Posted By Roger Stritmatter on November 21, 2011
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.