspere was a writer, much less the archetypal rhetorical and poetical giant of the modern era. I mean not a speck. There are six inept signatures and plenty of indication this was the apex of Shakspere’s writing experience. He was useful, and took advantage of that use, because his name Shakspere resembled the pseudonym the author plied since 1593 to mask his identity and station, Edward de Vere, 17th Earl of Oxford.
This allonymous utility ramped up when time came to eclipse any record of Oxford–an extremely troublesome high noble in the Elizabethan era–and it was deemed necessary to switch the literary identity permanently to a cipher, Shakspere became the expedient choice. Since he had been dead for seven years he was unlikely to blab. Shakspere became Shakespeare.
Such is your imbibed hoax, passed to you generation upon generation despite all the contradictions. With your wrong premise, it is impossible for you to get any fact right. While the film may not be Children of Paradise or The World of Apu, it attempted to correct an atrocious but prevailing version of important cultural history, and for that it is wholly admirable.
With thanks for your productive devotion to discovering and propounding the truth of the Shakespeare canon’s genesis,
William J. Ray