Posted By Roger Stritmatter on June 28, 2012
I spent the last ten days at Lynne and Michael Kositsky’s in Ontario while Lynne and I worked through a final proofreading of the Tempest book. There are a still a few loose ends before we deliver the manuscript on July 14 – but the lion’s share of the work is done, much to our relief. Writing the book was by far the most difficult thing I’ve done in my life, with the possible exception of the de Vere Bible dissertation.
Now that it’s done, we can consider the next question of how influential it will turn out to be. I hope it will make an impact not only within Tempest studies but also the larger questions of authorship which are inextricably embedded in any discussion of when The Tempest was written. We do not take up any of these other considerations in our book, which we wanted to be focus exclusively on the play, not on who wrote it — but we all know that such larger considerations are the crux of much interest in this play at this point in the development of our knowledge in 2012. Stratfordians are interested in William Strachey — we found something much more interesting in our book. We will of course rely on readers to help us see how far we may have succeeded in rendering our conclusions persuasive to both a general and a more specialized readership. Some of the book is highly technical. But I think we have done a reasonably good job of communicating even the technical details in language that is routinely comprehensible. Knock on wood.
But from where I sit, although the book no doubt has flaws, the case it makes for a Tempest not influenced a whit by Strachey and written at least eight years earlier than popularly believed, for original Shrovetide production perhaps in 1599 or 1603, is pretty overwhelming. I find it hard to visualize in my mind’s eye any response except that Shakespearean orthodoxy will be able to look at the book and say, “damn.”
I think this will especially be the case in those parts of the book where for the first time we are allowed to articulate our response to the remarks made by Mr. Tom Reedy in Review of English Studies in 2010, and those of Professor Alden Vaughan in The Shakespeare Quarterly in 2008.
Both RES and the Shakespeare Quarterly refused us any right of response. I’m told that journals in the sciences which do that are regarded by practitioners as breaking the normative standards of scholarly discourse (which to them by definition almost means that work originally published in a specific journal and subsequently criticized in it has a right of reply). Apparently things are different in literary studies, where we just do what we want.
Of course, the industrious scrubbers for a world with a very safe Shakespeare who wasn’t very smart and wouldn’t know Shrovetide if it bit him on the ass will think of something more entertaining than “damn” to say. But mostly I think there will be a very loud gnashing of the teeth and a mad rush for the exit sign, behind which are found a crew of elves banging away to nail down the “Jacobean” composition dates of Lear, Pericles, Winter’s Tale, and the other usual suspects. Yes Virginia, there is a real Shakespeare. We’re just not going to tell you his name.