Michael York to Professors Stanley Wells and Paul Edmondson: Have You No Sense of Decency, Sirs?

Posted By on November 21, 2011

Shakespearean actor Michael York to Wells & Edmondson:  “Have you no sense of decency sirs, at long last? Or, as Shakespeare put it in Hamlet, ‘O shame! where is thy blush?’”

The Shakespeare Authorship Coalition (SAC), sponsor of the well known “Statement of Reasonable Doubt” campaign, has launched a “multi-pronged counter-offensive against the Shakespeare Birthplace Trust (SBT) in Stratford-upon-Avon, and its “60 Minutes with Shakespeare” authorship campaign, initiated in response to Anonymous.

SAC released a point-by-point rebuttal to some of the many factual and logical lapses of the Trust’s anti-Oxfordian Campaign, available in pdf  here.

So, even as the movie itself fades from theaters into hibernation pending the Oscar season and DVD release, the magic is already working.

Stratfordians have for decades believed that maintaining the Shakespearean status quo required little effort on their part. A character assassination here, a non-sequitur there, was all it took to maintain intellectual hegemony and frighten students and the general public away from a fully informed, all-facts-on-the table discussion from first principles about the true genesis of the Shakespearean plays.

All that went out the window because of two things, the development of the internet and, now, the premiere of Anonymous.

Speaking for the SAC was renowned Shakespearean actor Michael York. York has for some time been an outspoken Oxfordian, but has not until this time taken a major role as spokesman for the movement. York’s involvement was critical because of the character assassination that the Birthplace Trust has directed against other Shakespearean actors such as Sir Derek Jacobi and Vanessa Redgrave, both of whom not only star in Anonymous but have been vocal in supporting the legitimacy of inquiry into the Shakespearean question.

York represents a sizable and growing number of other actors, less well identified by the Stratfordian propaganda machine than Jacobi or Redgrave, who are eager to make their voices heard on the subject.

According to the SAC, York  “announced a monumental breakthrough in the Shakespeare Authorship Controversy — detailed evidence that William Shakespeare traveled all over Italy. The problem for orthodox Shakespeare scholars is that the Stratford man never left England.”

That evidence is contained in a newly released book by Richard Roe, The Shakespeare Guide to Italy: Retracing the Bard’s Unknown Travels.

As described by the SAC’s press release, York also went after Shakespeare Birthplace Trust Spokesman Stanley Wells and Paul Edmondson for some of their more outlandish ad homina, such as claiming that anti-Stratfordians are “anti-Shakespeare”:

During a briefing at the LA Press Club’s Steve Allen Theater in Hollywood, Michael York, Hilary Roe Metternich, daughter of the man who discovered the new [Italian connection] evidence, and John M. Shahan, Chairman & CEO of the California-based Shakespeare Authorship Coalition (SAC), lambasted the SBT for its Orwellian attacks against doubters and for the inferior scholarship in its “60 Minutes with Shakespeare” website, which features 60 prominent SBT supporters, each giving a 60-second audio-recorded response to one of 60 questions posed by the SBT.

Michael York, in language echoing that which brought down Senator Joseph McCarthy, castigated Stanley Wells, Honorary President of the SBT, and Paul Edmondson, Head of Learning and Research at the SBT, for suggesting that the authorship controversy is merely another “conspiracy theory,” and for labeling all doubters as “anti-Shakespeareans.”

“Have you no sense of decency sirs, at long last? Have you left no sense of decency?” York asked. “Or, as Shakespeare put it in Hamlet, ‘O shame! where is thy blush?’” he added. “Doubters are not ‘anti-Shakespeare,’” York insisted, “but your behaviour is most un-Shakespearean.”

A recent Library Journal review gives a pretty clear idea of how the general literate public is responding to Roe’s book, and the news is not good for the Birthplace Trust:

For this literary journey through Shakespeare’s ten plays set in Italy, Roe, an English and history scholar and an attorney who died in 2010, explored the places that inspired many of Shakespeare’s classics and presents a solid argument that Shakespeare was well traveled. Roe spent over 20 years traveling throughout Italy with Shakespeare plays in hand. The thrill of discovery he felt throughout his quest leaps off the page and makes for an accessible read.

The connections he draws among the plays and locales are backed up with pictures, maps, literary references, and well-documented arguments. Particularly striking is Roe’s argument that A Midsummer Night’s Dream is not set in Greece, as traditionally accepted, but in a small town in Italy.

VERDICT: A fascinating look at a largely untouched aspect of Shakespeare’s identity and influences. Recommended for Shakespeare enthusiasts and scholars as well as travelers looking for a new perspective, this is also particularly intriguing as a companion to specific plays.

About the author

Roger Stritmatter is a native liberal humorist who lives in Baltimore, Maryland. Contrary to rumor, he does not live on North Avenue. He does, however, work on North Avenue. A pacifist by inclination, one of his heroes is John Brown. But he thinks that Fredrick Douglass, another of his heroes, made the right decision. Stritmatter's primary areas of interest include the nature of paradigm shifts, the history of ideas, forensic literary studies, MS studies, renaissance literature, and the history of the Shakespearean question, the latter a field in which he has published extensively.


6 Responses to “Michael York to Professors Stanley Wells and Paul Edmondson: Have You No Sense of Decency, Sirs?”

  1. William Ray says:

    That a main mover in the film industry has had the integrity–and what is far more gauche, the money–to differ with the high priests of Shakespeare, is news. That the film’s prestigious actors and actresses put their reputations on the line, also has had its moral effect.

    What will win out?–the audacious sincerity of the artistic wing of culture, or the status quo that to this point has called the shots on what we are supposed to believe, upon penalty of condemnation.

    Since traditional interpretation of Shakespeare the man has become religion, doctrine, sectarian belief, the priestly miters are riding for a fall. Only the best, most energetic propaganda can beat back obvious fact and respect for the creative process.

    No, it isn’t the Politburo defending Lenin’s gas-preserved corpse. It is the Shakespeare Birthplace Trust, the very nearly laughable producers of ‘Sixty Minutes With Shakespeare’.

    Their tepid brain-wash is available to all, as biased and ill-informed a version of history and creativity as ever issued in a free nation. Even the accompanying Doubt About Will rebuttal cannot plumb its dishonesty and petty spite.

    In fact, by the rules of inverting the obvious that entrenched institutions live by, it is a serious, perhaps unforgivable, faux pas that Doubt About Will straightened its back and said something.

    In reply to Michael York’s question, “Have you no decency?”, the Stratford Politburo’s implicit reply is, we say what decency is and what fact is too.

    Time will tell.

    William Ray

  2. Roger Stritmatter says:


    Soberingly direct and realistic analysis, as always. Thanks for posting. Let me know any time you have an idea for a guest post and we shall keep the hit counters clicking, we few, we happy few…


  3. kenkap says:


    You asked me to post these as I felt they needed to be revisited. I always was impressed by this excerpt from the article and felt it has been over looked.

    Ken Kaplan

    I believe one of the principle pieces of evidence that suggests
    Shakespeare’s Hamlet is 1594 or before is in Nashe’s 1594 epistle to
    “Christ’s Tears Over Jerusalem” (missed by Hibberd in his book on
    Nashe- Hibberd by the way does not believe the 1589 preface to Menaphon
    by Nashe necessarily identifies Kyd as the author of Hamlet).

    “Was neuer whore of Babylon so betrapt with abhominations as his stile
    (like the dog house in the fields) is pestred with stinking filth. His
    vaineglorie (which some take to be his gentlwoman) he hath *new painted
    ouer an inch thicke.*(my emphasis) Some fewe crummes of my booke he
    hath confuted, all
    the rest of his inuention is nothing but an oxe with a pudding in his
    bellie, not fit for any thing els, saue only to feast the dull eares of
    ironmongers, ploughmen, carpenters, and porters. Maister Lillie, poore
    deceassed Kit Marlow, reuerent Doctor Perne, with a hundred other quiet
    senslesse carkasses before the conquest departed, in the same worke he
    hath most notoriously & vilely dealt with; and to conclude, he hath
    him selfe to be the only *Gabriel Graue-digger vnder heauen.<*(my

    Joseph W. DeMent notes in this passage:
    [A] parallel . . . between Nashe’s phrase “new painted ouer an inch
    and Hamlet’s rhetorical injuction to the skull of Yorick:<

    Now get you to my lady’s chamber, and tell her, let her paint an inch
    thick, to this favour must she come. Make her laugh at that.< (DeMent,
    Joseph W., “A Possible 1594 Reference to Hamlet”, Shakespeare Quarterly,
    vol. xv, 1964, pp.446-7 at p. 446)

    DeMent says that “paint an inch thicke” is not an Elizabethan
    commonplace phrase. Thus, the phrase seems to be an allusion to the
    graveyard scene in Hamlet. Moreover, the comparison is strengthened
    The metaphor that follows . . . makes it extremely unlikely that the
    correspondence could be mere coincidence, for in it Harvey (Gabriel) is
    gravedigger, shovelling the skulls of his deceased literary enemies—
    Lyly, Marlowe, and Perne—out of the ground prior to desecrating them.
    The image loses most of its effect if it is conceived of without
    to the graveyard scene [in Hamlet].<

    Henslowe’s records show that there was a performance of Hamlet on June
    9th, 1594. The 1594 “edition” of Christs Teares does not appear in the
    Stationer’s Register; thus, we cannot tell whether it appeared before or
    after June 9. . . < (p.447)

    Nashe was obviously very interested in Hamlet, and this second allusion
    to the play makes it much more likely, IMO, that his first allusion to
    Hamlet in 1589 is reliable evidence that Hamlet was on the stage at
    that time.
    The allusion to a “oxe with a pudding in his bellie” in the same
    passage is also Shakespearean, appearing in 1 Henry IV II.iv.444 when
    Falstaff is described as “that roasted Manningtree ox with the pudding
    in his belly”. Nashe uses the image again in The Unfortunate Traveller
    (“an oxe roasted with a stag in the belly”. (DeMent, p.246)

    Ken-I find it very unlikely that the "Ur Hamlet" by Kyd(or anyone else) had
    a graveyard scene with the "Alas poor Yorick" speech with the *exact
    same lines* and gravediggers. Add to this fact that Q1 proclaims itself
    as presented at the two Universities of Cambridge and Oxford, where
    Nashe's first mention of Hamlet is made in 1589. It seems Nashe knew
    his audience well and that Hamlet was popular enough that they would
    get the reference. There seems to be is significant extant evidence
    here to _reasonably_ assume that Hamlet from 1589 to 1596 is
    Shakespeare's. Inspection of the differences in Q1 and Q2 strengthen
    this point of view. (the lack of the mention of the children and their
    being clapped as falcons is missing in Q1 and Q2 suggesting later revision,
    for example). Cairncross certainly thought this way, as have others.

    Ken Kaplan

    Nashe's reference in 1594 to the "Oxe with a pudding in its bellie" throws a big crimp in the traditional consensus that I Henry IV was written in 1597. Where do they get this stuff?


  4. knitwitted says:

    A gift! A gift! The Shakespeare Birthplace Trust has given you a gift in appreciation of your quest to find the truth. By acknowledging your question with their answers, they have given the Shakespeare Authorship Question its full value as an on-going, credible quest for the truth. And with their gift, comes the Birthplace Trust’s commitment *in perpetuity* to defend itself from any and all further questions regarding the authorship of the Shakespeare canon.

    Kudos first to Dr. James S. Shapiro, chaired Columbia University Shakespeare professor, and now to the Shakespeare Birthplace Trust for their missive dismissals of “utter nonsense”.

    Enjoy the gift that *will* keep on giving!

    Happy day to ya,
    Knit : )

  5. Roger Stritmatter says:

    Thanks Knit,

    Believe me, here in Pasadena at the joint conference of the SF/SOS, and with the leadership of the Shakespeare Authorship Coalition in attendance, the gift is being scrutinized and the bastindado will not be long delayed. Of course, the authorship question does not exist, and that probably explains why so many are now losing so much sleep breathlessly assuring the public with their flashy credentials that the bard’s authorship is “beyond doubt.”

    A more comic spectacle of anxious rewriting has rarely been witnessed!

    A gift, a gift, a kingdom for a gift!



  6. knitwitted says:

    Excellent news Roger!! Ironic isn’t it… there is *no way* the Strats can *ever* escape the SAQ now unless their “trust” in the man from Stratford folds. Now *that* is the sweetest justice of all… when your opponents make your case : )

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